Find Out the 25 Things Only an American Expat in Germany Can Truly Understand

Okay, so it has been two years since we moved from the US to Germany. Before we moved, we took German lessons, researched the area online, made some early visits to find a place to live, & talked to fellow German colleagues living in the States as well as American colleagues who had already moved to Germany.  Basically, we were as prepared for our move as one could possibly be. But, being prepared is nothing compared to actually moving and living in Germany, and here is a list of 25 things that only an American Expat in Germany can truly understand….

1) Receiving mail, and having to type what the mail says into Google Translate to understand it.  Why can’t there just be a heading in the subject line that either says: “Information Only” or “Action Required”. Also, wow it is hard to type in German.

2) When you hear a stranger speaking English, it sounds so refreshing. And, really…so, how many words can one language use for the word “the”? And, it is amazing how many Germans can speak multiple languages.

3) Realizing that there is an “American” keyboard and a “German” keyboard. I can understand the need for different keyboards with the extra letters in the alphabet (umlauts: ä, ö, ü, and then there is this letter ß), but what is the deal with switching the positions of the letter “y” & “z”?

4) Germans love order. There is a rule for everything, however when it comes to standing in a queue, it feels like a free for all and it’s every person for themselves. And, personal space…forget about it.

5) Why does it take 4 hours to wash and dry one full load of laundry that in the States would be equal to a “medium” sized load and completed in about an hour?

6) When returning for a visit to the States, driving at 65 miles per hour is incredibly slow and painful. And, what’s the deal with all the cars along the side of the road in the States. You never see this in Germany.

7) There reaches a point where you have to Google how to spell English words or to identify the best English word to use in a sentence. You reach that perfect moment of Zen when you start speaking a sentence that is a mix of German and English, and it all seems perfectly normal to you.

8) You mean to tell me that there are news events that actually occur outside of the US? I seem to know more about current events globally than when I lived in the States…heck, I feel like I even know more about what is happening in the States than I did before.

9) There is nothing like watching your favorite American sports team from home at 3am online and trying not to scream out loud when your team wins at the buzzer.

10) The stress that is grocery shopping. I feel like it is a personal battle between the cashier and me each time when I have to place all the goods from my cart onto the table, and then back into the cart when the cashier registers the price. All the while, the person behind me is standing extremely close to me (see point 4).

11) It really is quiet after 8pm and on Sundays. With the “quiet laws”, I finally got use to stores being closed and the peacefulness of the neighborhoods at these times. Also, when a store says it is closing at 8pm, it is closing at 8pm. In the States, a store may close at 8pm, but if you are making your way to the checkout, you will get rung up. Twice this has happened to me where I go to the checkout line at 8:01pm, and no one is there!

12) Socialized healthcare. Free universities. Pensions for workers. Paid maternity AND paternity leave. 6 weeks vacation & 37.5 hour work weeks. So, how do I go back to the States and give up this?

13) Germany is a great place if you want to follow an Atkins Diet! Never have I seen so many choices of meats in a store. But, with all this selection, good luck trying to find an American tasting steak or beef.

14) Pepperoni pizza is NOT pepperoni pizza. Oh, it may look like American pepperoni, but it is salami. We have tried many pizza places, and it’s nothing like how it was living in New Jersey! At least there is a Pizza Hut with the same tasting pizza when the craving gets really bad

15) Water with no gas please. Enough said.

16) Oops! You mean to tell me that my electric razor wasn’t dual voltage? That explains the smoke!!

17) You reach a point where it is “just another castle”.

18) That 100 years of history is nothing in Germany, and 100 miles is an incredibly long distance. But, in the US, 100 years is a long time, and 100 miles is nothing.

19) Who needs to drive a car again? Trains and public transportation will take you everywhere. The only downside of not driving a car is missing out on driving on the Autobahn, but then again, that’s what car rentals are for.

20) Oh, you mean the Autobahn is not one road? It is actually a series of connected highways in tremendously much better shape than in the States. Pothole, what’s a pothole? Then again, you probably don’t want to hit one of these driving 130 miles an hour?

21) That my dog Barney is allowed to go inside restaurants, stores, and on trains with me. And, he even has a Pet Passport!

22) It becomes so easy to spot Americans in public places. And, why are we so loud?

23) Life without an air conditioner and windows without screens. One becomes a master during the summer at learning when to open & close windows to regulate the heat.

24) How far is 500 meters? It is going to be 30 degrees today; do I need to wear a jacket? Why does the US have to be the only country not to use the metric system?

25) Getting use to hearing uncensored music in public places or seeing nudity on TV during the day or inside of a newspaper. Wow, we Americans are prude people aren’t we?

No matter the differences experienced, there is one constant between Germans & Americans (and other nationalities for that matter), that basically we all want the same things out of life and the best for our families. And, the fact that there are differences is not a good or bad thing….they are just differences.

  1. Oh goodness, this is so true. I’ve had to translate mail from my Doctor and my bank that was several pages long and found myself wishing for a summary of the important parts. I miss pepperoni pizza so much! And pizza that you can actually eat with your hands, as well.

    By the way – I also moved to Germany from Charlotte. I lived there for two years before we moved but I was also born there. Neat to have that connection!



    1. I know…the endless typing to translate the technical stuff is a pain! Living here in Germany now over 3 years, going home to Charlotte feels foreign:)



  2. very good and humorous article. I’m German, so thank you for the flowers. 🙂 i’ve been to some places in the usa and can understand a lot of their listings. 🙂 do you still live in germany or do you have enough of the recycle (maybe point 26). 😉
    greez, tobi



  3. Ryan Broussard March 23, 2018 at 6:25 am

    I have never read anything more true in my entire life. Every single one from 1-25 I feel 100 percent. I had to stop a few times and laugh a Little bit because of how spot on this is.



  4. There are many of the German, Swiss , Austrian aspects in certain parts of Canada. Living in the Okanagan Valley, which is full of Europeans of all sorts, will also give access to Euro windows, etc. but the windows will have screens. A lot of the food is European and while it takes a little while to suss it all out, it is available. Check out the Okanagan Valley in BC, Unfortunately it has become expensive.



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