I’ll just come out and say it: Everything is better in Germany: The cats’ farts smell sweeter; people kiss a lot; and there are fairies in the forest. My partner is German, and we just returned from a two-week trip to visit his family in the small town of Riesa in the state of Sachsen. “Now, what’s so great about those Nazis?” one might ask. Here’re two important things that those Nazis have, that we don’t.
1. Kaffee und kuchen (coffee and cake)
Everyday between 2 and 4 p.m. you will find most Germans enjoying a cup or two of coffee with a slice or two of cake (varieties abound, though more common cakes contain fruit and gelatin or fruit with streusel or have egg-based, semi-soft layers with sugar on top (eierkuchen/egg cake).
So as I eat two slices of cake every day for lunch, I start to look around me and wonder: where are all the fatties? My partner and I are hands-down some of the largest people I see the entire trip…hmmm…well, I only saw a handful of McDonald’s and Burger King’s and KFC’s while traveling up and down the east-side of the country. Maybe this helps?
2. They are not trying to kill me with terrible food
Further, when I went into a McDonald’s to order a breakfast sandwich, the sandwich was substantial; it actually had weight.
Then I remembered: Germans have much stricter food standards than Americans have. You can’t even hunt deer there with a bow due to the pain the deer would endure dying from this cause…Wait, so, what I’m eating actually doesn’t contain a mountain of human-engineered chemicals? No? This Sausage McMuffin contains real pork?
No pig bone ground in with it to cut corners and make an extra buck at the expense of my health? Wow…I’m impressed.
3. Man or Ovary up and carry your own groceries
Even grocery stores and retail shops are all about promoting recycling and a healthy environment. Santa Monica thinks it’s cool to charge $0.10 for a plastic bag? Cha-ching! German grocery stores have no bags to offer. There’s not even a question: if you buy the groceries, you better have a plan of how you’re getting them home. High recycling standards are enforced in the home as well, and everything, with the exception of compostable materials, can be recycled.
4. Frolicking, walking, schlepping… Germans do it every day
People also get exercise naturally there. The one time I watched television was the first day of the Olympics. Most of our time was filled with swimming, mushroom collecting, city-walking and gardening. There were people on bikes everywhere, and my partner grew up biking 10 km one way to school in the snow with a group of kids from his village. No, I’m not joking. Exercise is incorporated into their daily lives. Most people aren’t hitting the gym: they’re out experiencing the world.
5. Vacation, vacation, vacation
My mother-in-law is a lovely, energetic woman. We have now spent many vacations together, and each one is filled with fun activities that Mutti (Mom) has a big hand in planning. On this trip, about one week in, I finally pull my husband aside and tell him that I’m exhausted. I need a day to lie down. I ask him: “What is it about your mom that she has an endless supply of get-up-and-go?” He thoughtfully replies: “They have two more weeks of vacation after we leave. I don’t think they realize that this is our only vacation for the next year. They’ll spend the two weeks after we leave resting or traveling to nearby countries. So, right now, they’re amped to go. Don’t worry; I’ll talk to her.”
Felix reminded Mutti that in America, it’s all about work. Life plans revolve around how you’re going to make enough money to eat, sleep and pay out more money. Mutti’s yearly month of paid vacation (taken in increments that she sees fit) is a given, not only for sales people like her, but for: servers, mechanics, bakers, bus drivers, prostitutes and doctors alike.
Ultimately, Mutti was happy for me to have a day of rest. She said, sometimes it is easy for her to forget the German saying: “Americans live to work. Germans work to live.” All of this time off to take care of one’s personal needs has the result that when Germans are at work, and get a load of this: they actually enjoy being there. Weird, right?
In fact, when I went to a salon for a haircut and dye job, the employees took their time. I was in the chair for four and a half hours. I never once felt rushed (a feeling I get in almost all businesses in Los Angeles) by the staff. In fact, they were happy. They were talking to each other. They were working together. And, at the end of the cut and color, my stylist looks at me and says: “I’m really proud of my work here.” So, she likes her job, takes pride in it and enjoys four weeks of paid vacation a year? Must be nice…
So, the bottom line is: let’s all move to Germany. I’m already packing. They passed a law just last week that says you don’t even have to have lived in Germany before this moment to go into their amazing unemployment system. What are you waiting for?
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