Inspired by a conversation I had with a friend earlier- Things I wish I knew before I move to Germany.
1) Sunday- Every European country has its own rules regarding store openings on Sunday. Generally though, Sunday is very much considered a "down day" in Europe. In England, stores cannot be open for more than 6 hours on Sunday. To get around that rule, a few stores in London would open at 11:00 or 11:30 but would not open their cash registers until noon. In France, a few of the big department stores choose to stay open every week on Sunday and just pay the fine because it is more profitable for them to do so. In Paris almost all of the shops along the Champs Elysee are open on Sundays so I am not sure if they take a fine or are granted special opening privileges because it is a tourist area. In Switzerland, stores operate with "limited hours." We saw a chocolate shop in Zurich (Confisserie Teuscher- LOVE them) that had Sunday hours posted from 12:00-2:00. We had to wonder why at that point they would even bother opening the store, but we did go back there for chocolate and marrons glacees at noon, so I guess that answered that question. In Germany, there is no concept of limited hours or of just paying the fine. The entire country pretty much shuts down on Sundays. The only thing that is open here on Sundays are some places of cultural interest (zoos, museums, etc.), gas stations, and a few bars and restaurants. In the bigger cities, more of the restaurants will remain open on Sunday, but in small towns, it's not all that unusual for the restaurants to remain closed. Germans take their Sundays very seriously. When I first moved here, I was told that it is actually against the law here to sweep your street on a Sunday so as not to disturb the neighbor!
2) Kitchens- German kitchens are tiny dollhouse-sized things. We have a German fridge that came with our house and an American fridge that is lent to us by the base. TLS picked out our house before I moved here. When he told me we were getting a second fridge delivered, I thought it was wasteful and crazy. Then I got here. Our German fridge is roughly the size of a mini fridge. It has a storage cabinet underneath it to make it the height of a standard American fridge, but yea. The only thing our German fridge holds is drinks. The freezer is not even big enough to keep a pint of ice cream in!
Our oven is similarly proportioned. My big cookie sheet fits in there only as a rack. If it was even 1cm bigger, it would not fit in there at all!
3) Heating- Or lack thereof. Europeans in general have a different standard for heating or cooling houses than Americans do. Very few places in Germany are air conditioned. You buy as many fans as you can and keep them in every room of the house. We have two in our bedroom. One night over the summer, not long after I had first moved, I woke up at 2:00am sweating and crying. I pretty much told TLS "you're coming home with an air conditioner, or you're not coming home at all." Turned out an air conditioner would have been over €600. No thank you.
Similarly, in winter here, houses are COLD. It is not even dead of winter yet and we are freezing. We have all of the heaters in every room of our house turned on to high, and they still don't seem to be doing all that much. (It doesn't help that our apartment was two separate apartments that got turned into a duplex. There was never a heater on the landing between the second and third floors so now that staircase is always freezing cold and manages to take the rest of the house down with it. I have been feeling a bit blah and under the weather for the past two days and decided to take my temperature today. 94.8. Thank you Deutschland. Spending the day in bed curled up under the blankets with our space heater on.
4) Washing Machines- European washing machines are known for being tiny. TLS's washing machine back in England could not fit much in it at all. I have a friend who lives in Dubai and she told me that when she first moved and saw her washing machine, she thought it was a cute little toy. Having dealt with TLS's washer back in England, I was expecting a cute, tiny thing. I was still in for a rude awakening. 1) Our washing machine is evil. I'm serious here. One time when I washed my jeans in it, it did not drain the water at the end of the cycle. It also locked the door and would not let us open it for a day or two. When we finally did get it open, the machine was full of navy water, and the clothes that had gotten washed with my jeans turned blue. Lovely. 2) The cycle on our washing machine is 2 hours 40 minutes. On a tiny little machine. That can't even hold all of our bedding in one load. I seriously don't know how the Germans do it, because to wash just our sheets and towels in our house would turn into an all-day affair. Thankfully, the base has laundry rooms with American-sized washers and dryers. I cannot remember the last time we actually used our washing machine at home. My mother generously offered to buy us an American washer and send it to us, and it broke my heart to say no to her because of the different voltage. Running an American sized washing machine on a transformer would pretty much make our electricity bill skyrocket.