Life in Germany: Ist gleich England. Almost.

Would you believe I touched down in Germany ready and raring to completely immerse myself in German life, German culture and hopefully to at least gain an understanding of the German language a mere three (ish) weeks ago?

These weeks have simultaneously felt like an eternity and yet have wooshed passed in a flash of coffees, German verbs and cake; not to mention the wurst, kase and brot! In that time, whilst I still frequently have a blank look on my face as someone talks merrily away to me in Deutsch, I have to some extent gained a grounding in a language I could only before butcher everytime I opened my mouth. (That’s not to say I don’t still destroy it – I continually deal with Germans looking at me in incredulous disbelief after I’ve said something. And the little girl I look after tells me I don’t know German – which, ironically, she says in German.)

Hopefully the title of this post translates, roughly as “Life in Germany: It’s the same as England. Almost”. And really it is. I think I was all prepared for something completely and utterly different but actually, it’s not all that far removed from English life.

Have you ever seen so many varieties of Heinz sauces?

Sure, there are differences; driving on the right, (multiple) bins in train stations for all sorts of waste and attitudes towards smoking.

In Germany it’s much more acceptable to light up and cigarette advertising is prolific. In England, I forget the last time I saw an advert for cigarettes or any adverts where cigarettes featured in some small way. Here it’s hard to go more than a few 100 metres without bumping into something promoting smoking or cigarettes. You can even buy your ciggies from vending machines on the street! In the supermarkets by the tills where in England you’d find sweets and chewing gum and other ‘last minute buys’ you will find cigarettes and little miniature bottles of booze alongside the confectionery.

And I’m pretty sure I’ve never even SEEN a bin in an English train station except maybe in a quintessentially old English village in the backwaters of the countryside where it may quite conceivably be the ONLY public bin for miles. I’ve also never seen so many different Heinz sauces in one place, which a brief trip to the local store recently revealed. It was eye-opening, let me tell you. I didn’t even know half of those sauces existed!

I guess other people’s experiences might be hugely different, but for me, aside from wondering first thing in the morning what the strange language going on around me is, Germany isn’t as drastically different as I perhaps imagined it would be. Culture is all about “the way we do things ’round ‘ere” and I’m sure, as time wears on, more differences will arise, particularly when the time comes for me to brave things on my own. At the moment I am blissfully unaware what is a typical German trait and what is a quirk of the family I’m living with.

So for now, I’ll embrace the little differences and oddities that have cropped up into my everyday life and, at least for the time being, I’ll not be too upset about swapping my tea for coffee. I’d been going off tea anyway.

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