Well... I've been in Aachen for exactly two weeks now, but it feels like I've been here way longer. One could possibly attribute that to the fact that I've spent way more time (or at least as much time) walking around, getting lost, and exploring the city than I've ever done back in Missouri. My apartment is about 2 km from everything (city center, train station), and a little less to get to school. The city center (people get confused when I say "downtown"), is where you can find all the shopping (Zara, H&M, etc, etc) bus stops, the Dom (cathedral), Rathaus (town hall), Markt, and Pontstaße (bar street). The city center is awesome, because even though there are a couple roads through it, mostly it's all pedestrian walkway (cobblestone, of course). Luckily it only takes about 25 minutes to walk there, and shorter if I take the bus. On a normal day, I walk about 6 km, and on busy days, I walk about 10 or more. So my calves have increased in size! Woohoo.
I'm sure the rest of me will increase in size too though, eating the way I do (apfel strudel, döner kebap, currywurst, schnitzel, bread, beer, chocolate, etc.)... and people say American's have large portions...ha! But I want to try everything! And it's so good, you can't just leave any on the plate. I am going to miss German/Turkish food like crazy when I go home. And God himself taught the Germans how to cook potatoes. I could eat German potatoes forever..like on a desert island, if I was granted one wish, it would be to have a German woman cook potatoes for me every day.
I knew living in Europe would be different, but it's also kind of the same. Instead of blundering around in words trying to explain, I'm just creating a list of similarities and differences (or just unique German things).
So first off:
1. The outright obvious American/worldwide brand names (Pringles, Coca Cola, McDonalds, Fossil,Subway,etc.)
2. If you truly mean "thank you" (or danke schön), you always get a happy "bitte schön" (you're welcome) in return.
3. Someone is always willing to help.
4. People like to run.
5. Lots of cars.
6. They drive on the same side of the road.
*I will post eventually about all the really awesome things Aachen has to offer, so don't worry, I'm not dissing my city, I just want to note some of the culture differences.
1. The obvious language and country differences
-I take twice as long in the grocery store, trying to figure out what I'm buying
-public transit (people take their dogs on the bus)
-BMW's, Audi's, Porsche's, Mercedes, are the most common brands I see (I'm not sure how expensive they are here, but everyone has one.)
- Ford's don't look like Ford's...they look definitely European.
-everyone has a small car, because they usually have to park it on the sidewalk, or in a very small garage underneath their house (tiefgarage). No minivans, trucks, SUV's, or anything. Well, Range Rover is the biggest. I have seen two of those.
-EVEN THE AMBULANCES ARE MERCEDES, NO JOKE.
3. People (at least in Aachen) don't smile in return at you. This one is my least favorite. When you make eye contact with someone, and smile to be nice or break the weirdness or whatever, they just look at you like you're a zombie or something. Or if you smile at the waitress, or check-out lady, or bus driver, they're like WTF. So even though I still try to smile at people, it's not very pleasant.
4. Germany is very subtly controlling...
For example: all the slogan's sound sort of like brainwashing, telling you that something is the right way. For example, in America, an advertisement from a new power company would say, "Imagination at work" or something like that. In Aachen, the new power company's advertisements (plastered on the sides of half the buses) say (translated) "STAWAG: Good for you. Good for Aachen"
There are more examples, but I won't keep going. It's really hard to explain, but you just don't get the same free enterprise sort of atmosphere as in the States.
-Also, the German government is really strict about music licenses, so some YouTube videos don't work, Pandora, Spotify, Grooveshark, ANY online radio station similar to those. I occasionally get blocked websites on my internet that are perfectly harmless (such as a fishing website that was blocked for "phishing") etc.
Americans, as major consumers, buy products that make our lives easier in places (supermarkets) that make our lives easier. Ex: We can go to one store to buy everything. We eat frozen meals. We prefer to get the necessity-shopping done as quickly as possible. We like $10 jeans at Forever21. If you looked in a normal shopping bag at home it would probably have a mixture of some things like Kleenex, apples, dish soap, socks, and motor oil. Not to mention the other 20 bags that we have in the trunk of our car.
Aacheners buy things that enrich their lives. Like fresh flowers. People buy fresh flowers like they're going out of style here. THERE ARE FLOWERS EVERYWHERE.
I don't know any Americans that would buy new fresh flowers daily just to put on their table. Or leather gloves, fresh bakery items, wine, cheese, and other really awesome things. And these things aren't too expensive either! Maybe €2-3 for a big loaf of freshly baked herb-nut bread.
I'm not saying that Americans don't buy that sort of stuff, but here those things are common! And you have to go to different stores to get everything you need. Plastic bags for your groceries cost extra at the checkout, and since a lot of people walk or take the bus, they can only buy small quantities of things. I bought a canvas shopping bag, and when I go to the store or bakery, I only buy enough food for one or two days at a time, whereas at home, I only go shopping like once a month.
-Scarves: EVERYBODY WEARS A SCARF, ALL THE TIME. old men, old women, young men, young women, babies, dogs....
-Ray Ban glasses. I have seen like 20 pairs of Ray Bans. Seriously, do other glasses brands exist here??
- Men's fashion is to die for. Soo cute. Some guys I know in the States dress well...but others....lets just say they would NOT wear this. So sad. So sad.
-Women's fashion is cute in the stores, and about half the girls here dress like models, but the other half dress sort of like they're color-blind and are a mixture of haute couture and kindergarten teachers. Who wear hiking shoes.
The weird thing about it is that I already feel like Aachen is home. I can't wait to live in this city in the summer when all the fountains are working and the weather is warmer, because I already love it even in the miserable rain. I can think of many more differences, but I will leave those for another post on another day. I don't want you to die reading this lengthy beast. :)
PS. I took the pictures of Frucht Ass, and the flower vendor, but all other photos on this post are from Google. :) I had to illustrate.