We’ve just completed week 3 of living abroad, so I thought I’d blog a little about similarities and differences in life here compared to life stateside.
There have been many differences, but the most striking so far has been the weather. I think we’ve had one day where the temperature got close to 80F/27C. And it has rained almost every day since we arrived. As I sit in our living room writing this, it’s Sunday morning, raining (since Friday), and is 52F/12C. This may be our high temp for the day! And because of our northern latitude (same as Edmonton, Alberta), it’s light from 05.00 (5a) until 22.00 (10p). It will be like this for a short part of the year, then make the shift to being dark from about 17.00 (5p) until 09.00 (9a), giving us about 8 hours of sunlight.
We have a car, and are allowed to drive for up to 6 months with our Texas license, meaning we’ve been able to drive since the day we got here. It’s not too different than driving in Texas, and we’ve only been honked at a few times for mistakes we’ve made (like right on red…only exists where specifically indicated by signage). The speed limit is in Km/H (kilometers per hour) instead of MPH. When you are driving through town doing 50Km/H you’re really doing about 35 MPH (multiply by .6 to get to the standard value). And, although we’ve driven on the Autobahn several times, we haven’t hit any of the no speed limit spots. That will happen in next week when we drive to Slovenia and Austria! Yeah, I’m pumped and Caryn is terrified. I may need some homeopathic tranquilizer recipes from you!
The primary form of transportation where we live is still the car, although bikes are probably a close second. Many people walk or bike where they need to go since almost everything is within walking distance. But, we live in the suburbs. In the inner city of Hamburg, the transit system is the predominant form of travel. The trains, buses, and harbor ferry are amazingly efficient and easily accessible. We’ve utilized these forms of travel a few times since arriving. We will use them MUCH more when Caryn and I start school in August.
There are some food options that are very German, as well as Turkish. Our favorite ethnic food so far has been the Döner. It’s a shaved meat, either chicken or beef at the stand we go to, stuffed into a grilled flat bread and topped with lettuce and sauces. Of course, Cayla orders chicken nuggets there! I’ve had some schnitzel, which was delightful! Imagine a breaded, thin-cut pork chop. Mmmm!
Starbucks has some of the traditional offerings, too, but not the drinks we have liked so we’re trying new drinks. But we’ve found a local coffee shop called Sorrano’s that we really enjoy. The owner, a man named Tarak, has been so friendly. He speaks English very well, but has told me he will only let me get by with English for a few weeks. He will gradually only do German with me. It’s a great thing that I can order all of our drinks in German already.
There are Ice-cream stands everywhere! And the kids have found their favorite flavors. Here, ice cream is called Eis (say it like “ice” but more of a “z” sound for the “c” rather than an “s” sound).
There is also a bakery that is within walking distance of our house. The kaffee (coffee) is alright, but the pastries are amazing! We were told about a pastry that is a regional pastry called fronzbrochen. It’s like a croissant/cinnamon roll. Cayla loves it and wants to stop for one every day when we leave our neighborhood!
Contrary to what you hear about Germans, our experience has found them to be friendly and accommodating. Two of our four neighbors popped-in with house-warming gifts (potted plants). We’ve delivered thank you gifts to them (Caryn’s famous chocolate covered/white-chocolate swirled strawberries). Many of the people we’ve encountered have spoken English. The ones that didn’t were very patient and helpful. When we’ve ended up in a language pinch, we’ve resorted to motions and sounds in a way that is probably VERY entertaining to the people around us.
You may have heard people mention the orderly nature of Germans, and we’ve found that to be pretty accurate. There are certain lanes for certain speeds. There are certain procedures that no one would ever violate. Now, there are some people, just as there are everywhere, that put their needs above others and buck the system. But they are not the norm.
Germans enjoy conversation and relationships. It’s the norm for a wait-staff person in a restaurant to assume you’ll use your table for more than an hour. They don’t get antsy and try to move you along. It’s part of a good meal to have good conversation. And when you visit their home they expect you to come in, sit down, and stay a while. We have really enjoyed the people we have met so far.
I could go on an on about the banking system, media, recycling expectations, holiday traditions, etc. But, I’ll sum it up by saying that we are really enjoying our time here. The people are great. The food is great. The weather is generally pleasant. Thanks for your prayers in this transitional time for us!