What's the Difference?

One thing I enjoy about Germany is that there has been a minimal cultural shock. Having been to Germany twice before definitely has helped, but also Germany’s similarities to American culture. However, there are small and big differences between the US and Germany I would like to share! 


The Obvious Differences:


Of course, Germany uses a different form of money than the US. The Euro is used by most of the countries that are part of the European Union. The notes for the Euro are in denominations of €

5, €10, €20, €50, €100, €200, €500. Whereas the coins are in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 cents, €1 and €2. 


In Germany you speak…well…German. 


Germany’s standard of weights and measures is in the Metric System. The Metric System is used all over the world except in the US, Myanmar, and Liberia which all use the Imperial System. I was never taught the Metric System in school so I often have to rely on a convertor for basic things. 


Germany uses Celsius to measure temperature whereas the US uses Fahrenheit. Again, my convertor app is handy for this! 


The Not So Obvious Daily Differences:


In the US, especially Montana, if you don’t have a car you are basically screwed. In Billings, the latest a bus will run is 7pm. Public transportation in Germany is readily available…even if it is always a little behind (overcrowding has led to delays). You also have the option of either bus or train/tram here in Germany. In Billings, and most of the US the only option is Bus. I feel like it is common in Billings to drive small distances whereas here you either walk or ride your bike. 


The Germans are very mindful of recycling and disposing of their trash properly. In my complex there are four LARGE dumpsters/trash cans marked for specific items. One for paper and cardboard, one for plastic and “other items” (this is complicated to define), and two for the “rest” (this includes food, and bio waste). Our system here is a little different than the rest of Germany which has color coded trash cans. Our system in the complex is also really hard to define. I just know that there is a glass recycling bins on one side of the complex and the four large trash cans on the other. I have a system in my room of separating the products but I am sure I am not getting it all right.


The German windows are hard for Americans to understand. The windows here lack screens! So, if you are to open your window you are literally opening it up to the world (bug world). But I enjoy the tilt feature of the windows! 


Going shopping can cost you extra if you don’t bring your own bag for the items you purchased. Buying a bag can cost upwards of €1. Also, you have to bag your own items. I think this can be quite the shock to most Americans who aren’t prepared for the extra cost, and extra responsibility of bagging their own items. Every time I go shopping I always bring a long a bag or two! 

The grocery store is usually not that much different than a grocery store in the US. One thing that can be shocking is that the eggs in Germany aren’t refrigerated like in the US. This comes down to the pasteurization process. Eggs in Germany aren’t pasteurized and therefore are safe to eat off the room temperature shelf, and don’t need to be stored in the fridge. Personally, I like storing my eggs in the fridge.

Drinking and smoking in Germany can be done freely and almost anywhere. Drinking in the streets is common place, and even the cafeteria at school sells beer. Smoking is not prohibited unless otherwise stated. 

Most places are closed on Sundays including major department stores and chains. 

Jaywalking is severely looked down upon in Germany as everyone here respects the pedestrian walking lights. You can and will be yelled at for not respecting the lights anytime of the day (including late at night when there are no cars or bikes for miles). 

While walking down the street in the US is custom to smile at others regardless if you know the person or not. Americans are very smiley people! In Germany you don’t really do this. It’s just not a thing here. 

At restaurants tap water is not a thing, and ice is usually only served at fast food restaurants. Water is not free here, and ice isn’t enjoyed as much as it is in the US. 

If you are out and about and you feel like you need to use the restroom, be prepared to fork over some money to use the restroom. It’s common place in Europe to “pay to pee”. This helps pay for the attendants to keep the bathrooms cleaned and stocked. 

Ellen KuntzComment