All the Differences (U.S. vs Germany)


Today is June 30. It might be a special day to some of you people out there, or maybe just a day, a Friday, like any other. To me, it’s a day that gets me thinking. Today could have been my last day on U.S. soil. If…if life wasn’t such a wonderful thing throwing surprises at all of us - the good, the bad, the ugly, and the absolutely mind-blowingly awesome ones. 

I would have left the country today, been on a plane back home to Germany. Maybe I would have known how life would unfold, maybe I would have not. This will forever remain a mystery. 

All because I got literally picked up (with a pick up truck, haha) by my perfect match, I left my heart right here, right there - not knowing it at that point but should come to realize it soon after. You all know the story if you have been following along for a while and if not, here is some reading material to catch up on this pretty serious, pretty life changing event that happened - and will forever be the best decision I made, holding the hand of the man I never knew existed . So much changed because of him deciding to make the crucial move and pop the question that never really occurred to me (I was prepared for long distance, uargh).

I am getting a little cheesy here, I know. Well, and I am still here on American ground - hopefully in the near future also. But all that will be a story for another time. 

What I was actually meaning to say is this: I have been living in San Diego for one and a half years at this point. I have never felt happier, lived a more fulfilled life than here. Life is not always a party and sometimes I struggle, but nothing to  whine about, technically. And the best part? (I hope) this is only the beginning. However, being a native German and having thus lived in Germany for the longest time of my life comes with a little bit of a challenge here and there. I love a bunch of stuff about the U.S., duh. There are a lot of things I have easily gotten accustomed to. Well, and then there are a few things that I think are weird.

Fact is, I catch myself comparing my home country and life in the U.S. all too often. I thought it was a good time to now share a fraction of things that are completely different in my opinion. 

Below you find my ten little things I might (or might not) have gotten fully used to in the last one and a half years. Am I maybe weird?

Shoes in the House

It’s normal where I come from that you take your shoes off - or at least ask if you should do so. Here, everyone walks in everywhere with shoes. Honestly, the hardest thing for me to get used to, as I wish everyone would take off their shoes at the door. 

The Dishwasher Situation

I never understood until my boss (yes, she truly is a role model in so many ways, I swear) who has been living in the states for 13 or so years explained this to me. When her new dishwasher was installed, the guy legit told her that only the real dirty dishes get clean. So, basically, the dirtier the cleaner after the dishwasher was run. ‘And if it’s not dirty enough, yes, do put some ketchup on there before you run this thing’. Um, am I nuts here? No, I am not (I tried it, it does work!). So, almost everyone over here rinses the dishes (so they do look clean) before they put them in the dishwasher. (My mom introduced the new term: dishing machine, because, well, it’s also called washing mashine. I think it absolutely makes sense.) This rinsing before dishwashing concept made zero sense to me all the time and is just a waste of water in my opinion. I mean, after all, a dishing mashine is there to clean the dirty dishes? So I thought. The scientific explanation behind all this, in a very simple way? Dish soap/taps you put in were not enzyme based for the longest time and would not get the dirt off. Now, they are. There was some kind of new law introduced a few years ago. So, the food leftovers on the dirty dishes now react with the enzymes in the dish soap and get them super clean - if the dishes are only “half” dirty (so almost rinsed clean) the dish soap does not work, because it doesn’t have anything to react with. That’s my dose of science for tonight. Mind blowing. 

Bank Drive Throughs

They exist. I have seen them. Yet, I have never used one. Some say lazy Americans, others call it convenience. Your choice. 

Hot Sauce Is Life

Put it on everything. It’s gotta be the red hot sauce, though. There are a lot of them out there, but from what I have seen, Cholula and Tapatio seem to be the real deal. And then there’s me…not being able to handle spice at all. What a loser.

Appetizers as Large as Two Meals

I have this thing that when a portion of food is too big, I get something like anxiety (maybe it is plain anxiety) and just cannot eat. It’s hard to describe. Well, let’s just say that I have come a long way. Usually, the appetizers do it for me as the main meal. I sometimes can’t even finish those. The word “big” has a completely different meaning over here. 

Leaving the Card on Tab

I don’t go out that often and have never done so a lot but is this a thing in Germany, to open a tab with your card? It basically is smart: Usually you, pay for every single drink right away when at the bar. However, when you know that you will be drinking more, you just ‘open a tab’. All drinks on there. The check comes at the end of the night as a surprise. Oh, and don’t forget to close the tab before you leave. 

Iceberg in the Water

Water, almost frozen, with icebergs of ice in there. I am getting used to remembering that it’s not shame to order water ‘but without ice, please’. My stomach just cannot take it. 

‘Thank you for your service!’

The first time I heard someone say that, I was on the trolley riding home from work. The military is just something else in this country, something, I guess no one can really understand unless you are American. I just thought it was awesome and showing a lot of respect when a woman was saying ‘Thank you for your service’ when a young man in Navy uniform was walking by. It’s not called “Land of the free because of the brave” for nothing. 

Morning Dose of Patriotism on KSON 

KSON is my jam. Yip, it’s safe to say I love (modern) country. Every morning at 8 am, they play a different version of the national anthem. Again, to honor the service men and women of this country. I gotta say: I love it. I usually am in the car when I hear it. 

The Walls Are Thin

You better live in a place with someone you like. Maybe I am particularly sensitive to noise because houses in Germany are die-hard brick and thick and whatnot, so you usually don’t really hear anything behind walls (and closed doors for that matter). That’s another story here. Walls are like paper. I am not kidding. Maybe I am being dramatic, but I feel like you definitely hear way more through these walls - maybe just a California thing?

There you go. I will share more with you as I go. 

I hope you all have a great 4th of July weekend - another real big American holiday in the U.S. and A. 

Be well. 

Calling all expats: What are the things that are different between the country (maybe even also the U.S.?) you currently live in and your home country?