When I first realized that Germans use two separate bed comforters (in most cases), I was taken aback. In the U.S. you would never see two twin-sized comforters on a bed (it’s usually one big blanket).
Additionally, most Germans use duvet inserts with different duvet covers (in America you usually see a full comforter, without duvet covers). Initially, I thought this was a pain in the ass, but the system is much more efficient. It’s much easier to wash duvet covers. Plus you get to change up your style whenever you want!
Driving & Public Transportation
Driving in Germany has come with its own set of challenges. Although they drive on the same side of the road as Americans do, the traffic laws are slightly different.
You cannot turn right on red in Germany. This is something I’m worried I will forget!
Additionally, they have this strange right before left rule.
America: If you’re driving on a road, a person turning right onto that road must wait for you to pass before pulling out.
Germany: If you’re driving on a road and someone is turning right onto that road, you must stop and let them pull out before you continue to drive.
It’s also not uncommon to see cars parked on the curbs of any street. This boggled my mind. In America if you park on the side of a public road, your car will get towed. Not in Germany!
It’s no secret that Germany (and Europe in general) have an intricate public transportation system. One cool thing about Germany is that there is no barrier to entry (no turnstiles). You are expected to buy a train/bus ticket on the honor system. Occasionally there will be workers checking the validity of your tickets, and if you’re caught without one it’s a huge fine. But Germans follow the rules and always buy a ticket.
You will not find a round doorknob in Germany. They either use level door handles, or none at all (you have to use the key to unlock and open the door).
Windows are another amazing thing. The windows in Germany can be tilted inward to create a breeze, or fully opened width-wise. This blew my mind the first time I saw this happen. Doors can do it too! In the U.S., windows primarily slide up halfway. Why haven’t we switched to the European system?!
I’m not sure if this is just our apartment, or if this is standard, yet our apartment is heated through coils in the floor. Each room has an individual temperature gauge. It’s pretty dang neat. In America, it’s more typical to see central air and heating.
And I don’t think it’s any secret that most residences in Germany don’t have air conditioning (centrally). 99% of homes in America will have a central air conditioning unit, but in Germany you have to purchase a portable unit (or sweat the entire summer!).
Lastly, there’s a huge emphasis around green/energy-efficient appliances. Germans are much more eco-friendly than Americans (who don’t tend to look at the energy efficiency of appliances when purchasing). Each appliance comes with an energy rating scale to help you be environmentally friendly.
Food & Drink
Something that caught me completely off-guard is the fact that milk & eggsaren’t refrigerated in Germany. And they both last a really long time! In the U.S. both milk and eggs have to be refrigerated, and only last a couple of weeks.
Another big difference is bubbly/sparkling water. Most Europeans drink sparkling water over still water. And water isn’t free when you go out to eat (don’t ask for tap water). In America, the tap water is free and will always be still.
When you go to buy water in the stores, you see six-packs of large waterbottles. You’re actually allowed to open these cellophane-wrapped packages and take individual bottles. This was so strange to me the first time I saw this! In the U.S. you have to buy the entire container.
Lastly, when grocery shopping you have to put a 1€ or 50 cent coin into the grocery carts to be able to use them. This is a much more efficient system than allowing free carts (like America) as customers have to bring them back once they’re finished shopping. It’s not uncommon to see a parking lot full of stranded grocery carts in the U.S.
The first time I had to use a public restroom in Germany, I was extremely confused. You have to pay to use the restroom?! Yes, however you do get some money back and the cleanliness of the bathrooms is unparalleled.
In America, all public bathrooms are free, however they’re usually horrifyingly dirty.
I’d take a clean bathroom for 10 cents over a free dirty one any day!
All stores are closed on Sundays and public holidays in Germany. I’m not sure this is something I’ll get used to, but it gives people more time to spend with their families.
The healthcare in Germany is much more affordable. For a 3-night stay in a hospital (plus a surgery) I paid 40€. I’m not sure how much I pay for healthcare each month, however the system is much better than the U.S. where you can drop $2,000 for a 1-hour emergency room visit.
The doctor’s office is another difference in Germany. The first appointment I had with a Hausarzt (primary care physician), I was called into the room promptly for my appointment. There were no nurses. They didn’t take my blood pressure or weight. The doctor called me directly into her office and I was out a few minutes later.
Better work/life balance
There is by-far a better work/life balance in Germany. I start with 30-days paid vacation as opposed to two-weeks in the U.S.
In general, Germans do not check their work emails or messages after work hours. This differs greatly from the U.S. where there’s an unspoken agreement to be always connected.
Cash & Banking
Credit cards here are automatically deducted from checking account at the end of each billing cycle. It’s much less common to have massive amounts of debt in Germany, as compared with the U.S.
In America, you get a credit card and can charge up to the limit. You only need to pay the minimum amount each month, and this varies by card. This is a horrible system.
Additionally, you must carry cash in Germany. Many businesses are cash-only or accept Girocards (European debit cards). In the U.S. you can charge everything with a credit or debit card.
Sales tax is included in prices of products in Germany, so you don’t have to do weird calculations as you shop. In America, sales tax varies by state.
It’s much more common in Germany to rent an apartment for many years. Families will often live in apartment for a long time before eventually buying a home. Houses are seen, in Germany, as a long-term investment.
In America, it’s common to live in an apartment before having a family, and then “upgrade” to buying a home. And it’s not uncommon for people to live in houses for a few years before moving on.
Along with eco-friendly appliances, Germans are big into recycling. We have four different garbage/recycling bins in our house. To be honest, I’m not sure what all of them are for, but separating organic/bio-degradable trash from packaging and bottles is extremely important.