Hello Germany: Why I am (and am not) Looking Forward to Living in Germany

When this publishes, it will be 8 am in Germany and my plane will have landed in Frankfurt a few minutes ago. As you are getting ready to snuggle into a warm bed, I will be jet-lagged, waiting to collect my checked bags and to work my way through Customs with my birds. Hopefully, I have all my permits, certificates and other paperwork in order so the authorities will simply wave me through and let me go home -- to a place I've never seen -- and take a hot shower! Even though I've said I will collapse and sleep for three days after reaching Frankfurt, this is unlikely (based on what I do after all my previous travels). If I end up doing what I've always done every other time I've traveled, I will investigate the city, eat the food and try out the beer -- and then I'll collapse.

Why I am looking forward to living in Germany:

  1. I am an adventurer, and this is another adventure!
  2. Learning a new language. With luck, I will be able to read 2009 Nobelist Herta Müller's books in German!
  3. The food: I love learning about new countries and cultures by eating their food and drinking their beer!
  4. Photographing new sights and sharing those with you on my blog.
  5. Socialized health care: I cannot tell you how happy I am to finally live in a civilized country where ALL people are treated humanely! For this reason alone, I will never consider returning to the USA to live.
  6. The Frankfurt Book Fair!
  7. Potentially returning to University to pursue a degree in Avian Veterinary Medicine (well, maybe)
  8. I will get to visit and photograph lots of real palaces and castles (especially Schloss Neuschwanstein), museums (especially Hessisches Landesmuseum) and truly old cathedrals (especially Evangelische Christuskirche, Dom St Marien and the Cathedral of Cologne)! Yes, this Harry Potter fan finds this to be really exciting!
  9. I am looking forward to visiting the beautiful city of Dinkelsbühl, a historic city in the German state of Bavaria. This city is typical for what you'd have seen in Germany between the 15th to early 17th centuries.
  10. I also look forward to visiting the historic and photogenic city of Nuremberg, also in Bavaria. This city, which is on the Pegnitz river, is home for many historic events, starting in the eleventh century, when it was recognized as the unofficial capital of the Holy Roman Empire.
  11. I want to visit the Hansel and Gretl House in the city of Garmisch.
  12. I want to visit Checkpoint Charlie, the Brandenburg gate and the preserved portions of the Berlin Wall in (where else?) the capital city of Berlin.
  13. I am looking forward to visiting and photographing Sanssouci (the former summer palace of Frederick II of Prussia) in Potsdam.
  14. I want to celebrate Oktoberfest in Munich!
  15. I would like to photograph the tallest mountain in Germany: Zugspitze.
  16. I am looking forward to visiting the North Frisian islands, especially Sylt.
  17. I really want to visit and photograph the legendary Black Forest and the Bavarian Alps.
  18. Genuine high-quality recycling programs!
  19. I will finally make some friends (I hope)!
  20. Celebrating holidays with someone who loves me -- for the first time in my life!

Why I am not looking forward to living in Germany:

  1. I have to purchase lots of power transformers and plug adapters for all the electronic items that I've kept. No doubt, I'll never have enough of these items, just as I never had enough extension cords when living in the USA.
  2. I had to get rid of nearly every electric item that I've collected over my lifetime, especially several small halogen desk lamps that I've used every day for many years. Where can I get affordable replacements?

Here's a fascinating video that shows the position of flights around the world during a 24 hour period of time (keep in mind that I was one of roughly 600 people on one of those hypothetical yellow dots);

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Welcome in Frankfurt! (I say, sitting about a 30min-drive away.) If you want a tour, or just a chat, please send me an e-mail. (You should be able to see the address, right?)

May I add the Senckenberg Natural History Museum to your list? They have an excellent collection, especially of Messel fossils.

But sleep well! The jetlag is awful coming from the US. Again, willkommen!

By Ben Breuer (not verified) on 19 Nov 2009 #permalink

Congrats on making the big move, then, Grrl!

Was about to suggest you just get the plugs changed a few at a time to fit the EU sockets, but that wouldn't work for most of your gear, I suppose, since US currents and frequencies are different.

Also, do you need the desk lights to be halogen for heating purposes or what? LEDs or other energy-saving lights shouldn't be prohibitively expensive while long-lasting and economical to use. I've got an energy-saving "daylight" (6000K colour temp.) fluorescent tube for my workbench light; I think the thing itself cost probably the equivalent of 15 euros or so 10-15 years ago, and the new tube was 6e.

If you're ever travelling to/in Finland again, get in touch. Would love to buy you a pint if schedules can be matched.

Welcome to Europe Grrl, I sincerely hope that you will find joy in your new life. I look forward to seeing our European heritage and wildlife through your eyes and words. There are plenty of cheap stores for buying electricals, try Tescos, Lidls and Aldi, all budget supermarket, but remember we have a higher cost of living over here so it's not as cheap as the States. Watch out for German beer though it's delicious but a lot stronger than it looks!
Good luck.

Hey - you'll enjoy it there. I lived in Germany for six years from 95-98 and from 02-05. Here are some things to consider based on my experiences there:

1. Don't worry about the plugs and stuff. You can get lots of cheap appliances at the flea-markets (ask around). There's a great one in Frankfurt every weekend on the banks of the Rhein. Also, if you bump into any U.S. diplomatic or military folks, each base has a thrift shop with lots of cheap appliances.

2. Volksmarching - look into this. All over Germany, small towns organize hikes 5, 10, and 20k usually. They're great for exploring an area with friends and they routes take you by famous or historical sights in the area. Plus, every so often, there's a rest stop with tea, beer, and water.

3. Junking Day. Every town in Germany has a junking day once or twice a year. On this day, you can put anything you want on the corner and the local trash will pick it up without a charge. These are great opportunities for furnishing cheaply, but you have to get out early enough to get the good stuff. I furnished most of a 2 bedroom apartment with great furniture from several junking days.

4. Double check your electrical equipment - most of the stuff these days is already dual voltage, so you shouldn't need a voltage converter, e.g. laptop computers.

5. Volkhochschule. Most cities and towns have a "people's school" for adults. These centers offer classes in German for newcomers and immigrants at subsidized rates, i.e. dirt cheap. Plus, you'll be with many nationalities, so German will be the common language for you. I can't recommend this enough.

6. Ryanair www.ryanair.com. We used to fly from Frankfurt to Pisa Italy for 40 euro roundtrip. Very convenient.

If you have any questions, please feel free to email me.

Viel Gluck!

Wilkommen auf in Deutchland!


You're just in time for the wonderful Christmas markets that are about to start!!! Köln's market is huge... so it's a great time to visit the city, admire the Dom, enjoy the bratwürst and savour the glühwein! I don't think I'll make it this year, will probably stick to the one in Aachen which is 1/2 the distance from Liege...


I also look forward to sharing your adventure. I hope that you become so fluent in German you can talk with your mouth full of sausage and beer. I found that video more than fascinating and a little frightening. Glad you missed the computer glitz yesterday that shut down flights across the U.S. for quite a while.

Nuremberg, also in Bavaria.

Just don't say that out loud. It's in Franconia; both the Franks and the Bavarians are very unhappy with the fact that Franconia is part of Bavaria for silly historical reasons.

the tallest mountain in Germany: Zugspitze.

The tallest half mountain in Germany. The other half belongs to Austria. B-)

Anyway, welcome to Europe! Good luck with the language â as a native speaker I can tell you it's feasible but not easy.

By David MarjanoviÄ (not verified) on 19 Nov 2009 #permalink

Volk[s]hochschule. Most cities and towns have a "people's school" for adults.

That seems to be what community college means. (Hochschule = bureaucratic term for universities and similar institutions of higher learning, literally "highschool".)

By David MarjanoviÄ (not verified) on 19 Nov 2009 #permalink

If you ever need somebody to help you with your German, drop me a line.

By Tom S. Fox (not verified) on 19 Nov 2009 #permalink

Just an update:

According to Mr. GrrrrrrrrrrlScientist's Twitter account, the eagle has landed ... uh, parrots in this case I guess... she's safely on the ground, and they're in the animal lounge waiting to pick up the birds.

Welcome to Germany. You are gonna love it - I am an expat myself and I can tell you, there are far worse places to live in and not many better ones. Germans are a bit quirky sometimes, but who isn't?

Just a couple of touristy suggestions:

1 - Neuschwanstein sucks. Corny 1890s replica of what a real castle might have looked like after being plastered under a thick layer of kitsch. The landscape is beautiful, though. Do not go there with high expectations and you will be alright.

2 - 1 hour south of Frankfurt you can find Heidelberg, a very nice little city, perfect for a day trip. I strongly reccomend a visit: get up to the castle, stroll on the Neckarwiese and shop on Hauptstrasse.

3 - Around Heidelberg and Mannheim, there are some nice castles / palaces. I suggest you visit Schwetzingen, but wait until peach trees are flowering. Schwetzingen's peach tree orchard in full bloom is a sight to behold. I heard the Mannheim palace is also cute.

Have fun!

welcome to germany!

i've got just a few things i want to add to your list:

- the health care system here isn't near to treat everyone equel and doctors here still make mistakes

- our recycling systems is full of flaws

- most germans haven't seen (and probably won't see) all the places you plan to visit

best regards from leipzig

Welcome to yoorp!

Welcome to Germany!

Don't put your expectations of socialized healthcare to high, though.

By peterchen (not verified) on 20 Nov 2009 #permalink

A warm welcome from a ScienceBlogs.de "colleague". Hope you enjoy your time in Germany. Don't forget to visit the Harz mountains - lots of beautiful bird wildlife to study here!

Hmm Frankfurt. That is almost around the corner (a 350 km trip, no more imperial for you :D ).So if you ever get a crazy idea like throwing a "I'm in Germany"-party I'm going to beg for an invite :)
Don't forget to add a trip to the Schwarzwald area to your list of places to visit/see. Don't forget they invented the cuckoo clock there.

By Who Cares (not verified) on 20 Nov 2009 #permalink

Have fun in Germany! And good luck with settling down and learning the language. New adventures are always awesome :D

(btw, I'm up for hosting a scientia in January if you need a host around that time)

Some tips to survive in Germany:
a) Apartment: As fresh American you have the advantage that
landlords will normally give you a positive rating and
understand that you don't have all papers on hand. Act
naive if you can't (or are not inclined) to give some
information and leave a nice impression.
Look out for good insulation (windows, walls) and prefer
the middle levels in row houses so you get warmth from
other levels which minimize heating costs. We had some
time here where gas and oil prices skyrocketed. Heating:
Pellet & "Fernwärme" (tele heating) is best, gas and oil
NEVER EVER accept "Elektro" because it is prohibitively
Parrots: Which kind of parrots, small ones (like
budgie) or *big* ones ? Small ones are allowed even if
the landlord tries to prohibit them or if you
"accidentally" failed to mention them, big ones may be
prohibited by the landlord ! Even then *screeching* is
a problem: A judge decided that more than 3 times for
more than five minutes is not acceptable if the
neighbours are protesting (and they are very likely to
b) Work: There are signs that the economy is regenerating,
but still the financial crisis hit Germany severely. Your
best chance is microbiology for which is still a demand.
c) People: To avoid some surprises and disappointment, some
information. Germans are mostly *much* more direct, yes
means yes, no means no. That also means that they display
neutral and negative moods and tell criticism. If you
ask "Hi, how are you" and you get the answer: "Lousy, I
had a quarrel with my friend"...that's quite normal. Be
very careful with catchphrases like "Just come on over
sometime" if you want to avoid that the German is really
standing at your door. Getting used to it, Germans are
often oblivious to more subtle signs of refusal; if they
ignore your "totally obvious" decline, it is more likely
that you were too polite. "No" is a good word in
Allowing to display neutral and negative emotions, it is
never necessary to bend over to display that you are
really extremely happy.
So if you give a German a present, don't be disappointed
because he reacted *only* with a pleasant smile and
"Hey, thank you very much" because he is displaying that
he is really happy. Germans practically never flip out
because of happiness.

Welcome to Frankfurt! Here are some additional recommendations: beside the already mentioned Senckenberg-Museum, which is located next to the main campus of the university, there are other interesting museums in Franfurt, a number of them lined up on the south bank of the Main. Somewhat north of Frankfurt lies a reconstructed Roman castle, which is one of my favorite places.
And should you get homesick, there is a movie theater near the center of town showing movies in the original language, mostly English. The next Harry Potter will open there on the same day as in New York. And right beside the cinema is a small bookshop, Readers Corner, with English language books only. And a short walk to the west is the British Bookshop, name says all.

Good Luck and lots of fun to you and your spousal unit!

Hi GrrlScientist,

I also welcome you here in Germany. I´m also one of the scienceblogger. So, if you have any concrete questions, feel free to contact me.

I would suggest you to visit Dresden, here in the far east with its nice old center and the rebuild Frauenkirche.

Been to Nuremburg -- the old city is beautiful, especially around Yule. Looking at handmade Christmas stuff at Kriskindlesmarkts,* in the country that pretty much invented Christmas as we know it today, is a treat.
*No, I'm not at all sure of the spelling there.

By Raging Bee (not verified) on 20 Nov 2009 #permalink

Germany is really awesome, go crazy, and good luck :)

And yeah. Europe has a way more sensible, humanitarian system than the US.

By Isabella Chen (not verified) on 20 Nov 2009 #permalink

and the adventure begins. best of everything, grrrl! moving to europe is a fascinating and frustrating, exhausting and exhiliarating experience...


Sylt is a wonderful place. You may want to save your visit for the summer when there will be more daylight, it will be a bit warmer and scads more people. I was stationed there way back in the 1970's (with the US Coast Guard). It was expensive then and much more so now. I don't know squat about birds but I still remember the Oystercatchers.

In case it gets too cold/rainy, there are plenty of cheap flights going south!

It was mentioned in another comment already, in a couple of weeks the christmas markets start (Weihnachtsmarkt) go there and drink some mulled wine (Glühwein).
How long are you there for anyway?

hmmm... top 5: Augustiner Helles, Augustiner Edelstoff, Rothaus Tannenzäpfle Pils, Jever Pils, and Fransiskaner DunkelweiÃbier!

Ben, gerry, David Marj, markusmaria, Christian, Marcus?

I would add, although I prefer Pils (my friday-evening beer was Jever for some years), one Kölsch-Brand (the beer cologne style) called Mühlenkölsch.

And, when you stay in cologne a fresh Früh-Kölsch directly from the brewerys pub near the cathedral is a suggestion.

Augustiner Edelstoff I taste lastly and it's very good.

Here in the East there are a lot of Blackbeer-brands. I would suggest Schwarzer Steiger.

But, it's a never ending story of taste and brands.

I don't have any recommendations to add to your list, as I have never been to Germany. I just wanted to wish you well in this new adventure!! Make it a great one.

Grrl and the birds got here safely - The Beast is shit scared of them, poor thing.

Thanks for all the suggestions. I'm employed by the Senckenberg, so we'll definitely be going there. And be following the other suggestions too.

Welcome to this side of the pond. Mum & Dad keep asking after you and Bob. Can you give him a nudge to get in touch with them. They can tell him what 300mm of rain in 24 hours looks like.

By Bob's Big Brother (not verified) on 21 Nov 2009 #permalink

The Beast is shit scared of them, poor thing.

Sorry for the Beast, but that made me laugh. Reminds me of a friend's African Grey parrot who terrorized the cat ... he could call for the cat by name.

I found the Palmengarten in Frankfurt to be a very relaxing and beautiful place. There's also a bird park just outside of Frankfurt; can't remember whether it's accessible by public transport, though. I'd also second the suggestion of Heidelberg - lots to see there, and you can walk along the Philosophenweg (sp?) and think deep thoughts.

Glad to hear that you made it Grrlscientist - if you and Bob ever decide to come visit Copenhagen, let me know, so I can show you around the town.

i have not been able to get on the internet since i've arrived! i am currently sitting in a McD's in the shopping center below my apt, using a free hour of wifi, so i have to comment to let you know i am here in germany and will hopefully be logging on for a longer session this afternoon.

some random items: i have an iPhone that i am learning how to use. the iPhone, which i've always wanted very much, is an improvement over the tiny piece of crap cell phone i had in NYC that it's similar to the improvement represented by european toilets over american outhouses.

i have terrible jet lag. probably because i was getting sick in the states before i left, and i still feel horrible. perhaps my favorite state of jet lag is when i feel ravenously hungry at the same time that i feel like barfing.

i have not tried the beer yet.

my birds and i went through HELL in our last 24 hours in NYC before departure. the USFWS inspectors who were making my life hell asked me at several points in time if i was ever planning to come back to the USA to live. i was so mad at them that i finally said "i wouldn't come back to the USA if they ended up being the last english-speaking country in the entire world! i am OUTTA HERE!"

i live on the 13th floor (top floor) of the apartment building. the windows face northwest, so the setting sun is clearly visible. the building is set inside the footprint for a large shopping center (nordwestzentrum -- you'll have to forgive my dislike of capital letters) near (but not inside) the city center for frankfurt. it is really amazing to roam this area and to see the people and to practice my german on them.

the germans don't, as a general rule, know any english, but those who do tend to come flocking when they overhear me asking stupid questions like; "huh?" and "what did s/he say?" and "why do they do that?"

the entire city of frankfurt apparently closes down on sunday: i've decided this city is in desperate need of a decent coffee shop that has books, coffee, sandwiches and other treats for sale on sundays. otherwise, i will be stuck haunting McD's -- i've already spent almost as much time in the frankfurt McD's as i've spend in the same chain in NYC, where i've lived roughly 2615 times longer.

Ha! Reading your comments about Sundays rolling up the sidewalks, and the obliviousness of *needing* a proper coffee shop like you describe, well, all I can say is welcome to the Continent. It is what it is. I learned peculiar skills since moving to what I like to call Bum F*ck Denmark. I now make shortbread cookies and chai tea from scratch.

I envy your city proximity, though I like my rural life now.

but, the beer...you will have THEE BEER!