This is a the second part to my last post, 5 Things I Learned from Living in Europe. This post is mostly centered around living in the Bavaria region of Germany, though my first two posts talked about the UK and Denmark as well.
1. Always a good time for a festival.
I don’t know if this is just a Germany thing (or maybe even just Bavaria), but there is always some kind of celebration to look forward to here. There’s Fall festivals, Christmas markets, Carnival (basically Madis Gras which lasts a few weeks), in Regensburg there’s a Strong Beer Festival, there’s May festivals, and every town has various other fests throughout the year. What’s great about it is that you always have something fun to look forward to and be excited about. Even in the dreary days of winter you can go have glühwein at a Christmas Market or look forward to throwing on a costume for Carnival. These are huge community wide events – and unlike carnivals or fairs in the US, they are really geared towards a sense of community. You’re not just walking around playing games and eating funnel cake, you sit at tables with people you’ve never met, drink a beer and chat with them. It makes the experience so much richer.
2. “Me Time” is good for productivity.
I find one thing consistent in conversations with people I’ve met over here- the importance of taking personal time for yourself and only yourself. With 30+ days of vacation time, it’s not uncommon to take a Monday or Friday off of work and take a relaxation day. One of these ways is to spend a day at the spa going to the sauna – it’s referred to as “wellness.” As a result you come back to work and life feeling refreshed and reinvigorated. Who doesn’t want that?
3. It’s okay to have fun as an adult.
It always seems to me there’s an unwritten rule in the US about how adults should behave and look. You need to have your life together, and having too much fun is akin to behaving like a child. Before moving to Germany, I always thought Germans were very serious people all the time. And they are sometimes – but they can also let loose and have fun. In a simple example – I have seen more people here with colored hair (like purple, hot pink, etc) than I’ve ever seen in the US. It’s people of all ages and occupations – accountants, grandmas, and people you would never expect. There’s 40 year olds having snowball fights among themselves and really going at it. There’s 50 year old business men walking around catching Pokemon by themselves. There’s adult hockey fans of all ages chanting and jumping up and down the entire game (you can’t even compare it to any sporting event in the US). There’s endless grandparents at Beer Festivals laughing and drinking a liter of beer to themselves. There’s just so many things I look at and say to myself “wow, you never see that back home.” And you know what – they all look so happy.
4. Coffee and cake is a lifestyle.
One part of the culture I fell in love with last year is simply meeting a friend for a coffee and cake. Doing this at home I would think – coffee, a chat, definitely not getting a cake, and then home. But it’s not like that here. Back home coffee houses are riddled with people on wifi, laptop computers, people on their phones, etc. The big thing I notice when I walk into a cafe here is that no one is on their phones, computers, or ipads. Phones are not on the table or anywhere to be seen. Even people sitting by themselves have a book in hand. You order a coffee – which is always in a glass mug, and sometimes a cake which is a lot less sweet than back home. They’re made fresh and sometimes have fruit in them – just delicious. You chat and hang out for as long as you want (it kind of relates to the eating out thing I talked about last time). It’s just relaxing, and lets you appreciate the time with the people around you – without distraction. You’re just fully present.
5. Living in another country teaches you so much about yourself.
Living in Denmark and Germany have been both the awkwardest and most enriching experiences I’ve ever had in my life. I know most people don’t get the oppurtunity to do something like this, and I try not to take it for granted. Sometimes it’s awkward – learning German is not the easiest (didn’t even try to learn Danish), and though my language skills have improved, I am not at all fluent. Learning to communicate when you’re literally not speaking the same language has it’s challenges, but it’s always an adventure. Some parts of the culture are different, and if you’re not aware it’s totally weird. Luckily, we have some good German friends who help us and warn us of any potential differences (like I was warned I may have to undress at the dermatologist which was a great heads up – never would I have thought that). I’ve also (too many times) been that person eating my pizza or fries with my hands and not a fork and knife. I’ve learned so much about myself with the way that I deal with the awkwardness – I have a tendency to just dive right in (for the most part), and I really appreciate that about myself. I know our time here is limited, so I try and take it all in as much as I can.
As you can tell from this post and the last one, I love seeing ways other people live. I love learning about things our country can improve on – maternity leave, healthcare, free education, vacation time, among other things. And I love seeing the benefits of living in the US too – reasonable lines (seriously they are chaos over here), more selection of items in stores, online shopping, big kitchens, stores that are open on Friday, and speed of getting things done. Sometimes things I love over here directly contradict things I love in the US. But I always leave here learning something new and feeling like I understand the world a little more.
If you find any of these true from visiting or living in Europe, let me know in the comments below!
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