As I approach the one-month mark of my stay in Germany, things have started to settled down. I’ve been able to get into a routine and become more accustomed to German work and life culture. With that being said, I started to make a few observations of things that I like (and dislike) about life here in Germany.
Like #1 – Transportation
One of the things I quickly took advantage of upon arrival was the public transportation in Köln. PKF Fasselt Schlage provided me with what is locally referred to as a “job ticket” to get around the city. With this card, I have access to trains and buses throughout Köln as well as many neighboring cities/municipalities. During my second week in Köln I was able to use the card to travel to Bonn, the birthplace of Beethoven and HARIBO Gummy Bears.
In addition to public transportation, I also take advantage of the rail system to visit other major cities. Recently, I took the train for a weekend trip to Berlin and the train was only delayed five minutes. Not too shabby! At one point, it was even running ahead of schedule and had to stop so that we wouldn’t arrive at the next stop early. I have been told that this is not common however, I haven’t run into any significant delays yet (knock on wood!).
Like #2 – Travel Opportunities
Another thing I like about my Secondment in Germany is the travel opportunities and experiences. As I mentioned, last weekend I was in Berlin. Before I visited, colleagues at PKF Fasselt Schlage told me that one weekend would not be enough – and they could not have been more correct. My first day there, I walked exactly 10 miles (appx. 16.1 km) and was not able to take in the entire city. I saw all of the major sites (East Side Gallery, Checkpoint Charlie, Brandenburg Gate, etc.) and tried my first Döner Kebab, but wish I would have stayed longer. I also met some interesting travelers from Australia and Ireland at my hostel, making this a weekend trip that I won’t forget for a long time. Next weekend, I will travel to Hamburg for the PKF US German Summit. Additional upcoming travel, spread out throughout the remainder of my Secondment, include trips to Amsterdam, France and Switzerland.
Pictured: A photo of me at the East Side Gallery; Berlin, Germany
Pictured: Brandenburg Gate; Berlin, Germany
Like #3 – Variety of Food
I am not going to lie… prior to leaving for my Secondment I was concerned about the whole food situation. Sausage (actually pork in general) is not my “go-to” food. When people asked about food, I would joke around saying that I would only be eating pretzels. I was shocked to discover the wide variety of food options here in Köln, mainly the large number of Middle Eastern and Asian restaurants. Falafel is now one of my new favorite dishes. I am also a big fan of the Döner. It wasn’t until lunch this week, when I met up with a family friend from Illinois, that I tried any traditional German dishes.
Pictured: Anya Sandwhich (includes Falafel); Köln, Germany
Like #4 – Windows
According to the employment law in Germany (Workplace Ordinance), from 2017 onwards, psychological stress must be considered when assessing workplace hazards. All workplaces and social areas are now required to have a “visual connection to the outside” – in other words, windows. There are certain exceptions if the structural or operational conditions won’t allow for a window. However, it appears as if the law has been widely accepted. For example, this week I worked from PKF Fasselt Schlage’s current Köln office in their audit work area. The desk I sat at is on the 5th floor, directly next to a window (that opens!). I don’t recall seeing the overhead florescent lights turned on at all during the workday. With the windows open throughout the office (since there is no air conditioning), wind will breeze through on occasion, which I find to be very calming. I believe this trend is becoming more of a standard, even back in the US, and I support it 100%.
Pictured: View from my desk at PKF Fasselt Schlage
Of course, these are not the only things that I enjoy about life in Germany. However, for the sake of this blog post, I have only listed a few of my favorites. Now, here are a couple of my “dislikes”.
Dislike #1 – Lack of Air Conditioning
It is extremely rare for a building in Germany to have air conditioning. This was the biggest culture shock for me by far. Back in the U.S., I am accustomed to having AC wherever I go. From what I have learned, historically the weather here would not get hot enough to warrant having an air conditioner or even an overhead fan but recently, summers have been getting hotter (surprise, surprise). The biggest argument against air conditioners is that they work against the protection of the environment, making it a win-lose scenario. My first week in Köln was unfortunately during the heat wave that hit Europe. We had four days in a row where the high temperature of the day was over 100° F. Luckily, the client I was working at that week had air conditioning, my flat however did not. It was difficult to adjust to sleeping in the heat at first but, with the help of a desk fan and black out drapes, it was manageable. Since the heatwave, the temperature has become more tolerable and the lack of air conditioning hasn’t been an issue.
Side note: During the week of the heat wave, weather was discussed a lot. During one conversation, I was asked about winters in Chicago, specifically the polar vortex back in January. Jaws dropped when I mentioned the -40° F wind chills because here, the coldest it got in January was 14° F (which in all fairness is still pretty cold).
Dislike #2 – Stores Close on Sunday
Germany has some of the strictest laws for opening store hours in Europe. The majority of shops close on Sundays due to the concept of a ‘Ruhetag’ (resting day). After some research, I found that even though many places close on Sundays, it doesn’t mean that everything is closed and there are still plenty of things to do. My first Sunday here, I went to the movies and saw Spider-Man: Far From Home. One thing I learned, is that movies listed with “OV” are the original version. Depending on the theater, you can often find a movie that you can catch in English. Other Sunday activities I enjoy are swimming at a local ‘friebad’ (swimming pool) or using that day to return from traveling.
Dislike #3 – The Fact That I, Nina Moeller, Am Not Fluent in German
When I was in school, I took Spanish. At the time it made sense, Spanish is a more common language in the United States than German, at least from my experience. In retrospect, I wish I had learned German as well. I always enjoyed learning languages, but never took the deep dive into learning German. Prior to coming to Köln, I attempted to learn German via an online course, but the majority of the knowledge I retained was (1) how to count and (2) how to order coffee (this one has actually been pretty useful!). I am now attending a German language course for beginners twice a week in the evening; it only has two other students so it is more intensive. I do not anticipate being fluent by the end of the course but I am hoping I will be able to converse more with both my colleagues and other individuals native to Germany by the end of my Secondment.
Dislike # 4 – Nothing But Bubble
Ok, so this isn’t really a dislike but more of a thing I am on the fence about – carbonated water. Prior to arriving in Germany, I despised carbonated water. I love soda so it doesn’t make sense to me why I don’t like carbonated water. But, after about a month of drinking primarily carbonated water, I think I am finally starting to enjoy it.
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