I decided to give yesterday’s post a bit more balance by describing some things that I really do miss about America.
1. Politeness. People are rude around here. Not really rude – just a lot more direct, I’d say. If they don’t like you, or don’t want to talk to you, expect to hear “I’m sorry but I don’t want to talk to you”. In America, people are much more friendly in that aspect. Even if they aren’t too fond of you, they’ll still help you. If you do something wrong in public here, you might get yelled at. In America, people are much more likely to politely ignore it.
2. Smile for once! Kind of in a bundle with politeness. People tend to have friendly looks on their faces in the US. They smile at people for no reason. They’re just … you know, they come across as much more friendly and more hospitable. If you’re an American and you’re thinking “That’s not true!”, please, come to Germany, and be convinced that it’s true.
3. Customer service. Non-existent in Germany. The checkout counter at the grocery store is a nightmare. The woman will be super fast and if you’re not fast enough at packing all your stuff away (because not a single grocery store has helpers!), the lady will just shove your stuff to the side. If you’re not prepared for that move, expect your stuff to drop to the ground. And if that happens – don’t expect a “sorry”. Expect a “why didn’t you get a cart goddamn!” (Uhmm, because I bought FIVE FRIKIN THINGS and you mean ol’ lady are totally overreacting?!).
4. Cash. Credit cards are about as normal as an elephant dancing in the middle of the street. Aside from bigger stores and gas stations, you’ll have a hard time finding places where EC is accepted. Restaurants and cafes? Cash. Smaller stores may even not accept EC (though it’s been getting better through the years I’ve been here). While that certainly helps you save some money, it’s annoying to be out and about, and then not have the cash for a cup of coffee. Where’s the next ATM? oh yeah, right over there – a mile away. Great. No coffee then.
5. Opening hours. There is no 24/7 in this country. Not a single one! Opening hours are something of a wild card. Everybody does what they want anyway. Except after 10 pm and on Sundays. And because all grocery stores are closed on Sundays, people go on saturday. This basically means that saturday at the grocery store is war – serious war. People shop as if all grocery stores were closed for a whole week on Saturdays. I’ve been told it’s a ritual. It’s just what you do. Well. It’s not fun.
6. Another thing about grocery stores: They are tiny. You have a hard time finding everything you want and need in one single store. It’s normal to run to 2 or 3 different ones. On Saturdays, of course. Cause that’s what you do. You’re lucky if the mean ol’ lady doesn’t beat you up with her walking stick on the parking lot (this, obviously, refers to point nr. 1).
7. convenience food. You’re groaning now, aren’t you? Blech, all she misses about America is convenience food? YES. YOU HAVE NO IDEA! convenience here means you still have to cook from scratch, it’s just the spices in the convenience food! There is no mac & cheese here! Actually, there is this weird pack for mac&cheese (with a big American flag on the packaging, teehee). It tastes nothing like mac & cheese, it actually tastes like thrown up mush. It’s terrible. There’s a store with an “American ethnic food” aisle here, but they don’t have much there. It’s very disappointing. I miss good mac & cheese, real BBQs and all that. Everybody who says America doesn’t have a food culture is an idiot. Southern cuisine goodies are unique.
8. Gas prices. Because gas costs an arm and a leg here (or, alternatively, your first-born son).
9. Friendships. Americans are big socializers. Friendships will come at a much faster rate, and your social net will be bigger there. It is hard to find friends here. Seriously hard. People are much more introverted and it takes a lot longer to reach a state where you can call somebody a “friend”. Though when you do find a friend, it will be genuine. It’s just so much harder.
10. National pride and holidays. People, please, on this year’s 4th of July, remember how lucky you are that you can celebrate this day without negative feelings. National pride is a negative word here (for obvious reasons). Nobody cares if you walk around with a flag in the US. The feeling of “one united nation” is much stronger. Enjoy that you live in a place where there is this type of community feeling. You don’t get that over here. Holidays are hardly ever celebrated as big as Americans do (except Christmas, that’s big here too). IDK why, but I feel that Americans simply have a more elaborated holiday and celebration-culture.
11. Politics. This is a very strange thing in both countries. In Germany, people aren’t really passionate about politics. It’s almost like they don’t even care. Yet, the percentage of people who go vote is much higher in Germany as it is in America. But in America, people are so much more passionate about it. Almost everyone has an opinion and discussing politics is a much more interesting topic than it is here. They actually care. I don’t know why so many people don’t vote despite the fact that it is a much more central issue in American social culture.
12. Religion. Yep, I said it. I like that people who are passionate about their religion don’t get funny stares. They do here. I’d go as far as saying that religious people here have to be embarrassed about their beliefs. Americans are a bit more open towards religiousness in general, and it’s also much more important to them. While it can be freeing to be relieved of religion, I also think it is very difficult for religious people here because they are seen as “nutheads” who don’t live in reality. Standing up to your beliefs is much more difficult, socially (mind you, I’m not talking politically, religious freedom is the same here. It’s a social/community issue).
Ok I’m going to stop here because I have to go to school, but it turns out I could easily add many more points to this list. I hope it is clear to everyone that these are not evaluations of better or worse, just like the last post. It’s just cultural differences. If we all were the same, wouldn’t that be really boring?