When I came to the United States last year I thought for some reason I would go back to the Western World and everything would be more or less the same as in Germany. I left Germany around three years ago and worked and travelled in Africa and South America. The United States? I thought it would be a piece of cake for me to adapt and get used to it after travelling and working in countries where the culture was so much further away from my background.
Well, let me tell you…
1. I still get lost in supermarkets
It still takes me 5 minutes to choose milk. Milk in this country is either fat reduced or full of added vitamins and calcium. I dared to ask one time where to find “normal” milk which just ended up with the question: “What do you mean by normal?” And it took me a little while to realize that in Germany we don’t drink milk directly from the cow and maybe this is the only form of milk which could be referred to as normal milk.
2. The check automatically appears on the table. How rude is this in Europe!
Whenever I have been to a restaurant in the United States we order dinner, we eat and right after being asked if we would like anything else to which we politely say no…there it is. In Germany, a waiter or a waitress would never dare to bring the bill before you ask for it. And usually after a good dinner out you sit around the table, chat, drink coffee and maybe enjoy a few more beers. Just because you finished dinner doesn’t mean you want to leave the restaurant!
3. Drinking glasses are enormous in this country
When I first came here I actually went and bought a few smaller glasses as I didn’t feel I could have water out of these big jugs where Germans only drink bear from. When I went back to Germany half a year later, I opened the kitchen cabinet at my parents’ house I was confused why you would waste your time with a 0.2 liter drinking glass. Then I went out for dinner and they asked me to pay $3 for a tiny glass of water. This was the time I started liking American drinking sizes and the fact you will get water for free in any restaurant!
4. Plastic Bags, Plastic Cups, Plastic Plates…
The list is endless in this country. I never thought I was a big time environmentalist, but seeing how much trash America produces just with plastic bags, styrofoam cups and packaging I had to shake my head.
5. Small Talk: I am kind of ambivalent on that topic
Usually I love that people are curious and interested. I like talking to the girl at the checkout and I love when somebody just tells me out of the blue that she likes my shirt or dress. But sometimes when you have been driving a whole day, arrive at a campsite and your new neighbor immediately wants to know why you are driving around in a blue, remodeled school bus I just think to myself: Ich will meine Ruhe haben! (literal German translation: I want my quiet time)
I could go on but I would like to finish with a slightly different list:
I love the wilderness, open spaces and National Parks. I certainly don’t miss Germany where every single space is occupied with a house, a street or a field.
I love your beddings and duvets which are actually big enough for two people. In Germany you usually find a single person duvet only – how unromantic!
I love going over to friends’ houses and hanging out in the US. There is no big fuss about it, very spontaneous and usually you just bring something over: dessert or a few drinks. In Germany you have to schedule and organize everything – even your spare time. And if you have dinner together it is still a lot more formal and you sit together at a dining table and serve, almost like being in a restaurant. It’s probably because we don’t have an equivalent for the word “hanging out”, that’s why we can’t do it in Germany…
I love seeing and learning new things and it is great to get to know a different culture and I usually love it, but sometimes I might be more German than I thought I am 😉