Studying abroad in Germany was the most amazing life experience I’ve had to date, and I learned so much about myself while I was overseas. It’s been tough for me to explain to my friends and family just how big an impression Freiburg left on me, so I decided to compile a list of my favorite aspects of the German culture in hopes that it will inspire you all to visit this amazing country and show you why you should visit Germany.
1. The Bread is Phenomenal
Germany made me a total bread snob, it’s true. Do you know what the Germans lable our nasty white bread as? Toast. I kid you not, they will only eat our preservative-laden bread as toast. Bakeries in Germany are like Starbucks in America: there’s one (or more) on every street and the smell of freshly baked bread follows you wherever you go. I cannot tell you how much I miss eating Brötchen and fresh bread each day. Now I have to go to my local bakery to get my bread because the store bought stuff just doesn’t cut it anymore.
I cracked up the first time I saw a giant strawberry stand in Kassel. While there are independent farmers who sell asparagus and strawberries in regular road-side stands, larger cities usually have huge strawberry-shaped huts that sell only these two items. It’s hilarious, and very un-American. On a side note, the Germans love their white asparagus, which we can’t get in the States. If you’re ever in Germany make sure you try a dish with white asparagus in it!
3. Nature is a Part of Their Everyday Life
German houses are much smaller than their American counterparts, which is part of the reason why people spend so much time outside in Europe. In Freiburg, I could never stay locked up in my room all day, so I got into the habit of taking daily walks along the outskirts of the Black Forest (which is gorgeous, by the way). I loved how even in a city like Freiburg I could find open spaces to spend my time, and I loved even more that my roommates enjoyed being outside as well.
4. Germany is in the Heart of Europe
Germany is smack-dab in the middle of mainland Europe, meaning broke college students like me can hop on a train and travel cross-country for a fraction of the price I’d have to pay to travel across the U.S. It was amazing to travel to new countries so easily and to meet people from all over Europe.
5. Germans are Extremely Friendly
The stereotype of the “cold, unfriendly Germans” has largely dissipated in the U.S., but a little bit of that stigma remains to this day. Contrary to what some might believe, Germans are some of the friendliest people I’ve met. They love good food and hanging out with friends just like anyone else, and they are super nice about pointing lost American tourists in the right direction.
I was so happy to walk most places in Freiburg. Instead of being stuck in a car all the time, Germans use public transportation as much as possible, which makes cities in general more pedestrian friendly. Beware, however: German bicyclists are fast and deadly, so make sure you look both ways before crossing the bike lane.
7. The Christmas Markets are Ridiculously Festive
Basically, the Christmas markets look like someone came and puked decorations and festive cheer everywhere. The people at Christmas markets are so happy it’s almost disgusting (okay, that’s a lie because it’s actually awesome). Make sure you knock back a few cups of mulled wine when you visit to really put you in the spirit.
8. You Don’t Get Carded in Restaurants…
Underage children rejoice! Germans can start drinking beer at 16, which means students studying abroad can order certain alcoholic beverages in restaurants. Need I say more?
9. …And The Beer is Fantastic
I don’t actually like beer (sorry!), but many of my friends do, and they tell me that German beer is some of the best around. If you’re a non-drinker like I am, give a Radler a try; it’s basically half beer, half lemonade, and it’s entirely delicious.
Mark this down in your notepads kiddos: Eis means ice cream, and you need to eat a lot of it when you’re in Germany. Eis Cafés carry dozens of different flavors of ice cream, my favorite of which is hazelnut. Germany is also known for its spaghetti ice cream, which is vanilla ice cream that’s been put through a noodle press to make it look like real noodles and topped with strawberry saucec and chocolate shavings. If you go to a good Eis Café your spaghetti ice cream will actually look like spaghetti!
11. You’ll Feel Like an Environmental Goddess
Germans are notorious for their recycling habits. There are separate containers for plastic, glass, cans, paper, general trash, and sometimes compost. It sounds like a lot to us Americans, but in truth this is what it takes to be BFFs with our environment. So go to Germany and treat the Earth kindly (you’ll feel better if you do, pinky promise).
If you’ve visited Germany before or are in a German class I’d love to hear your thoughts on the country! Learning German has been a passion of mine ever since I started language classes 7 (!!!) years ago. And a question for everyone: which item on this list makes you feel the most excited to visit Germany? Now that you’ve read my list you have to book a flight, you know that right?