- The Trains. Germany’s rail system has the reputation of being the most punctual in Europe. I must say, this seems to be true. The trains are almost always on time, and it’s typically quite easy to get anywhere in Germany on the excellent rail system. Seven minute connection? No problem, your train will pull into the station just on time and give you enough time to get to your other train.
- Sales Tax. The sales tax in Germany is included in the price. If something says it costs €3, it costs €3. No funny change at the end because of some 6.5% sales tax or whatever. Of course, the sales tax here is much higher, but at least it’s already in the price…
- The Wine. And not just German wine–of which there are plenty of good ones, mostly white. But in general, I’ve found good wine to be much more accessible and cheaper than in the States. I don’t know what it is about the wine industry in the US that makes it extremely difficult to find even a decent table wine for less than $8, but here, decent wines can be had for €5. You can even find several places that will let you fill up a liter from the barrel for €3 or €4. The availability of affordable, drinkable wine here is astounding. Great wines are still expensive, but good, drinkable wines are cheap and readily available.
- Washing Machines. German engineering at it’s finest. The washing machines, at least the ones in all the dorms, suck. First, they are tiny. You can fit about two pairs of pants and a couple of shirts in them before they are full. Which means that it takes several machines to do a load of laundry. Second, they are slow. It takes two to two and a half hours to run a load. Third, they don’t do a very good job, and oftentimes your clothes still have a bit of soap in them. And then they don’t really do the whole dryer thing here, so you have to air dry everything. Laundry is an all-day affair here.
- Credit Cards. No one takes them. Most hotels do, but that’s really about it. Everywhere else, everywhere, you basically have to pay in cash. Germany is the single reason there is a 500 euro bill. You go to the Saturn, the German version of Best Buy, and buy a 3000 dollar television, and have to pay in cash. I guess they don’t get too many impulse buys…
- The Trains. Yes, also a good thing. But good lord they are expensive. I have a BahnCard 50, which gives me 50% off all German rail travel, and it’s still expensive. With it, it cost me 42 euro round trip to Nuremberg, a mere three hours away. Without it, it would have cost me 84 euro. To go three hours away. Ouch.
- Beer Selection in Bars/Restaurants. This isn’t to say that the beer is bad, but rather that it’s hard to find anything different. I haven’t confirmed this, but I’m pretty confident that the bars and restaurants here must sign a contract with a beer distributor allowing them only to sell that brand of beer–I have never, ever seen a place that sold more than one brand of beer. Meaning that every place has a pilsner, a hefeweizen, maybe a kellerbier, and this time of the year, possibly a bock. That’s it. No selection. None of the places where you can stroll in and pick from 15 different beers. And because of the reliance on regional brewers, normally a good thing, sometimes it can be hard to find a beer from a company that you haven’t already had, a hundred times over. Sometimes you just want something different.
- Water. Not the stuff out of the tap in your apartment, the stuff in restaurants. They don’t do the whole tap water thing here. If you want water, you’ve gotta pay €4 for the stuff in a bottle, frequently carbonated. Some places will grudgingly give you tap water if you ask for it, but they don’t like it, and some won’t give you refills. Other places flat out tell you they don’t allow customers to order tap water. I’ve been known to take a water bottle with me to eat because I don’t want to pay exorbitant prices for something I can get for almost free from the tap.
- Smoking. Everyone smokes here. Everyone. Far moreso than in the US. To make it worse, they don’t really do the smoking/non-smoking sections here–they’re just all smoking. And the bars… Most of them are built into old cellars, so there isn’t much ventilation, and when almost everyone in them is smoking, you can’t see the person sitting next to you. They’ll even smoke on the trains here. I’ll never forget my trainride to Munich for Oktoberfest, with over 200 people crammed into a train car meant to sit 100, when the train broke down on the tracks, and everyone started smoking. Nothing like tons of smokers in a traincar to make you unable to breath. Not to mention I’m tired of all of my clothes perpetually smelling like smoke despite my not being a smoker.
- The Bureaucracy. I know I already said this in the last one, but it has to be said again. The German bureaucracy has to be seen to be believed. It takes forever for anything to happen here, because 47 different bureaucrats have to sign 92 pieces of paper to replace a roadsign, or something else as trivial. And the blind insistance upon following every rule to the letter is maddening. No one will bend a rule, no matter how silly the rule or how light the bending. Want to send that package that is 11 grams over the 500g airmail weight? Sorry bud, not happening. Open it up and pull out the equivalent of a couple paperclips worth of stuffing paper. Since I’m sure that plane is going to crash because I had 11 grams too much in my airmail box.
Thats it for now. I’ve got a few more brewing, so there will probably be another similar post in the future…