Living in other countries might be exciting yet stressful sometimes, especially when you move to a totally different country, with different language to speak, different people to meet, and different culture to learn. It would be different if you only pay a visit for a week or two, but when you start to live there, culture shock might starts to haunt you. Things that are normally done in our countries won't always be a right thing to do. Some things might be easy to adapt, but some things surely take time!
I've only been here in Germany for around 1.5 month, but I've got a long list of culture shock that I face here, and I believe there will be more as the time passes on. Many friends and family have been asking me the difference between my country Indonesia and here, so today I decide to share with you my long and frustrating list of culture shock. xD
1. LANGUAGE BARRIER
Unless you go to the tourism sites, never expect everyone to be able to speak English, N-E-V-E-R. There are some Germans who can speak fluent English, however it doesn't mean that every people you meet might be the same. Fortunately, I had prepared for this back then and learned a bit Deutsch (it was a requirement for the Visa I applied), but still, it can never guarantee you that you will speak fluently once you meet these Germans. What stresses me out is that, Germans stick to their language very much, a simple mispronunciation might cause people to ask "Wie bitte?", which means "pardon, please repeat". Sometimes I wonder why they can't figure out what foreigners say, because not every country teaches how to pronounce "ä", "ö" and "ü".
2. PUNCTUALITY FTW
Germans are so punctual, SO punctual. Not a minute early, not a minute late. They treat appointments very seriously, which means zero tolerance for any delay or lateness. While back in my country, when you have appointment at 7 p.m., it's normal, very normal to just start to get ready at 6.30, go at 7, and arrive at 8.
3. DIRECT WAY OF TALKING
Germany is definitely not for soft hearted people. If you can't take critisicm thrown right in your face, then please, don't live here. For those people who like to state their thoughts as much as they want, then this place is for you. Seriously, what I love about being here is that people don't fake their thoughts just to please you. NOPE. If they like you, they will tell, and if they don't like the things you do, they will tell you as well. They mean every word they say, so if you make mistakes (even though you don't know that), don't take their words personally but use their words as an advice to be better. Besides, they will say it softly and in a low tone, so you won't feel like you're being scolded. Slow, but deep. xD
4. DON'T WORRY, YOUR PRIVACY IS SAFE
Germans might appear cold on the outside, but once you get to know them, they're generous human beings. When you meet people and accidentally give eye contact to each other, simply say "Alo" or maybe "Gutten Tag", they will smile and greet you back. AND THAT'S IT. Don't expect further conversation, because unless they are your friends then they won't do that. I love how people respect privacy here, don't expect them to ask personal things about you, they don't care to know and they don't expect you to ask as well. This is super different from the place where I came from, so I really enjoy this point.
5. NO TOUCHING
Back in my country, when you get to know people, it's okay to give a pat on the shoulder every once in a while, especially while you're talking. However, in Germany, you're not allowed to do that, because like I said in point number 4, people respect privacy. Unless you're a couple, or close friends, then physical contact will be avoided as much as possible. Even when you're walking with your acquaintances, and you accidentally bump into them, you need to apologize immediately.
6. FIRM HANDSHAKE
Believe it or not, there is even a handshake etiquette in Germany. Germans respect others very much, therefore, when they introduce themselves, they will give a very firm grip on your hand. From where I came from, sometimes people just pretended to give you a handshake but you can barely feel it hahaha. But that doesn't happen here. You need to give a firm and steady handshake as well or people will think that you're disrespectful. Not only on the first meeting, people will also shake your hand whenever you meet or saying goodbye, or maybe on rare occasion, when you've got to know each other for quite some time, a simple hug will do.
7. DIFFERENT STORES FOR DIFFERENT NEEDS
This is kinda hard for me, because I'm used to the life where, when you need to buy things you can just simply go to the Mall, and everything you need is in ONE place, just different levels. However, that doesn't happen here. If you want to buy foods or ingredients, then you need to go to Grocery shops. If you want to buy shampoo or daily needs, then you need to go to Drogerie Markt. If you want to buy electronic stuff, you need to go to Electronic shops. If you want to buy asian food ingredients, then you need to go to Asian shops. If you want to buy home decors or furnitures then you need to go to shops like Bauhaus, OBI or XXXL. If you need to buy pet supplies then you need to go to Pet Stores. And the list goes on. The advantage is that they are specialized stores, so you can find anything related to the things you want to buy, but the disadvantage is that they're all in different buildings, and if you're lucky, then they're in the same district or blocks. Point is, you really need to know which stores is for what supplies, and note that it's nearly impossible to spend a day in different stores, you can only decide which things you really need to buy on that day, and spend your time in that ONE store for the rest of the day.
8. IT'S OKAY TO BLOW YOUR NOSE IN PUBLIC
This is one of the things that I really need to get used to. It's really okay to sneeze or blow your nose in front of people, even though you're EATING. I don't think I need to explain this point.
9. FAST DRIVERS EVERYWHERE
Unless you're a great driver, or you have an ambition of being the member of "Fast and Furious", then never consider to drive here. People drive really fast here, like they're super late for work. But seriously, it cringes me out every single day, especially in the Autobahn / Highway. People are expected to be able to drive at least 80km/hour and ABOVE 120km/hour. You can find speed limits everywhere, but for those roads without, then please pick the right side of the roads, unless you want to be blown away by Porche or Audi in split seconds.
10. STRICT RULES
Germans seem to worship the rules very much. You will find pedestrians who will still stop and wait for the light to turn green at the crosswalk during midnight even though there's NO cars passing by. There is also a time schedule for house cleaning, so if you use the vacuum cleaner during quiet hours then you can expect your neighbours to ring your bell, this also applies to piano playing or anything that might be disturbing. Many foreigners think that it's okay to break the rules, but truth is, we are all expected to understand and apply the unwritten rules, even though we don't know it.
11. CUSTOMER SERVICE IS IMPOSSIBLE
Oh, you buy huge furnitures? Then carry them yourself. Oh you buy a lot of groceries? Then put / organize them in the plastics yourself. Something is wrong with your house maintenance? You have got two choices : fix them yourself, or make a call to the plumber or electrician and feel free to wait for another weeks (as long as it can take) until they come to fix it. Cheers.
12. TAKE YOUR TIME
I can say that people here are so, so so so so so so so so slow in doing everything. This is because they take their time seriously, and enjoy every milisecond of it. You want your bill? Then wait. It can be 15 mins, or if you're lucky maybe 10 will do. ;) NEVER RUSH THEM, and believe me, nobody will rush you. Even if you're crossing the road in a small street, the cars won't honk you, but instead, they will wait for you. You can walk slowly and enjoy the view, seriously, just take your time :D
13. LOW TONE
I love love love and love this point! Back in my country, everybody talks with a high tone and sometimes they even sound like they're shouting or angry. But here, everyone talks in a very soft and low tone, and I even feel like I talk too loud sometimes. They even talk in a medium speed, stressing every single word. You won't hear people shouting, everyone seems happy and chill here, like they don't have anger within them hahahaa. Every mistake is told in a low tone, and people automatically try to accept critisicm here.
14. FOOD PORTION OF COURSE
Omg seriously, the food portions are HUGE. But in some restaurants, they're kind enough to provide klein / small portion. In Asian countries, it's normal to share foods with your friends, like for example : you know the portion is huge, therefore you only order one portion and share it. But here, you're always expected to order one for each person, especially in proffesional restaurants. You will see people eating the whole large portion of pizza or other foods by themselves, and believe me, they are fast eaters. But don't worry, you can always pack your foods home in case you can't finish them on the spot.
15. SHOES AT HOME
I don't know if this applies to all Germans, but from the houses I've been to, I realize that people put on shoes inside their houses. Well, obviously, I come from Asia, so this is quite different from how I was brought up. I know that in America people do this too, but still, I need time to adjust to this. (We don't apply this in our home though hahaha)
16. SUPER CLEAN
Good news, people! If you have a serious OCD, this place is where you belong! This is a little contradicting with point number 15, but seriously. the roads, the parks, everywhere is so clean here. I can tell that they really take care of their environment here, the speed limit in the highway might be slowed down occasionally just because they are doing plant maintainance or maybe cleaning the roads. Just wow.
17. COINS ARE USEFUL HERE
Seriously, coins are always used in every transaction, they are even useful for accessing the grocery carts, especially €1 coins.
I somehow realize that the people here like to pay with money instead of cards, so keep your coins, they will save your life, unless you want to pay with bigger amount and get a lot of coins in return. xD
18. PETS ARE ALLOWED IN MOST PLACES
Don't be shocked when you're doing your shopping and suddenly there is a pet passing by, or maybe when you're eating in a snack store / imbiss, and there is a pet sitting nearby. I was not used to this at first, but now from the brighter side of perspective, I somehow love this because it simply means that there are a lot of animal lovers here.
19. NO STORES ON SUNDAYS, AND THE STORES CLOSE EARLY
This honestly sucks for me, because we are always required to do shopping on weekdays or Saturdays, since the stores will be closed on Sundays. Problem is, even on weekdays, you need to do it earlier because some stores close at 7-8 PM. And like what I stated above, the people here are so punctual, so we really need to take this seriously. What sucks most is when the Winter is coming, the sky is as dark as 7 PM even though it's just 5 PM here, which makes me even lazier to go out.
20. GARBAGE RECYCLING IS SUCH A PAIN IN THE ASS
As I said above, Germans care about their environment, therefore, they take recycling really seriously. OMG for me, it's insane. We are required to specify the garbages according to their types, and I don't even know how to explain it to you since it's so frustrating and confusing. So, I found an article about the garbage recycling HERE (click) , and have fun reading hahaha.
Wow it's a long list I've got there, and believe me, that's NOT all. I will share again with you once I've encountered new challenges here, so for now, I hope this information will help or give you another perspectives. Kay, see you! xx