Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Facing Facts: Trip Over

I have a confession: I'm not in Germany anymore. I'm not wearing long-sleeved shirts because it's 90 degrees here. I'm not converting from euro to dollars in my head anymore. I changed my Facebook "current city" away from Lueneburg.

Like how I managed to avoid a lot of culture shock going to Germany in the first place, I haven't suffered reverse culture shock at all. There's been none of what I was warned about, having to readjust to my own culture after after adapting to Germany's.

Which is not to say that it's as if I never left. Even though I had Americans to help me, I proved to myself that I am capable of surviving in another country. Another culture. It's one I didn't find too different, sure, but it definitely wasn't America.

I think there's a tendency to compare the countries, because that's how you see the, comparing the various aspects. And, of course, people want to know which is better?

Granted, Germany is a lot older than the U.S., but I'm not going to focus on size here. Instead, let's look at the ways to regulate house temperature. Germany has these awesome windows that can be adjusted to be cracked open at the top, or the can be swung open. America generally has windows that slide (often unwillingly) up and down or side-to-side. German windows don't have insect screens, though.

And then, there's the heating and a/c. The latter is practically nonexistent, so when things get uncomfortably warm, or even hot--and it does-- you're out of luck. So as much as I love the multi-use windows, the USA wins this round.

Again, we have to acknowledge the differences here. Where I was in northern Germany was very flat, unlike the semi-hilly Southern U.S., and a city the size of Lueneburg would, in America, be much more spread out. But being so close together and flat, everyone had a bike, and biking was a great way to get around. The buses there ran to a lot of small residential neighborhoods, which I've never come across before, and even walking was easy with so much within an easy walking distance. Lueneburg was very pedestrian-friendly. There's no point in walking anywhere but the mailbox here, so Germany gets the point.

There are a dozen bakeries and cafes on every corner, or at least it feels like it. You only have to look at my Foods of Germany post to realize that we lag far behind not just in the croissant department, but in the area of ice cream. Here, you can get vanilla or chocolate soft-serve for a dollar. There, for 80 cents you can get a scoop of any of a dozen flavors. Also, two words: Eis Schokolade. Germany wins, hands down.

Specialized stores are still common in Germany: I got food at the market, had to go to an Apotheke (drug store) to buy aspirin, and yet another place for shampoo. Most food markets were very small, and I only found one big one that resembled something an American would be used to, the size of Kroger (or Giant or Food Lion, pick your brand) that sold a small variety of household items, books/magazines, and school supplies along with food. In markets you have to bring your own bag or buy them there, at a cost of 10-20 centers a bag, and you bag your own items. If you want a cart, you put in a 50-cent or 1-euro coin to get it out of a special lock (you get the coin back when you return it), and some places even do the same for adorable kiddie-carts.
See the chains linking them? A monetary investment keeps the carts from cluttering the parking lot.
I love the carts and wish that would be adopted here, but the hassle of frantically trying to bag your stuff while the cashier sighs impatiently and the larger selection of items (that won't change constantly) gives this round to the U.S.

The bottom line is, there's no such thing as a perfect country. I loved the easy transport in Lueneburg, but that's just not feasible in Nashville. I'm happy to have screens to keep bugs out of my room, but I miss opening the awesome windows to their max. I wholeheartedly believe that the cafes and bakeries would be beneficial to America, since the expensive Starbucks-and-co that populate us can't compare, but I'm glad to have someone bagging my strawberries again and not have to stuff bags into my purse for future use.

It's different. But then, that was the entire point of studying abroad. If I could go back, I wouldn't change a thing.

Well, one thing. I'd buy my German-English dictionary before my fourth week there. But that's the only thing.

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