differences between america and germany

Bamberg, July 2019

Bamberg, July 2019

Having spent more time in Germany than any other foreign country, I can say with certainty that I have become accustomed to their version of “normal”. Most of the time. While on a certain level, America and Germany aren’t too different, in a lot of ways, they’re incredibly different. Here are some of my favorite differences, the ones I found most noticeable, and the ones you can only learn once you’ve lived here.

separating trash is no joke.

Paper, glass, compostables, food packaging, and ‘other’ garbage all have their own, individual bins. RESPECT the bins! Or you may end up with a monetary fine, or the garbage man may refuse to take your trash. There also aren’t garbage disposals, so you can’t just put your compostable trash (leftover food) down the sink! There are also certain times of day that you cannot recycle glass! (because of the noise of smashing glass)

There is a specific way you should be doing everything.

The Germans I know here, I love very much. So I say this with nothing but love in my heart. But there is a specific way to do literally anything you could think of, and they will tell you if you are not doing it correctly. In America, there are two sayings that goes something like this: “If you want it done a certain way, do it yourself” and “As long as it gets done, who cares?”. These general, social rules do not apply here. Anyone, anywhere can and will tell you if you are not doing something the “right way”. Dishes, laundry, cooking, walking, eating, airing out a room, etc. etc.


I could write an entire post on this topic, and maybe one day I will. I find it to be the funniest thing, as I’ve seen it happen everywhere here.

wait for the little green man

If the little green walking person is not lit up on the traffic light, you do not walk. They don’t care if its a major intersection, or a four foot long crosswalk, you wait until you are told to walk! If you are caught by a cop, HELLO, fine! $$

Walking or biking places (not driving) is very normal

I don’t know if its because I grew up in Phoenix, and no one ever walks anywhere there, but people here walk all over the place. It doesn’t matter what the weather looks like, on any day you could find people walking to work, to the store, to go shopping, or to do whatever it is they’re doing. They walk (or bike) everywhere! 

You’ve got arms, bag your own damn groceries!

...And you better do it fast! I go to the grocery store and buy only what I know will fit into my two canvas bags because the stress of having to bag up any more than that is too much for me. Checking out at the grocery store is like participating in a relay race where you need to properly bag all your stuff, pay, and get the hell out of there in under 1min 45 seconds. I’m not exaggerating. It should be an olympic sport.

refrigeration? unnecessary.

I know many people who would be shook at the lack of refrigeration going on around here. I think this is across Europe too, but eggs in the grocery store are not refrigerated! Not even ones that have already been hard boiled. And no, they don’t smell! Haha. Having lived with 4 separate German adults, I have also noticed that it is a custom to leave food out on the counter overnight without a second thought. I was raised to believe that this would certainly land you with food poisoning, but alas, it does not!

“How are you??!!”

It is not common here to ask someone how they are doing unless you want a genuine answer. You won’t be bombarded with the question the second you walk into a retail shop, or if you are just meeting someone. Imagine someone asking you how you’re doing, expecting you to actually say exactly how you are doing? Crazy, I know!

Cash, cash, cash!

I’ve heard that some places in Germany (mainly bigger cities) are becoming more card friendly, but in our town, the majority of places prefer that you pay in cash. Some even require it! They won’t accept card! You pretty much always need to have some cash on you here. In the states, I would use my card to buy a stick of gum. Cash was not a thing!


I could keep going, but this post will get too long and you will stop reading. Noticing and accepting differences is all apart of the experience, and I am so thankful to get to have the experience needed to write this post! Differences are what make it fun, right? If everything was the same, what would be the point? It’s these, and even more subtle and obvious differences that make Germany as special as it is!

Tschüss!