GERMANY

31 Things They Didn’t Tell You About Living In Germany


They say the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, and it’s true. For many people out there, living in Germany can sound like a dream. I’ve been an expat in Germany for nearly three years (with a 6-month-long break in Ecuador in between) and let me tell you, there’s a lot of little things that can be hard to get used to and are hard to understand. I’ve collected 31 of them – you want to hear them out?

1. The German language isn’t that hard as they say.

It’s harder.

2. Germans aren’t that fluent in English as you’d think.

On the average, they’re still better than the French and the British, of course, but still.

3. You will have little time to shop…

Because during the week, everything works from 9 to 7, which is when you work, too. And on Sunday, everything’s closed.

4. …and even less time to receive your mail.

The same: post delivers stuff when you’re at work. So if you’re not at home to receive the package and no neighbor’s willing to accept it for you, you’re screwed.

5. In general, German post is surprisingly bad.

Never, I repeat, never use DPD. And don’t believe in the goodness of postmen – sometimes they don’t deliver your stuff because, well, they just don’t feel like it.

7. You’ll never be real friends with your colleagues.

They think work is strictly for work.

8. And it will be difficult to make friends with the locals.

9. The German diet will get you out of shape.

Because bread is just everywhere.

10. You’ll be forced to love techno.

And hip hop. Germans love rap.

11. Most of your salary will go to taxes.

If you’re young, single and childless, you better get old, married and adopt. And do it asap.

12. Don’t expect much from German healthcare.

Finding a good doctor is really hard. If you’re using public insurance, expect not to expect much from German doctors.

13. You’ll forget how it feels to wear heels.

14. And soon you’ll be all make-up-less.

15. You’ll become more punctual to set a good example for Germans.

And you thought Germans are the most punctual and organized people in the world? Ha!

See also: 8 False German Stereotypes

16. You’ll still see poor people.

Poverty does exist in Germany and, as a matter of fact, it is now at its highest ever since reunification. About 12.5 million Germans are now officially classified as poor.

17. Germany is not a job market paradise.

Even though Germany has the lowest unemployment rate in Europe, it doesn’t mean that finding a job is easy. There are more English-speaking foreigners than English-speaking positions, so if you don’t have decent German skills to offer, finding a job can take a long while.

18. Getting fired in Germany is hard…

Remember: if you have an unlimited contract and if you have worked in the company for quite some time already, the employer will have to pay you thousands of euros if he chooses to fire you. So in many cases, he usually chooses not to do that.

19. …so you might get bullied to quit on your own.

No kidding. You can be squeezed out of tasks and responsibilities, kicked out of your team, even forbidden to communicate with your co-workers about work so that you’d just get fed up, quit on your own and save your employer a bunch of money. Unfortunately, this happens for real, and unfortunately, everybody knows about it.

20. It’s illegal to give negative employee references.

Letters of reference must always sound positive – but it doesn’t mean they really are. There’s sometimes a hidden code behind it that reveals the true assessment you’ve been given (from 1 to 5, 1 being the best one).

21. Germans have their own LinkedIn.

It’s called XING.

22. Finding sex in Germany is too easy.

23. But finding a relationship is too hard.

24. Germans don’t like social media and use fake names on Facebook to protect their identity.

Some Germans don’t even approve of Whatsapp. (Seriously?)

25. Most places only accept cash.

Credit card? Thanks but no thanks. Even your German debit card (EC-Karte) can be refused.

26. Traveling via trains in Germany is more expensive than via planes.

27. Germans like nudity.

28. And they love fizzy drinks.

29. They actually like a lot of weird things. 

30. And all in all, living in Germany is not at all what you could expect.

31. But it’s still absolutely worth it. 

Quedlinburg in Germany is full of medieval architecture!

Have you been living in Germany? Share your “expat revelations” with me below! I’m dying to hear what YOU have to say!

21 Comments

  • Reply
    Restless Cat
    December 15, 2015 at 9:28 am

    Totally agree with the part that Germans aren’t fluent in English, especially in rural areas it can be difficult for foreigners.
    The thing why many people I know use fake facebook names is that they don’t want potential employers to find them there. They just don’t want to be judged by maybe an old embarrassing picture.
    One of my friends said that even her landlord screens applicants for apartments… that’s very weird.

    • Reply
      Olga Rabo
      December 16, 2015 at 2:09 pm

      Oh yes! In fact, in the rural areas they oftentimes don’t speak anything BUT German and yet they never slow down for you and use the most elaborate vocabulary for some reason, as if on purpose. I never got that. It’s different in Berlin, of course, but when I was living in Leipzig I was often annoyed at this.
      And regarding Facebook – sometimes Germans tell me that they are just afraid of having their identity stolen. They don’t want to have their name out there, let alone photos… I think it’s quite an intense position in life, lol, giving the dynamics of life in the modern day and age… But oh well!
      Thanks for your comment, though, I’m happy that somebody actually shares my opinion on this!! Usually people start contradicting me in disbelief :D

  • Reply
    Jordan Beck Wagner
    December 20, 2015 at 8:46 am

    hahaha! I absolutely love this list. I was an expat in Germany for almost 2 years and agree with all of this!

    • Reply
      Olga Rabo
      December 20, 2015 at 12:29 pm

      I’m really happy you agree with me!!
      And don’t get me wrong – I love living in Germany and I appreciate every moment of it, but sometimes I’m like “duuuh” :D

  • Reply
    Monica
    April 9, 2016 at 11:04 am

    Oh, this list hits true to home (also living in Berlin!). Though I think it’s possible to be friends with your colleagues (but only if they’re also foreigners ;)).

    • Reply
      Olga Rabo
      April 10, 2016 at 10:12 am

      hahaha, agree! I also think, though, that it’s easier to make friends with an East-German (or East-Berliner) than people from the West! They’re somehow more open!

  • Reply
    Ava @ My Meena Life
    May 5, 2016 at 7:48 am

    So so true! Especially the healthcare – I have private insurance but I’m currently waiting two months (!!) to see a specialist even though I needed to see them immediately. It’s hard to get used to.

  • Reply
    Delise Torres
    September 5, 2016 at 1:22 am

    I agree with everything, although my husband (who is German) has made friends with his co-workers, so it’s not all about work. I stay at home, and am surprised about how utility workers and post office expect there to be someone at home during work hours. Why is that? And the cash thing annoys me as well. I’m used to paying with cards and always forget to have cash. Living in Germany is no joke and I live in a small city, nothing like Berlin. I thought life in a big city would be much easier for a foreigner, but I guess it’s the German way (ha ha).

    • Reply
      Olga Rabo
      September 5, 2016 at 3:09 am

      I feel your pain, Delise.

      I used in Leipzig before, which is a smaller city two hours or so from Berlin. So for a long time, I’d blame lots of things on the “towniness” of Leipzig. But when I moved to Berlin (dreaming of a better life lol), I only discovered that there’s the same type of chaos going on. And honestly, sometimes it’s even worse.

    • Reply
      Kay
      August 1, 2017 at 12:51 pm

      Maybe it’s a guy thing. I think it would be easier to make friends as a guy and with guys in Germany, but that’s only a hypothesis.

  • Reply
    Anna Tsm
    November 6, 2016 at 3:05 am

    Well I live quite a long time in Germany. ;) Maybe you will see at my comment that the thing with our english is right. Some facts were surprising for me. (I’m still at school. I don’t know much about work in Germany. :)) But I think on average they’re all true.

  • Reply
    Kerry Claw
    February 2, 2017 at 4:28 pm

    Hi, Hello… I’m half german/half spanish, born in Germany, lived one year in spain. My english isn’t perfect, but extraordenary if you see at the spanish, french or italien people ????
    Also you’re right with the friendship-thing at work, I don’t like it too. And the post is horribly but sheep. I also don’t have a Facebook-account, but I’m the only one I know. Everybody has it, and only without the real name, because of stalking, not only the employer does it!
    Bulling is a crime! There are Authorities you could spektakulären with! If you don’t know, ask a german one :) – That’s the next point. Yes, It’s hard to get “friends” in Germany, but only because they need more time. If someone call you “Freund” you could call him at four o’clock in the morning to get his help!
    If you’ve got problems to find friends, surch a Hobby or make a course at the VHS (Volkshochschule).
    I worked as a german teacher in spain, and that’s my hints :)
    But, by the way, Germany is so multicultural that’s impossible to say “all germans like…”
    Hugs and kisses :*

    • Reply
      Olga Rabo
      February 20, 2017 at 5:52 am

      Yeah, sure you can’t and shouldn’t generalize saying “all Germans are like”, but once, as a foreigner, you’ve interacted with them for quite some time, you get to develop a certain pattern, a certain way to perceive them. Plus, everything I wrote in this post — the illegal bullying, too — came from my personal experience so it all DOES exist.

      In general, I find that my observations about Germans and German way of life is usually agreed with when I talk to foreigners — but Germans themselves, of course, always disagree with my points. But I guess that’s only natural!

  • Reply
    Sara
    June 4, 2017 at 4:17 pm

    Living in Berlin for three years now: my postman steels all of my packages and o-m-g techno! Also, I’m a pretty casually dressed person, and my hiking boots wearing colleges always ask me why I am so dressed up.

    • Reply
      Olga Rabo
      June 8, 2017 at 2:23 pm

      Whaaaat?! That is SO crazy! Have you complained about the postman to DHL?!?! I bet they don’t give a shit about this though. Only threatening them to sue would work and going to the police… And writing a huge viral article about that lol

      • Reply
        Sara
        June 9, 2017 at 9:11 am

        I have threaten them with legal action because the man also forged my signature, but they didn’t really react. I think they have a contract with the companies that if anything “gets lost” the company has to bear the consequences and not them. each company was immediately offering me to send the package one more time and I sent them to a friend on the other side of the city. jeez :D

        • Reply
          Olga Rabo
          June 9, 2017 at 9:57 am

          forged your signature?! Gee.. DHL really has high standards lol

          And yeah, I think they do have this agreement, especially if you buy something on Amazon. They hold it as seller’s responsibility, I guess. Which is kinda nice because then you can just receive the second item for free in case the first one is “lost”, but then it also sucks because DHL and Co. can really do whatever they want then… And sometimes it IS easier when the package is officially gone “missing” so you just order a new one. I once had a situation when DPD was “delivering” a package for 3 weeks. And I think i called them like 10000 times, angry, and complaining, and nearly screaming, and they always said “tomorrow”, so I’d stay home tomorrow waiting for the package, and then they claimed I wasn’t home.

          It was terribly frustrating. So much energy wasted.

          • Sara
            June 9, 2017 at 2:48 pm

            hahah oh no, the waiting is the worst! Also, you are trying to have something “conveniently” delivered to your home, and then it turns into this mini job of tracking down lost packages and “practicing your german skills” on the phone with customer service x)

          • Olga Rabo
            June 9, 2017 at 7:25 pm

            Exactly…

  • Reply
    Kay
    August 1, 2017 at 12:53 pm

    I know this is an old post, but I gotta chime in and say I can pretty much confirm it’s aaaall true. Living in Switzlerland now and they’ve got their own quirks too, just when I was starting to catch on to the German ones. Not gonna lie, feel like I’m gonna go crazy some days….

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