I haven’t been back to the US in almost 2 years. I left voluntarily, because I wasn’t happy living there. After having lived in Germany for a year, there were things about American culture that I just couldn’t get behind anymore.
I’ve been thinking a lot about reverse culture shock and what I don’t miss about the US that I am about to experience again for the next month and some change. Here are the top 5 things about the US that I don’t miss and why.
One of the best things about living in Germany is that I never had to buy a car. I haven’t driven in almost 2 years and I love it!
In Munich, when you purchase a ticket for a certain area, it covers all modes of public transport (trams, buses and trains). This means, once I buy my monthly ticket for the inner city, I can hop on anything I need in that month. It’s awesome!
I can go to the mountains in under 2 hours, have some road beers on the way, hike and take the train back without having to worry about driving tired or intoxicated. Sure, I might pass out on the train, but Germany is safe, so no worries about theft, just set an alarm to wake you up at the right time.
Is it just me or do Americans seem much more paranoid than the average person? This probably has something to do with our dog-eat-dog mentality when it comes to jobs and school. We always want to be on top and we always think that people are out to get us. Like someone is always waiting around the corner to knock us down. I think it is also because America just isn’t that safe. We grow up constantly looking over our shoulders, holding our keys between our fingers while we walk to our cars and calling someone while you’re walking at night, so it feels like you aren’t walking alone.
I don’t think most if us even notice it until you leave the country, go somewhere much safer (like Germany,for example) then you realize how little you worry about people trying take advantage of you in some way. I can fall asleep on the train with my purse next to me and not worry at all about someone robbing me. Every time a friend of mine drunkenly leaves their phone or purse on the tram or train, it always gets returned with nothing missing. I haven’t found this type of safely and honestly anywhere else.
In Tennessee, if someone was walking behind me on a dark street, I would be panicking, thinking for sure this person is gong to attack or rob me. I never get this feeling in Germany. Germany (especially Munich) is extremely safe. You might get the occasional cat call, but even that is rare.
3. No Work/Life Balance
America is all about the hustle and grind lifestyle. It is normal to work 50 hours a week, without taking vacation for years. This is a no-go in Germany. In Germany, a full-time week is 32-40 hours and everyone gets a mandatory 30 days of paid leave a year that your boss’s encourage you to use, so they don’t have to pay you out for it.
I was never used to holidays, so it took me around 7 months to actually start planning for vacations and now I can’t imagine a world where I work so much and don’t actually get to enjoy my real life.
This is what initially pushed me into finding a way to live outside of the states again. I loved my job, it was what I studied for and my co workers were amazing, but it was an emotionally draining job that had me working long hours and I only received 2 vacation days a year and no paid sick leave.
For me, that is not sustainable. Even if I love my job, I need to have time in my life to enjoy friends, family and make memories. I just couldn’t do that in the states.
What is the percentage of Americans that have a passport? I’ll give you a hint, it’s not high.
The way that our lives are set up, it just isn’t feasible to travel internationally like they do in Europe. So, I understand why you wouldn’t have a passport or just don’t want one. America is huge! you could go your whole life just trying to see everything, so why get a passport? I get it, but it still rubs me the wrong way.
There are some people in the states that can and do travel regularly, but I don’t think I’m alone in thinking that these people are probably pretty well-off. This isn’t the average american. I have met more people in america that haven’t left their home town than any other developed country I’ve been to. And it makes me sad. I’m sad that americans can’t enjoy the delights that other countries get to access so regularly. I’m sad that many americans don’t get he chance to hear another language (that’s isn’t on tv). And I’m sad that I do and can’t bring all of my friends and family with me.
Germany has opened my eyes to the many possibilities of a good life. A good life that I just didn’t have and that didn’t seem attainable in the states.
People shop in Germany, I know. But, no one in the world shops like Americans. We buy everything, all the time, at any price especially when we don’t need it and can’t afford it. For me, this ties into the whole ‘no vacation’ thing. We don’t get vacation, so we don’t get to go anywhere new, so we buy stuff to give us that little high and that little relaxation to get through the next shift.
Everyone asks me, “What is the one thing I should experience in America to get the real feel of American life?” and my answer is always the same: Black Friday. This is my nightmare and the thing that seems so ridiculous after being away for a bit of time (and I totally Black Friday shopped, so honestly no judgement. Those deals though!).
Why are all these people camping outside of stores just to save a few dollars? It still shocks me and what shocks me more is that I know if I was back in the states, I would totally be one of those people. The culture just sucks you in.
I don’t like shopping in general, but I enjoy in more in Germany, because the culture here tells me to by something a little pricier that is classic and will last forever, instead of the American always-needing-something-new-and-exciting way.
Germany has taught me to think more into the future and not just buy stuff on a whim. Find good quality items, take care of them and they will last a lifetime.
Thanks for reading! And of course, there is a ‘Things I miss about the US’ coming.
I’m not a total hater 😉