Before I left America, any time I told someone I was moving to Munich they responded, “So why Germany?” The answer to “why” is the same reasoning behind why I picked the University I went to, or why I picked Public Relations as my major. It was simply the option right in front of me. However, each of those choices have been big decisions that have taught me a lot that I didn’t expect to learn. In this case, Germany has taught me many things about America, specifically the South, that I never would have thought about before.
1. America is a loud place. This was the first thing I noticed. Munich is a very large city with most residents using public transportation. Sometimes I feel like I am in a library all day. The only restaurants that I have heard playing music inside are American chains. If I am out walking around, I will hear music but it is always live, and most of the time it is the accordion.
2. Our school and work systems are kind. My host family told me, “You are never told what you are doing right, only what you are doing wrong.” When my host family moved to America, the mom went to her sons first grade teacher and questioned why he was receiving A’s, because he did not know the material. “He shall be happy,” was the teachers response. Classic Southern sweetness.
3. The South is cheap to live in. Gas prices here are between $10-$13 a gallon. Electricity bills are so high that most people do not have air conditioning in their houses. Including the one I am living in. Instead, the houses are built “air tight”, so in the morning and the afternoons we open the windows for a bit to get the fresh air in. I knew my electricity bill in Jackson, Tenn. was cheap, but I didn’t realize how cheap until now.
4. Everything is bigger in the South. Cars, drinks, houses, hair..everything. I ordered coffee yesterday for $2.75 in a cup a little smaller than a tennis ball and it was half full. I finished it in five sips. My host family’s “redneck friend” (as he refers to himself) once visited here looked at his drink and said, “Is this cup for a doll house?”
5. Oh the freedom we have! I know this one is pretty obvious, but it is worth stating. There are no options to change careers, or take your time deciding on one here. The cut off age to get an apprenticeship is 27, which most people need for 3 years in order to get a job. So really, it is best to know what career you want when you are 24.
6. American music is king. The radio stations here play the same things as American ones, with a little added bonus of an occasional throw back song like “I’m blue” or a German rap song. I often wonder, how is it that the radio stations in Jackson are further behind in current music than radio stations in Germany?
7. Free WiFi is not common. Here it is only available at Starbucks and McDonalds, and the session is never allowed to be longer than 2 hours. Most of the time it is 30 minutes. 30 minutes in was normally the point for me in college to tell myself, “okay, now you really have to start that assignment.”
8. Line dancing. It is not just for Southerners. I watched a line dance group perform here last weekend, to the classic line dancing tune “blurred lines”….
9. Our “green” efforts are laughable in comparison. Throughout each day, trains come through the city, stopping traffic for a couple of minutes. If someone is found with their engine running during that time, they can get in trouble with the police.
10. Church. In college, I remember people talking about “church shopping” and having conversations about which church people went to and why they chose to go there. Here, I have seen a total of five churches. Four of them are Catholic and absolutely beautiful inside, and one is maybe non-denominational? It doesn’t say on the poster that hangs on the outside of their old concrete building.
Overall, life is not drastically different than it was in Chattanooga, or Jackson, but those differences are ones I noticed very quickly. I am writing them here as a way to remember how many things we Southerners have to be thankful for that I had not acknowledged before. Even down to our giant cups and free WiFi.