German expat life

Grounded Traveler: 11 signs you're a great German expat

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Could you handle life as an expat in Germany? Andrew Couch lists 11 traits that indicate if you could handle the German expat lifestyle.

Have you ever pondered becoming an expat? Moving away from home and diving into the glamorous (sometimes) and frustrating (often) life of living outside of your home country? Have you every thought of Germany as a destination? Here are some signs to check if you could be suited to living an expat in Germany.

1. You don’t mind not understanding things on a daily basis.

Being an expat means that even after many years, there will still be things that you don’t understand about your host country. It is a life-long learning thing. Not just the language, but the food and culture, too. Things so subtle no guidebook would have them.

2. Being adaptable is one of your primary traits.

So you are used to going to the grocery store on Sunday afternoon or at 3am on a Tuesday? Sorry, can’t. Get used to it. All of those things from #1 that you don’t understand, you have to adapt to them. And things can be freaky and scary sometimes. It’s ok to be unsure or overwhelmed sometimes though.

3. You enjoy filling out reams of forms for no apparent reason (in triplicate, of course).

Germany sometimes feels like a beauracracy with a society attached. Most things still require a written signature to do. The amount of papers notifying me of things in my mailbox is pretty high. The requirement to keep those papers for tax purposes or whatnot also means they stick around.

If you like paperwork and filing, you could be on your way.

4. You like to travel, but still like to feel at home.

Being an expat is kind of like travelling all the time. Foreign food and language all over the place. Yet this is where you live, so you get to experience all of this and still have a comfy bed and your own bathroom.

5. You seem to get along with travellers better than the people in your home town.

As an expat you will perhaps find that you may be adaptable to live nearly anywhere and deal with strange traditions in your new home, and yet the stuff you grew up with at home no longer makes much sense.
Travellers may understand your stories of coping in a foreign culture better than your friends at home that never left.

6. You enjoy getting Christmas cards in March.

Yeah, mail between Germany and the US is not always the most speedy thing.

7. “What sex is table?” is a perfectly normal question.

Yup, German has three genders. Masculine, feminine and neuter. And there are a few rules, but nothing like Spanish or Italian, so you just have to memorise most of them. Or do like I do and mumble. And yet German can be a beautiful language.

8. You like that things run on time and get worried that the system is breaking down if a train is just a few minutes late.

German order is legendary. Everything runs as expected and the system is king. Until it isn’t. Trains are late by 10 minutes pretty often, but with a system so tightly wound (seven minute exchanges are very common) it can mean a problem. Whereas other countries just relax and deal with it, Germans begin to complain about the downfall of the system.

9. Opening the windows in the middle of the winter for 5–10 minutes makes sense.

It does! The air gets stuffy and you need fresh air, no matter how cold. Right? If this seems right to you, you won’t be surprised when you have to wear a coat inside just to deal with the random open windows. Just don’t let a draft hit your neck. Germans are obsessed with fresh air.

10. You think it is crazy to cross the street against a red 'don’t walk' sign. Even at 2am with no cars in sight.

The lights must be there for your protection and the keeping of order right? The rules must be obeyed.

11. You know which of the four cans to use for your trash.

Yellow is plastic and packaging. Green is for paper. Brown for food waste and biodegradable stuff. Black is for everything else. There is a yearly magazine that comes out with every possible form of waste and where it can be thrown away. Ali has a wonderful post about this garbage stuff in Germany.

11 1/2. The fact that there are four different places to throw things away is not odd.

Seriously, four! They are talking about adding a fifth one, and still people leave things on the street corner to be taken by others.

So, are you ready to join us in Germany?


Reprinted with permission from Grounded Traveler

Andrew Couch: Grounded Traveler - Expat life in GermanyAndrew Couch is an American expat living in Germany since 2007. He is a freelance web developer. Travel is the passion of he and his wife who fill their time between travelling and work with blogs like Grounded Traveler about expat life and Germany, Ctrl-Alt-Travel about the details of travel, and a resource website for travellers about carry on luggage. You can also follow him on Twitter.

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1 Comment To This Article

  • Heike posted:

    on 12th November 2014, 15:35:26 - Reply

    Grammar, please! Or is that being to, well, Germanic?