Beer (and drinking it)
Sure, Germany has had more time to perfect the craft, but people here also just plain love the stuff, drinking 104 litres (27.5 gallons) per person per year compared to America’s paltry 75 (20 gallons). Whether you like it pale, dark, with wheat or unfiltered, Germany has several hundred beers for you, all made according to the Reinheitsgebot, a 500-year-old law permitting only water, hops, and malt.
The number-one thing Germans say they miss about home when they are on holiday is the bread. Aside from sad, dry toast bread (Wonderbread to Americans), a small concession of rye, pumpernickel and spelt rule German bakeries, which are, incidentally, on basically every corner. Because human rights.
In the same vein, German employees are entitled to parental leave until their child turns three years old and can take a place in the state-run kindergarten. Their job will wait for them and even earn two-thirds the salary for the first year, and parents can take leave together or separately.
Holidays and vacations
Most basic jobs in Germany, like hotel housekeeper or grocery store checkout clerk, come with 20 days holiday plus 9 public holidays (more if you live in Bavaria). Thanks, Catholic Church! Even better, Germans actually take their holiday – none of this virtue-through-constant-labour nonsense.
Over 6 million US jobs are currently empty because employers can’t find skilled workers. In Germany, however, a long history of apprenticeships in nearly all trades means, for example, advanced tech companies are sure their new employees already know how gadgets work before they start. And it’s not just the usual plumber, carpenter and electrician; apprenticeships also train chimney sweeps, piano tuners, computer programmers and hotel manager.
With names like Beethoven, Bach, Wagner, Schumann and Mendelssohn (and don’t forget Pachelbel), Germany has been home to the giants of classical music, bombastic and serene. String quartets, symphonies, operas, tone poems – it’s all from here.
While there are more fees that there were 10 years ago, higher education at one of the nearly 300 public universities in Germany is essentially free. It’s not unusual for students a few years out of uni to stay registered for a class or two in order to access the super-cheap transport pass and other student discounts. What’s more, foreign students aren’t charged an insane premium like they are in English-speaking countries.
Germany basically invented emo in the 18th century, only then it was called Sturm und Drang – lots of whispering to the wind and lamenting to rivers about unrequited love and plenty of bushy beards and flowing hair. Goethe and Schiller lead the charge.
It is still very common for foreign-language films to be dubbed in German, though original versions with only German subtitles are becoming more common in big cities. Voice actors are taken quite seriously in Germany and will often voice the same Hollywood actor throughout their careers.
In Germany, service jobs (cinema ticket-taker, waiter, grocery store clerk, etc.) are ‘real jobs’ that come with full benefits and at least 29 days holiday per year. That’s why waitstaff are barely tipped – they don’t need it.
For starters, Bayern München is one of the best 10 football clubs in the world, and Germany’s national team is the current World Cup Champion – that’s all the proof we need that Germans dominate over Americans at football (lexical differences aside). And why not? They’ve certainly been playing it longer.
In 19th-century Germany, being naked in nature was associated with good health (though people preferred to be ‘one with nature’ at one of the Scandinavian-style steam saunas that were all the rage at the time). The Freikörperkultur (FKK, or ‘free body culture’) movement took it a step further in 1898 Essen, and the idea really took off in secular Eastern Germany after WWII. Now, even hiking naked is a common sight.
Germans keep a distinct line between public and private information. Social media accounts usually have altered names so employers can’t spy, and asking strangers (even the baristas who always remember your regular order) casual questions about their weekend or where they were last Tuesday will get a curt response, if that. Germans aren’t an unfriendly bunch, but they do like their personal space.
No matter how many times we’re on the Autobahn, it’s still something special. After all, what’s the point of having a Porsche (or Mustang) if it can’t go 80mph?
Woe betide any person that tries to do yard work, house repairs or anything other than eating cake, going to the sauna or just quietly existing on a Sunday. Even recycling glass bottles at the community depot will get you side-eye from passersby.