April 6th marks 6 months down in Germany (!!!!) These first 6 months look nothing like we imagined. Time is ticking down much too quickly for my liking, and our anticipated return to the States in October 2023 will be here sooner than we know it!
How have you adapted to life in Germany?
So far, we both love it! It’s been an adjustment moving to a foreign country during a global pandemic while also re-adjusting to typical active-duty military life (now with a toddler!). Still, honestly, we’ve adapted more quickly than we had expected. It’s such a relief for Andy to be back in a job he loves, even with the high OPTEMPO of his new unit.
I feel like I (Bailey) have adapted more quickly to the social customs of German culture. In fact, my Mamaw always told me growing up that I reminded her of Papaw Hidenrite (her grandfather/my great-great-grandfather who immigrated from Germany.) I never quite knew what she meant, but now that we live in Germany, I do! I have a chronic case of resting “b” face, I can be blunt (which sometimes unintentionally comes across as rudeness,) I speed through grocery stores like it’s an Olympic sport, and I eat non-breakfast foods for breakfast. I even have German facial features! Oh, and staring is a pretty common cultural thing here. You would think it would bother me for someone with social anxiety, but it actually doesn’t – usually, I notice people staring at me in the first place because I’m staring at them.
Honestly, I had this immediate feeling of “I’m home!” when we moved here, which was completely unexpected. I didn’t have the same feeling when we moved to our previous duty station, so it was really refreshing to feel so comfortable here so quickly.
Although Andy hasn’t adapted to the social customs or language as quickly as I have, he’s much better at German driving. Andy can get us where we need to go by car, and I can get us there (in the city) on foot. Like we always say, the two of us together make the perfect team!
What’s been the biggest culture shock?
For Bailey: Public urination. It can be hard to find gas stations when traveling, and if you’re lucky enough to find one, they almost always cost. (Except McDonald’s and IKEA’s are free!) When Drew was in daycare in the “big city” near us, I spent about 2 hours a day driving between Drew’s daycare drop-off and pickup; it was pretty common to see a truck pulled over with a dude doing his business on the side of the road. It freaked me out at first, but I guess it will come in handy when we start potty training Drew in the next year or so.
For Andy: Trying to order at the McDonalds or Burger King in Weiden without knowing any German. Also, the speeding tickets that we get for going 1 kilometer (half of a mile per hour!) over the speed limit simply because we’re Americans. *And by we, he means his adorable wife 😉
What’s been the hardest thing to get used to?
Bailey: Actually having to answer the door when packages are delivered! Usually, if you don’t answer the door within a few seconds, they take it back to the warehouse. It’s hard to get to the door quickly from up or down the stairs, especially when I have to grab the toddler to go to the door! Also, stores having fewer options. I’ve had to order many items online because I can’t find what I’m looking for locally.
Andy: Carrying cash. I don’t usually carry cash because I will spend it (usually on food) and suddenly develop a form of amnesia where I can’t remember that even happened. Although the bigger stores take cards, smaller local stores and parking garages are cash-only. Thankfully, I’m almost always with Bailey when I actually need cash, so she hooks me up 😉
What’s your favorite thing about Germany?
People’s honesty! It’s so refreshing to have people tell you exactly what they think, even if it hurts your feelings. It’s definitely different from our previous duty station’s culture, where people were often “fake nice” for fear of hurting your feelings. Again, I (Bailey) can be blunt, so I’d rather people just tell me their opinion even if it seems rude or they disagree with me. And after his experiences on recruiting duty, Andy agrees with me as well 😉
What do you miss about the States?
The convenience factors, like 2-day Amazon Prime shopping, grocery and Target pickup, multiple fast-food restaurants, and being able to shop or go out to eat on Sundays (all the stores and restaurants are closed on Sundays!) Also, now that most States are re-opening after the ‘rona, we’re a little envious of everyone back home who can resume a normal life; here in Germany, most businesses are still closed and we can’t socialize with individuals outside of our household. (Bailey definitely enjoyed everything being open during her unexpected trip to the States last month!)
Any other thoughts?
One of the hardest things about being stationed in Germany is that it isn’t a 3-year vacation like most people believe. I still have to go to work, Andy is busy with his military obligations, and we both have the stresses of everyday life. We haven’t been able to travel at all, minus one day trip to Bamberg and a few short hiking excursions in the landkreis (county) that we live in.
To me, it feels like everyone expects us to “just be grateful” we’re in Germany – which, don’t get me wrong, we are incredibly grateful – but that perception or belief dismisses the “hard” we’ve experienced. Life always has “hard” in it, and our lives are no exception; we just happen to live in an “exotic” location now.
I’ve also noticed that people seem to dismiss some of our experiences here as “wrong” or “false” because it’s not the same as their experience when they vacationed in Germany, visited a friend who lives here, had a distant relative that was stationed at a different base in Germany, etc. Our experiences are our experiences; they’re not right or wrong, just different from others.
I recognize the above thoughts aren’t exclusive to life in Germany specifically, but it’s just something I’ve noticed these past few months. Not sure if I’m getting more introspective as I age or what, ha.
Anyhoo – 6 months down, only 2.5 years left to go!