15 October 2013

Differences between Germany and the United States

"One's destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things" - Henry Miller

Life in Germany is a lot different than life in Portland, Oregon and from the United States in general. It's obviously not too different because it is a first world country and many people here speak English, however there are many small differences that I have found between the two countries.

I love Munich. I also love Portland.

The weather is pretty similar between the two places (there is a lot of rain). Right now there is beautiful foliage here in Germany and in Portland, at least this time last year there was also beautiful foliage.

Portland this time last year
View of the Englischer Garten from my window in Munich

I think once it comes to winter though it will be something else. Here I am expecting a lot of snow (something that coming from Vermont I am very much looking forward to). In Portland the weather in the winter is a constant grey drizzle. Which is fine and dandy and good for studying and not too cold so I actually have grown to kind of like it. I am looking forward to being able to look out my window and see a pile of snow though. It's already much colder here than in Portland, but with snow I will be able to deal with the cold.

I think a big part of studying abroad is seeing the differences between your host country and your home country and to see them as nothing more than differences. The way we do things in America is not necessarily the "right" way or the "good" way it's just different. Same goes to how things in Germany and in other countries are done. Also the more you see the differences the more you realize how similar two countries and two peoples are.

So here is my list of differences between Germany and the United States. Not having to do with anything in particular, just observations.

1. The escalators in the Ubahn (subway) go both ways and they are motion sensored. This saves on energy which is great.
2. Cars are in general a lot smaller here than in the United States, and just not as common. Most people take public transportation, bike or walk. 
3. Nakedness is a lot more acceptable here. We went walking in the Englischer Garten a couple of weeks ago (when the weather was still nice) and there were people just walking around everywhere naked.
4. People here not only can start drinking at a younger age but they are allowed to drink in public and walk around with beer bottles etc. in their hands on the ubahn, on the street and in the dorms.
5. There is no wifi in the Stustadt (where we live), but rather we have to use an ethernet cable. I am contemplating buying Wifi just so that I will be able to contact home more easily on my iphone however the Ethernet cable works just fine. The only difference is that you can bring your computer everywhere on the Lewis & Clark campus and have wifi. Here in the Studentstadt we can only have our internet work on our desk in our room.
6. People smoke a lot more than in the United States, or at least that I have been accustomed to. I also might have been spoiled because at Lewis & Clark there are designated smoking areas so if I want to avoid smoking I can. Here though people smoke, even in Biergartens/restaurants and around people eating food.
8. People here don’t ask you how you are doing when they walk by you but they always say hello when they walk by or get on to the elevator with you and always say goodbye when they leave.
9. You have to always ask for still water at a restaurant because if you just ask for water they will give you sparkling water, also water always costs money – there is no such thing as ordering a glass of tap water for free.
10. All of the sidewalks are split into two lanes, one for pedestrians and one for bikers. If you are in the bike lane you better move because the bikers will get mad if you are in their way. I learned that the hard way. 
One of the hardest things I have found to be about studying abroad is not the language or the classes but just the comfortableness of everything. In a few months everything will seem as though it has been this way my entire life but right now things like going to the grocery store and not knowing exactly where I can find everything or getting a bit lost when I get off the subway and am looking for a new place that I have never been before can be a bit disconcerting and uncomfortable. It's also, however, new and exciting and fun to explore.  Stumbling upon new foods, going to museums, and getting lost in town and finding something that I wasn't expecting to find can be some of the best moments.
As always feel free to contact me with any questions about studying abroad, life in general at Lewis & Clark, application process, or anything else you want to talk about. My email is drussosavage@lclark.edu 
Take care,