Differences Between the U.S. and Germany: 3 weeks

I’ve been in Germany for about three weeks, and I have noticed some obvious differences between the U.S. and Germany. They aren’t good or bad, per say, just differences between the two countries. I’ll try to avoid the extremely obvious differences that I’ve experienced before moving (like public transport or grocery shopping),  and focus on the not so obvious things.

  • Germany hasn’t joined the rest of the world in digitizing everything.

That’s not to say that Germany is not as technologically advanced as the U.S., because it is. Where Germany falls short, though, is when it comes to having all the info you need for, say, your residence permit, or something equally important, on an official government site. OR, if there is a site that just straight up lists what all you need it’s ridiculously difficult to find, because I have yet to find it. (I may or may not be an idiot at times, so it very well might be me.)

Their online banking is not as instantaneous as in the U.S., either. (At least it isn’t with Deutsche Bank.) It takes several days for your charges to be noted on your account. It’s not a huge deal, you just have to be more aware of your spending–which is never a bad thing.

You can’t get everything done online. For a lot of things you must mail something off. For example: Our AirBnB doesn’t have internet so we bought an internet stick at Aldi, but to register the internet stick in order to get it to work you have to mail off a form verifying you are who you say you are. It’s not a huge inconvenience, because the post system is relatively fast; but still, it would be so much easier to just do it all online.

  • Hours of operation are taken extremely seriously here.

Our Rathaus in Garmisch closes at 4 every day, except for Thursday when it’s open until 5. HB is in class from 8.30 until 4.30 or 5. He got to the Rathaus at 4:50 in order to register us with the Einwohnermeldeamt. The woman at the desk was livid that he came in so late and that she’d have to work a few minutes late. As soon as it was 5 o’clock the entire building emptied. It was like watching a fire drill. I have never seen a government building empty so quickly right at closing time. People just kept streaming out of the building. In the U.S. it’s not uncommon for the doors to be locked so no one else can enter, but for the people working to stay until everyone had been helped. And, if for some reason they couldn’t be helped, be offered an appointment for early the following day. Or if you’re shopping the sales associates to stay there until you are finished shopping. [If it’s only a few minutes it’s completely okay, but if you’re in there for thirty minutes we will give you dirty looks and follow you around with the vacuum so you get the picture to leave–been there, done that, don’t want to go back again.]

  • Going off my last point, some governmental hours of operation are an absolute joke

The hours for our local Auslaenderbehoerde are ridiculous. They’re open from 8 until 12:30, and you are not getting in if you walk in at 12:20 to just get info for what all you need to have for your resident permit application. Instead, you will be told to make an appointment…that may or may not actually work with your schedule, but oh well, suck it up buttercup! This is how it’s done. [This is a minor annoyance for me, because HB’s schedule is extremely strict. He has a little time to come home during lunch, but it’s not much. And I don’t know nearly enough German to go by myself to get it taken care of. It’s all around annoying, but I can’t imagine it’s much better in the U.S. Maybe the hours might be better, but I’m sure the hoops you need to jump through are just as annoying. Immigration sucks no matter where you are (I assume.).]

  • Dogs can go almost everywhere.

Okay, this one I already knew, but being in possession of a semi-loyal, four-legged friend, it’s so fantastic! It’s so incredibly nice being able to bring Nyx almost everywhere with me. There are times when having her with me is inconvenient; like, when it’s packed in Mueller and I’m trying to grab one or two things and get out, but Nyx wants to try to say hello to everyone we pass. But that is so much better than having to leave her at home.

  • Vacuums.

I’m not sure how I’ve gone so long without ever seeing a vacuum here, but I have. For reference, if you don’t know what each type of vacuum looks like here is a typical vacuum in the U.S. and here is a typical vacuum in Europe…or just Germany? I have no idea, but I assume most of Europe uses the same type. They are quite cumbersome for such small things, BUT they’re ridiculously quiet so it’s a fair trade-off, I think. It is, however, a bit odd that Europe still has bag vacuums, but that’s just because I’m so used to bag-less. I think the last time I used a vacuum with a bag in it was in the 90s. But when in Rome…er…Germany…do as the Germans do.

I have no doubt that more differences will make their appearance the longer I’m here, but those are the most obvious ones I’ve noticed so far.


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