Germany: Top 10 first impressions
Kristi Fuoco


Hamburg.jpgHamburg - Germany's second largest city has over 2,300 bridges (more than Venice and Amsterdam)
and thousands of boats to cover the many bodies of water throughout the city.



They say that stereotypes exist for a reason, and in a lot of cases they’re completely right, but Germany has been giving me many surprises (and a few confirmations) each day. I’ve been in Hamburg (in Northern Europe), for two weeks now and each day is like a new adventure with a continuous onslaught of sensory overload. Here are a few of my first impressions of Germany.


1. Germans love Canadians. For some reason I think I’d forgotten how well Canadians are loved in many parts of the world, but in Hamburg whenever I mention that I’m from Canada people’s eyes light up, they tell me how much they A) would love to go or B) love it there or C) Ask me why I left Canada for Germany? But my favourite moment has to be when I was buying a transit pass and the German guy helping me looked at my passport, smiled and joked loudly with his co-worker “Cana – hier……Cana – da!” Apparently this is the funniest joke going around these parts. Cuteness.

Kristi Fuoco © Star Weiss
Just paint some Canadian flags on your face
in Germany and you'll have a royal welcome!


2. Public transit and biking here rocks. The transit system in German cities is really ridiculously amazing. Here in Hamburg a transit ticket (whether a single, monthly or yearly) will give you access to all the trains, buses and boats around the city (Hamburg is full of canals.) Plus there are handy-dandy maps everywhere so despite any lack of German skills it’s really not too hard to find your way around. Also, there are rental bikes all over the city, amazing bike paths everywhere, no hills and get this….people respect cyclists (now the cyclists might run pedestrians over but hey, nothing is perfect). Crazy, I know.

Kristi on the canal  © Gregory McClung
StadtRAD Hamburg - the public rent-a-bike
system and one of the many great ways
to get around here.


3. German bread and baked goods beat sliced bread any day. The stories you’ve heard are true. Germans really know how to make mouth watering bread. It’s dark yet light and fluffy and not at all dry and tasty all at once. Pretty much all their baked goods are something out of a Bavarian fairy tale. How do they do this? I must learn.

German baked goods © Kristi Fuoco
Pure German baked heaven.


4. Germans are friendly and helpful. Despite what you may have heard about Germans being cold, serious and grumpy almost every German I’ve dealt with so far has been otherwise or they at least become friendlier the more you talk to them. No, they’re not all singing and dancing around Hamburg and holding hands and bringing you welcome wagons, but they seriously will go out of their way to help you. For instance, when my cousin was trying to help me set up a bank account the guy helping us in this little branch (where he was the only one working) had a huge line up of people waiting and yet he took the time to set up an appointment for us at another bank, try to speak to us in English (even though my cousin speaks German) and then he got us to come behind the counter, use his keyboard to type my name and then he showed us numerous times on Google maps (with the little Google street view dude) how to get to the other branch. I swear if we’d asked him out for a beer he would have shut the branch down right there and then and come with us.

Everyone arriving in Germany receives a
full greeting party complete with welcome
signs at the airport. Okay, maybe not, but
if you make friends with my cousin Greg
and his lovely German girlfriend,
Yvonne then you just might.


5. Life moves more slowly here. So I come from Vancouver, which is not exactly a fast paced city in comparison to many other cities of the world, but things in Germany really do seem to move at a different pace. This can be great since it really forces you to stop and appreciate moments and really spend time with people, but it can also be frustrating for us North Americans who expect things to be open 24/7 and to be able to get things done quickly and when we want them done. It’s amazing to see a city of two million people quiet on a Sunday. I think it will take a long time to get used to all the major stores being closed on Sundays here. You’re not even supposed to do too much home maintenance. I may have to do things like read books, ride bikes and spend time with people. Darn.

Closed on Sunday © Kristi Fuoco

6. German beer is as good as everyone says. I’ve only tried a handful of different types of beer so far in this two weeks, but it really is delicious stuff if you know what to drink. It helps to have locals giving you the inside scoop. I look forward to being an expert by the time I come back to Canada. Just make sure that when you toast in Germany (by saying “Prost!”) you look everyone you toast right in the eyes or apparently you will have seven years of bad sex. That’s some serious bad luck.

German Beer. Source: Wiki commons
German beer - Photo from Wiki Commons


7. Dubbed movies and TV shows are not always a bad thing. This past week I’ve been watching ‘Friends’ in German and even got to see part of ‘the Lord of the Rings’ in German too. It really is a great way to improve your language comprehension skills. I am really impressed with this industry, particularly for comedies where they not only have to translate, but they have to understand the culture and jokes they are translating, create something that would be funny to Germans and then have it look convincing when it’s dubbed. Some productions are obviously far better than others, but Gandalf speaking German = serious wizardly power you don’t want to mess with.

8. New to Germany?  Don’t know the language? Too bad for you! The average Germans you meet on the street may be helpful and friendly and often speak English, but the bureaucracy is a whole other kettle of German fish. I was lucky enough to have my cousin with me this week who is A) fluent in German and B) has been dealing with the German bureaucracy for about four years now and knows the system. When you arrive in a German city you must register with that city in order to receive something called an “Anmeldebestätigung“. They make the word nice and short for foreigners of course. This little piece of paperwork allows you to do things like get a real job, open a bank account, get a library card, but all of the paperwork is in ridiculously complicated German with no translations and very random information required. I’ll save all the fine points for another blog post on what to do upon arrival in Germany. For those coming here – practice your German reading skills and prepare yourself for twenty-letter words.

German paperwork © Greg McClung
Beating the bureaucracy! Here I am with my
brand new Anmeldebestätigung.


9. Hamburg is much cheaper than Vancouver. Now, I’d like to say that all of Germany is much cheaper than Vancouver, but since I’ve just been in the one city so far I think it wouldn’t be entirely fair to say that, but.. it’s true (I’ve been told Berlin rent is even cheaper than Hamburg). I couldn’t believe my eyes when I went into the various grocery stores around town. Everything is nearly half the price. And then there is the alcohol. You can buy a decent bottle of wine in a German grocery store for a few dollars and beer for 50 cents. Rent is also about half the price of Vancouver. Strangely, Hamburg and Vancouver are quite similar in their climates and overall feeling and yet Hamburg is larger, in one of the richer parts of Europe and yet is so much more affordable in basic living costs. What’s up Vancouver? I think it’s time to make that city a place where young people can actually plan a future or we’ll all end up moving away to drink cheap German beer.

10. “Alles klar!” Studying German back home will never fully prepare you for how people actually speak. I have only studied German for a short time (right before I left and way back in high school) but I think no matter how much you’ve studied language courses in general never fully prepare you for how people will actually use their language. You quickly learn the way people actually say hello, answer their phones, wish each other good night, confirm things and all the little day to day pieces of language we all take for granted. Throughout this year I’ll do my best to write posts on all the practical German you need to survive including as many funny and strange expressions as possible. Here’s one of my favourite new slang words. English – hoity-toity, German – schicki-micki. For instance, that new development in False Creek is totally “shicki-micki”.

I bet you can’t wait now for my top ten list of second impressions. It’s gonna rock. Bis später!


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Kristi Fuoco

KRISTI FUOCO – Social media enthusiast, English teacher, writer, marketer, traveler, music lover. West Coast Canadian gal living and working in Germany and traveling around Europe. Current city – Hamburg.

Twitter: @kristifuoco

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My experience in Germany has been invaluable. In addition to learning German and taking part in another culture, I have learned so much about myself. I am confident that I can thrive away from the comforts of home and that I am dynamic and flexible. This is exactly what today’s employers are looking for – giving me a competitive advantage in the working world.
Kate from British Columbia – working for an international not-for-profit organisation.