18 Things I Appreciate About Germany After 18 Months Abroad

With recent events, it’s so easy to forget that Germany is a pretty great country in some regards. Coming back here after 18 months has showed me that there is so much to appreciate!

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#1 Punctuality: If a German person tells you they’ll be there at 6 pm, they’ll most likely be there by 5.55 pm – just how I like it.

#2 Sidewalks: In Germany, it’s super safe to walk on the side of the road, you can walk almost anywhere! Try doing the same in Thailand and you’re considered suicidal.

#3 Road signs: There’s a sign for everything. E V E R Y T H I N G.

#4 The bread: Obviously. You won’t get this selection of amazing breads anywhere else. Whole-grain is actually whole-grain and not that weird kind of soggy, syrup-coloured brown toast that you get in the US.

#5 People know how to drive: Since driving school is mandatory in Germany if you want to get your license, everyone knows how to drive. It’s pretty safe on German roads in general despite the zones with no speed limits (yes, I do love the Autobahn, of course).

#6 People get things done: You want something? You’ll get it.

#7 You can drink alcohol in the park: Or anywhere, really. I am not talking about getting drunk, but having a glass of wine or a cold beer by the lake and it’s even legal, how perfect is that?

#8 Affordable food: Veggies are actually pretty affordable compared to other countries, who would’ve thought! You can also go out for a meal and as long as you avoid the really fancy places, it won’t break the bank.

#9 Public transport: While we love to complain about our trains being late – there’s a train or at least a bus to e v e r y w h e r e, and in my city they run 24/7.

#10 Being naked is totally acceptable: jk, but no, seriously, in NZ you had to go to the sauna with a swim suit – I don’t get it, it’s disgusting. In Germany you even have to go nude in most places.

#11 Late opening hours: Pubs and restaurants and bars are open until late, some even all night – I have missed that so much.

#12 Phone plans are cheap: Seriously, I pay 7 euros/month while in Canada I paid three times as much and didn’t even have half of the stuff included that I do now.

#13 Education is free: Well, mostly, at least there are no high tuition fees.

#14 The villages are beautiful: Especially after seeing country life in NZ and Thailand, I was amazed by how neat and beautiful German villages are – I never appreciated that.

#15 Roadtrips are so easy because everything is so close: Honestly – while in Canada, it sometimes took us three days to drive where we wanted to go, here you can’t even drive for three days without hitting water, except for the East towards Russia etc.

#16 Tall people everywhere: Idon’t consider myself extremely tall, for a woman in Germany I’m pretty average, but on my travels I felt so tall sometimes that I couldn’t imagine myself wearing heels.

#17 Great coffee: The worst coffee I ever had was in New Zealand, and it really was hit or miss there – same in Thailand. Other countries just have huge pots of coffee but they don’t appreciate fresh, well-brewed coffee – I do!

#18 People leave you alone in stores: What I absolutely hate in stores is when there’s someone following me around the whole time even after I said that I don’t need help and that I’m just browsing. Won’t happen in Germany because it’s considered rude.

I will try to come back here and read this list when I’m annoyed by life in Germany because all in all, I like the country, I love the culture, and I love a lot of Germans. Not all of them, but well, who does?

The Scariest Part About Traveling Is Coming Home

Exactly one month ago I got on a plane in Bangkok and came back home for the first time in 18 months. I was terrified. Going to a foreign country? Meeting new people? Living in a strange culture? Bring it on! Going back home? Honestly the scariest thing about this whole experience.

I’ve had bad experiences with coming back home in the past. When I was 16, I lived abroad for a year and once I got back, more than half of my friends didn’t talk to me anymore. I had the biggest existential crisis of my life, wanted to quit school, go back to Canada and do – well, didn’t get that far, but something other than have to face my life in Germany. Of course, this time I wasn’t 16 anymore, but the fear remained.

There are a few things that helped me with this experience, and maybe they’ll help you, too.

Tell your family exactly how you want to arrive.

They won’t know unless you tell them. Last time, they thought I wanted a quiet first day – but I wanted the big party. This time I told my family that I wanted nobody to know that I was coming back (I didn’t want my whole extended family there because I knew I’d feel overwhelmed), instead I planned a family get together for the following weekend. I wanted to meet everyone on my terms. My sister picked me up at the airport, my parents were waiting at home with a homecooked meal and a glass of wine. Perfect!

Reach out to your friends before you get back.

Last time, I didn’t really keep in contact and then I got back and was like “Hey I’m back, let’s meet up!” – needless to say, that didn’t work out. In the end I’m glad I got rid of those friends anyway, but at the time I was devastated. This time, I made plans with everyone for the first two weeks. I wrote the dates in my calendar, planned different things with everyone and in general just let everyone know way beforehand how much I was looking forward to seeing them. I went to a festival with some, ate breakfast with others and we had the best time. So glad to have them in my life!

Make a plan for the next steps in your life.

Now, this is all depending on what you’re planning to do with your life. The first time I came back, I thought it was all planned out anyway – I was going back to school. That was seven weeks from then though because the summer holidays came first. With barely any friends, nothing to do and the fear of going back to school building up, those weeks were horrible. This time, I wrote job applications on the beach in Thailand. I planned a holiday in Portugal in October. I made sure that I had things to look forward to and it worked. I am having a bit of downtime right now and it’s quite boring until I start my new job, but at least I know what I’m waiting for and I’m not having doubts.

Talk about your struggles.

When I was 16, I wasn’t able to show how hard coming back was. I cried alone, I got angry at the weirdest things and at myself, and it was not a good experience. This time, almost everyone who has asked me how coming back home was got an honest response: It’s not easy. It will never be easy. It’ll always feel weird and that’s okay. You can also reach out to others who have gone through the same thing, that has actually helped me a lot. Even though everyone goes through different stages, you’re not alone!

Remember that it’s not the end of traveling.

Just because you are back home now doesn’t mean you have to stay there. I looked for a job in the city where I really wanted to go back to (which is kind of home for me but quite far from my parents, I went to university there) and I also know that I will always be traveling. For now, it’s not going to be another huge trip like my last one, but I will always leave the country for a few weeks at a time to explore new cultures, to visit my friends abroad and who knows, maybe one day I will leave again for a long time. It’s comforting to know that I can. It’s also comforting to know that I don’t have to. It’s all up to me, the same as your life is up to you. There’s always a way, you just have to find the one that’s right for you.

While the scariest part about traveling is coming home, it’s also a very exciting part because it’s a chance to change how things are at home, too. To reconnect with your family and friends, to find out which parts you didn’t know you missed. There are easier days and more difficult ones, and sometimes you just have to accept that a day will be just you lying on the sofa, missing traveling. It happens and you have to get through those days, too.

Feel free to reach out to me if you’re having a bad day, trust me, I will understand.