Culture shock – six months in Germany

When the dust settles, and the scales come off your eyes you realise the dream land Germany isn’t that dreamy at all. Expectations were high but reality verified it all…

Excuse me what?!

All looks sweet in the begining
Unboxing level hard

Indeed Alice was indeed very silent in the last six months. Well, lots of stuff has happened since my last blog post at the end of March. Finding an apartment, organising the move, settling in, figuring out my new job responsibilities, basically get on with life. After those six months I have to say that my culture shock while living in Germany was bigger by miles than my culture shock living in Asia. It all started with apartment hunting. In Poland it’s pretty straight. You find an offer online, you call the agent or the owner, you make an appointment to see the place, you like it, you say “cool, I take it”, exchange keys and cash for rent – that’s it.

In Germany you call yourself lucky if you even get an appointment to see a place. On the mail real estate site there are a hundred of offers however when you contact the owner or the agent in 70% of cases you don’t get a response. Thing is that the owner gets so many messages after 24 h of posting an offer that there is no point in answering them all. So, what do you do? Every morning I was scanning the website for new interesting offers and wrote as quickly as possible that I’m interested in the apartment. From like 40 ownersI contacted, I got 7 appointments to see a place. After that it gets even more complicated. Before you are even considered to be eligible to rent a place you need to confess everything to the owner. Your marital status, where do you work, if you have kids even show your work contract and how much you earn. Yap, that much about the famous German data protection myths. If in Poland an apartment owner would demand your work contract before he can rent out the place to you, you would stretch you middle finger and say – go f*** yourself. Not in Germany. Eventually I managed to find a nice place in a very cool neighbourhood – Unterbilk. Somehow it looks similar to my apartment in Krakow only with a balcony. Coincidence, I don’t think so. Fun fact! Most apartments in Germany have an unfurnished kitchen. It means you must have your own kitchen. Yep, that’s not a joke. You need to have your own cupboards, equipment like fridge and washing machine. Luckily my apartment is fully furnished.  

Bureaucracy level hard

Sunsets and skylines make up for all the bureaucracy struggles

In Poland we do have lots of bureaucracy. Fill in this document to get this… blahh. However, lots of things can be done online or when you just show up at a city hall. Well maybe not when you apply for a passport but anyway. Germany on the other hand has taken bureaucracy to the next level to make your life harder. Imagine that you must go to city hall to register every time you change apartments and have a different home address. That’s called the registration law, so that the authorities always know where to find you.

Something similar was mandatory in Poland during communist times, luckily Poland dropped that law some years back. Besides, if you don’t have something on paper or email it doesn’t happen. You need a paper trail for everything. Another thing is that you have to stick your name on the doorbell and the mailbox. Otherwise, you won’t get any mail. Huh, really? Indeed, In Germany the postman won’t deliver any mail to you at all if your name is not on the mailbox. In Poland we have numbers on the mailboxes for anonymity and the mail always arrives. Not in Germany, again so much about the famous data protection laws… bit of a hypocrisy. 

Another fun fact in Germany is taxes. You get taxed for everything. After six months I wonder if breathing is not taxed. Aside from the general income tax you have for example a church tax. If you are a member of any church, you get taxed for it. That’s why I left the catholic church, so I don’t have to pay a tax for services I don’t use. Depending on the car you drive and if it’s petrol or diesel you get a respectively calculated tax. However, my favourite is the dog tax – yap you need to pay tax if you own a dog. Have to mention that the tax system is kinda complicated. You have like 5 tax categories. Childless singles pay the highest tax – tax group 1… and that’s me… it means the state is taking nearly 50% of my income so technically I work six months in the year for free… lovely isn’t it. That makes me think… Maybe I should get married to jump from tax group 1 to tax group 3. Now I’m curious how my tax statement will look in April. 

Stone age banking and internet

That’s a real citie name!

Hello, I forgot the PIN number to my card. Somehow, I can’t change it online or in the bank app, can you help me with that? We can send you a new PIN number with the mail (ordinary post) was the answer. Eeeeeeeee right.

Hello, I ordered my credit card a month ago. I still haven’t received it. It is supposed to take no longer than two weeks. Oh sorry something went wrong in our system was the answer. Another month later. Hello, is that a joke? I still haven’t received my credit card which I ordered two months ago. Must admit Deutsche Bank got on my banking naught list, right after City Bank. 

Hello, can I pay with a card? NO!!!!!! CASH ONLY!!!!! Eeeeeeeee right.

Can’t stop wondering how backward banking in Germany is compared to Poland. I know Poland is not great however banking is great. You rarely have to go to a branch and most stuff is done online – like ordering a credit card. Cashless payments work mostly everywhere and still ATMs didn’t disappear. You can change the PIN to your card in the app and it works within seconds. Mobile payments are also widespread. Whereas Germany didn’t even hear about something like mobile payments. The guy at Deutsche Bank looked at me like I’m an alien when I asked about mobile payments. Paypal is widely spread here, till I have my doubts about Paypal… not my favourite product. Was thinking why is banking so backwards here… no idea… maybe someone of you knows?

Another thing that drives me crazy in Germany is internet. It’s snail slow… I mean slooooooooooooow. Back in Krakow when my internet crashed ONCE it was a disaster. Here my internet connection crashes at least once a month. I got Vodafone which is pretty popular in this area however the speed the webpages are loading is really annoying. Same applies to mobile data transfer. In Poland we have 5G everywhere, well in small villages it’s not that strong and efficient but works. In Dusseldorf where I live, not far away from the city centre I don’t get 5G at all. I know I know those are first world problems but let’s be frank a proper internet connection and data transfer is mandatory nowadays. Ahhhh keep calm Alice… breath in and out… remember that’s what you used to do in 1999 when you were connecting via a modem to use the internet.

Is it all that backward in Germany?

Beer is amazing 😀

No, it’s not. Living in Germany is not bad at all. It’s pleasant, safe, lots of different opportunities to spend your free time, good beer, and many train connections between cities and and and.

Yeah fine Deutsche Bahn (Germany’s National Rail) is a subject of constant jokes and in 75% cases late, but you eventually get where you want. Germany is just different. I sometimes wonder where all those myths about Germany come from.. about the most efficient country where everything works like clockwork. Well, it doesn’t. There are things where Germany is better than Poland – tolerance level towards individuals and their choices is better, Germany is more liberal. Poland on the other hand is one step ahead in online and mobile banking. Guess the grass is always greener on the other side. But when you go to the other side it turns out it’s not as green as you thought it were. 

Right, promise that the next blog post will be less moaning and more focusing on the good stuff 😉 Today I had let out all the culture shock things 😀

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