Spoiler alert: European life isn’t all croissants and bike rides along the canals…
It had been my dream for years to live and/or study abroad. The child of a European immigrant, I was lucky enough to travel transatlantically as a youngster. I believe that, and my obsession with a ridiculous amount of travel photos, started a fire in me to want to experience life abroad.
As I begin my 10th month in Germany, I’d like to share with you some things that I hate about living here.
*This list is simply my opinion.*
Closets are not a thing
I never realized how much I appreciated having a closet until I didn’t. Our home in Germany does not have a single closet! This seems to be the norm throughout the country. Wardrobes are the go-to in many areas in Europe.
Air conditioning is also not a thing
Summers in Europe are normally not too hot. At home in the USA, temperatures would occasionally reach upwards of 100ºF (37.7ºC) in the summer. Keeping the rolladens (metal blinds) down is normally enough to keep homes cool and air conditioning is not needed is most areas. The summer of 2018 was incredibly hot in most areas of Europe. We nearly sweat our bodies away in our room without A/C. You know it’s bad when you go to the grocery store just to get some cool air in the car and the shop.
Refrigerators are teeny tiny
I am accustomed to having a massive fridge – room for large juice and milk containers, an abundance of fruits & veggies, and a large freezer, too. Our fridge in Germany is about the size of a college dorm mini-fridge. It holds a fraction of the food that I am used to. While this isn’t the worst thing, it requires extra trips to the grocery store on a weekly basis. It also means not having enough room for a Thanksgiving dinner, not without some maneuvering, anyway.
The Germans are great about fixing the roads – almost too good. For the entire time I have been living in Germany, the roads have been under some sort of repair. It’s great that they work often to repair the infrastructure. This is great, but it does make it difficult to get to places in a short amount of time or via a direct route. Also, the speed of many of the construction areas sometimes falls to 40 KMH (25 MPH) aka S L O W.
English or bust
Being from America basically means only knowing how to speak English. I studied Spanish from middle school to college. I have attempted to learn French, Italian, and German in my personal time. For me, learning German has been a challenge. The language is unlike any that I have learned before. For now, knowing how to order food and choose groceries are enough for me.
Fewer options at the grocery store
Mexican food is a staple in the States. In Germany, it seems like they’re trying to join in on the fiesta but fall short. The size of nacho chip bags are half of what is available at home, and don’t even get me started on the size of salsa jars! Imagine a can of tuna – that’s how small they are; very fitting with their mini nacho bags. Sour cream is also tough to find. I’m convinced it’s a specialty here.
Chances are that I or my husband stand out in public when we speak English or (probably worse) when we try to speak some broken German. Honestly, I’d probably stare too. The way we are stared at, however, is something I’ve never experienced before. We could be acting totally normal but still get weird stares. No matter where we go on the continent, the same thing happens.
The tax (VAT) rate
When you go shopping or out to eat in Germany, the value-added tax (VAT) rate is 19%. That means if you are buying something for €100, €19 will be added to the cost. The total you will pay for that item is €119. This tax is used towards road work, universal health care, and free education for citizens. This has been an adjustment for me from the 6% sales tax rate I was paying in Pennsylvania.
The United States uses the standard measurement system (inches, feet, yards, miles). Everywhere else in the world utilizes the metric system of measurement (centimeters, meters, kilometers). The metric system was always easier for me to understand because of its simplicity, however, I am not able to visualize how long ¼ of a meter is or ⅔ of a kilometer is. This can make driving in some situations difficult.
Unable to pay with hubby’s debit/credit card
At home, I could go to any store and pay with a debit/credit card as long as I knew the PIN or could sign for the person (i.e. my parents). I thought that it would be the same here. Oh boy, was I wrong! The PIN system hasn’t been my friend since my arrival and neither has shopping at the grocery store. I would take my husband’s card from time to time to buy groceries. Never thinking this would be an issue, I naively swiped his card. I knew his pin and was his wife, so what’s the big deal? EVERYTHING! Simply, I’m not him. I’m not allowed to sign for him even though we have the same name. In retrospect, this isn’t a bad thing. Identity theft can be a serious problem. Safe to say I’ve now learned my lesson.
Other than these ten items, I enjoy living abroad. It is an experience every day. I am able to learn about and live in a new culture. I am able to indulge in European specialties daily, attempt to learn a new language, and travel more easily and frequently than in the States. So far, I have traveled to eleven (11) countries and this list will only continue to grow during my time here.
Have you ever lived somewhere and had things you just could not deal with? Let me know in the comments!
Until my next adventure,