Tuesday, August 7, 2012

We've been in Germany for a year, what have we learned?!

Exactly one year ago today, I was getting my crazy life pulled together into suitcases and saying my good-byes before boarding a plane with a crazy toddler and a fuzzy orange kitten.  I knew I had a huge adventure in front of me, both getting to Germany, and also living here.

New experiences always teach you things. If they don't, then you aren't paying attention. I feel that I'm constantly taking note of the things that I'm learning from living in this beautiful country. Not that we necessary get things "wrong" in the U.S., but Germany definitely has an old world elegance to how they approach life. When I arrived in Germany last August, I had some initial thoughts about our travels abroad and our adjustments to the new world.  Since then, we've settled into our new life here so that I can really learn from our host nation - oh, how much we still have to learn...

1. The sun is a powerful source for drying your clothes. It is unreal how quickly a warm summer day here can dry a load of laundry.  The rain can make your clothes smell fresh. Somehow the Germans sense the weather. We find it almost uncanny. The forecasts we receive are wrong more than they are right, and I get caught with my clothes on the line so often that I have grown to love the smell of rainwater in our clothes. Weird.

2. It's ok to be an American, just don't be an ugly American.  When we first moved to Germany, I was always afraid that the Germans would instantly hate me because I was an American.  I tried hard to fit in and do things that were more culturally acceptable. What I now realize is that being an American is not a bad thing at all especially when you respect or embrace the culture here.  I am often surprised by how many Germans are really interested in talking to us when we use our limited German to communicate.  They tend to be just as fascinated with us as we are with them.

3. Recycling is really easy when you live in a country that encourages it.  My "trash" in my kitchen is the size of a small trash can you'd find in a bathroom, and that's all we need, even with all the diapers!  It's amazing how little waste you create when you work hard to recycle everything that you can.

4. The best way to get to most destinations is by bike, unless it's below 0 degrees Celsius and then the bus will do.

5. The German countryside is still beautiful when it flies by at 120 mph.  Driving here is no joke.  Germans are aggressive, precise, and fast.  You only use the fast lane on the autobahn for passing, and if you see an Audi in your rearview mirror, get out of the way or you WILL get run over.

6. Rollos are the only way to go to sleep at night.  It keeps the light and the weather out so you can sleep in the dark silence.  The beginning of the day is marked by the echoing noise through town of everyone pulling up their rollos and letting the sun shine into their homes. The same can be said about the end of the day when the rollos all come down.  I am at a loss for how I will ever sleep once we return to the U.S. and I no longer have a rollo to lower and block out the light.

7.  It is far more difficult to learn a new language than I had ever anticipated.  The Germans are appreciative and rather patient if you just try.  I always give it an effort, and sometimes I surprise myself, and sometimes, I don't... The lesson here is, never assume the other person can understand you and give your best try to communicate in the native language.  You might be surprised by what you learn.  I'm going to take it up a notch and put my money where my mouth is - almost literally.  This fall I'm hoping to take a German immersion course and see if it gives me that extra boost I need to improve my conversational German skills.

8.  The Germans REALLY know how to do bread. The local bakery in town is a frequent stop for me during the week.  Little r has grown accustomed to eating the awesome pretzel breads and brotchen that I bring for him as a snack after Kindergarten.  We have all been spoiled with fresh bread almost daily.  I might just cry when we leave...

9.  The Germans REALLY, REALLY, REALLY  know how to do beer.  Holy heck I don't know what Big R will do when we move back to the US.  He might never drink beer again - HA!  It is actually a law in Germany that you cannot add any preservatives to the beer (or wine) here.  It's no wonder beer is often thought of as a food group in this amazing place.  Alcohol aside, there are probably more ingredients in beer that are good for you than you would ever realize!

10.  And finally... we like it so much here, it might be difficult to get us to move back home.  The Germans are leaving quite an impression on our lives.  Something tells me we are learning things here that will stay with us for a lifetime.

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