1. Christmas markets
When I think of great things common to Germany, I immediately think of the Christmas markets. I’m not talking about a run-of-the-mill tag sale full of blinking Santas and sparkly reindeer at marked up prices. I’m talking about beautiful handcrafted ornaments, statues and trinkets. Warm mulled wine that cuts even the most bone-chilling cold. Bread bowls and waffles doused in Nutella with cherry sauce and homemade whipped cream.
Wintertime can be rough, but Germans have found the key to forgetting that it’s 10 degrees below freezing and that the sun sets at 3pm: getting a sugar high and buzzed off of warm red wine every day for the entire month of December.
January in Germany is however, depressing as hell.
2. Coffee and Cake
Speaking of amazing food traditions, I think the U.S. could really use a daily break for “Kaffee und Kuchen” aka coffee and cake. German cake isn’t nearly as sweet as American cake so I deem it suitable for every day intake. Like English teatime, it’s also a good chance to stop midday and take a break with friends for some good conversation.
While we’re on the topic of conversations, the U.S. could use some good old-fashioned German honesty. There were numerous times when I came into work in Germany and a coworker would look at me and say, “you look tired,” or, “you look awful” before so much as uttering a ‘Guten Morgen.’ Well, danke schön, colleague. But let’s be real… it was usually true. While I may not need daily reminders that it’s obvious I don’t get nearly enough sleep, I did appreciate the straightforwardness of most Germans.
Once I told a German friend she should come visit me in Spain for New Years. It was August when we had this discussion. In December, she emailed me with her plane reservation for the 31st. I had completely forgotten about the invitation, but it goes to show that Germans take things seriously. When you tell a German, “we should get together some time” they’ll genuinely wait for your call. It’s refreshing because you always know where you stand, unlike the strange song and dance we do in the U.S. where we tell people we’d love to grab a coffee but have no intention of calling.
Cut the Scheiße, Americans.
4. Multiple political parties that work together
Suffice to say, the Republicans and Democrats are not getting along much these days. At all. Like, #governmentshutdown bad. Germans have six political parties in their version of parliament, most of which have to form coalitions with other parties in order to pass any of their initiatives. Imagine that… politicians who actually work together in the interest of their constituents!
Of course, it’s not a perfect system, but in the U.S. most people choose not to vote for another party (Teabag Party aside) because they know their vote will be dominated by those in our two-party system.
5. Slippers at school and at the office
When I first started teaching in a German elementary school, I was surprised to walk into a classroom full of students in socks and Adidas sandals. After I got over my confirmation of the stereotype that Germans really do wear socks with sandals, I saw cubbies in the corner of the classroom full of shoes.
It turned out that when German children come to school in the morning, they change from their regular shoes into Hausschuhe (slippers) while they’re inside the building and then put their sneakers back on for recess and to go home.
Turns out some offices in Germany do this too. This helps to not track dirt into the rooms and to keep the building clean. Plus, hello, COMFY!
Runners-up included: Trains with the efficiency of the Deutsche Bahn, Kebab stands on every corner, bread that doesn’t squish when you touch it, Daniel Brühl, and the entire city of Berlin.