While I was in Germany for my Look & See-trip 2 weeks ago, I made sure to write everything down that struck me as different, strange, noticeable, new… Once I got off the plane in Munich, I opened my virtual Evernote notebook, started to take everything in and took notes: of how people are dressed, how they behave, what the landscape looks like, how houses are different from the United States. And of what I ate. Looking back it seems that’s all I did: eating and drinking. And talking. Lots and lots of talking. I loved it!

first impressions of Germany

Here’s my list of totally random first impressions of Germany, in a more or less chronological order:

  • Solar cells on roofs and even on the side of the road
  • A smell of manure is in the air whenever I open my car window.
  • German houses have small windows.
  • People hang their laundry outside to dry.
  • No advertising billboards or fast food restaurants at the side of the road
  • Women seem to prefer a shorter hair-style.
  • The A-94 is still not complete. Is this a never-ending story?
  • Bike lanes are everywhere.
  • Cars pass other cars even when vision is limited because of curvy or hilly roads. And they go fast, really fast. Not only on the Autobahn
  • Kids ride bikes: either themselves or sitting in a bike seat on the back of Mom’s bike.
  • Shoes are so much cooler. And less expensive.
  • Markus Lanz is still on TV.
  • My meal plan: Butterbretze (pretzels with butter), Spaghetti ice-cream, passion fruit juice mixed with sparkling water, Russe (wheat beer mixed with lemon soda), Radler (beer mixed with lemon soda), Pfannkuchen-Suppe (pancake soup), Milka and Kinder chocolate, Weihenstephaner vanilla yoghurt, Brotzeit mit Obazda (German bread with cold-cut meats and a cheese spread), Wiener Würstchen (hot dogs), Latte Macchiato, licorice, Hugo (white wine, champagne, elderflower syrup, fresh mint), Yoghurette
  • I actually met three people I know from Chattanooga.
  • You can buy Oreo cookies in the grocery store, but the flavors are completely different.
  • Women wear less make-up; their hair is less styled. Because it’s so short? (see above)
  • People don’t take pictures of random things, like the kiddie-size shopping carts at dm you see above, with their phones.
  • People don’t stare at their phone all the time.
  • Kids don’t carry their tablets around.
  • Some shops are closed between 12-3pm.
  • Everybody is riding a bike. Or a scooter.
  • Germans recycle every single thing.
  • Moms discipline their kids loudly and very clearly.
  • The bookstore carries books in Afghan.
  • Women wear shawls / scarves.
  • How much tipping is appropriate?
  • The 10 and 20 Euro bills have a new design.
  • Gardens are small and oftentimes don’t fit more than a trampoline.
  • Eavesdropping on three older gentlemen on the train: they are talking about internet radio and how this “Kastl” makes it possible to listen to country music from America. It even has a search engine and works with WiFi.
  • Business people are very well-dressed.
  • Men and women wear outdoor clothes and trekking shoes, but nobody wears yoga or work-out outfits.
  • Cloth tissues / handkerchiefs are still a thing.

My main observation: that people openly stare at you, look you over. This made me feel very uncomfortable. At first I thought that something was wrong with me – was there a stain on my shirt I wasn’t aware of? Was something stuck in my hair that I didn’t see? Then I thought that people actually knew that I was new, not a local. But on the third day my friend, who recently moved back to Germany, explained the obvious to me: this is what Germans do. They directly look at you and don’t try to hide any of it. Interesting…

What do you think of my random first impressions of Germany? Anything surprising? What have you noticed as different after a longer trip to a different country and culture?