Other than Tex-Mex, good customer service, and a moderate dose of small talk (with the emphasis being on moderate), there’s not a whole lot I miss from the US when I think of my day-to-day life here in Germany.
I really don’t get homesick (does that make me sound like a horrible son/brother/friend?!), I love speaking a foreign language (well, except for when I have to do my taxes or visit the doctor – two things that aren’t even remotely fun in English), and I enjoy experiencing a different culture, even if that includes the occasional faux pas, like wishing someone a Happy Early Birthday, which I nearly did a few weeks ago.
(By the way, can we talk about that for just a second? Apparently it’s bad luck in Germany to wish someone a Happy Early Birthday, because, ya know, they might just keel over and die before their actual birthday. Umm, morbid much?!)
ANYWAYS, in general, you could say that I really, really love living in Europe. And you could also probably say that I’ve become a bit German over the past 4+ years. I mean, Denglisch is practically my mother language now (har har, see what I did there?). And I also go through serious bread withdrawal if I don’t get enough of that good German grain.
But as German as I may have become (and yes, I now drink sparkling water, which I consider the litmus test of any wannabe German), I will always miss my Tex-Mex, and I am very aware of the void that this has left in my life.
And then there are the things I COMPLETELY forgot I missed, maybe because I just got so used to everyday life in Germany that they didn’t even cross my mind anymore. That is, until I was back in the US in December and suddenly caught myself saying, “Oh man, this is awesome! Why don’t they do this again in Germany?!”
So what exactly are the things I forgot I missed about America? Here are just a few of them:
1. One-Dollar bills!
Seriously, you cannot imagine how happy this made me. Normally, I walk around with two wallets on me – one for bills and one for coins – simply because the European Central Bank got a bit metal-happy and decided to make both a €1 and €2 coin. Oh, and there’s also a 1-cent, 2-cent, 5-cent, 10-cent, 20-cent and 50-cent coin (the first three of which are all made out of copper, and, to this day, are difficult for me to distinguish). Needless to say, getting change back in the form of PAPER BILLS that fit perfectly into my wallet felt like a blessing from the money gods.
2. Grocery baggers.
So, um, funny story. I went to Target one evening to stock up on American junk food, and without even thinking, I just started cramming everything into my backpack (after paying, of course – I don’t shoplift!). The cashier gave me a bit of a perplexed look and said, “You know, sir, we can bag those for you.” To which I responded, “Oh, yeah, that’s right! I guess you do that here. A bag would be so helpful!” I then proceeded to take the bag directly out of the hands of the bagger, who now also had a puzzled look on his face, and started bagging the groceries myself. So yeah, sorry about that. I guess I was on autopilot. But really, can you blame me? In Germany, EVERYONE bags their own groceries (and the bags cost extra). Plus, they do it so quickly you’d think they’re competing for an Olympic gold medal!
3. Walmart, Target, etc.
Okay, so I used to HATE places like Walmart. But after living in Germany and having to visit six different specialty stores to get all my weekend shopping done, I really appreciate the idea of putting everything all in one place. Now, don’t get me wrong: I love small shops and vibrant downtowns. But holy cow! I forgot how convenient it is to get groceries, batteries, socks, and toiletries all in one place. Oh, and while we’re on the topic of stores, remind me again why everything in Germany has to be closed on Sundays? (Yes, I know, workers’ rights, which I TOTALLY support, but still…)
4. Over-the-counter medicine (because the whole world doesn’t need to know your problem).
You guys can’t even imagine how awkward it is sometimes in Germany to go to the pharmacy and have to explain every little problem in detail just to get the over-the-counter medication you want. Got an ingrown toenail? Well, get ready to tell the whole store about it. Have a wart on your butt? Might as well share that with the world, too. Because here in Germany, if you want anything more than cough drops, zinc tablets, or Kleenex, chances are you’ll have to talk to a pharmacist to get it (yep, that even goes for basic OTC painkillers like Aspirin, Ibuprofen, etc.). So yeah, I may or may not have stocked up on a lifetime supply of cold medication before getting on my flight back.
5. Free water…
The first few days I was in LA, I wouldn’t order a drink with my meal because I didn’t want to pay the few extra dollars (I know, I know, I’m such a cheapskate). I had gotten so used to having to pay for everything at restaurants in Germany (yes, stilles Wasser included) that it wasn’t until my family would order tap water that I realized I could, too. And the waiters wouldn’t even scoff at me for doing so. Imagine that!
6. …and free sauce packets.
Wait, what?! Taco Bell just leaves mild, medium, and spicy salsa packets lying around? And you’re serious, I can take as many as I want?! Wow, I totally forgot how much I missed that, too.
7. Paying with plastic.
Alright, so there was that one Korean BBQ place that was cash-only. But other than that, I completely forgot how comfortable it is to pay with a credit card everywhere you go (I suppose that has something to do with my intense dislike of change, which you probably already gathered from above). You see, here in Germany, cash is king, and you definitely better have some Euros on you, since you’re guaranteed to run into a place that won’t take cards on a nearly daily basis (yes, even here in Frankfurt). Come on, guys, get with the times!
Overall, these are just a few of the things that I found myself marveling at over and over again while I was back in the US. I’m sure there’s so much more that I forgot I missed (actually, now that I think of it, the best soft drink ever invented – root beer! – definitely deserves a spot on this list). But I guess that all just goes to show you how much your adopted home really becomes the norm after a while.
Now if I could only choose to forget how much I miss some of the bigger things (because really, I miss Tex-Mex ALL THE TIME).