CONTRIBUTED BY LUCY B.
Living abroad changes you, for better or for worse. Whether you bring back a tendency to dine at 11pm from your trip to Spain, or the impulse to have a quick shower several times a day from Brazil, living outside of your comfort zone changes your habits and your outlook. Here are a few things Germany has taught me.
1) It’s really not that hard to remember to bring your own bag to the grocery store. When the bags are free and plentiful, I forget my reusable bag all the time, but in Germany, I’m just in the habit of always having one with me, or else more carefully planning my trips to the store. You’re welcome, The Environment!
2) It’s okay to say no. American customer service and our desire to protect people’s feelings sometimes leads us to soften the tone of “no” so much that it sounds like “yes.” The first time one of my English students in Germany asked, “But can you say it this way?” and I replied, “Well, not exactly” everyone in the room seemed very confused. A straight-up no would have gotten the job done, and honestly, no one’s feelings were hurt. There’s a general preference for clarity over ambiguity.
3) There’s a difference between work time and play time. Germans are entitled to a certain amount of time off. You may have even read about some larger companies forbidding their employees from answering email in their off-hours and designing email programs to delete emails received when the employee is on vacation. The strategy aims to prevent employee burn out, and I think it’s a great idea. How many times have you done minor work duties in your “free” time, and then been miserable at work, feeling like you’re working all the time?
4) Fresh air is important. People tend to spend more time outdoors and kids are given more free time to play outside. When the sun comes out in the winter, just about everyone in our neighborhood goes out for a walk.
5) Owning a dog is a big responsibility. I am still getting over the shock of the price of our first dog license in Germany. We have two dogs, and together their yearly license payment to the city is something like 15 times what we paid in the US. I’ve seen loose dogs (escaped), but never strays. People tend to really value their dogs and sometimes even take them everywhere with them (even into restaurants).
6) Public transportation / walking. I’m ashamed to say that I used to drive to Target and I only lived 10 minutes away on foot. I had a myriad of excuses (bad sidewalks, wanting to buy too much to carry, too hot outside, too little time, etc.) Ultimately, I probably drove my car two minutes to avoid a 10 minute walk about 200 times. Now I have to plan my trips, figure out how much I can carry and not impulsively buy heavy things. The advantage is that I get a little outdoor time (yes, sometimes I resent it when it’s raining). I don’t ever spend time looking for a parking place, and I have to actually be mindful of what I buy.
7) The house is much easier to keep clean if everyone takes their shoes off. There’s just so much mud and sand out there.
Note: Click photo for source.