Expat Voices: Brian Phillips on living in Germany

Expat Voices: Brian Phillips on living in Germany

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British expat Brian Phillips finds the Germans less class conscious than the English but is puzzled about certain German traffic rules and would stop the sport of hunting.

Name: Brian Phillips
Nationality:  British/ English
City of residence: Hemslingen
Date of birth: 21 September 1936
Civil status: Retired
Occupation:  Electronics engineer/ consultant
Lived in Germany for 12 years.

Why did you move to Germany?

Had enough of a three-class society and found a much less class conscious and more helpful population in Germany. I had experience of German life whilst serving in the British military here in 1958.

Met a German lady some 16 years ago whilst on holiday in Mosel, we decided it would be better for me to find work here and then retire here. 

What was your first impression of Germany?

Less bureaucracy, very helpful and friendly people.  For instance, you can speak with a Bürgermeister (Mayor) at a town or village event or greet him or her in the high street and you will have a friendly response, no sort of class distinction, So contrary to my English experience: I had a small business and one day the local mayor and two deputies walked into my business premises and introduced themselves. I was asked by a deputy if I had any questions for the mayor, I said yes and addressed a question to the mayor, I was immediately stopped in mid-sentence and instructed that I was not to address the mayor directly but to address the question through a deputy. Is that snobbery?

What do you think of the food?

Typical Niedersachsen house design (By Brian Phillips)

If one gets used to eating a lot of good quality meat, it is very good.

What do you think of the shopping in Germany?
No problems, friendly service, usually shop assistants will always spare time to help with questions etc.

What do you appreciate about living in Germany?

Very friendly treatment by bureaucrats, and fairly good all round weather.

What do you find most frustrating about living in Germany?

Perhaps the German nationals are not willing to argue against the state when at times they should; most Germans have a respectful fear of the police which I find is a bit unfair on the police, as most are very polite and helpful. But this is not reflected in the German driving behaviour where it is considered a good sport to break the speed limits.

What puzzles you about Germany and what do you miss since you’ve moved here?

I am most puzzled by part of the traffic law which declares that traffic coming from a right hand road onto a non-main- road, has right of way and the vehicle on the straight ahead road must give way. Most German drivers think this gives them the right to drive straight out onto the straight road without stopping to look. This is the cause of many accidents every day and could be easily changed to stop or slow at the junction. I asked a few people why this law stands, and they all said it was designed to slow the traffic in small towns….

A second puzzle is why traffic lights for the pedestrians do not go green only when all the vehicular traffic lights are held at red. This is a danger as soon as a vehicle gets a green light and is turning right or left the driver can suddenly be faced with pedestrians or cyclist dashing across the road around the corner.

How does the quality of life in Germany compare to the quality of life in other countries that you’ve lived in?

Generally much better quality of life than my life in England; people are less concerned with money and the health service is extraordinarily efficient and offers some of the best treatment without long delays.  More people enjoy membership of social organisations, such as hiking, sport, and music.

Part of windmill mueseum in Gifhorn Niedersachsen (By Brian Phillips)

If you could change anything about Germany, what would it be?

I would stop animal hunting, and make all animal control be only undertaken as a civil duty by government employed personnel. Hunting is considered a sport here and the hunters, although claiming to look after animal interests, spend most of the time trying to kill the animals. Every year all over Germany, the hunters have what they call a “treib Jagt” (drive hunt) this is where they select a wooded area and have a team of beaters walk through the woods driving all animals out of the woods to be met with a large group of hunters who shoot at everything that comes out. This finishes with the carnage of many creatures, rabbits, dear, wild pigs and so forth, after which the hunters lay out all the killed animals and then celebrate with blowing horns and drinking schnapps to praise themselves on their bravery!

What advice would you give to a newcomer?

If you seek work in Germany, do not be slow in letting the employers know that you are looking for work; send faxes or emails to any firm you think might be interested in your skills. Tell the prospective employers of your language skills if this is your skill--the English language is in high demand if you also can translate from German, and don’t be too shy if you cannot show certificates or degree passes etc. if you have these then of course show them but generally the German employers are more interested in your ability to work based on sense and experience more than your academic skills.

Join clubs of your interest, sports etc. this way you soon make friends. Most clubs charge a yearly fee of around EUR 50, but of course this varies.

Don’t be fearful of German bureaucracy, you will hear people say that Germany has too much of this, maybe it has, but what country hasn’t?  The important thing in my experience is that the bureaucrats are usually very helpful if you ask them to help.  For instance should you have a tax query, if you ask at the tax office, someone will usually  come and sit down with you and give advice on your rights and entitlements, they will not tell you to go and see an advisor or keep you rights and entitlements secret as happened to me several times in England.

Would you like to add anything?

Finally, my experience of living in Germany has been the smoothest part of my life and that includes the time when I served here in the military.


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