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England vs Germany: Our honest experience so far

german vs british

It’s been six months since we were last here in Germany and just over two weeks since we came back to Germany. In the time since we’ve been back, the cultural differences between England vs Germany have hit me all over again! Before I go on, I must preface this by saying that we (as a family) like Germany. We love a lot about the part we’re in at least!

The other parts of Germany I’ve visited in the past, I can’t remember clearly enough as I was very young. This also means that everything we say here is from the perspective of having lived in one part only. What we say in this post is only meant as a set of observations, even though a lot of them may come off as sounding rather harsh 🙂

The England vs Germany debate has been frequent here at home, naturally and also funny as we each defend both sides alternately and sometimes lose track of which side we’re supporting!

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England vs. Germany: Differences that we’ve noticed

1. The transport system

german vs british
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German efficiency is true. Just don’t apply it to the transport system. Cancellations are the order of the day. Get ready to be amazed by delays and cancellations, often with zero communication as to the occurence. If you don’t plan ahead to arrive at a destination way in advance, prepare to be shocked. This applies to buses, trains, and flights (oh Lord! don’t get me started on the number of nights lost on cancelled flights from German airlines – no apologies from the airlines whatsoever). The interesting thing is that most Germans, from my limited knowledge and experience as we speak no German, don’t seem frazzled when a delay or cancellation occurs. Come to the UK and you’ll know what “pissed off” really means if there is a train delay. All sorts of expletives flying around with grunts…

2. Internet

For a country as advanced as Germany, third to the US and China in terms of GDP, the internet connection is one of the slowest. Whilst from our experience, we were enjoying speeds of 20 MBps in the UK in 2008, in Germany, we’ve been grappling with speeds of around 5 Mbps. The internet connection is so slow, that I am still waiting to sync my cloud items (all 35+GB) to my laptop. I have given up. England vs Germany in the competition for efficient internet speed, England wins hands down.

england vs germany
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3. There’s no such thing as a leisurely grocery check out

Sure, you can take a stroll through the aisles in stores like Aldi and Rewe (although it might take a bit of maneuvering…see the next point) but when you get to the tills (check out counters)…boy! You better be ready to move it along quickly! In the UK, you’ll largely have the person behind the till ask how your day is going and/or patiently wait for you to pack up your things before starting on the items of the person behind you. They often assist with packing in the UK, depending on the person or how busy the tills are. Experiences in Germany are different.

An anecdotal account of one of the reasons for Tesco failing in Germany was the fact they helped customers bag items at the till. I was flummoxed when I heard of this but now I understand. In Germany, you get a greeting (which so far has always been better than a robotic or bored one, I must say) followed by your items being put through at breakneck speed.  They’re often tossed down the other end and you’re expected to have cleared them out and finished paying quite rapidly. Delays of any sort are often met with scoffs and stares from the cashier and customers around who are in a rush to leave. In a competition of England vs Germany for allowing customers to breath while packing, England wins.

england vs germany
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4. Smaller grocery store aisles

We might be alone in thinking this but the aisles in stores here seem small. Much smaller than those in the UK. They are not the easiest to navigate with a trolley and even with our smaller-than-average baby stroller.

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5. Very different brands

This might be unique to the city/region we reside in but it has been surprising to not see the general brands which are widely known and a unique assortment of grocery products you can’t get elsewhere (well from my limited travels). Germans love nuts and it is apparent in the variety of nut snacks, cereals, spreads, etc. Simply mind blowing the amount of nut products they have. On the other hand, I can’t get my standard Kellogg’s cereal or mackerel fish in a can anywhere – these are just some things I have observed.

6. Ever polite greetings

Where we live, whether you’re passing by a stranger on the street, getting into a lift or going into the waiting room of a doctor’s office, you’re sure to receive a greeting of “Guten tag” from at least one person. On leaving somewhere, you are often greeted, goodbye, good weekend or some other generic greeting. This is not the case in the UK for instance, where one would assume politeness should be second nature. In the England vs Germany common courtesy debate, Germany wins for me.

england vs germany
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7. The food …

england vs germany
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Reviews at restaurants should be taken with a pinch of salt. If they say spicy, don’t expect it because spiciness levels are very low here. If they give a restaurant rave reviews, think twice before going. Good reviews are often because the portion sizes are significant. Germans tend to eat a lot of carbohydrates and sweet pastries (konditerei) and yet they are quite fit. Perhaps this has something to do with their active lifestyle, genetics, and the fact that they are generally taller than the average European. Anyway, get ready for potatoes and bread. Lots of it. In terms of trusting reviews, German vs. British, British restaurant reviews win.

8. Landlords/landladies

Particularly if you are an expatriate, desperate, speak no German and are not aware of the laws, please be very careful. Make sure you join a renters association to at least get some support, but alas most work purely in German so the short of it all is, speak German or don’t rent if you don’t want to lose money.

9. Directness of purpose

Now this might not come as a surprise to you as the general perception of the German attitude is that it is culturally one of being very straightforward. This has rang true for us so far…for the most part. And I really do appreciate it. There’s no beating about the bush or sugar-coating and intentions are made clear from the outset. Responses often come off as downright rude or standoffish and it takes some time to understand it is just the culture and nothing to do with rudeness. It sure does come off as rude though.
An example of this was when I decided not to be admitted in the hospital for a minor ear injury. The doctor came back with a waiver form to be signed and simply said “sign that we told you to be admitted and you refused. In case you die as a result of not being admitted it is not our responsibility. I believe the statement was a lot harsher than I have phrased.

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10. The indirect (or not so indirect) bias and racism

People we know here have been rejected from renting simply because they are of a specific nationality and would stink up the property with their ethnic food, or because they are noisy, or because they have kids. If you are of an ethnicity outside of European, prepare to be asked “where are you from?” as a beginning conversation before anything else. If you are European by birth and you mention a country in Europe, prepare to be quizzed further as to where you are originally from. Shocking but this always happens. Sometimes, there’s the additional “oh, you speak good English…” What the f…? English is not only spoken by Europeans or is it?

11. The customer service

What customer service? Just end it here. You either want the goods, product or service or you don’t. Don’t expect to be wooed, don’t expect attention, don’t expect anything. Period. The items sell themselves. Take it or leave it. For those from Britain or the US, prepare to be gobsmacked.

england vs germany
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Did I miss anything? Have you observed any of the above having lived in/visited Germany? Or do you disagree with me on any of the above? Let me know in the comments below.

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21 thoughts on “England vs Germany: Our honest experience so far”

  1. The groceries being thrown and the expected faster pace STRESS me out to even read about it! Lol I have raging anxiety simply over putting cash and coin away too slow when checking out. That sounds like a nightmare

    1. Kin Unplugged

      It can be quite stressful especially if you’ve got an antsy baby with you!

  2. That was an interesting read. I love a little personal insight. Especially about Europe as I have no personal knowledge.

    1. Kin Unplugged

      I’m glad you enjoyed it ?

  3. I’ve never been outside of the US, but when my father was stationed in Germany, he lived it. My husband has lived in Germany, too. I need to get a passport and visit Europe!

    1. Kin Unplugged

      You should! It’s absolutely worth a visit.

  4. Great information! The Aldis here are like the ones in Germany! My sister nearly freaked out when she saw how the cashier was handling her groceries and just throwing them in the cart. Lol.

    1. Kin Unplugged

      It can be quite alarming sometimes lol especially when you’re buying eggs ??

  5. I love this! I live in Canada and LOVE to hear comparisons between countries! I enjoy traveling, last year touring around Ireland and then to London for a few days! My cousin lives in Germany, and I am hoping to plan a trip there in the next few years to visit! I love being prepared with these perspectives so that I’m not shocked… the only thing worse than being a tourist is being a tourist ignorant to the attitudes and customs of a specific location!

    1. Kin Unplugged

      You should absolutely visit Germany! The differences between it and Canada will make for an interesting time here! And i do mean that in a positive way 😀

  6. Did not know that such differences exist! never visited them, but at least now I have an idea of what to expect ! thanks for sharing this!
    The Handy Journal-

  7. Such an interesting read. I’m American and live in the UK for a few years. It’s funny how many LITTLE things you take for granted that aren’t part of another culture.

  8. I have been to Germany a few times and London once. From my small experience, I agree with everything haha

  9. Wow! What an experience to go between the two different places.

  10. This is so interesting! I’ve never been to either but hope to visit one day. I lvoe hearing the differences between countries. Thank you for sharing!

  11. I’ve also lived in England and Germany and noticed the very same thing about customer service. We live in Texas now and I’d go back to England in a heartbeat if I could.

  12. I have never been to either but would love to visit one day. Interesting observations!

  13. Karle

    I really enjoyed reading this.
    It really did take me back and yes, big big difference.
    I have clear memories of the shock at me speaking “good English”.
    This was many decades ago (yes, I’m old) but I remember in a little town in the northern part of Germany, being very politely asked by someone if they could touch my skin. It was so polite I forgot to be offended!!

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