Friday, June 19, 2015

Things I Love About Germany Part 2

Let me again start with my little nonsensical important disclaimer here: These are my opinions about the area of Germany I've lived in for the past year. As with anywhere, not everyone fits into these opinions or stereotypes. People are people anywhere you go. We are all different and experience things different ways.

Things I Love About Germany Part Zwei (2)

This first bullet point is a big one for me. Sooooo prepare to read a lot about it. :)

*People are more laid back about appearances in Germany. It's refreshing to see so much less makeup and obsession with looking sexy and all glammed up all the dang time. Sure, sure, we have makeup here and nice body care products and all that jazz. It's just much less of a big deal. The most made up ladies you see are the teenagers and college ladies who are experimenting with their look. Other than that, the majority of people are sporting a totally makeup free face, or going for a very natural look.

It is incredibly freeing and comfortable to walk around and see people dressed casually and modestly, but still nice. The dress is much more modest than in the States. Call me a prude, but I don't think you should be showing it all off to everyone on the streets all the darn time. It's rare to see it all "hanging out" here...let your mind figure that one out, as it applies to lots of different scenarios with the way people dress. These people like their clothes, no doubt about it. But their sole mission isn't to dress to show off every body part. It's more about being classy, professional, comfortable, casual, and looking nice in a more subtle way. I like that. I like it a lot. (Did you read that last sentence with a 'Forest Gump' accent? If not, then you're doing it wrong.)

A natural result of a society generally less obsessed with this is that people (in general) are MUCH less judgemental to each other. Sure, you get checked out by other ladies to see what you're wearing, there are beauty shops and hair salons and all kinds of shops everywhere, but people don't make as big of a deal about it. Being overly made up is not a big normal here. It looks out of place.

I am borrowing this photo from a website, but it is very similar to what you see at train stations, shopping areas, large businesses or work places. Bikes everywhere. :)

*Fitness/Healthier Lifestyle- Most Germans walk and bike everywhere they can. We've met so many people who have a car, but rarely use it. It's true that their country is set up to make biking and walking to places much more convenient than in the States, but in general, their attitude about health and fitness and being outside is really wonderful. There is less priority with being in the gym all day, pumping iron and taking supplements, and more on just walking outside with the family, going to the park, walking to a festival or concert, biking to the supermarket, etc. It's a normal part of life, being outdoors and being active. (Yes,  I've complained about walking to the supermarket and walking home with heavy grocery bags. I in no way renounce that complaint. That is HARD hard hard...especially on someone with neck/shoulder/back issues!) Living here reminds me of my and adults are outside all the time. Just relaxing, strolling, playing, reading. Germans eat a lot of bread and meat and potatoes and such, but it's rare to see obesity here, due to such an active lifestyle. (And smaller portion sizes.)

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Things I love about Germany Part 1

I've been living in Deutschland for 10 months now. I've experienced so many amazing foods, places, festivals and more. I've met some incredible people from all over the globe. I want to share some of my very favorite things about living in Germany.

Disclaimer: My thoughts and opinions are mine alone. These opinions and insights are from my personal experiences living in the South Hessen area. Many areas of Germany, like anywhere else in the world, are very different culturally and may be nothing like the South Hessen area.

Fave Things About Germany:
Part Eins (1)

*Parks, parks everywhere!
- No joke; there are parks EVERYWHERE here. Beautiful green parks with walking and biking paths, ponds and ducks, amazing playgrounds for kids, soccer fields, picnic areas, huge green grassy lawns for lounging on a blanket and reading in the warm sun, benches GALORE to sit on and enjoy the scenery, gardens full of beautiful plants, flowers and sculptures, and more. And people are serious about parks here. Parks are used all the time. There are always people at the park. Relaxing, snacking or napping on blankets, sitting on benches, listening to music, reading books, strolling hand in hand on the paths eating Eis (ice cream), kids running through the grass playing with balls and toys, or frequenting the extremely well built and maintained playground areas, zip lining over a sand pit, scooting on their bikes and more. I'm going to interject this tidbit: Kids here usually have NO training wheels on their bikes, even 2 year olds! They use their feet to propel themselves on the ground and learn quickly how to balance on a bike. Children start doing this at 1 1/2 to 2 years old!


Prinz Georg Garten

*How Safe I Feel Here

-This part of Germany is so safe. I'm not saying bad things don't ever happen, but violent crime is much lower here than in the U.S.  In my 10+ months here, I have never once felt unsafe while walking by myself, riding the bus, trams or trains, strolling through the park, etc. In the U.S.,  I'd frequently feel uneasy or strange about a person's behavior/way they were acting or staring, whether in the store or on the streets.  I never would have just strolled around at night by myself without my pepper spray back home, but do here easily. I'm still alert and aware, as I feel that's very important no matter where you are, but so far haven't felt uneasy or afraid here. 

*The People Here
-GASP! SHOCKER! Did she just say she liked those rude, crazy Germans? Is she crazy? 
Apparently I am. Let me tell you, when we first moved here, I was expecting and felt like it was accurate to say Germans were a cold bunch. They don't make eye contact and smile at you that much, or strike up conversation randomly on the bus. They don't "Hi, how ya'll doing?" and proceed to ask personal questions. This is all true. My first thoughts were that they were unfriendly people. And to someone who's used to living in the U.S., where in most places, people smile and make eye contact and chat wherever you go, it seems that way.

BUT what you discover, when you live here for a bit and learn the German way, is how incredible most of the people here are. I have found the people here to be so incredibly kind and helpful to each other. 
Some examples:
1. Any time an older person gets on the bus, someone gets up and offers them their seat. When a pregnant woman walks into a room or onto the bus, someone gets up and offers them their seat. 
People are very quick and efficient about getting on and off the buses and trams, but when someone with a stroller is trying to get on, people get up, they keep the doors open and help pop the stroller wheels up into the bus/tram and get in. 

2.  In the doctor's office while waiting for my appointment, a baby left with one his big brothers (around 11) in the waiting room starts wailing while Mom and the middle brother (age 2 or so) are with the doctor. A lady gets up, asks the child if it's ok, gets the newborn out and walks around, pats the baby, calms him down. The other people in the waiting room are smiling. No one is thinking: "I can't believe she touched that baby. Oh the lawsuit possibilities!" No, it's just a nice thing another lady did for a Mom and her child.

3. When you meet a German individual, they aren't as open and friendly and personal as you might be used to in another country. Germans take a little more time when getting to know someone, which I now think of as a GOOD thing. It doesn't mean they are cold or don't want to get to know you, they just think it should be done in layers. They don't lay their business and personal life all out on the table, nor do they like it when someone else does it right up front. BUT when someone here gets to know someone and decides they like them and opens up, they are loyal and friendly and personable. Being invited over for dinner or lunch is a big deal and is taken seriously here, it's an honor. They go all out with food and drinks and hospitality. 

4. Germans mind their own business. I like this. One thing I've always disliked is how Moms in the U.S. (and other places I'm sure!) are so critical and nosy about other Moms parenting styles and choices. Now, I'm not talking about something that is obviously dangerous or neglectful. I'm talking personal choices and parenting styles. People commenting on how "they did things" and passing judgement on others who do things differently. Drives. Me. Bananas! I have experienced so much less of that here. It's refreshing and freeing and feels more like a community to have so much less judgement and interference by others into your life. Everyone is different and it's nice that people don't stare, make comments, openly judge, etc as much here. 

This makes me laugh. :) Pretty accurate!

Germans love their festivals! They go all out and enjoy themselves. :)

Now you might be thinking that I'm coming down on Americans. I'm not trying to. I'm merely pointing out the things I LOVE about Germany. And these things happen to be much different than what I'm used to in the States. There are SO many things about living in America that I love and cannot find or experience here. Tons and tons! But I do love Germany, and I want to share why with you. Stay tuned for part dos zwei!