I returned from Germany a little over a week ago, and what a hectic first week back it has been. I am extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to study abroad this summer, especially thanks to the Genshaft/Greenbaum Scholarship which allowed me to explore so much of Germany in the month I was there! In this last week, I’ve had to re-accustom myself to being in Florida. Here are a few things that I had to get used to now that I’m back state-side.
Everyone always tells you to expect culture shock both going and returning from a foreign country. However, culture shock effects everyone differently and can be very mild to extreme. I didn’t experience as much culture shock as I expected when I traveled to Germany. Sure, some things baffled me, and I missed home and my family closer to the end of the program. Despite this, I think I did pretty well adjusting to the cultural differences in Germany, probably because my amazing instructors, Dr. Grieb and Dr. Schindler, did such a good job before the program (both in and out of class) explaining what we should anticipate.
Since being back, probably the weirdest feeling that I have experienced has to do with hearing English (and Spanish) everywhere. Abroad, I got used to training my ears to pick up and understand as much German as possible. For examples, announcements on trains are made first in German and then quickly repeated in English. Instead of waiting for the English translation, I tried my best to understand the German announcements. However, adjusting has been rather quick and painless, with the occasional “entschuldigung” (excuse me) slip up resulting in weird looks.
In Germany, tax is included in the price of all items. Therefore, if something is 2 euros that is including sales tax. So it is very easy to just count how much you have before you get to the register, pay the exact amount, and quickly leave. Back in the states, the first thing I bought in stores when I returned were sneakers. I completely forgot about sales tax and asked the cashier why it wasn’t the price on the shelf. Luckily, I was able to laugh it off and explain my confusion, but it was still super embarrassing!
Jet lag is no joke! It took me the better part of the week to get re-adjusted to the 6 hour difference. This also leads into my next point.
Bless the shorter daylight in Florida! In Germany, the sun is out until about 10:30 p.m., yet rises around 5 a.m. It was really confusing at first because I’d be yawning around 9:30 p.m. but the sun was still out. After a while, I got accustomed to sleeping after sunset in Germany. However, once home, I struggled to stay awake long enough to fix my jetlag.
Tipping at Restaurants
One of the great things about being home is that all your friends want to see you and hear about your time abroad. This means two beautiful things: talking with friends and eating out! However, the restaurant culture in Germany is very different than in America. In Germany, water is not free nor the first thing offered at restaurants (A big struggle for this major water drinker!). Also, you can’t really “have it your way” at restaurants like you can in America. There was one instance when I asked for no mushrooms at a German restaurant, was quickly explained that dishes would not be altered, and instead got extra mushrooms as a joke by the German waiter!
Probably the biggest difference though has to do with paying the bill. In America, it is typical to be asked if everyone is paying together or separate so that different receipts will be printed. In Germany, everything is put on one receipt and it is up to the guests to divvy up the tab. Tipping in Germany is different too. Since servers in Germany do not rely on tips to survive (they make a living wage), people usually round up to the nearest dollar for the tip. In America, this would be seen as being either super cheap or a sign of bad service.
There are so many other things I could elaborate on. Germany is very culturally different from America, but I grew to really love being in Germany. Despite this, I am very happy to once again be home where I have air conditioning, amazing Wi-Fi, and don’t have to pay to use the restroom when going out. Although, I’ve really been craving some Bratwurst and Döner, so a trip back is a must!
Until next time, Deutschland!