Germany has a lot of similarities to Austria. After about a week in Germany, here are some of the things we’ve noticed.
- Germany is a financial powerhouse of Europe, despite spending a fortune to re-integrate East Germany since 1989. There are still considerable economic differences between the former East and West.
- Germany is the most populous country in Europe excluding Russia. It’s much smaller than Canada, but there is still lots of open countryside. They have many immigrants including a large Turkish (Muslim) minority.
- It seems that more people smoke in Germany than in Canada. Smoking is still allowed in restaurants and on trains. You can sometimes find a non-smoking area, except on patios where the fresh air is ironically limited.
- Germans are quite open about their troubled history. There are memorials everywhere. As time passes and the population ages, fewer Germans have had a personal involvement in World War II. The younger generation is well educated on Germany’s past, and most Germans will speak openly about their history.
- Germans are more environmentally aware than Canadians. They recycle. There are wind turbines throughout the countryside. They use more solar energy than in Vancouver, despite the fact that the weather is similarly variable.
- A lot of people cycle here. Almost none of them wear helmets, which presumably aren’t mandatory. There are bicycle lanes beside many country roads and throughout the major cities.
- People obey the traffic lights and pedestrian signals here (unlike much of the world), but you need to constantly be on the look out for bicycles which move rapidly and silently, even through crowds of people. Often the only difference between the bike lane and the sidewalk for pedestrians is a different texture on the asphalt, so it’s important to be aware and not stray. A tour guide informed us that when confronted with a bicycle, the best thing to do is freeze and they will (hopefully) go around you.
- Bavaria, in the south of Germany, is predominantly Catholic. The church bells ring to call the faithful to prayer and throughout the day to chime the hours, a practice which has for the most part been eliminated in Canada (at least in the West).
- The German language is full of very long words. Germans often use one long concatenated word where we might use 3 or 4. Street and place names are often 5 or 6 syllables, making them hard to pronounce and harder to remember.
- A common German breakfast includes bread or rolls (not toasted), cheese, and some sort of cured meat. They seem to eat a lot more pork than we do, particularly in the form of sausages and salami. We have wholeheartedly adopted the bread, cheese, and pork diet, as part of our focused training plan for Oktoberfest.