10 quirky things after a year in Germany

by Stacy Roman
Stripes Europe

When we move to a new duty station, especially one overseas, we know it will take a good three months before we finally start to feel settled. We’ve been in Germany for a little over a year and truly enjoy it. People have been warm and welcoming, local bakeries have succeeded in expanding my waistline with delicious morsels, and travel opportunities are plentiful and relatively inexpensive. However, there are still a few things about living here that I haven’t quite adjusted to.

1. The garbage disposal, or lack thereof. The first time I made my famous layered brownie dessert, I made the mistake of using a pan that was too big for my oven. Not thinking, I dumped the gooey concoction into the sink — forgetting that I don’t have a garbage disposal. I spent about 20 minutes scooping the contents out of the sink and into the bio bin, desperately missing my garbage disposal. I still have moments when I forget that I don’t have one.

2. Having a small oven. Once I discovered that I could no longer bake a ginormous pan of brownies in my German oven, I packed up anything larger than a 9x13-inch baking dish. It just won’t fit. Baking and roasting holiday meals take creativity and extra time.

3. The toilets. In Germany, as in much of Europe, the toilets don’t have handles, and bowls are attached to the walls rather than the floor. The flushing mechanism is either attached to the wall or on top of the toilet. You have two options to choose from: quick flush or a more in-depth flush. I won’t go into the unpleasant details of which one is which. Although, mopping the bathroom has become much easier.

4. Aggressive left turns. Drivers take their left turns very seriously. Where I’m from, we’re taught to slowly inch our way into the intersection. Over here, drivers will often go so far forward you have to swerve around them if you’re going straight. On more than one occasion, I’ve had to let the other driver turn in front of me or there would have been a collision.

5. Recycling. The recycling program in Germany puts the one in the U.S. to shame. Almost everything is recyclable or compostable, and locals are very serious about it. If you put the wrong items in the incorrect bag, trash collectors will often leave it on the curb until you sort it out. We have four different bins for our recyclables, which still confuse my teen and tween. We still have to look at the pictures and list of what goes into which bin.

6. No Sunday shopping. Shopping and perusing store windows on Sundays were family past times when we lived in the States. Now, we usually end up strolling the aisles of the Exchange or commissary, since they’re pretty much the only stores open. There are a few instances during the year when stores will open for a couple of hours on a Sunday, but it is guaranteed to be similar to Black Friday shopping — complete with bustling crowds and discounts.

7. Food choices. Europe is a foodie’s paradise. The vast array of schnitzels, döner, pizza and other international cuisines can make your head spin. However, I’m still missing my good ol’ trusty standby: Mexican food. Thankfully, as a Californian who transplanted to Texas, I’ve learned how to make a few go-to recipes over the years. When all else fails, there is a Chipotle in Frankfurt at the Skyline Plaza.

8. Air conditioning is pretty much non-existent. I wish I could say that I’ve gotten used to blasting my fans at full-speed for the two weeks of blistering heat we get during the summer. I haven’t. When we travel in the summer, air conditioning isn’t just an amenity; it’s a necessity.

9. Conversion tables. Everything here uses the metric system or Celsius. I have a handy conversion app on my phone, but it doesn’t help me as I’m yelling at my GPS to give me distances in miles. I can’t tell you how many roundabouts I’ve circled because I was 50 meters off on a turn. Two days ago, my son and I had to figure out how many grams of butter and flour went into bread, and at what temperature to bake it. Let’s just say the bread was slightly edible.

10. Missing loved ones. This is the one thing I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to. Missing birthday parties, graduations and weddings, or even just a coffee date with your mom or best friend, is hard. However, we make the best of the situation with care packages, phone calls, or even a FaceTime peanut gallery for the Academy Awards.

There are little quirks in every assignment that you don’t quite get used to. My dad would always tell me, “It adds character.” I like to think of it as adding a bit of charm to the assignment. If nothing else, it’ll become humorous fodder for my annual Christmas card.

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