England vs. Germany

I’ve now been here in Germany for exactly 36 days. Wow. Half of me feels like I’ve been here way longer, yet the other half feels I’ve barely been here at all.

Tomorrow, I’m starting my first day as an English language assistant at IGS Roderbruch. If you’re interested, here’s a link to the school’s website, as I don’t think I’ve actually posted it before: IGS Roderbruch.

So as the next part of my year abroad will be starting tomorrow, I thought today would be a perfect day to write about things I’m really enjoying in Germany, and what I really miss about England. A kind of England vs. Germany discussion, I guess. I’ll try and keep it short, partly because I’ve got to get going in about 20 minutes, and partly because I’ll probably hit a brick wall after writing just a few points, despite having thought of many things over the past month which I keep forgetting to write down.

What I prefer about Germany:

  • Transport timesAt first, when I had to wait 6 minutes until the next S-Bahn, I thought ‘wow, just 6 minutes; that’s no time at all’. Now, when I have to wait 6 minutes, I think ‘oh, chuffin’ hell. A whole 6 minutes. Going to be ages’.
  • Transport costs – I absolutely hate it how in England, I have to book my train 6 weeks in advance with my railcard to go home from Uni. It costs me just over £60 when I do so, and if I decided to book the day before I travel, it would easily cost me more than double. Here in Germany, they are clever and don’t do that. There are slight prices increases, but, for example, I bought a train ticket form Cologne to Hannover about 4 hours before the train, and it cost just 34€ with my BahnCard 25. I haven’t travelled too much yet, but that’s definitely cheaper than what you’d get in England when leaving it until the last minute to book. It allows spontaneity. In England, you have to plan a few weeks ahead unless you just won the lottery or something.
  • Events – When I say events, I’m referring mainly to Hanover, because I’m living here (well, duh). There always seems to be something going on. Yesterday, I met with Rosie and Jenni, and for Mittagsessen we casually went up to a Germanic stall right outside the train station and got some Currywurst. And today, despite it being Sunday, there is something going on in town. Something to do with the 25. Entdeckertage or something. And then last month we had the Maschseefest. There’s definitely little chance I’ll be stuck with nothing to do, even if it means walking into town by myself to have a gander.
  • The people – Pretty much everyone is so friendly here. I would feel comfortable going up to someone to ask for directions if need be (if I wasn’t nervous about speaking German, that is), whereas in England I might not be so comfortable going up to just anyone. Everyone wants to help everyone here, a perfect example being on trains and the S-Bahn – if someone sees you’re struggling with suitcases trying to get on a train (such as Rae the other day), then 9 times out of 10 they will give you a hand.
  • Environment – They love protecting the environment here. They have ‘pfand’ costs on bottles, meaning when you take an empty bottle back to the supermarket, you get money back. There are recycling bins all over the city. There are bikes everywhere as mentioned before, which is actually brilliant. Hannover is full of Fahrradwege (bike paths) meaning you actually rarely have to merge with the cars if you were to go for a little bike ride, which would make me feel a lot safer.

What I miss about England:

  • Sunday – You were probably expecting this one. In Germany, Sunday is pretty much dead-day. There are some shops still open, especially in the main train station, as well as cafés and stuff, but you can’t properly go into town and have a good day. Luckily, there’s a Lidl in the main train station which is open on Sundays, but I’ve heard this is quite unusual. Sunday’s are boring, and I miss being able to do something productive on them (not that I was always productive in England on Sundays, but it’s nice to have the option).
  • Pounds – I am looking forward to the day I can use sterling again. I still haven’t become used to the Euro, which is quite worrying knowing I’ve been here for so long. I want my pounds and I want to be able to spend them easily without giving too little to the checkout lady and not understanding what the hell I’ve done wrong (yes, that happened).
  • Self checkout tills – Now, I’m not sure if there are actually self checkout tills in Germany, but in the past month and a bit I have come across none at all. It’s not that I’m a socially awkward penguin and don’t like communicating with people who work at the tills, but I do miss being able to do everything independently. And it also saves stressing when, referring back to euros, I can’t work out which coin means which value without having to pull each coin out individually to look at the number on the front.
  • Tesco and peach water – I. Miss. Tesco. So. Much. More specifically, Tesco fizzy peach water. If you know me well, you know I’m an addict. I honestly buy about 5 big bottles in a week (probably more to be fair), and I will drink every single drop. I even bought some from Rewe City (a supermarket here) thinking it may be nice, but I opened it (in front of my mum on Skype actually) to find it wasn’t fizzy. I miss Tesco fizzy peach water. If you come and visit me, bring me some. Please?
  • Traffic on the left – I keep looking the wrong way. And even when I do look the right way, my head still automatically turns the other way as if I’m in England, just to check, just in case. I guess it’s better to be safe than sorry, right?
  • English – Kind of speaks for itself. I might genuinely go straight to Tesco when I get back to England and have a chat with the person at the checkout. Bonus points if they call me ‘love’.
  • Internet access – Being in Germany, I can’t go on my iPhone and check something online whenever I want, unless I want a massive phone bill. So I have to only go on it when I have wifi. Like Shane rightly put on a Facebook status, internet is like gold dust here for us Ausländer.

So when I return to England, as mentioned I will be going straight to Tesco. In fact, whilst chatting to the checkout person in Tesco buying my fizzy peach water, I will also be checking my emails or something on a 3G network. And I will pay with beautiful pounds. But then again maybe I’ll go to the self checkout tills. Or I could just buy two bottles (or probably ten knowing me) and buy half through self checkout and half with the checkout person.

I am loving Germany though, don’t get me wrong. I think it’s just harder to write a list of what I prefer about Germany, because I’m here – I can easily write loads about England because I know it’s not there now and I’m missing the stuff. I’ll maybe write a post similar to this again when I’m in England at Christmas and see if the number of points to Germany beats that of England.

You don’t know what you have until it’s gone, as they say. But thankfully, this stuff isn’t gone, it’s just not there for me for a while.