“Es gehört zum deutschen Bedürfnis, beim Biere von der Regierung schlecht zu reden.”–Otto von Bismarck
Translated to English, it means "It's a German necessity to speak badly of the Government over a beer". Ha! Frankly, I find it refreshing that Germany allows its citizens to express their opinions- isn't that the entire point of a democracy? Everything I knew about Germany, was from the information I received at my colleagues in Siemens- the first company that I worked for. All that I knew was Germans are meticulous, punctual, love monochrome (read white, grey, black) and that the German language has many long syllable words!
I guess I was pretty surprised when I realized that life in Germany can be very different from what we experience back home in India- it does take some getting used to, but ultimately, the changes I have made in my lifestyle have enabled me to lead a better, more balanced life too! However, there are a few things which I still find extremely surprising! I hope this new life hacks in Germany blog post provides a few helpful ideas to get better acclimatized to life in Germany!
Sonntag ist Ruhetag!
Ruhe in German means peace. Tag is the German word for the day. So, Ruhetag means peaceful day or silent day. I remember in India, Sundays meant waking up late, going out for a movie or shopping, pretty much what you can do any other day except go to work- something that I, as a working woman, definitely appreciated! In Germany though, with the exception of a few gas station shops and cafes, almost everything is closed! I remember craving for a Pizza on a Sunday only to realize that no restaurants were open!
The origin of Ruhetag can be traced back decades ago when most Germans could only spend Sundays with their families. All other weekdays were spent at work, and so to make sure that people did not neglect their families- Sundays were officially the days when no work was done. Families generally wore their best clothes and went to church.
So, if you need something on a Sunday- good luck! You ain't getting it! This means you need to plan all your shopping needs and get them completed on Saturday itself- and you guessed it right- that's the day all the supermarkets and malls are crowded!
"Cash is King. Get every drop of cash you can get and hold on to it."- Jack Welch
I guess the Germans took this very seriously! On average, Germans carry up to 100 Euros in cash in their wallets! Germans are extremely apprehensive about sharing personal data online and hence do not trust using credit or debit cards. The next most used form of money transfer is online bank transfer!
Looking back, this was the biggest and by far the most shocking revelation. While in India and other Asian countries we use app-based payments every now and then, many restaurants and shops here in Germany do not even possess a card terminal! Don't be surprised if you leave home with a light wallet and return back with a heavy one- yes the opposite of what you might expect! Every time you purchase something, say a chocolate worth 2.50 Euros and you pay 5 Euros, you get the remaining change back. As a result, you end up carrying coins more than you may be comfortable with. You can use these coins at vending machines, but I for one am struggling to use the 1/2/5 cent coins! Any and all suggestions are welcome!
"Nothing brings people together like good food...."
....and apparently drinking water need not be included! German tap water is extremely clean and can be consumed. For a country that provides safe and healthy drinking water through its taps, restaurants not serving free water is a huge disappointment! The waiter will not serve you a glass of complimentary water, and in a few restaurants, you cannot drink the water that you may be carrying either! We faced this rude experience when we drank the water we were carrying at a restaurant in Cologne.
So, you do what you gotta do- either drink beer with your food like the Germans do or pay for a glass of mineral water (carbonated or not!). Mineral water can cost between 3 to 4 Euros at a restaurant!
Relearn the use of postage stamps!
When was the last time you sent a letter via post? I remember a school assignment! While everything in India happens over email, it's not the same here. Everything from your Long Term Residence Visa to One Time Password will be delivered by Deutsche Post! If you want to get in touch with the BAMF or Job Agency, you need to post completed applications and they will respond in kind! So, start revising kids!
It is for this reason that I recommend ensuring that your name on the letterbox of your apartment or home is one of the top 5 things you must accomplish within the first few days in Germany. To read the others click here!
Get ready to pay for Radio tax!
Irrespective of whether you own a television or radio, you need to pay the Rundfunkbeitrag- or the TV broadcasting tax- it's about 18 Euro a month. This tax is collected from every household- which means if you are living with your family, you pay the tax for all of you.
Although initially hassled by this new kind of tax, I ultimately saw its benefit. This tax is used to make sure that new & other media in Germany is financed by the citizens, thereby maintaining the true form of journalism. News in Germany is non-partisan and provides a clear idea about the occurrences within and outside Germany. However, this tax was created at a time when there were just 3 channels available, today online streaming is popular and most of use get the news online- it would be great if this tax was revisited to make it more relevant!
Bizarre at first, I have learned to live with these funny aspects! As a new immigrant in Germany, I am generally overwhelmed by the hospitality and kindness of people around me. Hence, these minor inconveniences are just so- they do not bother me anymore! In fact, it has definitely made my life more organized and now I truly enjoy the Sonntags as they should be done- Grillen oder Entspannen!