Things I’ve Noticed…

(or an Ode to Germany)

Things I like about Germany, the German people and their culture:

  • They are a matter-of-fact type of people. Either they will tell you how it is or not say anything at all, which often tells you enough.
  • They have great breads and pastries, enjoying them all.
  • They know how to cut loose.
  • They know how to work hard.
  • In other words, they don’t live to work, but when they work they get down to business, get the job done and then get out to enjoy their free time.
  • They love their discounts.
  • They make for some wonderfully lovely friends.
  • There is a period of time in the morning, from about 7:00 a.m. Until around 10:00 a.m.-ish that he people on the streets actually wish you “Morgen!” or “Moyen” which strangers don’t seem to necessarily do the rest of the day – unless you know them.
  • They sit and enjoy their coffee at a stand or while sitting under the awning (no matter the weather) and said coffee isn’t required to be ‘Grande, half-caff, triple caramel mocha with soy’ and it is marvelous!
  • They have amazing city festivals that take over whole sections of their cities, often for days at a time.
  • They celebrate the amazing and good parts of their past while using the ugly history as a tool for learning, growing, and moving beyond (if only the rest of the world would catch up).
  • They value families by offering a considerable amount of time off for mother and fathers to bond with their children, without allowing the parents worry that they might not have a job to return to if they take all the time off.
  • They appreciate and take pride in their bier.

This list was born out of a lovely and slow morning where I was able to observe and appreciate the people around me. It isn’t perfect, but it also isn’t necessarily meant to be, because after all it is about humans and cultural observations – especially since I am of course seeing all of this through the lens of my own cultural upbringing and past exchanges. As I thought about this list over my morning coffee at the bakery, I thought it would be important to share because I don’t ever want people to think I don’t appreciate where I am or the people that make up my new home.

Sure there are frustrations, but I am finding out the longer that I am here that they have more to do with me than with the culture or the people surrounding me living their lives. I also understand that I might just be perpetuating the stereotypes I talk about so much in an attempt to break their standardization. So, to that I have one final point to add: Once I make this list I was reading it and rereading it and thinking to myself, this could very well be me also talking about my home in the U.S.A. too, with some exceptions, of course, but the list would be pretty close if it were talking about my friends, family, colleagues and life in Portland too.

What do you think, especially if you have experience with Portland.

7 thoughts on “Things I’ve Noticed…

  1. Hi,

    I’m Robert. Me and my family (wife and a 2 year old son) live in Chicago. We are actually Europeans. We come from Poland. Actually I have spent more time in America that I have lived in the country of Poland. So in a way I feel like this is my home right now. I like your observations when it comes to Germans. Yes, they are very efficient people with rules that they actually follow. We also often make comparison between America and Poland or Europe countless times to have few laughs or just to try to comprehend people’s behavior and the way they have been brought up. Lately we have been traveling a lot throughout Europe and came to the conclusion that we would love to move back to the old continent. That would allow us to have our relatives close by, the proximity to our country where we were born and other European states, stable healthcare system, less expensive education for our son, MORE VACATION, national holidays and history. We have decided it’s time to move back this summer. We have had the opportunity to visit some European countries such as; Sweden, Denmark, Spain and Germany. Berlin made a significant impression on both of us and that’s where we would like to settle. I have started to prepare myself for the trip by taking German classes at the local junior college (the wife took German in college back in Poland) and also study on my own whenever it’s possible. The only obstacle is employment. Do you have any suggestions for me on how to look for employment now while still living in U.S? Or is it better to concentrate on this task when we make the move? I realize that I’m still very far from being fluent in German therefore employment opportunities will be limited. I appreciate you blog and all the information you provide to us.

    • Wow, thanks Robert for reading and liking the blog!

      Employment can be a tough thing to acquire, especially from a distance. If you or your wife can secure something before you move I do think that will lessen your stress and financial worries. However, if you find this simply an uphill battle, then there is always English teaching work to be had. It likely won’t pay the best, but in a pinch it will likely be good, (somewhat) consistent work that will help pay your bills and put food on the table until you can improve your German and find more secure employment that is more up your alley. Universities are often looking for adjunct faculty to help teach their English courses, that may also lead to larger employment too.

      I STILL have trouble with German. I am terrified of the telephone and of speaking too long with others, if at all, in German because my level is still pretty low. However, the beautiful baby boy I had that is keeping me from blogging too much these days, will be raised here and we will learn German together. I imagine that once you are here your learning of the language will grow exponentially. My husband and I have had a challenging time with it because we both use English as the main language in our daily work. I speak German with my childminder and whenever I can when I am out shopping and such, which helps! Plus, everyone wants to talk to me about my baby – which is a blessing and a curse (especially when they talk too fast 🙂 ), it does all help though! I wouldn’t worry about your language ability too much. I would ask around at your local university or community college if someone might be able to help you write your CV and correspondence in German. I imagine it shouldn’t be perfect though, because your ability to speak the language is far from perfect. If your correspondence or CV are written in perfect German, the person or people that may want to hire you might expect that of you and if you cannot deliver then that might be seen as false advertising. I think the most important thing here is that you are polite and respectful to the person on the other end of the application, email or letter – no matter how good (or not) your German happens to be.

      I’ve had friends help me craft a very simple German CV and cover letter and I often have included that with an English cover letter and/or CV when applying for jobs since I don’t want to discredit myself or my ability in general but do wish to explain my growing ability to speak German.

      This website might help you a lot: Living and working in Germany from BUND.de (in English)

      This job portal site, might also be helpful: EURES

      Monster.de or a similar site might also be helpful to you as well. Finally, you can also see if large American companies you are familiar with have any satellite offices in Germany, or any German companies you know of – if they are located where you would like to move to and then if they have any vacancies.

      I also found this link a while back that might be helpful, not necessarily in finding a job but in what to prepare when you do finally move: Very Basic Tips for an American Moving to Germany

      Good luck with everything and please let me know how everything goes!

  2. Hi’

    I know what you are talking about. I really do. Me and my wife have been living in the U.S for a long time but originally we are from Europe (Poland). Yes, we miss Europe a lot ( especially 5 weeks vacation, longer holidays, a better healthcare that will not bankrupt you and just a thought of being in the center of Europe makes every trip worthwhile). I have only seen one October fest while I was many years ago in Germany and that was really fun. Germany is a really well functioning country, everyone follows rules and regulations. People tent to do everything one way (the way they have been doing things whole their lives) and are stubborn or not open enough to new improved methods of doing things. But is something’s not broken, why try to fix it? We have visited Berlin 3 years ago and we fell in love with the city. Not that long ago we have decided to give it a go and move back to Europe (Germany specifically) because of its proximity to Poland, economic stability that this country has showed in the last few decades. When you look at other well developed nations their housing markets have crashed, not Germany’s. In addition my wife and I have also visited Denmark, Sweden and Spain. We really love the history and culture that every European country represents and offers. We have decided to make the move this summer and have already started to learn German. Would you have any tips for finding employment as we arrive? Is German really that necessary to find any type of employment at the beginning? Or would you start looking for a job now while you still live in the States? What are your thoughts?

    Thanks for the blog I find it really helpful.

    • Oh boy! Congratulations on deciding to move.

      One regret I have is not learning German before I came. I am STILL struggling with it. However, I now have a little boy that we plan to raise here and we will be learning German together! It might help to look for employment before you leave, and if at least one of you can find something that might mitigate some financial or other stress you might have. It may be difficult though, since you are not yet in Europe. Being European initially will help immensely though too!!

      I would look through some of the major German newspapers as they all have employment sections. Depending on the town and area you want to move to, you will likely also have a community webpage for that place, like Craigslist or something in German that is similar too that might help you find a job, an apartment or house and other useful things.

      Finally, there are quite a few expat and other sites to help with day to day things ( I really should add these to my blogroll as I have just discovered I don’t have a section on this).

      Making it in Germany
      Living in Germany
      Toytown Germany (forum, community and general information site)
      How to Germany
      The German Way

      I hope this helps and keep me posted!!

      Thanks for writing and reading too!!

  3. Pingback: What I know about Germans… | living the american dream in europe

    • I am excited for you!!
      Moving is tough and moving to an entirely different continent and country provides its own challenges and rewards!

      Living in Germany is not necessarily something I had planned on doing as an adult after I earned my degree, but here I am. I love it but it is also a challenge since I have been mainly teaching English, which is not necessarily what I thought I would be doing or was originally trained to do.

      Try to stay flexible and enjoy the little victories. I’ve been here four years and still totally appreciate the little victories!

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