Trust me, I love Germany. It is one of the places I have never expected to settle down in my life, and still, it proved to be the perfect one for me. It might be that being married to a German helped me get almost immediately integrated, or it might be because I see it as a very organized country where things actually work, or it might simply be because I love the city I live, Munich.
However, no place is perfect, and I am not one of those people that only tell you the beautiful side of a place (if you have been following this blog for a while you certainly noticed that). Yes, to me, life in my husband’s country has some flaws, nothing one can’t get used to or accept with time, and lately I’ve been inspired to tell you 7 things about living in Germany that drive me crazy, even after 5 years living here.
Among these things, you won’t find the clichés of how cold Germans are, how cold the winter can be, how much people complain about anything and anyone, how bad the costumer service is, or how difficult it can be to learn German. Though, you will find daily life small things that can dictate your routine or the way you are used to lead your life. As an expat, it’s impossible not to compare your home country (or the countries where you previously lived) with the one you are currently living, for this reason, some of these items might be just the same in your country, others might make you crazy too.
The bakeries issue
So you are leaving work at 6pm and thought you might stop by the bakery to get some fresh bread to eat with the soup you are planning on cooking. Only, at this time of the day, you won’t find fresh bread in the bakery, you will be lucky if you find any decent bread at all. On the weekends, if you get there after 10am you might not find that croissant you were dreaming of having for breakfast, they just make some and once they are gone, they are gone, even if the demand is high.
Coming from Brazil, where bakeries are open until late at night and at 7pm they still have lots and lots of fresh, warm bread, this is something that I will never stop complaining about while living in Germany. I mean, who never needed a fresh and warm bread after work? To me, it doesn’t make sense buying a warm bread in the morning to have it dry and hard at night. It also doesn’t make sense not baking enough for the demand (I’m sure they can calculate their demand), it’s like they don’t want to earn money, or simply don’t care.
Since I’ve moved to Germany, I’ve been to different doctors both in small towns and big cities like Munich. For starters, there is a huge difference between country and city doctors, the first dedicate more time to talk to you and examine you with more care, the second, give you 5 minutes to explain the reason you are there and another five to tell you what it might be, give you a prescription for exams or medicine, and say goodbye.
City doctors don’t have time to chat, to examine you further. At first I though it was only my gynecologist, then I realized that my GP, allergologist, orthopedist and gastroenterologist are actually worse (hopefully my doctors don’t follow my blog). I do know why this happens (high demand being one of the reasons) and that if I had private insurance these same doctors would treat me differently and spend more time listening to my symptoms. But still, public health isn’t free in Germany, and a little bit more of their time would be the least they could do for a patient.
Pharmacies are very peculiar
After years, I still keep discovering peculiar things about the German pharmacies, and they keep surprising me. First, you need a prescription for basically everything, even for birth control, second, even when you’re buying a medicine that you are used to take (at the same pharmacy you usually go) for example, Paracetamol (which you don’t need a prescription for), the pharmacologist will still explain how you should use it even if you don’t ask.
But that’s not all. Have you tried buying ethylic alcohol at the pharmacy (you want to make your own home fragrance)? Or a needle (to take a piece of wood stuck on your finger)? Know that they will ask you what it is for. I must say that I felt like a criminal when I once asked for ethylic alcohol, I had no idea how big of a deal it was. I swear I didn’t set my house on fire!
Sundays aren’t for running errands
Ok, I do appreciate silence and the fact that Sundays are very quiet here in Germany. We do need at least a day to cool down and relax after all. But not being able to vacuum the house, go to the supermarket, to the bakery late in the afternoon, and to go shopping is sometimes really annoying. Of course, I got used to it, I have previously lived in other European countries that are just the same, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t annoying. Sometimes it’s the only day you have time for such things!
Going to the supermarket before and after a holiday
Either is a chaos or there is almost nothing left… sometimes both. I believe this is due to two simple things:
1. The supermarket doesn’t replace the products as they should. They stop doing it after some time late in the afternoon, especially fruits and vegetables;
2. Germans are very afraid of not having enough food at home. My husband once joked about it and said: ‘it’s like we’re going to war and everyone needs to get as much food as possible to store at home’. Desperation. How I miss the 24 hours supermarket in Brazil!
Especially Easter and Christmas holidays, you will find yourself having trouble finding some vegetables and fruits. And bread? Oh yes, we all know the bakeries issue by now. The secret to get pass all this is to go as early as possible, even if you need to leave work early.
It’s also important to mention that you might encounter the same problem on Saturdays and everyday at the end of the day.
The stores products replacement system
I will never forget my first Christmas shopping in Germany back in 2012. In October, stores were already advertising their Christmas collection, and I thought it was simply too early to start buying them. In November I took a look at things I might want to get for our first tree together, and decided that I would go shopping at the beginning of December. What I didn’t know was that December can be too late to get that ornament you liked so much back in October, either because they are broken or already gone, and that at that time of the year you can only get them in neverland.
The following year it almost happened again, and I finally learned that here in Germany, you need to buy your winter things in the autumn, your autumn things in the summer, and so on. That is if you really want that product. If you don’t mind any of that, you can actually save a lot of money buying later in the season. In any case, my point is, products are not replaced once they are gone, only with a new collection.
The supermarkets’ refrigerator prefers winter
And just when summer comes and you need a cold drink on your way home or for a picnic, the supermarket’s refrigerator isn’t working. I wonder why it worked all winter, and suddenly when it’s 40C outside it no longer does. Seriously, does it happen only to me? If yes, then I’m really unlucky, because it has been happening for the past 5 years, every summer, different supermarkets. It’s either that or there are almost no cold drinks in the mentioned refrigerator, which brings us back to the replacement system problem.
UPDATE: how could I forget the fact that paying with a credit card here can be a problem, and that many many cafes only accept cash, not even debit card? Thanks to one my readers for reminding this big important detail. One more item to this list! What about you? Any more suggestions?
Cheers to all expats who love living in Germany and already learned to complain like a German!