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Johan Schoeman
 
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Making it work in Germany

19 November 2010, 11:58  - Johan Schoeman
I spent 10 years living and working in Germany. I lived in Hamburg in the north, Frankfurt in the centre, near Munchen in the south, as well as Dusseldorf in the west. I speak a passable German - and that is the key to a successful stay in Germany. If you do not speak the lingo you will be regarded as a foreigner, and you will perceive the Germans to be stuck up and unfriendly.

The average German is fairly hard working, friendly and helpful. They are mostly very law abiding and love to travel - even if only in Germany. The younger generation are mostly all able to speak English.

However, there is a new nationalist pride taking place with even government ministers insisting on foreign reporters asking questions in German. If you have been in the country for a year or more, they will expect you to be able to speak German.
 
There is a definitive anti-foreigner feeling prevalent in Germany. They are having serious issues with the Turkish population and this is fuelling this attitude. When applying for or renewing a work permit, I was treated fairly badly, unsympathetic and always made aware that I was not very welcome in the country. There are several reasons for this, and luckily I found it mostly when dealing with the relevant government institutions. Funnily enough, I was treated the worst by public servants with foreign surnames - Polish, Russian, etc.
 
Festival lovers

Children are taught the rules of the road at a very early age, and they even get a "licence" issued by the local traffic department when they pass the test on their tricycles. At high school they start having driving lessons (most schools have a car dedicated for that) and they need to study a really thick manual before writing the test. They even learn about the hydraulic systems etc in vehicles.

Once they are let loose on the roads, they have had a very good theoretical as well as practical experience. The low number of accidents in a country where you are allowed to drive as fast as you want on certain stretches of the Autobahn proves that. They do not take kindly to a nervous visitor hugging the wrong lane on the Autobahn - they will flash and were it possible to drive over you - they would.
 
They love a festival. There is at least one going on fairly close to where you are anywhere in Germany. Unfortunately they are all the same. If you visit them regularly you will even start recognising the same people selling the same rubbish.
 
The food and beer is excellent all over the country. Not once did I feel ripped off anywhere in any restaurant. You tend to spend a lot of time in restaurants as a visit to a German home is a rare one. Only when you have been accepted by the Germans as "one of them" will you be invited.
 
Once you start making friends (this takes a while though) and they open up to you, you learn some interesting unknown facts about the Germans. One issue I found quite strange is their total acceptance of nudity. They are very fond of a Bad. A lot of German towns are named after a hot spring eg Bad, Homburg.

Naked

The Germans have built spas at each and every hot spring and it is extremely popular. Inside the spa (or wellness centre) you have several pools, saunas, tanning tables, feet spas, Jacuzzi and of course a bar. But once you enter, each and every person is stark naked. It is quite common for families to go together, so you see Gramps and Grandma, followed by son and daughter-in-law, followed by the kids - all starkers! Imagine taking your mother-in-law to a spa, and spending the afternoon in her company - butt naked!

At the club where I played squash, there was one room with showers, and one sauna - all for everybody to enjoy together. So after playing a game with a female partner - you go and shower together, as well as sauna together. Very strange and very, very unnerving for Americans, who must be the biggest prudes on the planet.
 
Anyway, I miss Germany as well as the Germans with all their faults. I like a country where people tend to obey the law and are tidy, honest and mostly hard working. As in every country on this planet you will find criminals and drunken youths with no manners. But overall it is one of the better countries to live in.

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