Top 10 Most Difficult Transition Issues When I First Moved to Germany | Expat-Mom

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Top 10 Most Difficult Transition Issues When I First Moved to Germany

15 Feb Posted by in Tops & Flops | 5 comments
Top 10 Most Difficult Transition Issues When I First Moved to Germany
  1. Language Barrier – They tell you that everyone learns English in Germany. Well, they do. But one would never know. Germans may know English, but not everyone wants to speak it. How come no one ever told me the Germans rank just under the French in not wanting to speak English? I would estimate that about one in every ten Germans (between the ages of 20 and 45) actually like and want to speak English. Don’t get me wrong. I understand I am living in a foreign country and learning the language is imperative, but I don’t need to hear that I must learn German from everyone I meet. I feel guilty enough, now there is added pressure. Sometimes I want to say, “Duh! Do ya think I’m not trying to learn?!”…but I’m not sure how to translate that in German.
  2. Grocery Shopping – What the heck is all this stuff in the store? The packaging is all different. As if I didn’t hate grocery shopping already, now I don’t know what to buy, let alone, what I am buying. It looks like ground beef…
  3. Cooking & Baking – Items found in the US are not all found here. How the heck do I make substitutions for recipes from home? Guess I need to go online to calculate fluid ounces and cups to milliliters and grams. And then there is trying to translate the German instructions from the back of a box or bag. “What? That was supposed to be refrigerated? Crap, I have to go back to the grocery store?!”
  4. TV…or lack there of – Everything is dubbed over in German. And sometimes, for instance during interviews, I can hear the person talking in English with a German narrator speaking over the English. I just want to say, “If you’d shut-up, Mr. Narrator, I could hear what the English-speaking person is saying.”
  5. Visiting Government Offices – I never knew one city could have so many different government offices. I did, however learn an easy trick to get them to come to me. Just don’t put your last name on the mailbox. Knock, knock, time for another trip to one of the government offices. I’m sure glad they had my passport photo on file so I could go to the second floor of some building for a man to confirm it was actually me and then go to another floor for them to tell me they wanted to make sure I was living where I had registered as living while in another government office. Did you catch all that? Me either. No worries though, there weren’t any rubber gloves or bending over involved.
  6. Hospital Stay – After giving birth 10 days before my due date, not only did I not have any friends or family in Germany, but I had to deal with teenage nurses-in-training who did not want nor try to speak English. I know that medical terminology is foreign enough when the language is known, but staying a week in a foreign hospital… I can honestly say it was one of my most traumatic experiences ever. The birth was easy compared to the hospital stay.
  7. Missing Family and Friends – Ok, so there is the phone and now-a-days Skype, but there is also a 6 to 9-hour time difference between the two countries making it hard to just pick up the phone and dial; bedtime in Germany is wakeup or work time on the West coast. And making friends in Germany is a little more difficult because of the language barrier.
  8. High Prices & Huge Taxes – My husband is the official shop-a-holic in our family and he told me that I ruined outlet shopping in Europe for him; everything is just too darn expensive compared to the US. Take fuel for example, to put things into perspective, Germany averages around $8 a gallon. I will never complain about fuel prices while in the US ever again. As for huge taxes… May I remind everyone that the saying “No Taxation without Representation” originated because of the Europeans?
  9. Long Travel Home – Ugh…just the thought and I quiver. Traveling so far for that long is bad enough, now I fly with an in-lap baby and most times without my husband.
  10. Everything that was so simple at home, is now complicated – For instance, if I’d like to go to the movies… oh wait…I won’t understand anything. It’s all dubbed over in German. Let’s see if there is a theater that shows the film in English. Oh, wait…when I search online, everything is in German. Hm, several minutes or hours later… no luck finding such a theater because no one shows movies in English! Solution… drive to the Netherlands because everything will be in English with Dutch subtitles. (Update 4 April 2012: If you go to The Local website, they will list movies being shown in English under their Lifestyle section.)
After living in Germany for 2 years, some of these transitional issues are no longer so dramatic and it also helps that my husband does all the shopping. However, it seems the language barrier will always be my worst enemy; somedays it comes easy and most days it is a struggle. Throughout everything, I am thankful to be surrounded by wonderful friends and neighbors who are sympathetic and patient. I don’t hear, “Du musst Deutsch lernen,” so often any more… maybe I’ve rolled my eyes enough times that they get the hint.

  1. Lynette02-15-12

    Bwahahaha! <3 it! Miss you beautiful!! If you haven't discovered it already, check out She's hilarious. ;)

  2. Dewi02-16-12

    I am 100% agree with you and understand how hard it is living in Germany, specially after Live the American Life of Convenience not sure if I could handle it. I am my self 15 yrs married to German until now couldn’t figure it out how to speak german well. Now Iam getting nervous this summer My hubby wanted to go back for good to Germany for our Children education. I just wish my self luck..

    • Mommy02-16-12

      I take it one day at a time. For all my complaining I still feel it is worth living here for the kids, and there are plenty of things I love too. Best of luck with your move!

  3. cliff197602-26-12

    How the heck do I make substitutions for recipes from home? Guess I need to go online to calculate fluid ounces and cups to milliliters and grams.

    This confounded us right from the beginning too, so we made a page on our blog devoted to recipe conversions. Mostly it’s based on our experience converting volume (2 cups flour) to the often more convenient (read: less dishwashing later) mass/weight (276 grams flour) measurements. Maybe you’ll save some teared-out hair gaining from our experiences. See for more. Good luck!

    • Mommy03-03-12

      Hey, cool stuff! I’ll remember that the next time I begin a US baking project!

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