My half a year in Düsseldorf is coming to an end. And fast.
Updating the blog has been a bit slow lately due to the news that I received at short notice about moving back home. Leaving Germany requires running some errands and of course lots of packing, which have taken the most of my free time during the past week or so.
Time is indeed flying and my half a year in Germany is about to end. That said, in a couple of days lovely Rauma and beloved home are calling. While running from one bureau to another, filling in forms and harassing our HR department with some stupid questions, there have been some thoughts popping into my mind why I really miss Finland and why I’m so happy to get back home.
There are also some things I will really miss after going back home. And then there are things that I definitely won’t be missing. Having my head messed up with all these thoughts, I got an idea about the pros and cons of living in Germany.
I want to point out that these are my opinions – from a perspective of a Finn. They are personal feelings that the past 6 months have evoked, not the ultimate truths of life. And as it’s always nice to end a blog post with positive thoughts, let’s start with cons.
Con #1 — Nearly everything is closed on Sundays
Sundays in Germany really are holidays, which means nothing, despite small kiosks and maybe gas stations, is open. For some people, it can also be a positive thing, like for the staff of a supermarket.
For me personally, it was extremely harmful on that Sunday when I moved to Düsseldorf. I hadn’t eaten anything during the whole day; I had been travelling for hours, moving to a new country and struggling to find my way to my flat with heavy luggage in a city I’ve never visited before. I was feeling excited, and a bit scared at the same time and still being sad about leaving home behind me…
When I finally arrived at my new home, my tummy was rumbling so loud that they probably heard it in Cologne. And then, I found out there are no shops open on Sundays.
Well, luckily there are Döner kiosks around nearly every corner so you won’t die of hunger even on a Sunday.
It might not look pretty, but it is quite tasty. I had to take a picture of my very last döner in Germany.
Con #2 — Nasty surprise on a payday
Be prepared for a nasty surprise on your very first payday!
If you are planning to move to Germany, you might want to take into consideration that the taxes and social contributions might cut even 35-40 % portion of your gross salary. It doesn’t feel right, especially if your salary isn’t great in the first place. Luckily, you’ll get used to it very quickly and learn to live according to your expenses.
Con #3 — Having a bike is practical, but not very pleasant
Life of a cyclist isn’t very pleasant in Germany. There are lots of strict rules that you might get fined of, for example not having a backlight or if biking side by side with your friend.
In spite of all the rules, there is absolutely no respect for cyclists. Even if there was a separate lane for bikers, it would be full of parked cars, and you have to go into the driving lane and bike among the cars anyway. I really miss the proper cycle paths we have in Finland.
Yet, cycling is the fastest (and cheapest) way of getting from one place to another, at least in Düsseldorf. Plus you can get a second-hand bike with very little money.
This beauty was my vehicle for half a year in Germany. You can find used bikes fairly cheaply from the internet; This one cost me 30 euros, and it worked like a charm. The only con was biking itself — it’s not always so nice, but you’ll get used to it.
Con #4 — Walking isn’t so easy either
The con number four is the German way of walking in the middle of the street so that no one—and I mean no one—can pass.
It seems like it’s not an exception but a rule; No matter how wide or narrow the street is, or if the person is walking alone or with a friend. This might sound a bit silly, I admit, but it can also be very annoying and frustrating. I’m a fast walker.
Con #5 — Where is the sense of humour?
Con number 5? The lack of sense of humour! Especially with sarcasm, Germans just don’t get it. And Finnish people love sarcasm. Can you see the conflict here?
Germans clearly have some sense of humour when talking about architecture, but they just don’t get jokes. Especially the sarcastic ones.
Con #6 — Bart Simpson doesn’t speak German!
Dubbed TV programs and movies are so annoying. It’s just not right that the Simpsons family is speaking German. It’s just not right. Sorry.
So, it wasn’t really that bad after all. And as usual, you can always find some positive sides to everything. And these are the reasons why I really enjoyed living in Germany despite the points above:
Pro #1 — Easy to adapt (especially for a Finn)
In spite of the language, Germany isn’t that different from Finland after all. For a Finn, German is quite an easy country to adapt to; It rains a lot, there are many rules, and people love drinking beer.
What comes to the language barrier, you can manage quite well in English in case German is not one of your strongest languages (except for watching telly).
Whether you’re European or not, here you can find more detailed information about moving to and around Germany, visa requirements and all things important.
Pro #2 — Public transport
Public transport in Germany works like a charm, at least in Düsseldorf and nearby areas. And the connections are good, too.
Travelling by train is quite pricey, but in case you can travel with friends you can get quite nice group discounts already with 5 travellers. Also, during the evenings and weekends, you can use the local transport with a ‘buddy ticket’, meaning 2 for 1.
Pro #3 — Location, location, location
Thanks to Germany’s central location, it’s very easy to travel from Germany to elsewhere in Europe. The Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Austria, France, Poland… and very cheaply too, if you’re lucky.
My personal con is that I didn’t take advantage of this lovely benefit enough when I was living in Germany.
Pro #4 — Healthcare system
I (luckily) didn’t need this service during my six months in Düsseldorf, but according to my friends who did, the healthcare system is working like a dream in Germany. A definite con is that the local insurance covers nearly everything.
Too bad that I only found out a couple of weeks before my departure that I could have got rid of my two remaining wisdom teeth for free in Germany. Hopefully, someone else can benefit from this tip.
Pro #5 — Germans are really active
The amount of activities in Germany, especially during spring and summer time, is definitely a huge plus.
Kirmes fair in Düsseldorf.
Pro #6 — I mean, they are really active!
In case there are no activities organised by the city, Germans arrange something by themselves.
For example BBQ in a park. Is it legal? No idea. But go to a park or the banks of the River Rhine on a sunny day, and you are guaranteed to find at least one BBQ party. With beer, of course.
Pro #7 — Germans are active and… yes, they love their beer!
There are lots of rules in Germany. Regarding everything.
But you can drink beer anywhere!
On Sundays, you don’t have much to do in Germany, so it’s a good day to go to a park… with a few beers.
As I have been living abroad a few times, I can share one truth of life with you: even if home might sometimes feel like a boring, perhaps even unpleasant place, it’s really not. It’s true that there will always be things that are better somewhere else, but there will still be so many more things that are so much better at home than anywhere else (no matter what the famous dream-living nomads say).
That’s the beauty of travelling and living abroad—sometimes you need to leave home to understand and learn to value certain things in life. At least myself, I feel I now remember to appreciate so many lovely things that are waiting for me when I return home. Even if I didn’t mention them in this post.
Home is a wonderful place. Appreciate it. But I still think you should definitely try living abroad—at least for a little while!
—Edit. Some useful links added in August 2016 to provide you with more information and to ease your moving process, recommended by a helpful blog reader who has recently moved to Germany (Danke schön, Marianne!) 🙂 —
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