1. BIER! BIER! BIER!
The number one thing Germans do best, is beer! It doesn’t matter what kind of beer because it’s all fabulous. From a Helles (Light) beer to a Weizen (Hefe) to Starkbier (Strong beer), its worth every penny to come to Germany just to drink a fresh glass of beer straight from the tap. Whether you are drinking the beer at home, in a beer garden or a festival, you will enjoy every drop of that refreshing beer. And the best thing about beer, is that in Germany there are no laws prohibiting the drinking of beer in public like in the States. You can drink a beer walking down the street, riding on the trains and buses or in the park.
If I am going to talk about beer, I need to put Biergartens as the second best thing about Germany. Every year I look forward to “Biergarten season”. When the weather starts to slowly get nice about April-May, I always try to go to a biergarten. But you really shouldn’t force it. When the weather is nice, it will reward you with a pleasurable day to go drink a nice beer with your friends. Biergartens are everywhere in Bavaria and it makes for a perfect outing to go for a bike ride to a biergarten. It also makes it perfectly acceptable to drink a beer at 11am if it so pleases you.
Germans will find any reason to throw a good old fashioned beer festival. From Oktoberfest to Starkbierfest and beyond, they can be found anywhere throughout Germany at any time. I’m lucky enough to live in Regensburg and we have our own festival twice a year, in May and in August – Dult. It is a smaller, more quaint version of Oktoberfest without the ridiculous crowds of drunks. The Germans even have certain songs only to be sung during a beer festival which brings the “coziness” into a joyful atmosphere and you can be found swaying to and fro with your drinking buddies and prosting anyone at anytime.
4. SUNDAYS ARE FOR RELAXING
As much as I bitch and moan about how frustrating it is that EVERYTHING except restaurants and bars are closed, it is rather nice to know that Sundays are a day of rest. It gives you the time to take that looong walk or bike ride. It’s the one day that makes it perfectly acceptable to stay in your pjs the entire day and just lounge around the house and recoup before another busy work week. It’s a special day of the week to catch up with friends and family who maybe during the week, you don’t always have time for. There is no exception to working on Sundays. Ever. It is a religious day and it will stay that way.
5. CARS AND THE AUTOBAHN
German cars like Audi, BMW and Mercedes are some of the most highly efficient cars produced by Germans and they are proud of it. Many Germans aspire to owning one of these three cars. There is no exception. German cars were made to go fast, therefore, the Autobahn was created to push the petal to the metal. Germans never drive anywhere slowly unless otherwise stated. It’s extremely exhilarating to drive so fast and it makes me giddy like a little school girl, clapping my hands in the front seat. It’s no wonder Germans love driving so fast!
6. COFFEE AND CAKE
Around every corner in Germany, you can find some kind of coffee shop or cafe and Germans take their “Coffee and Cake” seriously. It is an enjoyable past time in Germany, no matter the weather or season. I, however, try not to over indulge myself as my waistline would not like it very much. Coffee in general is served after any meal, which I have a hard time with mostly because I am not a big coffee drinker, but I am learning to enjoy a shot of Espresso.
7. ACCEPTING NUDITY, REJECTING VIOLENCE
Germans are very fond of baring all when they are at the local swimming pool or laying out on a grassy Wiese. They are not afraid of showing a little (or a lot) of skin and I can be very put off by this when I walk into a women’s bathroom at the pool to see a butt naked woman changing or showering right there. But Germans (and Europeans) are more likely to bare their nudity with pride than they are to accept violence. This is where the US is backwards. We should embrace the human body that was given to us instead of shying away from it. I remember my whole life in the US, my parents shielding my eyes from a naked man or woman on the TV, but would be fine letting me watch a violent movie. No wonder Americans are becoming more violent.
Once the weather is at its best, the sun is shining and the weather is warm, Germans take to the parks all over town. Parks are everywhere. They flock to the parks, the grassy Wieses along the any river or lake and enjoy a fantastic little BBQ picnic. We have loaded up our bikes many times and ridden out to lay in the sunshine and cook and eat all afternoon until the sun goes down. All over town you can smell a BBQ is always wafting around town.
9. SERIOUS ACADEMICS
Many university students I have encountered blow me away with having several degrees or Masters and are fluent in multiple languages, usually a minimum of two. All younger generation Germans know English because they start learning at a Young age. But I am always surprised to find that many Germans know more than two languages. I guess you have to when you are surrounded by Poland and France and English is the world language. They take their studies very seriously, even my little kids are more focused and determined than any American kid I have ever met. I have had students who freak out because they have a test coming up and they want to be perfect. They always want to know WHY even if there isn’t always an answer other than “because I said so”.
10. INTERNSHIPS AND APPRENTICESHIPS
Germany has a strong focus on training their citizens in whatever field of education they are in for any job. No matter what it is you want to do for a career in Germany, you can not get a good job without having first gotten the education and passed your exams with a good grade and an internship which trains you on the job. For example, even though I have banking experience in the US, I can not work in a German bank because I do not have a financial banking education and I have never done an internship. Even if you go to university and you study in a field, if you do not pass your exams within three attempts, the government can pretty much tell you to find a new career path, seeing as how university is free for everyone because its paid for by the government (or through your taxes). The plus side to all this extra education and training is that wherever you go, the customer service you receive will be well informed, but I cant promise they will be friendly.