A month back I shared a list of the things that South Africa just beats Germany at. In the interest of fairness and excitement, here’s my list of things that Germany takes the (cold)* cake for.
- Spätzle, Grießbrei, fruit teas, Princess Lilifee Tee, cheap mozzarella, Barilla pasta, Brot, Apfelschorle, Flammkuchen, Gluhwein, yoghurt sold in glass. (no, I will not group these together as “food”)
German food. Oh, German food. In general, you’re not better than South African food, but in specifics oh how glorious you are. Eating Spätzle feels like “‘n engel het op my tong gepiepie” (Afrikaans for “an angel peed on my tongue” – South African reference. Clearly.). Spätzle is like pasta with even more happiness. But it’s not pasta and I’m ashamed for comparing the two (sorry, pastagod and spaetzlegod). Either way, you need to fly to Germany and have this stuff, and fly back home. It will cost you $1000+ but I swear to you, it’s worth it.
German supermarkets also have the best selections. Not better than South African Woolworths, but the proximity to other countries in Europe means that cheeses, and my favourite brand of pasta are among the cheap items. Long aisles of different fruit teas (compared to a few shelves in SA). Countless varieties of water at different levels of sparkle. Even the “expensive” grocery stores in Germany are cheap. And worth the higher price tag for groceries that are actually unpacked onto the shelves.
Every single grocery shop in Germany is an adventure. There are new products, no name brand biases, things to try out, really cheap food, strangely expensive frozen fish, and T and I just do the whole shopping process differently. In South Africa, I grocery shop full trolleys once a month and top up as we go along. In Germany, my husband picks me up after work (one car), and we slowly explore the aisles together. We purchase what we need for the week. We walk into town to top up. We try not to buy ALL the Barilla sauces (me) and Toffifee (him). We confuse the hell out of the bakery staff by actually standing at the counter and not ordering immediately. I’ve always loved grocery shopping, but Germany takes it to the next level.
- A slower lifestyle
Walking, riding fancy city bicycles, not needing two cars, or even one. Walking is safe, and I actually like it. We get a company car for the first three months, then we won’t have one for a bit, and then we’ll probably get one for winter. I like that we have a choice with this. And that we have the Autobahn.
T will have 30 days of leave in Germany, excluding the 13 public holidays. In South Africa we had 15 + 12. Germs take weeks off for holidays, and companies recognise the benefit of this. On Sundays, truly everything is closed. So no walking, cycling, or driving to a shop (except if you’d like a beer, and you can get that at a petrol station). Everything is just slower in Germany.
Scrapbook Werkstatt, Amazon, Ikea, batch photo printing for cheap. We just don’t get these in South Africa. We don’t have anything convenient, quick, or cheap in those terms. The Deutsche Post also give me access to ordering photobooks directly to the house instead of via another country. And Etsy shops. The South African PO was on strike for half of 2014 and I lost half a year’s worth of parcels.
Essie nail polish is different in Germany – the brushes are thicker, and so much better. Germany has Sephora. I was sick twice in 2013. When I purchased flu medication, I was given free tissues. When I bought cramp meds, free chocolate. In 2015+ I will get all of those, PLUS “free” medical help.
Oh my gosh, these are the self-employed woman’s dream. I still wear my pair in South Africa, but it’s really not the same, and the poor things are pretty worn out.
Our neighbours. My best German friend, Jen. Meeting my favourite internet Europeans. Germans walking around with their dogs. Germans are quite simply the best kind of people and the furthest thing from fake. I’m excited to make new friends. When you live in a new country, you really have to rely on other people to show you things that usually come naturally. We have been so lucky to have amazing people in our lives to help us out.
Another really big plus is that Germany doesn’t have my asshole neighbours.
Non-South Africans will find this really difficult to understand, but in SA, you just. don’t. clean. You pay someone else way too little to do it all for you. You don’t even have to make your own bed if you don’t want to. It’s awesome. But there’s also something to be said for doing it all yourself. This seems a bit ridiculous, but there is just something about cleaning your own house. It’s cathartic, therapeutic, and perfect for the obsessive in me. You just can’t ask the maid to clean with earbuds and toothpicks.
I actually really liked cleaning in 2013 and am lucky enough to work from home. Deep cleaning energises me to get more work done. It encourages T and I to stay tidy and *coughcough* share the workload when we know we don’t have a maid coming tomorrow to do it all for us. I’m pretty sure this would not be a bullet point if I worked in an office. I don’t know how working people manage to clean in the evenings.
And German cleaning is superior to any other kind I’ve known. I love the way Germans make their bed. Really efficiently (clearly far more perfect than the way I did above). That being said, as soon as our furniture arrives from South Africa, I’m going right back to poofy, inefficient South African beds with duck down duvets, and a shared duvet and mattress (the heresy!).
- House hunting and home making
Even after all this time and all these moves (13 homes in six years), I still am excited by the process of finding a new place to live. This time is particularly exciting for three main reasons: 1. It’s German, and German homes are so different to South African 2. Our budget is bigger, and 3. We’re looking at long term here. Three to five years. I can’t tell you how great a long term mindset feels (remember those 13 homes!?)
- Less focus on looks
It’s the town that I’m staying in, but no one wears makeup. It’s glorious having makeup as a choice. Cape Town is more relaxed with these things, but Johannesburg is crazy. Go to the gym in full makeup kind of crazy. Being the only woman you see in flats in a day shopping kind of crazy. There is a limit to the makeup-less, unstraightened hair world: heaven forbid you go grocery shopping in your South African leather slippers (above). Even if they are the only warm shoes you have as a South African who has never been cold, they are not acceptable outside shoes. You’ll get more than a few tut tuts and stares.
- Awkward German encounters
There’s a supreme level of awkwardness that you just can’t manage in the same language and culture. A German doctor asked me to take off all my clothes, and I can’t believe how narrowly I avoided that before just lifting my shirt for her to put the stethoscope on my chest.
A South African friend visited the country, we had Bier, and decided that we wanted to tell each other secret things about other people at the table, and how we wanted that last piece of pizza. We also decided that Afrikaans would be the perfect answer to this. We failed to realise that 1. she can’t speak Afrikaans, 2. T totally can, and 3. that “oink” is not the Afrikaans word for bacon.
I returned a bicycle to the woman I had rented it from, but she wasn’t at home. Instead, her poor husband who doesn’t speak a word of English had some crazy blonde woman shoving €50 in his hand, and shouting “Fahrrad” at him.
And the kids who asked why I wasn’t black. And when I asked a black German postman if he was from Africa because he looked like he was from the Zulu tribe over here. He asked me why and I couldn’t find the German words, so I kept quiet and stared. He never visited my racist home again, but it made for a great story. “Ich bin aus Südafrika und Sie sehen aus, als würden sie auch aus Südafrika kommen” is the German phrase I have most repeated in my head.
German weirdness is also awesome.
* a big difference in foods is that Germans serve their “apple crumble” cold while South Africans serve their “Krummeltorte” warm