What’s different in Germany?

Hallo Leute! So…it’s been a little over a month now since I arrived in Berlin and during my time here, I’ve noticed some differences between living in Germany, specifically Berlin and the United States.

Grocery Shopping

  • Smaller supermarkets – The supermarkets here are way smaller than in the U.S. (About 8-10 times smaller than the Meijer on 16th Street!)
  • Smaller packaging – The packaging of products such as yoghurt, cereal, and milk are much smaller. You can hardly find family-size packaging here!
  • More sweet snacks – There are more chocolates/sweets than salty snacks.
  • Reusable bags – People here usually bring their own bags to buy groceries. Even when it comes to buying vegetables and fruits, they opt not to put it in the transparent plastic bags that are available.
  • BIO/organic products – In Berlin, one can find a wide variety of organic products. BIO/organic supermarkets and bakeries are commonly found here!
  • Specialized stores – There are more specialized stores here (e.g. butcher shop, bakery).

Food and Beverages

  • Classic mineral water = sparkling water – I didn’t know this until after buying a bottle of classic mineral water thinking it was just plain mineral water. 🙁
Different kinds of sparkling water that I thought were just normal water.
Different kinds of sparkling water that I thought were just normal water.
  • Turkish and Vietnamese restaurants  – There are many of them here! You might wonder, why is that? In 1961, many Turkish people came to Germany when the West German government signed a labor recruitment agreement with Turkey. The reason why there is a huge Vietnamese population here is because many of them fled their country after the Vietnam war. Another reason is because they were invited to East Berlin as temporary contract workers.
  • Vegan and vegetarian cuisines –  There are many vegan and vegetarian restaurants and cafes here. It’s almost like a trend.


  • Tipping – If you want to tip, you have to tell the waiter how much you want to tip before they bring you the bill. Unlike in the U.S., where you write how much you want to tip after the waiter charged your card.
  • Beers cost less – Beers are usually cheaper than water and soda in restaurants. Isn’t that bizarre? Also, I once ordered a coke at a restaurant and it came in a tiny cup! I had to pay 2.5 euros for it too! 🙁
In comparison with Yea Rang's hand
In comparison with Yea Rang’s hand

Everyday Life

  • No dryers – There are no dryers in most German homes! However, I’m used to that since I don’t have a dryer back home in Malaysia.
  • Shower – Not everyone here showers everyday. I feel bad for showering everyday 🙁
  • No shower curtains – German showers usually do not come with a shower curtain 🙁 It was quite hard for me to shower without having the water splashing all over the place.
  • Smoking – A lot of people in Berlin smoke. I was quite surprised to see people of all ages smoking while walking on the streets!
  • 1 hour commute is normal?! – Germans walk, bike, or take the public transport almost anywhere. I complained that I needed to take a 25 minute subway ride to get to the IES center, but a 30 mins – 1 hour commute is normal for people here!
The amount of time it takes for me to get to the IES center from my house!
The amount of time it takes for me to get to the IES center from my house!
  • CASH over credit cards – Many stores and shops here prefer cash over credit cards.

Published by Yung Yue Tneh

Class of 2020 IES Abroad Berlin, Germany Global Studies and German w/ minor in Music

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