The inevitable culture shock that comes with expatriation.

StockSnap_ZJTLF2SGUNBefore you relocate to another country, you generally do your research. You visit the country, scope out a few cities and read up on local customs. You feel prepared. And then you settle in for a few days/weeks/months only to be confronted with the realities of these differences and inevitably respond with, “what. the. actual. fuck.”

Or maybe that’s just me.

First, the big things. Scenarios I knew about before moving, but are no less annoying now that I have to navigate them daily.

  1. The kitchen thing. Seriously, what is this fuckery? Any foreigner who has every lived in Germany will know the near physical pain of having to deal with this frustration. You see, when Germans move out of their homes, they take everything with them. Ev.ery.thing. This includes the ENTIRE kitchen, including pipes, cupboards and countertops (and yes, even the kitchen sink), but that’s not all. When you move into your new apartment, there will be no light fittings or curtain rails. You will be greeted by wires dangling out of the ceiling. If you are on a tight budget, you can buy a used kitchen (eBay Kleinanzeigen is a great resource), and then pay someone to dismantle, transport and re-install it. I am currently trying to find someone to do that for me using Kalaydo, and will let you know how that works out. Speaking from current experience, the quality of your sleep and your health quickly deteriorates when you don’t speak more than 12 German words and you have to sort this kind of shit out.
  2. The kaution. This is the rental deposit that you have to pay before moving into your apartment/house. It can be up to 3 times the “cold” rent (this is rent without electricity, water, heating and other services) plus 16% tax. Absolute insanity.
  3. Paying for stuff you should technically not be paying for. Every single household in Germany, whether they own a TV or not, must pay a monthly amount of more than 17 Euros as a license fee. There is no way around or out of it. Other examples? My colleague and her husband recently got slapped with a 15000 Euro bill to contribute to the maintenance of “their section” of the road running past their home. I’ll say it again: What. the. actual. fuck.
  4. Sundays. Make sure you have all the emergency supplies you may need for the weekend because on Sundays and public holidays, everything shuts down. And I mean everything. No shops are open, no pharmacies or doctors are open, and most restaurants and coffee shops are also “abgeschlossen.” And don’t for a moment think you can spend your whole Saturday out and about enjoying your free time and then use Sunday to clean your apartment, mow your lawn or do the washing. Work is prohibited on a Sunday. This means (depending on your neighbors and how spiteful they are) that the mere sound of a vacuum cleaner or lawnmower can earn you a big fat fine.

Then there are the little day to day things that take some getting used to. For instance, before you have had half a chance to nervously stammer out your “Vielen Dank” to the waitress serving you, she has already curtly said “bitteschön” much to your dismay. Where I come from, saying “you’re welcome” before someone has had a chance to say thanks is at best socially awkward and at worst downright obnoxious. It took me a few days to realize that it is not meant offensively and a more accurate translation could be, “It is my pleasure to help you.”

Despite the annoyances, headaches and stress, it’s worth trying to take it all in your stride. In a few months (maybe years), I know this will all seem very normal to me.

Well, except the kitchen thing.

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