What is it like living in Germany as an ex-pat? Our guest-blogger Lynda Higgs, who spent last year in that lovely Country reporting for The Piccachilly Parlour, shares her feelings and considerations with us. And you? Are you living abroad as an ex-pat? Let us know.
Words & Pics by Lynda Higgs
The life of an ex-pat provides opportunities, challenges and a privileged chance to experience life in another culture beyond the through-the-window glimpse afforded by a brief holiday abroad. The flip-side, is that you tend to compare and contrast where you are living at a particular time with other places you’ve lived and “home” , a.k.a. the place named on your passport which you’ve only visited occasionally over the last X years … not that this stops you from having an opinion, of course!
Having lived in another part of Germany little over 10 years ago we hoped to be slightly ahead of the game in terms of settling into life in another new location. Some things had barely changed; in 2004 internet connectivity was poor, a 2014 survey has revealed that more than half of German households still don’t have broadband and 3G coverage is limited (not exactly “vorsprung durch technik” and a sore point for many younger Germans) and it took a few weeks to get used to the “cash is king” culture (there is a very good chance you may witness the person ahead of you in the supermarket queue paying for a small basket of groceries with a €100 note), but these are First World issues to which you soon adapt.
Living in Germany offers so much more, from seasonal celebrations, pretty towns that no tourist ever sees, cycle paths and ice cream parlours, to the delights of the schlemmer frühstuck, free cultural festivals, perfectly maintained public parks, weekly farmer’s markets, fascinating cities packed with contemporary culture and history, beer, bretzel and bread … oh, the bread! France has cheese, Italy has pasta and Germany has bread of an infinite variety that is utterly irresistible (and I do urge you not to resist – you can always hit the gym when you get back home!).
However, long after the taste sensation of freshly baked, crunchy-crusted brötchen has faded, the need to always cross a road at the designated point will stay with me. It is verborten to cross the road at any point that is not a designated crossing point in Germany; in the UK pedestrians are allowed to exercise common sense, whilst in Italy you just go for it or you’ll be left standing on the kerb all day as cars whizz past you. I noticed that since we last lived in Germany more and more people were erring towards the British model of road crossing, however, there still exists in Germany the self-appointed guardian of such matters, whom I dubbed the “Valkyrie of The Crossing”. A woman of a certain age (often propped up by a shopping-basket-cum-zimmer-frame), she will loudly admonish anyone even considering crossing a road incorrectly/illegally and possesses the unnerving ability to appear out of nowhere, with the stealth of panther. She is, in fact, probably the only person capable of reducing grown men to instantly subservience (see link below to Brian Melican’s “Why the green man is king in Germany” to better appreciate this uniquely German phenomenon). Needless to say I always look for a designated crossing point these days.
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