Are you planning to move to Germany or dreaming to be? Do you find yourself salivating from seeing all these picturesque photos of green landscape, beautiful nature, old romantic towns with well-preserved architecture, Oktoberfest,sausages, beer, high-end cars, and the famous German Christkindlmarkts?
Maybe you fell in love with a German and planning to take the BIG leap of your life. Or are you planning to tie the knot, settle here and start living out your European dreams? Or maybe you found yourself a new job, or your partner moved here for a job relocation or you wanna pursue a foreign study. There could be a million and one reasons why you have decided to take the leap of faith and start a new life in this wonderful and complex country, but if you have, congratulations! Germany is a fantastic country with an incredible standard of living, sincere and honest people (don’t let the sometimes gruff coldness German demeanor deter you), great quality food and drink and a fascinating culture in general. But before you come, I want to share with you few things you might want to know. Personally, my lifestyle have changed so much and being a Filipino here was quite an experience at the same time, a privilege.
So here’s my personal picks to learn as a Filipino living in Germany ;
1.Your English is good– but you need to learn to speak Deutsch.
Yes, it is practical to learn German if you are moving here. Even if you live in big cities like Berlin or Hamburg where there are big populations of English-speaking expats, learning to speak the local language will bring you sanity. I was surprised that most Germans refuse to speak English even if they know it. Here, German is the official language in the Auslandbehörde and most government institutions. Doing your paperwork with zero German knowledge can be a daunting experience. I know that German is no easy language, but a little patience and perseverance will surely help you integrate more in your daily lifestyle such as going to the doctor, grocery shopping, finding your way into the public transport, finding a job, or even as simple as looking for a hairdresser.
2.Germans love their Bikes, and so should You!
Forget about Amsterdam for being the city of bikes in the world and that the Dutch are skilled in cycling from the age of 3. Here in Germany, people love their bikes for their functionality. This is the easiest mode of transporting yourself from point A to B. When you’re a Filipino expat here, you will definitely buy a bike, unless by choice you choose not to. It’s healthy, safe, and the best way to fit into your new German routines. I got my own bike when I arrived here and cycling with my 2-year-old daughter is one of the best experiences I have ever had. Germany has superb cycling paths and cyclist have their own rights. Children go to school by bike and yes, there are no heavy traffic that can make your blood boil. Women in dresses, skirts and rattan baskets looked so chic while cycling, and older women in their 70’s are still so active and cycling everyday, talk about mobility!
3.Everything can be recycled.
I bet you know very well the garbage problem in Philippines, it sucks, right? The pathetic nuisance and mess of it, sometimes I think how on earth can we solve it. But once you move to Germany, you will learn that everything can be recycled and caring for the environment is taken seriously . This is one of the things I love about living here. Everywhere is clean, and people are disciplined by heart.Germans are notorious for Ordnung, or order/discipline. And anyone who’s been to Germany will attest to the fact that everything can be organized—especially the trash. Imagine, glass bottles are separated by color. Organic waste goes in its own special bins. We even have organic bio mull waste paper bags. Paper and electronics are separated. Everything has its place. I love the Pfand system where all the grocery stores have places to deposit bottles where you’ll get change back, ranging from 8 to 15 cents. Nobody litters when they finished eating or drinking. What amazes me is that even after a big public event, you don’t see garbage or trash, totally unlike in Philippines or even in Kuwait where I have lived for almost 8 years.And yes, nobody throws litter from their car windows.
4.We love rice, but you will love Wurst ( sausages ) along the way.
We Filipinos love to eat rice in the morning, lunch & dinner. We practically adore rice and this is one of the things I miss when I move here. It took a while before I found an Asian store here in Bavaria that sells a good rice. Well, German food is really more than beer and wurst ( sausages ) that you see in the internet. Germans have a unique cuisine but their love for pork is undeniably huge. They have so many kinds of rolls, bread, and cold cuts to choose from, depending on your taste. In the morning, it’s typical to eat bread with marmalade,cheese and cold cuts, a warm meal for lunch, and a simple Abendbrot at night. They also love their Kaffee und Kuchen ( coffee and cake) where they indulge in their sweet cakes and their coffee, tea, and since this is Germany, their sparkling drinks. The quality of food is really exceptional, fresh and even Halal processed. You can find it in Wochenmarkts ( wet markets ) mostly during Saturday in the market squares and various grocery shops.International cuisines are also available, you just need to look for them in your city. I love pandesal and grew up eating it, but now, I have the same liking for Breze (Pretzel) and their pastries.
5.Dressing up for function and you’ll forget your high heels!
German weather can be so fickle and utterly unpredictable. It’s sunny and bright and later it will be cloudy and grey. I was surprised to learn how Germans love the outdoors so their mode ( fashion ) is really for function and not for fashion. As the famous saying goes “There is no such thing as a bad weather, only a bad clothing“, German people dressed up ready for a sudden rain, wind, and yes, even sharp chills. As someone who grew up in a tropical climate, you will learn how to dress up properly , and learn to dress in layers. You will find yourself to be walking a lot and a good pair of shoes is a great investment.You can still wear high heels at work if you like but you won’t enjoy walking in it the whole day, let alone climbing stairs. Your essentials includes: A great jacket, a pair of good boots, hiking shoes, sneakers, comfy flats and scarves and you might as well trade your purse with a sturdy back pack.
6.You will have great respect on traffic lights and public transportation.
In Germany, you will learn to respect when its green and when to stop when it is red light. Nobody is jaywalking in Germany. People are really disciplined, lining up, waiting for the ‘green man‘ even if the roads are empty. If you want to piss off a German, then violate this rule and you will hear angry scowls from them. Germany is famous for its top of the line cars–BMW,Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, and of course, Volkswagen. The Autobahn as well as its excellent public transportation makes this country so fascinating.The intercity, metro and regional trains are great way to travel comfortably and believe me, they are on time. There may be occasional delays but traveling by train is far by what makes living here so convenient, especially if you don’t own your own car. The bus line is also a great way to explore your city and what really amazes me is how they mapped out with bus stops, ticketing services, and child & disabled-friendly. You don’t even need to fold your stroller because every bus has a place for a stroller. There are also buses who connects directly to the major airports. For commuters, connections from the central station ( Hauptbahnhof) to the bus stations are ideal. Taxis are available as well. You just need to call them if you want a pick-up.The drivers are professional,it’s clean, even with child’s seat, no ‘Colorum’ and always metered. It may be expensive, but it’s good if you badly need it.
7.Personal lives are really Personal.
Be it from the workplace or your neighborhood, Germans value their privacy. We, Filipinos are friendly and love to mingle even with complete strangers, this is not so typical here. It’s normal to find absolute silence in a bus, restaurant, or even in the grocery line. Locals are not fond of a small talk.Don’t take it personally, they are just like that. They also don’t talk about their personal lives as frequent as Filipinos do, let alone sharing everything in social media. For half a year living here, I have met great German friends and they are super friendly and loyal. Once they know you, you can win them as best friends for life.
8. Sunday is Ruhetag , Germany’s version of a fun day.
In Philippines, Sunday is a big family day and a church day. Not so likewise here in Germany where in Sunday is Ruhetag ( rest day). It’s also the Lord’s day and people go to church to worship and not to gossip. Everything is silent and close except for few bakeries and small shops in gas and train stations. Ruhetag is a day where German take the “No Work rule “seriously so don’t even think of mowing your lawn! Shopping on Sundays is impossible since all malls and shops are closed. They devote this day to rest , relax with their families, and do their hobbies.You can also find most Germans just walking and running, and staying fit.
9. You will realize where your taxes went.
Yes, Geld (money) is important.If you live in Germany, you are obliged to pay taxes but you really see where does your taxes went. Depending on your tax class, it seems high if you are earning on an average wage, but you see it on the quality of life you are having. Even my my 2-year old daughter has a basic monthly income called ‘Kindergeld’ of around 190 Euros ( roughly 10,000 plus in Php) and she can have it until she reach 18 or up until 25 years as long as she’s still studying or qualify for an extension. This amount is a great help considering the high cost of raising a child. The road and transport system, the health care, unemployment, social security benefits that you are having and among many other life’s essentials.Your benefits as an Expat are also numerous since you are part of its society.
So, do you think you will love living in Germany?
Thank you for reading and see you in Deutschland!