Last August, I left Germany and set off to Bloomington-Normal, IL, where I taught German language to American students at Illinois State University. Last month, however, I went back to Germany after a successful year in the States. And if you want to believe it or not, there was a culture shock waiting for me at home.
You might think that a year doesn't seem long. You might believe that you won't forget what home was like after only ten months. Well, as it turned out, I pretty much got used to the American lifestyle and got confronted with somewhat of a culture shock back in my home country. Or at least I looked at German habits from a different perspective. Here are some of the thoughts that crossed my mind!
1. German pedestrians never cross the street on red
True story! While in America people simply cross the street when there is no traffic regardless of the red or green man, Germans would never do that. No matter if it's day or night, Germans stop and wait till the man turns green. There is even a joke going around: If you happen to see a pedestrian somewhere in the world that is waiting at an empty street for the light to turn green, it's probably a German.
2. No shopping on Sunday
While it's usual to go groceries shopping on a Sunday, this is impossible in Germany. If there is a supermarket to be found that is open on a Sunday, it's usually only a few hours.
3. Recycling is super important
Germans love to recycle. We have at least four different trash cans in every household and we actually do take the waste separation pretty seriously.
4. Germans are so quite
I remember my first bus ride in Germany after my year in the States and I was shocked: It was so quiet. Nobody really talked, laughed or even smiled. People aren't necessarily unfriendly, but they simply don't want to disturb or bother anybody around them with any kind of noise.
5. The cars are so small
Americans love supersize cars. While it was strange in the beginning, I pretty much got used to the huge cars on the streets everywhere. What a change coming back to Germany, where supersize cars are an actual rarity.
6. No refills
That's something I love about America: free refills at the restaurant. There is no such thing as that in Germany or anywhere else in Europe.
7. No free water
Yes, you have to pay for water in German restaurants. I miss my free glass of water on American soil…
8. Tax and wages are included in the price
What a comfort! It's so much easier to pay the price that is displayed in the menu instead of doing calculations in order to find out the price to pay in the end.
9. There is no 'How are you' without an answer
Whereas Americans like to use the phrase "How are you" as simple "Hello," Germans use it to actually ask about one's well-being. Although I was laughing at it in the beginning, I kind of miss that here in Germany…
Slowly, however, I get used to the German style, to the ways of being before I left to the States. My culture shock will slowly transform to normality and I won't spot the differences on the go. Those differences, though, are the ones that make traveling so interesting.