Ok. I’ve never really been accused of being one of those bright side people. I’m a bit of a realist, and I’ve never had the nickname “Susie Sunshine.” I’m not saying this makes me a downer, not in the least, but happy-go-lucky, I am not.
Having said that, I do tend to romanticize German culture and living here. I mean yesterday I sat in a Biergarten drinking really good, inexpensive white wine and eating Brotseit while my daughter played with other children on the Biergarten playground. It was relaxing. I was relaxed IN A RESTAURANT WITH A CHILD, and other parents were relaxed too. We took turns helping the kids. Try making that sucky. Impossible.
Some things deserve to be romanticized and positive. I’m not going to lie to you, it’s easier to be a parent here. In my opinion, it just is. (I say this of course coming from my own circumstances where I’m a bit more isolated on a farm, so let’s just be honest about that, but I do still believe it’s more fun being a parent here.)
There are those things though. The harder things, and just in case someone ever thinks about coming here for a trip or to live, I think I should share those things to prepare you.
1. Can you really drive there?
German drivers. They drive fast, and they don’t mess around. In my dorf, they also park on sidewalks and occasionally drive up on them when the road is narrow. At the local bakery, a bus regularly turns a corner, drives up on the sidewalk, and all the pedestrians must move quickly. No one stops for pedestrians here either. So, what I’m saying is this: Be very aware and very safe. If I’m not in an area that I know is pedestrian only (and you’d be surprised how often cars show up in areas I don’t expect, like courtyards), I am really careful to keep my child close. Germans seem to be more relaxed about this, but they’re children grew up around unexpected cars and know the town.
2. Water. Just regular water.
You hear lots of Americans complain about not getting ice in their water, and that’s not the complaint I’m making here. (Although, if that’s your thing, you might want to stick with alcohol or Appleshole.) Water is hard to come by for some reason. It’s not sitting by every cashier station in every store. There are cafes and some do sell water (some actually don’t!), but it can get expensive because you pay for the bottle, and you are refunded when you return them. You definitely want to have water bottles that you fill before leaving your house. It’s not the easiest thing to find.
They aren’t as common as you find in America. I’ve been in grocery stores with my child and found they had no bathroom. So, you want to plan ahead and go when you find one. Don’t assume the next place will have a bathroom even if it’s a huge store. I’ve also had to pay for a bathroom, so keep change on you at all times.
Medicine is sold only at an Apoteke, and I mean ALL medicine. Acetominophen, Ibuprofen, all of it. You can’t go into a local drug store or grocery store and find a pharmacy section. It doesn’t exist. So, if you have a child, bring something with you or get something from the Apoteke during business hours just in case.
5. Large Superstores
There aren’t many places you can go to find everything. Often you have to go to many different stores that specialize an item (books, clothes, food, beauty products) to find things you might need. That’s always super fun with kids. There are a few exceptions (Real and Müller being two). If you’re sticking around a while and you think lots of shops and errands might be hard for you, Amazon may be your lifesaver. Two other little asides: 1. Have a Euro on you to get a grocery cart. They also make little chips you can get at some stores. No chip/no Euro/no cart/no fun. 2. You have to pay for bags in Germany. Carry they with you if you’ll be walking. If you drive, just put all the stuff back in the basket and then put it into something in the car. Cashiers move really fast here, and no one will ever bag your items for you. Ever. It can get a little hectic at the register when you’re new to the money and language.
6. Coffee to go
It’s not the easiest thing to find, so you definitely want to get your fix before leaving the house. I’ve sat in a few cafes to get my afternoon coffee, and it’s gone well and terribly, horribly wrong with my child. Coffee convenience is not a thing.
Ok. This is kind of a lame one, but why are there so many different German toilets and why do they all flush different ways?! You finally found a public bathroom for your child, and now you have to keep them from touching anything while you play plumbing scavenger hunt. Pedal on the floor, button on the wall, button on the side of the toilet, buttons that don’t look like buttons.
There you have it. I’m grateful for where I am, and I’ll be honest in saying that they only things I miss in America are people and not things at all. (Ok, I miss good mexican food. I admit this.) I do want to be real though and not make it seem like it all comes easy. So worth it though.
P.S. These are things I’ve found so far in Bayern (Bavaria). I can’t speak to the rest of Germany, but I did spend a great deal of time in Berlin 10 years ago, and these things were also true there.