Moving in Germany (Part 2)

Part 2: Dude, Where’s my Kitchen?!

A very usual sight when moving into a new place in Germany (Photo courtesy )

A very usual sight when moving into a new place in Germany (Photo courtesy Immozippel)

About a month before moving into our new digs, my girlfriend calmly told me that something has to be done “about the kitchen”. Naturally, I was dumbfounded. “What kitchen?” I asked. “The kitchen for our new place, of course,” she said, matter-of-factly. Turns out, I hadn’t been aware of the quirky German tradition of moving places and taking your kitchen with you! Yes, you read it right. People actually take all their belongings with them which includes their kitchen as well. To be fair, though, many people also either sell their kitchens to the incoming tenants or to someone else on the presumption that the new people would bring their own kitchens with them. Continue reading


Moving in Germany (Part 1)

Part 1: The Search

There must be readers here who have noticed my 2-month absence from the blog. Well, there was a reason for it: I have been busy moving into my new digs. Moving is a complicated process in any country, but in Germany it was a unique and adventure filled experience for me. I have divided this experience into parts to break it down for y’all.

I began the search for a new place with my German girlfriend and partner in crime. We thought a one bedroom apartment should be enough for the both of us, but if we got a good deal, we could go for a two bedroom place as well and then host guests when someone from out of town visited or a friend needed to crash. I was soon to learn, however, that finding a place is not the easiest thing in Germany. Continue reading

Confessions of a Pakistani in Germany

Sometimes, when foreigners come to a country and integrate into the local culture, they end up liking and enjoying doing things even the locals wouldn’t. These can include all sorts of cultural and traditional activities. One might say, the exoticness attracts the expat who can find no reason for said activity to be embarrassing. Well, this post is about German things which I as a Pakistani expat in the country, love doing or would like to do and which no German I know would ever consider doing. Consider this to be part 1, I’ll write more confessions as I come up with them.

1. The Schuhplattler Dance

Do you like skipping in place while wearing leather pants, slapping your thighs and occasionally whistle and cheer? Then this Bavarian dance called Schuhplattler is the thing for you. Just looking at this dance makes me wanna try it out. I have been begging my girlfriend since a few months to at least go and watch a performance in the hopes that she’d let me join a dance course, but she refuses to do so. Other Germans that I have asked first look at me with a mixture of incredulity and disgust and then walk away slowly shaking their heads. Watch this video below and tell me why, why would you not want to do this?!

2. Lederhosen*

This photo oozes Germanness to me.

This photo oozes Germanness to me.

Continuing the Bavarian theme, I so wanna wear Lederhosen! However, many Germans don’t like wearing them and feel that it belittles their Germanness and gives rise to stereotypes about them. For the risk of looking ridiculous, I have been putting off wearing Lederhosen and strutting around for some time now. In my mind, there is a photo of me with my girlfriend, me in a pair of Lederhosen, she sporting a Drindl; a true Bavarian couple. She has ruled it out on several occasions, but I think she can be persuaded to come around. And what better attire to watch a Schuhplattler performance in?

3. Schlager

Remember my post about Schlager? Well, I have a confession to make. I don’t like many Schlager songs, but I do like others. They sound good to me. I can’t help it. And they sound great in parties too. Especially if you’re standing on top of a bench swaying to the beat with friends. Of course, in front of my German friends I pretend to be a staunch critic of the genre and label it god’s curse on the German land and the people. Privately, though, I find it to be incredibly catchy in terms of both the melody and the lyrics. Let me, however, state in no uncertain terms that I am not a fan of Jürgen Drews. Listen to the song below and tell me it isn’t catchy.

4. I Like Germans and Germany

With great architecture, places, culture, nature and people, who would not like Germany and Germans?

With great architecture, places, culture, nature and people, who would not like Germany and Germans?

Once I was in a diverse gathering of people from many different countries and cultures and I overheard one person telling a German that he liked German people. Many Germans simultaneously turned and asked him if they had heard him right. The poor guy was embarrassed and said, “I mean, if you want me to say I don’t like Germans, I’ll say it. But it won’t be the truth.” And that is sometimes how I feel too. Most Germans are beyond words and immediately ask you to explain yourself if you say that you like Germans. A rapid volley of questions is launched at you: Why? How come? Really? Germans?

Yes, Germans. Many people do like you. But your response to us telling you we like you scares us. So we end up making fun of you and discussing our experiences at the Ausländeramt to allay your fears. And almost all expats I have met in Germany, like the country for a whole host of different reasons. So, Germans, I’m afraid you would have to learn to live with us liking you and your country. My personal favorite thing about the country is the multicultural aspect.

*For those who don’t know, Lederhosen is the traditional Bavarian dress for men. Drindl is the female dress from the same region.

What I Don’t Like About Life in Germany

Even though I love life in Germany and am really happy here, every so often I tend to notice things which I don’t like. This list is not meant to hurt anybody’s feelings and badmouth Germany. It’s just my own personal opinion about things here which I could do without. So without further ado, let’s see which things I am not so fond of in the Bundesrepublik.

  1. Dark bread ain’t my thing. I still love me that American style toasted bread.
  2. As if this show wasn't bad already, they got Ashton Kutcher in.

    As if this show wasn’t bad already, they got Ashton Kutcher in.

    As un-German as it sounds, I do not, repeat not like Two And A Half Men. That show was only funny for the first two and a half seasons, if you ask me. All Germans I know except my girlfriend, love it.

  3. German babies are adorable and I make funny faces at times. What I do find weird are the disapproving looks their parents shoot me if they catch me in the act. So now I do it when their backs are to me.
  4. I refuse to call biscuits cookies, even if none of the Germans I know understand what exactly a biscuit is.
  5. Unlike the majority of the Germans, I still engage in small talk.
  6. You see that "Medium" written on the label? That shows the degree of carbonation.

    You see that “Medium” written on the label? That shows the degree of carbonation.

    Sparkling water? No, thank you. While on this subject, I ask you, how can NATURAL water contain bubbles?!

  7. Even though Germans don’t queue, I still try to find the end of the queue sometimes in public places. But this comes more from my school. God knows the Pakistanis are not a queuing nation.
  8. The word Quasi? Still not getting it.
  9. I don’t like or trust Tchibo. I just don’t understand it! Is it a shop which sells coffee and coffee machines? Then what’s that blanket doing there. And what about that garden gnome, how does he fit into all this?!
  10. To any Pakistanis reading this, you remember those lame PTV shows from the 80s and 90s where they would clap in unison and work up an annoying rhythm? Germans still do that.
  11. I can’t watch shows in other languages synchronized into German.
  12. Even though European and German food is great, I feel these urges every few days to binge on Pakistani food. I don’t like eating German food constantly for more than a couple of weeks at a time.
  13. Although I speak (imperfect) German, I have not managed to get rid of a bad habit I developed which is that I can zone out when listening to German and somehow push it to the back of my mind.
  14. The opening timings in Germany are insane. And not in the good way. Coming from Pakistan in general and Karachi in particular, I am quite used to stuff being open 24/7. In Karachi, you could go out at 4am and find breakfast joints open.
  15. Sometimes, though admittedly not always, German formality throws me off. I find people to be too distant at times even when there isn’t any need for it.
  16. I have definitely not been impressed with the bureaucracy here in Germany. But, to be fair, Germans have a really bad opinion of the red tape in their country. This said, German bureaucracy is light years ahead of its Pakistani counterpart.
  17. The German – and actually the European – definition of “stress” is quite lax for me. I think people generally in Europe should be more thankful for what they have. People get stressed too quickly over here over things which aren’t that big of a deal.
  18. Most German homes (like 99.9%) have no air conditioning. Although there are radiators for the winter, there is nothing for the summer. Granted, summer’s only there for maximum 2-2.5 months, it can get really stuffy inside homes. I can’t count the number of times I have wished for a ceiling fan.
  19. Germans like to say that their country is a “service desert”. I have to say that I agree with this statement. People working in shops, restaurants and even customer service are short, to the point and sometimes downright rude. I think it has a lot to do with the face that they’ll get paid no matter how they treat customer, unless they are very obviously unfriendly to people. So they kind of stop caring.
  20. Oh how everyone in Germany cusses when they see this.

    Oh how everyone in Germany cusses when they see this.

    GEMA. That one word can usher in a string of expletives by people who are both German and non-German. If you don’t know what GEMA is and why they are so hated, you can get more info here.

  21. ARD ZDF Deutschlandradio is yet another gem from the people who brought us GEMA. It’s a combined TV, radio and internet licencing fee which frankly seems ridiculous in this day and age.
  22. I absolutely do not like that German attitudes to punctuality are set aside during a visit to the doctor. I once waited an hour and a half to see a doctor even though I arrived 10 minutes before my appointment.

How Germany Has Changed Me (Part 2)

Those of you who regularly follow my blog might remember this post from 2014. Well, now I have a new list of habits which I have adopted while living among the Germans.

  1. Gone are the days of me saying ‘Ouch’ when I hurt myself. Now, I say ‘Aua’.
  2. Scheiße


    My favorite works-in-every-situation expletive is Scheiße.

  3. I play the innocent and clueless brown foreigner who speaks bad German card whenever I’m in a bind. Works like a charm every time, because Germans are polite and helpful people. Now I feel guilty.
  4. I shoot dirty looks at people crossing the road when the pedestrian signal is red. I have still not quite made the transition of yelling at them though I fear it’ll happen soon.
  5. Even though my German is really bad, I tend to confuse words and start remembering German words when talking in English to people from the Indian Subcontinent. This is the weirdest thing for me.
  6. I do not stand in the supermarket aisle and talk to random people, and find it surprising when others do.
  7. The only time I say hello to strangers is when I enter a waiting room full of people. And then I say it more to the room than to the humans in it, because human contact needs to be avoided at all costs.
  8. I stare straight ahead of me when in an elevator.
  9. My word for goodbye has been categorized by age group: Tschüss for the older people, Ciao for the younger ones. But every so often I whip out a Wiedersehen to keep things interesting.
  10. I am very troubled when people try to get on public transportation before the ones inside have gotten out and wonder whether society is close to collapsing.
  11. Oh yeah. German cake is freaking awesome.

    Oh yeah. German cake is freaking awesome.

    I dabble in the German custom of Kaffee und Kuchen in the name of integration, even though its really for the cake.

  12. Even though I don’t drink much coffee, I drink it German style when I do. (Pakistani coffee is of a much tamer variety; more like milk with a bit of coffee.)
  13. What do we want? Food! Where do we want it? IKEA!

    What do we want? Food!
    Where do we want it? IKEA!

    Like many Germans, I too have aimlessly drifted around a humongous IKEA, only to end up at the restaurant and going home.

  14. I have grown accustomed to the presence of pets around me when I go into public transportation or the city center…
  15. …which, by the way, I call City now.

How the Germans Celebrate New Year

In Germany, the arrival of the new year is celebrated in very non-German ways. It’s a chance for the Germans to lean back and let off a little steam. A collective release of energy, if you will. New Year’s Eve – called Silvester in German – has many traditions associated with it. I will talk about the most common ones in this post. If you have experienced something different which I have not mentioned, feel free to let me know through comments and feedback.

Just so you get the scale of the party in Berlin...

Just so you get the scale of the party in Berlin…

The highlight of Silvester are undoubtedly the fireworks. Usually, the Germans are a very composed lot and carry themselves around with dignity. On New Year’s Eve, however, all hell breaks loose. In every city and village, no matter how big, people set off fireworks throughout the evening. The roar becomes deafening around midnight. Even the Ordnungsamt has been known to lay off that one evening. Although some bigger cities, have organized fireworks displays, it is usually a rarity. Which is a pity, in my opinion. I enjoy organized fireworks more than a have-it-your-way sort of thing. How very German of me, eh?

The big nationwide highlight for Silvester is the party in Berlin. The crowd starts from the Victory Column and ends near the stage at the Brandenburg Gate. The party features performances by famous bands and artists and is a great place to have fun, put your hands up and forget the past year. More info on the party can be found here. There’s a special temptation to attend this year’s party: The Hoff is coming! \m/ Continue reading

A Very German Christmas

Germany is a diverse country and it really depends on the family, where they live and which version of Christianity they follow – if they follow one – how they celebrate Christmas. In this post, I will talk about the Christmas traditions I have experienced so far in Germany. It could happen that they are really different from your experiences. Let’s all delve in together and see what Christmas in Germany is all about.

A typical German Christmas Market.

A typical German Christmas Market.

Christmas in Germany is strictly a family affair. The Christmas season officially kicks off in Germany on the first Advent. Advent starts four Sundays before Christmas eve which falls on the 24th of December. It is around this time that the Christmas Markets start to open in villages, towns and cities across the country and the first Christmas merchandise starts appearing in the supermarkets and stores as well. People also start putting up Christmas decorations in their homes and the first batch of Christmas cookies and goodies are baked. For children, there’s a special treat from the 1st of December onward. Continue reading

How Germany Has Changed Me

I have been in Germany since about 4 years now and living here has brought about some changes in me. I thought it would be a good idea to document those changes. Here is what I hope would be the first of many posts about what changes I see in my daily life because of living in Germany and picking up things from the Germans.

  1. I am now more punctual and almost always on time.
  2. I don’t stare at white people now. For some perspective, read my post about staring in Germany.

    Everybody dreads seeing this at the Hauptbahnhof.

    Everybody dreads seeing this at the Hauptbahnhof.

  3. Even though I come from a third world country, whenever a train is late, I complain and lament about the Deutsche Bahn like everyone else.
  4. I treat a meeting time as an appointment – even for friends – and am angry if they’re late.
  5. Bitter Lemon and Apfelschorle have become my favorite drinks.
  6. I have been known to enjoy Brötchen with lettuce and cheese for breakfast.
  7. Recycling trash has become second nature to me.
  8. Pfand is now more like a way of life for me. I have walked for hours with a Pfandflasche on me in the hopes of finding an Automat and getting my moolah back.
  9. I no longer automatically switch to English when using an ATM machine.
  10. German dairy products are now my life savers. Specially Quark and Frischkäse.
  11. I always carry plastic or cloth bags when shopping and my shopping list is divided by the options available in my local Einkaufszentrum.
  12. I usually – but not always – walk on the right side of the pavement.
  13. I almost never cross the street when there is no pedestrian crossing.
  14. I can now distinguish between a southern, central, Austrian and Swiss German accent.
  15. Hey, alles klar bei dir?” has become my greeting of choice among good friends.
  16. I have started inventing my own German words and names for German dialects.
  17. I wear Hausschuhe and make my bed German style.
  18. I check the weather before I go out of the house and equip myself for any anomaly. Read more about German preparedness here.
  19. I don’t talk to strangers in public places or on public transportation and give irritated stares at those indulging in this vile habit.
  20. I like consistency and have begun detesting spontaneity. Although from time to time the inner Pakistani comes out and I go do something really spontaneous.
  21. Never an avid fan of Football, I can now name almost all players on the German National Football Team and followed their exploits in the recent FIFA World Cup.

    Meet the Bratwurst: an essential part of the German grilling experience.

    Meet the Bratwurst: an essential part of the German grilling experience.

  22. I have wholeheartedly embraced Germans’ favorite summer past time: grilling during day time. (I say day time because in Pakistan we almost always do it in the evenings.)
  23. A sunny day – which in Pakistan meant unbearable heat – has now become my long lost friend.
  24. A rainy day – which constitutes good weather in Pakistan – is now my most hated thing about autumn in Germany.

    The Ordnungsamt: for without order there will be only chaos.

    The Ordnungsamt: for without order there will be only chaos.

  25. Ordnung muss sein. That is my new life philosophy even though I come from one of the most unorganized countries ever. Read more about the importance of Ordnung in Germany here.
  26. Like any good German, I also dread a visit to any Amt and later complain about the bureaucracy and red tape.

25 Years Since the Fall of the Wall: A Pakistani’s Perspective

The famous image of the Berlin Wall "death strip" in the 1980s.

The famous image of the Berlin Wall “death strip” in the 1980s.

As many of you are aware – certainly those in Germany or Europe – that the Fall of the Berlin Wall will be commemorated on 9th November. This year is special because it is the 25th anniversary of that event which ushered in the Fall of Communism in Eastern Europe and German Reunification. The event certainly holds a special importance for Germans and Europeans, but my perspective of this all is different because I come from a country with a completely different culture, society and geographic location. Continue reading