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Thursday, August 14

letzterer- Auf Wiedersehen

As I write the final post for this blog, it’s bittersweet.  I am excited there is a new adventure waiting for us in a new city but I am also sad to close the German chapter of our lives.  We’ve traveled to places that we won’t ever forget, and most importantly, we’ve made memories and met great people.  

To finish off, I thought it’d be nice to do a pros and cons of the country we are leaving and the country that will be our new home. 

I am sad to leave a country in which safety is certain.  In the three years we’ve been in Germany, not once have I felt unsafe or concerned of our safety because of neighborhood or surroundings.  The advantage is the country’s strict gun laws that are enforced strictly.  The husband’s coworker was a hunter.  She explained obtaining a gun and shooting license requires a permit and it’s not easy; 2000 Euros in tests which include written with animal specific questions and a proficiency test.  The permit has to be renewed regularly.  In short, guns are banned and that contributes to a safe life in Germany.  Unlike the mess in US.  

Along the lines of safety, we I appreciate people following the rules.  One that’s comical is the pedestrian signal.  When the signal is red people locals wait until it turns green before proceeding.  Although it is funny, I appreciate their rule following culture.  It makes for fewer problems.  Same is the case for driving on the autobahn.  I did not drive on the autobahn but of course the husband did.  Drivers follow strict rules while driving because of the no-speed zones.  Some cars travel at lighting speed fast, unlike US, and following rules timely and correctly is very important because one mistake and it can be costly.  

When we moved, our eyes (and taste buds) were opened to real coffee.  Most coffee in Europe is superb.  I don’t know if they use better beans or are better brewers, whatever the case, we will miss drinking it in coffee shops and at home.  When we visited the US last summer for a short trip we were horrified by the drip coffee.  Why oh why?  Bier too! America has a booming microbrewery culture, I hear, but pros are pros and Germans are pros, for bier.    

Food.  Fresh, organic, local, farm grown aren’t buzz words in Germany.  That’s for a reason; it’s not a trend, people truly believe in eating good food, grown from a source close to home and cooking for the family.  As of recent, fast food chains like KFC, McDonald’s have entered the European food culture, sadly.  Buying food from a restaurant that heats premade blob is beyond comprehensible for some Germans.  There are grandma’s and mom’s cooking dinners for their family daily and sourcing good (sometimes organic ) products.  I am sad we’re leaving for a GMO ridden society where Monsanto and Big Agriculture lobbyists are our food authority.  Europe has stricter rules and tougher bans on GMOs for a reason!  I am not forgiving Germany for the mislabeled horsemeat as beef however they try to keep non-food ingredients out of the food system.  

Also, I will miss the short (TSA) security lines at airports.  Having traveled to many countries, checkpoints were always easy in Europe.  Easy is relative but the rules are simple.  Belts have to be removed, laptops and other electronic devices, keys and toiletries placed in a bin.  Sometimes boots have to be removed.  Once we walked through the scanner it was done.  In America, it’s a nightmare.  When we were in line to board a plane to US I overheard Americans exclaim security checks are much easier in Europe than in US!  And then I rolled my eyes in judgment because Americans love starting conversations with strangers in line or anywhere.  I understand friendliness but is it necessary to talk your child’s first trip to Europe 20 years ago?  No, I don’t think so.  I am not excited about conversations with strangers.  

To say I’ll miss sorting trash is silly but I admire a country that has a precise system for their trash.  In this world with a lot of waste and not a planned way to collect and sort, this is refreshing.  

This statement (from an American usually or my mom) is familiar.  “Europe is expensive because they charge for napkins and ketchup packets.”  It’s become a pet peeve and makes me question human competence.  Many countries and cultures are a throwaway society in which we take 10 napkins and 4 ketchup packets per person and when we don’t use them all, they end up in the trash, unnecessarily.  Putting a price on such items means that society or population understands these things are not (made) free and come at a cost to us and the planet.  (On the other hand, Germans don’t drink tap water so asking for (free) tap water at a restaurant will get you the eye roll.  That’s unnecessary; water should be free, anywhere, without charge or judgment.) 

The green space in Germany.  Germans value their parks, hills, mountains, open spaces and maintain them like so or pay a price to keep them clean.  

There are some things that I will not miss about Germany and am looking forward to in the US. Customer service, lack thereof, is on the top of the list.  We’ve encountered numerous instances where we’ve found ourselves saying “this would never happen in America.”  For more.  

Another instance, I wanted to buy a Bavarian cardigan handmade by someone.  There are plenty of wool shops in the city so obviously people like knitting.   I asked around and was suggested to try the wool shops.  By one near our apartment, I was told they don’t offer knitting services for private individuals.  I went to another shop and asked the same question.  The woman behind the counter was already busy in a conversation so I said I would wait.  She brushed off my wait comment and was disgruntled by the question.  She asserted she didn’t know anyone and couldn’t recommend a name.  It wasn’t the answer I was shocked by but the tone in her voice.  She was rude and furious that I’d even bother asking.  I know it wasn’t anything personal (or maybe it was?) but it was uncomfortable.  A simple I don’t have a name for you would’ve sufficed.  

When the husband’s family planned to visit us, we started paperwork.  Visitors from India (and other third world country) must have a sponsor letter and a completed form from a resident to visit.  

He scheduled an appointment at the Einwohneramt (resident's office).  At the front desk, the person at Window 1 asked for his information and the appointment details.  She told him to wait until his name is called.  The woman in one of the offices called his name and asked for the form.  He responded, what form, I don’t have one.  She yelled at him because he didn’t follow the rules in obtaining a form from Window 3 after checking in with Window 1.  He asked how would he have known that? She was speechless and concluded “I don’t have time for this right now. Here’s the form.”  She, thankfully, permitted him to complete the form in her office.  How nice of her.    

Customer service isn’t common so people are assertively direct.  This isn’t personal because it’s their character but it is hard not to be offended.  

When we visited US last summer, I experienced reversed culture shock.  My cousin and I went to a local restaurant and servers asked about our food, if we wanted more wine or water, if we wanted bread to be refilled?  My question to her was why is everyone so nice and her response “because we are in America.”

Truth be told, not all customer service instances have been bad.

Last year I had waited in line at the post office and on my turn the postal worker said I had to rewrite the address with a new label (due to International mail requirements) and asked me to step aside. Once done I walked over to the counter and proceeded to give her the revised envelope when a woman in line told me to get in the back of the line.  The postal worker said, in my defense, it was fine because I had already waited.

Another time on the phone when I called the company that fixes our bathroom problems (i.e. toilet backed up, water heater broken or shower not functioning). Before I started I warned the woman my German is so-so. I explained our shower’s drain was not draining properly. I repeated “slow” “water” “going”. We needed someone as soon as possible because we will have visitors and the shower will be used by all 6 of us. She asked if it was the shower head or the hot or cold taps. I said, neither. We both laughed. Finally she said the person coming to fix the problem would understand once they saw it. Even though it was the busy season she scheduled me for an appointment within few days. Most of our conversation was her chuckling and asking her colleague what it may be I might be trying to say. That phone call was accomplishing because the women were patient and tried to get me to explain what it was that needed to be fixed. They laughed, often, but the tone wasn’t condescending and instead encouraging in ‘we will get this figured out’. Abfluss is the correct term for the problem. Don’t bother with “Wasser geht nichts”.

We have become close to a couple and can’t imagine this experience without them. We met them (older German couple) through their son, Sebastian, in the US. Sebastian is was coworkers with friends of ours. We met Sebastian and his wife literally the night before we moved to Germany with the help of our mutual friends. One month after arriving in Germany Sebastian’s parents emailed us to introduce themselves and offer us help in any form. They welcomed us into their home the first time with a wonderful dinner and heartfelt reception. Since then we’ve met them countless times. They have “adopted” us as their own (and we them). Funny enough, we’ve become closer to them than Sebastian. They are the most helpful, kind people we know. They are full of love, for each other, and their close friends and family and we feel nothing short of that when we see them. After 3 years of meetings we both agree “once you become friends with Germans, you’re friends for life.” No matter where we end up, we will always be in contact and remain friends.

Then there’s the colleague that took us to her family’s farm home.  There isn’t a shortage of kindness, we just have to become close to the people to experience their loyalty.  

Let me say this loud and clear.  I will not miss dubbed movies and TV shows.  Many American shows are popular in Germany but sadly they are all dubbed.  And it has gotten on my last nerve to see good shows ruined by dubbing.  

The husband will not miss the slow moving processes at work.  He thinks Germans do not make business related decisions without long-winded research.  In a discussion or meetings, his coworkers never feel comfortable making spur of the moment decisions.  For projects, they contemplate many unlikely scenarios.  He is looking forward to a corporate culture that allows him to think and act quickly.   

Having moved to Germany 3 years ago it has become home but there were often times we didn't feel like we belong.  Other than the stares, there’s something in the air that I can’t pinpoint.  The obvious one- language.  Without a basic conversational knowledge of the language, it is impossible to survive in the country city.  Sure, we can ask everyone if they speak English and proceed from there.  While some people were nice and patient others were not.   There’s an uneasy feeling of ‘us versus them’.   And since we will never become fluent German speakers, unless we live for long term, it will not feel permanent.  For lifestyle and strong belief in family and personal life Germany is ideal but never feeling like we will be accepted as one of them makes it hard to say so.   Our decision to live in US is crucial for multiple reasons but mostly so I can pursue a full time career in the food business.  I am looking forward to living in a country where we don’t have to think hard about our sentence structure or verb conjugation because we know the language fluently, we think.  

Both US and Germany have its faults and no place is perfect but a house becomes a home when memories are made.  Even with trials and tribulations, Germany has been good to us and we’re thankful for the opportunity.  

Germans say auf wiedersehen, on seeing you again, because it’s hoping to cross paths again. And Auf wiedersehen Deutschland. We will miss the amazing European life and hope to be back for a visit or permanently. 


  1. I am so sad for you to move back- and I mean that in the same way I felt coming back after setting up your life over "there." But - I do think you will enjoy it once the dust settles and you get into the routine. Getting into the routine will be easy, no process (wait, do you have to get an driver's license, or register your car? It will make the rule bound Germans appear much more competent! You will have great coffee here too! If you can't find it, then you'll just need to come to Seattle because coffee is just good out here ;). You will miss the food, culture, and lifestyle, as nothing really compares, but the thing is you'll appreciate small things in time. I promise. That portion of your expat life in Deutschland will never leave, and I think (if I may continue to be sooooo philo) that you'll also choose/make different choices based on what you experienced there. I know we did.

    Plus on the flip side, there are German tourists everywhere! Think of how flummoxed they will be when a brown person like yourself starts speaking fluent German to them? Come on! I hope I made you at least smile!

    1. Seriously, I had to go back and read your post again, why is everyone so nice? "Because this is America." oh god. lol.

    2. Great seeing your comment on this final post. Happy to have read the comment because it made my heart skip a beat; I loved Germany and it will always be special but all things must come to an end. Although I miss the life dearly, we've made this our home slowly but surely. Now onto blogging about the struggles of starting a life in a "home" country after being away..... just kidding..