What I like about Germany!

by Christina Geyer on May 22, 2009 · 27 comments

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Happy Birthday, Germany! The Bundesrepublik Deutschland turns 60 years old today.  Herzlichen Glückwunsch zum Geburtstag!

Almost 5 years ago, I made a post about my likes and dislikes of Germany.  I figured I’d update it, and since it’s Germany’s birthday, I’ll save my updated dislikes for another day.

  • Brezn – I still love my fresh baked bread.  And now that I’m in Bavaria, I have no idea how I lived without Brezn (pretzels)

Brezn

Mmmm, Brezn…

  • Kid friendliness – the acceptance of babies and kids in daily life.  You don’t get dirty looks for bringing your kids out with you.  I take Oliver everywhere.  I think kids are better behaved here than in the US (in general) because of this exposure and acceptance.  Before we went to a fancy restaurant here, I asked about whether kids were allowed, they seemed surprised by the question and were genuinely happy to have Oliver there.  He was a perfect gentleman and thoroughly enjoyed the caviar, raw salmon amuse bouche, and octopus with us.
  • Dog friendliness – dogs are also accepted many places and tend to be very well-trained and obedient (just not Charlie) – people are starting to pick up after their dogs here too.
  • Socialized medicine – still digging that everyone here gets great healthcare (with hardly any waiting involved – at least in Bavaria, waiting times were a little longer in the former East).  Sure, taxes are high, but everyone is covered, and that makes me feel good about the society I live in.
  • Material possessions ≠ happiness – Germans aren’t a society in debt.  Sure it makes it a little difficult for Americans traveling overseas because few places take credit cards, but I think it makes for a happier society in general.  Germans live within their means, save a lot, and don’t have houses cluttered with stuff.  The 19% sales tax probably helps a lot with this point.  I’m still working on changing my attitude towards spending, I see the German way as the better, healthier one.
  • No urban sprawl – houses are clustered into cities, towns and villages rather than endless suburbs.  This allows for easier public transportation and shops and schools within walking distance.  Even out in the country where we live, we’ve got a train stations and several shops and restaurants in walking distance.  We do need a car, but we only need one and many of the other families in our neighborhood also only have one car.

I’m sure there’s a lot I’ve forgotten about, but the little guy is up from his nap, so I’ll stop here.  What do you like about Germany?

  • http://www.crazykewl.com Terence Rose

    I think I should have born German.

  • kelli

    Sounds lovely. I live in the UK and there is alot in common with the US. Loads of spending, lots of debt. Not very child friendly here at all. Most pubs do not allow children in to eat a meal after a certain hour. You just feel bad to bring your child out. Just like back in the US, they think children only belong at McDonalds.

  • http://schubergschatten.blogspot.com Kelly

    I agree wholeheartedly with you, particularly your points about materialism and urban density, although for me it is ironic that gluten-intolerant me moved to the land of bread and beer. :-)
    But I was wondering about the “socialized medicine” comment: my understanding is that medicine here is not socialized, rather everyone is required to have health insurance, which all comes from private insurance companies, only the government pays the premium if you are unemployed / disabled, etc. Am I just misinformed? I haven’t had too much opportunity to interact with the health profession yet.

    Kellys last blog post..Why are we here, now?

  • http://www.amiexpat.com Christina Geyer

    @terence: It’s not a bad life. Although New York has a lot of the same benefits.

    @kelli: Exactly, how are they supposed to learn to behave if they can’t ever go out?

    @kelly: It isn’t fully socialized here, but there is mandatory universal health coverage, which is an aspect of socialized medicine. Most health insurance companies are publicly run non-profits and some people can opt out into private health insurance, if the private company will take them (so forget that option if you have a lot of pre-existing conditions). Additionally, only about 10% of hospitals are private and for-profit, while 90% are non-profits.

  • http://JBITTNER.COM/GERMANY J

    Offhand, the beer.

    Also, the user-friendliness of the healthcare system – but not having to wait an hour when you have an appointment.

  • http://www.amiexpat.com Christina Geyer

    @j: I’m not a beer drinker, but I am aware of Germany’s beer-making prowess. :) The waiting when you have an appointment seems to be a regional thing. I’ve hardly ever waited with an appointment here in Bavaria, but up in Berlin, Meck-Pom, and Brandenburg, the waits could be horrendous.

  • silvia

    You made my day today with these true words!:)
    Now that the US is so troubled, they sure could cut themselfes a slice of that. But it seems to me that is too hard to to. The US is not for change and do not see where it leads them to. I only realized that after a while. We are still living the German Way of Life over here, and many laugh about it, but it is not possible at all to be debt free like in Germany because of the rotten healthcare system.

  • CY

    Hey Christina:

    What you have mentioned is so true!

    You know, I have a little culture shock when I see how well behaved the dogs and the kids are. And, most of them are sooo adorable!

    Regarding to the behavior of dogs, I heard that every dog owners and their dogs have to attend training together. I think it certainly helps a lot!

    As I have told you before, I really like the cycling track here. I think Germany is a cyclist friendly country. Those tracks are well built and well managed. I often see families cycling together, and i think it makes superb activity!

    CY

  • Brigitte

    All your points are so true! My husband and I have talked often about how much less (material things) we have here. Not that we don’t want it, but it’s part of living life a bit simpler, yet still having a fuller life. Living here has made us think, “Do we really need that?” The answer is usually “No” and we can’t fit it in our tiny place anyway. :)

    As far as healthcare is concerned, I look at my friends who have had accidents or surgeries and have only had to pay the 10 Euro quarterly fee. If they were in the States, they would have bills stacked up high! Healthcare here is the way it should be in the States. If any of you disagree, then just watch the movie “Sicko”.

    A few points to yours to add about what I like about living in Germany:
    1. It’s so clean here. Everytime I go on vacation somewhere else, I think to myself, “It’s so dirty here, unlike Germany!” And, I am always anxious to get home after that.
    2. Orderliness – People mainly follow the rules here. The 10PM quiet time, waiting for Green Man when crossing the street if a child is near, and ns coming on time.

    -Brigitte

  • http://cndrnh.blogspot.com CN Heidelberg

    Your list reads about exactly like mine would, even the kid thing, which I just started to notice recently despite not having any personal experience with a child. Materialism, urban planning, and healthcare are three biggies for me, and the fourth is vacation time and retirement, which you didn’t mention.

    CN Heidelbergs last blog post..Intermission

  • http://vkontakte.com/ Mike

    Hi, nice posts there :-) thank’s for the interesting information

  • http://carolyncasl.wordpress.com Carolyn

    The link to your post 5 years ago doesn’t seem to work.

    Carolyns last blog post..The Social Persona Test (What kind of man/woman are you?)

  • http://www.amiexpat.com Christina Geyer

    @silvia: I think the US is actually capable of making huge changes once society makes up its mind to change. Rainer likes to say that Americans are always going to extremes. I think right now the US is swinging towards becoming very environmentally conscious. I think another upcoming swing will be towards total acceptance of universal healthcare, if Obama and Congress can get that passed. I don’t see a change in attitude towards family or materialism coming soon, but I don’t live there, so it’s hard to judge.

    @cy: The kids in Lederhosen are especially cute. The city was filled with them yesterday. :)

    @brigette: Your points are all so true too. Houses and apartments are all so much smaller here, you can’t have as much stuff. We live in a 100 qm (1000 sq ft) apartment and my brother thinks he’ll need to stay at a hotel if he comes to visit cause we don’t have the room!

    And speaking of clean, I love how clean public restrooms are here. I don’t mind paying 50 cents for an attendant when I don’t have to worry about the messes you often encounter in public restrooms in the US!

    @cn heidelberg: Yeah, those are good points too. I don’t work anymore, so they aren’t the first thing that come to mind for me, but when I was working they were definitely near the top of my list.

    @mike: Thanks for commenting.

    @carolyn: Oops! It’s fixed now.

  • http://www.regensblog.com cliff1976

    Signage.

    I realized I’ve become spoiled by Germany’s consistent and prominent signage, such that when I’m exploring new parts, I can count on signs intended for pedestrian and vehicular traffic to guide me toward my goal or help me decide in which direction to wander.

    Not so much in other countries—like, for example, Italy.

    cliff1976s last blog post..Where’s a good place to get a haircut in Berlin?

  • http://www.amiexpat.com Christina Geyer

    @cliff: Italy is a disaster, re: signage. That is something Germany does well.

  • http://genauslander.wordpress.com Amber

    I need get down to Bavaria and try the pretzels – everyone raves about them! We have ones that look similar here in NRW, but they mostly range from “not very good” to “fine.” Other things I love about Germany: six weeks of vacation and lots of holidays, bike-friendliness, beautiful and historic buildings, and the fact that I can go for a 30 minute bike ride in the evening and see horses, cows, goats, chickens, sheep, etc. I’ve never lived so close to agriculture before, and I went to college in Iowa!

    Ambers last blog post..We made it to Paris!

  • Susan

    Germany is not a nation in debt? Behind what rock are you living???? Poverty is more spread than ever!

  • http://www.amiexpat.com Christina Geyer

    @amber: All true! I love all the historic buildings and seeing the farm animals. You should come down to Bavaria, the pretzels are da bomb and it’s a nice place to sightsee as well! :)

    @susan: I think you are a first time commentor, and I don’t know how much of my blog you’ve read, but we generally try to keep things respectful around here. I don’t know your background and prior experience, but compared to America, especially some of the parts I’ve lived in, my statement is quite true. Spend some time in the bad parts of Richmond, VA, or in downtown Durham, NC, and I promise you, there is nothing in Germany that can compare. I’ve lived in the former East and had friends who were on Harz IV. I worked in Berlin-Wedding and found it lovely compared to places I’ve been in the US (it actually is a lot nicer now than when I lived in Berlin 7 years ago and Rainer refused to even consider getting an apartment there).

    The average American family has over $8000 in credit card debt, add on to that car loans, student loans and mortgages, and you see that most Americans are struggling to stay afloat (whether they recognize it or not). Compare that to Germany where most don’t have a credit card and many pay cash for autos, where 30-50% down is standard for buying a house and many people rent their whole lives to avoid overextending themselves.

    Add to that the US National debt of over $11 trillion, compared to Germany’s 1.5 trillion Euros and you’ll see that I’m not the one behind a rock. – Just had to get that barb in there 😉

    Anyways, my point is that from an American standpoint, Germany and Germans are not a nation or people swimming in debt. If you’re from a nation with less debt, or are German and haven’t seen these aspects of America, you would no doubt have a different view. This is a comparative list, it’s all about one’s prior experience.

  • Brenda

    Oh my! I’m getting Heimweh fuer Deutschland. I lived in Marburg-an-der-Lahn and West Berlin ( Kreuzberg)from 1983-1987, and considered those the best years of my life! Fingers crossed that the US will finally get a better health care system in place. Alles gute!

    Brenda

  • GermanintheUS

    Hi, I am new to this website. I like it very much. As a German who is living in the United States, I strongly agree with your comments about debt int the US. It is quiet horrible. Don’t get me wrong. I love living in the USA but this is something I can never get used to. I am in my senior year of College and when I am finished I will owe more than $ 20,000. That’s still pretty good compared to some other people I know. I was lucky to get a scholarship that pays for more than half of my student loans. However, I am determined to pay them off within the next 10 years.

    I love your blog. It is very entertaining and it reminds me of the differences and similarities between Germany and the USA. I love both countries and I am very happy with my life over here.

  • http://www.amiexpat.com Christina Geyer

    @brenda: My fingers are certainly crossed. I really hope it happens soon!

    @GermanintheUS: Thank you! I left grad school with $17,000 in debt and knew people who had over $150,000 in student loans. How are they supposed to pay that off? It’s ridiculous!

  • GermanintheUS

    @Christina: My wife has a friend who was an English major and went to a fancy school. I think she still owes them about $ 90,000. Unbelievable!!!! I am going to be a German teacher and I hope I can get the school district that will employ me to pay for my masters. I will keep my fingers crossed and my thumbs pushed. Thank you for writing. Your blog is great!

  • Dani

    Having grown up military and lived most of my younger years in Germany I can tell you that when it comes to most things, the US can learn a lot from Germany. I work technical support here in the US and make a jokable income however in Germany I could make a substantial income doing the same job plus have health care for myself and the rest of my family. I would get child care assistance (kindergeld) and better vacation time. I could go on and on…transportation system, education, food. The US has some beautiful places but lets face it, we are a nation of greed and the days of help they neighbor and appreciation for what you have are long gone. It is now bypass the Jones’ no matter the cost!!

  • http://www.hotline.co.uk/ Gunnsy

    Reminds me of my last trip to germany must get over again love the people the food salami and the beer however i think switzerland is even better well worth a visit too
    .-= Gunnsy´s last blog ..Embroidered Polo Shirts smarten up your image =-.

  • http://windywilsons.blogspot.com/ Brandy

    Ice cream and sorbet. There is none like it in the states. When I return home to Chicago in a few months, I will miss it terribly when I go to open a carton of Dreyer’s…
    .-= Brandy ´s last blog ..Schützenfest Party & Fall Colors! 21.10.2009 – 26.10.2009 =-.

  • http://stabeworld.blogspot.com/ Jodi

    Hi Christina,
    I somehow searched pregnant americans in Germany and ended up on your blog site, but am excited I found you. I have been living in northwest Germany for just about one year now and can relate to your likes. Your blog is amazing and gives me something to aspire to someday. I will definitely try out some of your recipes. As you can see from my last blog I was talking about everything we imported from the US at Xmas. One of the things I always bring is vanilla, but I read your article about making your own. Very interesting! I recently made my own pancake syrup from maple extract….a friend gave me the tip. I refuse to pay 7 euros for maple syrup at Edeka!
    So nice to meet you and thanks for sharing your findings with the world.
    Jodi

  • Nina

    Hello,
    my name is Nina and I am a german :) I`m so happy you all say such nice things about germany. I lived in america for on year (wisconsin) so I know how life in america is like. Don`t get me wrong I love the US but the health system is just to expensive. I lost so much money just for going to a doctor because i feld kinda sick. In germany I personally don`t need to pay a thing pecause I`m still under 18 so it goes all on to my mums health insurece. (You only have to pay the 10 euros if you are over 18).

    When I went to the US i missed the bakerys and döner. But I have to say that americans are lot more out come at first. Germans need some time to make friends.
    Sorry for my bad english I learned 9 years english in school but I`t better in understanding then writing :(

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