There are always challenges when you move to a new country. And it’s easy to see all the things that are difficult. Or those that just get right on your nerves. So this post is the antithesis to all of that. This post is dedicated to the things I LOVE about living in Germany.
Springtime in Germany
Oh, winter can feel long here in Germany. And grey. But then, suddenly, it’s springtime and everything is lovely! I think it’s my favourite season – the blossom in the parks, the magnolia trees, the fact you no longer have to wrap up in a hundred layers…
And spring time means Spargel time! Spargel is everywhere right now – in the markets, in the supermarkets, in the special Spargel stalls that appear on every corner… And until last year, I had no idea what it was. Any guesses?
It’s…white asparagus. And everyone goes crazy for it. In the supermarket they even wheel in a special spargel machine to clean and prep your spargel for you. It’s graded by quality. It’s a BIG thing. And yes, it’s delicious.
It’s also on every menu in every restaurant. And, of course, I love this. This is seasonal eating done superbly well. This is about looking forward to something and really making the most of it when it appears. This is about appreciating the little things. And it’s not just about spargel…it happens with strawberries, wild mushrooms, wine, apples and the different speciality breads at different times of the year.
But there’s something special about spargel…maybe because the appearance of all these yellow huts is a sure sign that the weather is going to get better, the evenings are going to get longer and summer’s finally on it’s way.
Now, I thought the Brits were dog mad. And then I moved here. Best place to have a dog. Dogs are allowed practically everywhere – in shops, departments stores, cafes and restaurants. BUT. German dogs are very well behaved. Of course they are.
This may be the norm in the country you live in, but it wasn’t for me. When German people enter a room – say, waiting at the dentist – they say ‘Hallo’ to everyone in the room. And when they leave, they say goodbye. (Or rather ‘Tschuss!’ which is one of my other fave things about Germany but I will come onto that). I LOVE this. I love the politeness of it. I love the fact that, while it may not lead to a chat, it’s about recognising that there are other people in the room with you. Admittedly I am the kind of person who likes to say Hello to everyone anyway, but this little thing always makes me feel happy.
There’s always a fest…
And speaking of feeling happy… There is always a festival going on here! So everyone will have heard of Oktoberfest. But that just seems to segue right into the Christmas markets. And then after Christmas there’s Fasching (basically lots of dressing up, parades and partying). And then there’s the Wine festival. And then the Harvest festival. And then we’re back to Oktoberfest. With lots of other smaller ‘fests’ in between.
As with ‘spargelzeit’ the seasons are enjoyed and celebrated. It feels like there is always something fun and family-friendly to do at weekends.
And at every Fest, there’s wine. Don’t smirk. Banish those thoughts of Blue Nun and Black Tower. The wine here is fantastic. Ok, caveat: the white wine here is fantastic. And it’s cheap.
The thing that intrigues me is that people seem to start early on the wine. For example, at our local market, there is a wine stand. It’s always crowded at 10.30am with people enjoying a glass as they buy their fruit and veg. People always seem to be having a glass of fizz with their breakfast. Mid-week, just in a normal cafe. But the paradox is this: no-one ever seems to be drunk. Or certainly not the way I imagine people would be back in the UK at a wine festival that was on all day and into the night. So maybe the attitude to drinking is different, but that’s anther subject.
And clearly I can’t mention wine without beer. Most people think of beer when they think of Germany. Beer and bratwursts. Bratwursts are not on my love list, however. They are safely filed under ‘Things I would happily never eat again’. But yes, the beer here is great. As you can probably guess, I am more of a wine drinker. (I was going to write ‘wino’ but that’s not quite the image I want portray…). However, more recently, I have been making an effort to just drink a little bit less. And what I have found is that the alcohol free beers here are great too. Apparently they even hand them out at the end of marathons to the runners…so practically a health drink, no?
Yum. Great bread here. Within walking distance of our house there are four bakeries. Buying ‘brotchen’ (bread rolls) is a daily thing here. Everyone has their favoured bakery and type of bread. I like the ‘Wellness Activ’ bread which I sit and enjoy while contemplating how my wellness would be improved if my exercise was more ‘Activ’ than just walking to the bakery…
Now I can’t say that I truly love the German language. When it comes to language, I am a Francophile at heart. I can’t quite get to grips with German; I kind of feel like I’m in trouble when someone is speaking it to me. But, two things on this.
Firstly, there are the German words I love. Like ‘Tschüss’. Which means ‘Bye’ and is always said in a kind of higher pitch, and it sounds so cute – essentially a complete juxtaposition to whatever barking Germanic phrase preceded it. For the longest time I thought people were saying ‘Juice!’
And ‘Gnau’, which means ‘correct’ or ‘perfect’. People say it a lot. My good friend here got confused between the two and kept saying ‘Tschüss’ mid conversation when she should have been saying ‘Gnau’…and wondered why people seemed surprised to see her still standing there, looking at them expectantly.
And secondly I love the fact that, generally, my awful attempts at German are treated with kindness. When I ask a German if they speak English they usually reply, ‘A little bit’. And then they speak fluent English. When I speak German and apologise for how bad I am, people tell me I am doing well. I literally can only speak in the present tense. I sound like a haven’t got two brain cells to rub together. But, there you go, people are kind, and it encourages me to try more.
Which brings me on to the top of my top ten. Yes, it’s the German people. Not all of them, granted; I’m excluding from this the woman in town who always shouts at my kids. But I love the fact that German people are direct. A cliché, but it’s true. And it takes some getting used to, but I appreciate it now (although let’s not pretend there haven’t been tears along the way). I love the fact that I have never been made to feel stupid for my lack of mastery of the language. Yet – I don’t want to not tempt fate.
When it comes down to it, I am an immigrant to this country, and I have been made to feel welcome. So Dankeschön, Germany. Fingers crossed we’ll get to stay a while longer. I might even manage the past tense. But for now, I’m ok with speaking and living in the present.