If you’ve been following our journey, you know that Craig is now in Germany while I patiently await the day when I can join him. Although, to say I’ve been “patient” may be a bit of a stretch. I’m currently in the US finishing up research for my graduate degree. I’ve been fervently trying to complete enough of my project in order to get the a-OK from my advisor to let me finish the rest of my PhD work from abroad. That day cannot come soon enough.
Unfortunately for my research, but fortunately for me, there was recently a 2 week break in the project where I knew my collaborators wouldn’t need me, so I seized the opportunity and jumped on a plane to Germany! Oh, rejoice! I actually got to spend time with my husband! You know, the man I said my vows to and then just… didn’t see for the better part of the past 6 months? Yes, that one.
While I was there, I learned a few helpful things…
1. I need to squash my idealistic views of what it means to live in GermAny
I’ve been waiting to make the move to Germany for a long time. As such, I may have built it up in my head just a wee bit. At this point, it feels like I’ve been wandering the desert for months, and Leipzig is the sweet, sweet oasis I’ve been searching for. While I am starting to fall in love with my future home, it’s not like everyone is dressed up in lederhosen and singing folk songs (all the time). I arrived expecting my presence in Leipzig would magically solve all of my problems, but this was of course a ridiculous expectation. I had to realize that living in Leipzig is not vacationing in Leipzig. (AKA, it’s not husband time all the time.) I was dying to spend time with Craig after not seeing him for 2 months, but despite my hiatus from responsibility, he still had to work. And work he did. Meanwhile, I spent my days tending to the new apartment, which brings me to my next point.
2. You can BUild a kitchen in a day (So why did it take my parents 25 years?)
Last I left you, dear readers, we had a completely vacant kitchen. Well, our landlord made some calls and got us situated with a brand new everything! (I mean, look at it – there were only pipes coming out of the wall).
Bam! Instant kitchen! We didn’t get to pick out any element of this kitchen, but overall, we are pretty pleased with how it turned out. Much to my surprise, there is actually a lot of storage room. And it even has hideaway fridge, freezer, and dishwasher!
3. Germans Love Ikea – Maybe even more than we do
Since we arrived to a relatively empty apartment, there were certain necessities we needed to purchase, namely, a place to hang our clothing since the apartment has zero closets. On my first Saturday in town, we ventured half an hour away to the nearest Ikea and arrived just minutes after they opened. The parking lot was completely full, like the locals just couldn’t wait another second to get their hands on some well-priced, self-assembled furniture. As with any Ikea trip, we wandered the display floor and picked out several items that we needed, including a brand new wardrobe. Actually, the trip to Ikea was quite refreshing, because everything was exactly as expected. The layout, the products, the process of locating items in the warehouse felt exactly like we had stepped into Ikea in the US (minus the part where we had to design our custom wardrobe by pantomime). Yes, everything was running smoothly until we reached the checkout, when I learned my next lesson.
4. Credit cards are different than debit cards
With items in tow, we stepped up to the Ikea checkout lane and offered the cashier our credit card. We were met with looks of confusion, as any plastic that doesn’t say “DeutscheBank” is like foreign currency. Because Ikea is an international corporation, they were able to handle our transaction just fine, but only after they asked us to step aside with our things and wait for the manager to come over with a handheld credit card reader that looked like it was starting to grow cobwebs. In several of the other furniture stores we visited, it was not so easy; we were just told debit card or cash only. I’ve read that it has to do with the German uneasiness with debt, which in German is the same word for guilt (Schuld). Frankly, I use my credit card like a debit card anyway and just pay off my entire balance at the end of every month, so I never really thought about the differences between the 2 cards. But the credit card has the added benefit of earning rewards and cash back bonuses, so just think of all the free stuff they’re missing out on!
5. “On time” can mean 50 minutes early
In our German cultural training session, which we completed before Craig’s move, our instructors mentioned how important punctuality is in German culture. So, when I had to be at the apartment to receive our Ikea delivery at 2 pm, I planned on being there at 1:45. (Craig’s hatchback was not large enough to haul our new wardrobe, so we opted to have it delivered). At 1:10, when I was sitting in the hotel trying to get some work done, I received a series of urgent texts from Craig saying the delivery men were already at the apartment and would only wait for a few more minutes. I had no choice but to bolt over to the apartment (roughly a 15 minute walk from the hotel). Luckily, they waited for me, but I’m sure they didn’t appreciate my American “tardiness.”
6. How to install light fixtures abroad
Along with our new wardrobe, we also picked out a few new light fixtures, because the apartment only came with wires hanging from the ceiling.
So, after a Wikipedia search on European wiring colors, these 2 engineers set out to bring light to the apartment. It was a bit of a challenge, with only a handful of tools borrowed from the office, but we managed to put up several lights together and only once almost got ourselves electrocuted. Apparently the electricity ‘kill switch’ for the entire apartment did not include the kitchen, which was live until we tripped the circuit breaker trying to install the kitchen light. Woops! Thank goodness for safety features!
7. Groceries are very affordable
One day while Craig was away at work, I decided to head down to the local supermarket to get a taste for what it would be like to really live in Germany (and help Craig stock the new kitchen!). Our apartment is situated near three different grocery chains, so we have many options, but I started at Aldi as it was the most familiar and easiest to draw comparisons. I picked up a few essentials to get us started, expecting to pay comparable prices to the US. Here’s what I got:
- Vegetable Oil
- Chicken Breast
- 4 Rolls (Brötchen)
- Sliced Chicken
- A Hefty Brick of Sliced Cheese
- Feta Spread
- A Carton of Strawberries
And how much do you think it cost me?
Believe it or not, it was only €11,18!!! That’s roughly $12.52 USD!!! I was blown away!
8. Hockey is very intense
My “sportlich” husband joined a Leipzig-based roller hockey team. He’s played before in the US, but the rules are slightly different. They have longer periods (20 minutes vs. 15 in the US), more periods (3 vs. 2), and a wider rink. That’s a lot of skating! Not only that, but the soccer (“Fußball”) culture has penetrated the rules, as well. The refs will give yellow or red cards for bad penalties, and they also have free shots at certain times in the game where the players form a wall between the shooter and the goalie, just like in soccer. The team practices twice a week and has games every Sunday.
On Sunday, we went and watched a game together, because despite Craig attending several practices, he was unable to play. Blame it on bureaucracy. Simply paying to join the team is not enough; he had to sign a bunch of forms, present his passport, and supply 2 biometric passport photos. In fact, they are still processing his forms. Still, the game was fun to watch together. There were many strong hits, many close calls, and a lot of interesting people-watching. In the end, his team left victorious with a score of 8-1!
9. Prostitution is legal
On our way back from the hockey game, we came across some very curious signage for a “Sauna Club.” From the name, it sounded like a nice day spa, but the advertisements seemed to highlight the scantily-clad women more than the relaxing spa environment. And I get it, sex sells, but from a little Googling, we’re pretty sure they were actually selling sex! The Google machine tells me that prostitution is legal in Germany and these sauna clubs are fairly common. (A Wikipedia link here – I promise it’s only information.) Which, now that I think of it, makes sense why a genuine massage parlor would post “Keine Erotik” (non-erotic) on its windows.
10. I am a very trusting wife
No, not because of the prostitution thing, but because I was willing to be a passenger as Craig drove on the Autobahn! On the last day of my trip, we decided to take a drive to nearby Berlin, as neither of us had been there before. Craig took this as an opportunity to test the limits of his new car. With his foot all the way to the floor, Craig legally reached 200 kph (125 mph)!
Thankfully, cars are designed for this, and you could barely feel the difference between 80 mph and 125 mph, except when you looked outside the window and noticed just how fast the landscape was changing.
We reached Berlin safely and spent the day together exploring the city:
I hope you enjoyed reading! Don’t forget to leave a comment!