Jan 21, 2013

Life as a Canadian in Germany

Thinking of moving to Germany? If so, then regardless of what country you're from, I hope you'll find the following points useful to know. As seen through the eyes of a Canadian living in a small German city called Braunschweig (pop. 250 500), here's some insight on everything I've observed thus far.

[image courtesy of http://archives.canadianpressroom.com]
  • Take a train ride anywhere in Germany and catch a glimpse of the German countryside: picturesque, pristine and proper. Not to mention, greeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeen.
  • The concept of space and land is madd small. Depending on where one lives in Germany, drive a few hours west, east or south and you'll end up in another country (traveling advantage #1).
  • The North American concept of a "suburb" simply does not exist here. Drive a half hour outside of any city's "city centre" and you'll end up in a different city, town or village altogether.
  • Most towns and cities are laid out in a circular pattern as opposed to a grid pattern. An iconic church and market square is usually located dead smack in the middle of the city centre.
  • The climate in this part of Germany (the north) is very similar to the weather I grew up with in Toronto. Here in BS, however, we get wayyy more cloudy and rainy days all throughout the year. The summers also don't seem to get as hot (e.g. we never had over 30°C days last summer).
  • I won't pretend I know much about German politics, but my experience with government officials so far isn't positive. I believe the system is &*$#ing bureaucratic and excessively complicated.
Economy / Infrastructure
  • Germany's economy depends on its automobile industry. On this note, I've come to notice that technical jobs (e.g. engineers) are seen as more respectable than all other types of jobs.
  • Hands-on jobs (e.g. chefs) and jobs in the trades (e.g. plumbers) aren't paid well. Pity!
  • Hoorah for the bike culture!! Most cities, towns and villages in Germany are bike-friendly. Love love effing love that there are bike lanes everywhere!!! This has honestly changed my (previous commuter) lifestyle by 360° and I couldn't feel/be healther/happier. You ready to ditch your car?
  • Don't declare that you're "Catholic" on your papers here, even if you are. You'll have to pay 8%-9% of your income tax to the church or community to which you belong. That is heaps!!!
  • Most people under the age of 30 can speak basic English. Still, it's nothing like the Netherlands or the Scandinavian countries, where even the elderly folks can speak a basic level of English. 
  • There's a high demand for English teachers all over the country because people of all ages desire to either learn or to improve their English (*nudge *nudge to all you native speakers).
  • Having "papers" are very important. Employers, for example, are more interested in the certificates or diplomas proving you've completed a course or that you've obtained a degree. 
  • Huge difference between the uni students in Germany vs. the uni students in North America: here, tuition costs are affordable. Uni students aren't caught up in a never-ending cycle of debt.
  • Hands-down, Germany is not an immigrant country like Canada, Australia, the US, etc. Contrary to the society I grew up in, it just isn't a "mixed bag" of cultures here. The largest number of immigrants here come from Turkey. I just kind of miss seeing other Filipino people around :(
  • Generally speaking, Germany is less open to new ideas and change in comparison to countries like Canada. For example, people seem to prefer stabile jobs over entrepreneurialism. Yuck.
  • "New" ideas catch on 10-15 years later (the bubble tea fad just arrived here a few years ago).
  • It's true, most Germans (not all!) have a standoffish, direct approach. I'm talking specifically about people you'd meet in public. You might consider it rude - but don't take it personally.
  • Good Asian food (e.g. a proper bowl of pho or bibimbap) is damn hard to find, unless you live in a big city. But even then, I have yet to try mind-blowing Asian food in Berlin or Hamburg.
  • It seems to me that Germans have a salt tooth. Their Asian food, for example, is super salty!
  • Germans aren't big fans of peanut butter. Though they do enjoy their Erdnussflips. Strange, eh?
  • All the ice cream people eat here is really Italian-style gelato. And you can get a scoop from any ol' ice cream shop for as little as 0,70€ - much cheaper than a scoop from Laura Secord!
  • Sadly, ain't no Tim Horton's-style cheap coffee joints here. A cappuccino goes for at least 2€.
  • German fast food = döner or currywurst. McDonald's and Burger Kings are less frequented.
  • There's a little bakery on every corner. People love buying fresh bread rolls in the morning.
  • Rather than a few humungous superstores in town, there are little supermarkets everywhere.
  • One word: BLAND. I hate to be blunt but seriously, the styles here are really effing bland.
  • People seem scared to rock anything super colourful or out of the ordinary. Scurred folk!!!

  • Drinking in public is legal. That's right, l-e-g-a-l. Feel free to ride your bike with a beer in hand.
  • All abandoned empties will be snatched up! You pay a fund for them when you purchase them, of which you can get back so long as they're returned. So save all your empty bottles and cans! 
  • People are more open about sex and sexuality in general. The women in my fitness classes get naked in the change rooms like it's nothing at all. Kids see boobs on TV at early ages.
  • Strangers (mostly old folk) on the street can and will scream at you! If you're biking on the wrong side, or do anything at all that they deem to be inappropriate, be prepared to get an earful!
  • Tell people you have a driver's license but can't drive a standard car and you will be made fun of.
  • Only on New Year's are Germans allowed to go buck wild. It'd call it absolute anarchy for 24 hours straight. People light fireworks and party on the streets the entire night and into the a.m. 


As a Canadian expat in Germany, naturally, the thing I miss the most is multiculturalism. It's much more evident in Berlin, but not so much in our little city. I just miss being able to eat every type of cuisine in the world all in one city (and being able to grab a Jamaican patty at my whim). Having said that, however, I've gained experiences here I'd never have the chance to do anywhere else. Over the past year I've learned to speak German and damn proud of it! In the future, I picture myself forever living in various countries. For me, experiencing different cultures is a lifelong thing. #staypassionate

1 comment:

  1. PS. More points will inevitably/eventually be added to the above headings.