Expats, immigrants, and even people who have travelled internationally often get asked some odd, awful, and humorous questions about what life is like abroad. I thought it would be amusing to answer some of the questions I’ve been asked, sometimes even by close family members, during my almost eight years of living in Germany. I hope you’ll share some of the questions you’ve been asked in the comments.
Do Germans have refrigerators?
Yes, Germans do have refrigerators. They tend to be smaller than American refrigerators, often because German kitchens tend to be smaller than American kitchens. People in expensive cities (say, like Munich) are often most limited in space and may have what an American would call a large dorm-size fridge. We had one of these in Berlin. It was about three feet high and had a tiny freezer compartment. But we also bought a large refrigerator in addition to this one, because we had space for one. Here in our village, everyone I know of has a large (say, 5-6 foot tall) fridge, and most have a freezer in the basement or garage in addition.
Another reason for the smaller fridges is that Germans go shopping more often and that there are less preservatives in food here. Stuff goes bad much more quickly, so you don’t stock up here as much as the average person in the US.
But I thought Germans don’t have fridges because they never put ice in the drinks over there?
No, trust me, they do have fridges, they just don’t like ice in their drinks in general. It’s a cultural thing. There are some American places here that put ice in drinks, and occasionally, if someone recognizes my accent as American, I get a big glass full of ice cubes. Seriously bugs me because even before moving here, I didn’t like ice in my drinks.
Do Germans have cars?
Yes, Germans have cars. A German, Karl Benz, is generally considered the inventor of the modern automobile. You may have heard of some German-made brands, like BMW, Mercedes Benz, Audi, Porsche, and Volkswagen. Not all Germans own cars, because the public transportation system here allows one to get about without a car, but Germany is a country that loves cars and driving, you know, Fahrvergnügen.
Are the roads paved in Germany?
Yes, they are paved. It goes along with the whole love of driving thing. The roads tend to be in pretty good condition because Germans like to drive fast. You might have heard of the Autobahn? That is the German highway system and some parts have no speed limit. You can feel the joy of passing a semi truck going 80kph (50mph) while you go 150kph (93mph) and a suped up BMW is crawling up your tailpipe with lights flashing because they want to go 200kph (124mph) and you are ruining their Fahrvergnügen.
Do all Germans wear Lederhosen?
No, it’s traditional wear (that means for formal occasions or festivals) mostly for southern Germans (like Bavarians). Most northern Germans wouldn’t be caught dead in a pair of Lederhosen.
Is it true that utilities are so expensive that Germans can’t afford to have clothes dryers and take hot showers every day?
Electricity and water do cost more here, but I don’t think it affects most peoples’ decisions to have a dryer or affects their bathing length or frequency. You can buy clothes dryers here (we have one) and we know Germans who have them. I think it’s more about Germans being more environmentally conscious, in general. Many people here just don’t see a need for a dryer, they can dry their clothes on a line for free and it’s a much better choice for the environment. They also don’ t tend to take long showers because Germans are very conscious about water conservation. Around the world, especially in industrialized countries, bathing frequency is a cultural thing rather than a cost issue. I find most Germans do shower plenty, they just don’t always use deodorant (it is getting more and more popular as time goes on, but deodorant use is also a cultural thing).
Is there bread in Germany?
Boy, oh boy, is there. Bread is an art form in Germany. Germans are bread connoisseurs who often don’t consider the stuff sold in the US to actually qualify as bread (same as with beer). After almost eight years of living here, I kind of have to agree. (Yes of course you can find good bread in the US, but it’s not available in anywhere near the same quantity or variety).
Is the water safe to drink in Germany?
Yes, the water is safe to drink. Germans tend to prefer sparkling water though, which they buy bottled, but many people drink straight tap water or use a Brita-style filter at home. If you order water in a restaurant and don’t specify if you want still or sparkling, you may very well get sparkling. You can order tap water in a restaurant (Leitungswasser), but most places don’t really like giving it out. German restaurants often have the bulk of their profits coming from the drinks. I usually only ask for tap water if I want it alongside a fancy cocktail or something.
I’m sure I’ve been asked other similar questions by my fellow Americans, but that’s all I can think of at the moment. Just to be fair, I thought I’d throw in a question that my husband Rainer was asked by a hairdresser here in Germany after she found out he’d lived in the US for a time:
How could Americans elect someone who is illiterate to be president? (this was during the Bush administration)
Try as he might, he couldn’t convince her that Bush could actually read and had graduated college. So you see, these kinds of questions come from all sides.
What questions have you been asked about life abroad?