Work is, well, work. It’s something we all do to pay the bills.
But we work to live, not live to work, right? Or at least I hope that’s what you aspire to?
So, let’s leave work out of the equation for a moment. Here, we’re looking at 15 reasons why life in Germany is great, without considering the 9-to-5 in the office!
If you’re seeking quality of life reasons why you should move to Germany, here’s a selection to hopefully convince you why you should seriously consider a move.
15 cool non-work reasons why living in Germany is great
1. Summer festivals
Throughout late spring and summer in Germany, it seems like there are festivals every weekend, regardless of the area you live in. They usually revolve around a specific theme: Wine festivals, town festivals, suburb / district festivals, food festivals, beer festivals, even festivals celebrating a particular fruit or vegetable (where else in the world celebrates asparagus and green cabbage with such enthusiasm?!).
These celebrations are a wonderful opportunity to experience an important local cultural celebration. It’s a time where everyone seems to crowd into the festival, enjoy life and just have a good time together, young and old. They’re usually a great party, at the same time as being amazingly well organised and civilised.
No fights, no trouble, very few idiots. The first time my Dad visited, he couldn’t understand how huge groups of people could drink beer on the street from glass Steins without there being a riot!
2. Clean, safe cities
German cities are usually bright, spotlessly clean and well-zoned.
Residential areas are mostly well away from industry. There’s plenty of green space and, with a few notable exceptions, very few concrete eyesores and inner-city motorways cutting off the city centres from their outlying residential areas.
Parks and pavements are well lit and litter is a rare sight. There’s a sense of community, with plenty of small, specialist shops, even in larger cities. You can’t help but feel that a lot of thought has gone into urban planning.
A lot of cities in Germany were painstakingly reconstructed to look how they did before their destruction in the WW2 bombing raids.
Violent crime and muggings in German cities are very rare and only the largest metropolises have a couple of no-go areas where you would not want to walk through on your own at night.
3. Fresh, seasonal produce
This one never even dawned on me until I started living in Germany but it made me realise how in the UK, we are blissfully unaware of when certain produce is in season.
Every kid has visited a farm shop at some point during their childhood but we don’t tend to connect produce with seasonality, which is one of the things I love about life in Germany!
Everyone in Germany knows that April and May is asparagus season, then come strawberries and cherries from May into June. Sweet, big and succulent, I have been known to devour half a kilo snacking at my desk.
Then come the berries, with blackberries typically the last of those coming in early August. Plums typically signal the departure of summer, then as autumn draws in, roadside stands appear through the villages, selling apples, pumpkins and the sweet, unfermented Federweisser grape juice (about 5% alcohol content) from the vineyards.
With the onset of dark nights and the march towards Winter, goose is a speciality leading up to Christmas. You’ll never want to eat turkey again, I can assure you!
4. Outdoor recreation
Munich has its lakes and the Alps, Frankfurt has the Main and the Taunus, Cologne has the Eifel and the Rhine, Berlin has the Spreewald and its urban lakes.
The locals really do make the most of this, with an excellent infrastructure to support outdoor activities. No need to go for your run next to heavy traffic…hop in your car or on the bus / train and take your Sunday exercise fix along the river bank, the lake or through the vineyards.
Skiing in Germany is also a pleasant surprise to many. Yes, Germany doesn’t have the glitziest resorts or the best ski slopes, but this is exactly why it’s so enjoyable. It’s not so jam packed or full of posers.
If you’re a keen cyclist or hiker, or perhaps both, there are few places better for getting out at the weekend and into nature. Living in Germany may not offer you the highest mountains for hiking, or as dense a network of cycling paths as The Netherlands, but looking at both of them together it’s a pretty tough place to beat. The other great thing is that everything is so well signposted, especially in areas which have really made the effort to build up their tourist infrastructure.
5. Beer gardens and wine stands
Depending on what part of Germany you’re in and what the local tipple is, you’ll find the obligatory beer garden or wine stand everywhere. They’re a fine German institution, and what summers in Germany are all about.
Often strategically positioned at the end of hiking trails or along cycle routes, stopping by these open air bars on a summer day to grab a beer or try the local wine is an absolute pleasure. They’re also great for dog walkers or after work meet-ups too!
The quality of German beer is well-known beyond the country’s borders. What’s less known is that life in Germany serves up some fantastic opportunities to taste the local wines too.
Due to the climate, these are mainly whites of the Riesling, Silvaner and Pinot Gris / Grigio (Grauburgunder) variety. Nonetheless, German reds are growing in popularity too, and some of the world’s best Pinot Noirs (Spatburgunder) hail from Germany’s vineyards.
6. Environmental awareness
I admit it, sometimes the recycling system can be a frustrating aspect of life in Germany, especially trying to get retailers to take your empty bottles, but the intention is good and the Germans have done it this way for over 30 years.
It simply encourages and coerces people, in equal measure, to produce less trash. Rubbish gets collected typically once every 2 weeks, tops. And that’s usually because it’s stinking, not because it’s full.
So while most developed countries are slowly reducing what gets sent to landfill and implementing policy to drive more recycling, Germany is almost 2 generations ahead. If only the Germans would drink tap water instead of consuming so much bottled water!
Despite Germany’s love of diesel cars (turns out the auto lobby had some very mucky hands there!), things are slowly going in the right direction here too, with many cities now banning older, dirtier diesel cars from their densely populated core.
7. Cheap groceries
Even though, statistically speaking, prices for groceries top out fairly average in Germany compared to other European countries, discount supermarkets are much more easily accessible.
The proliferation of stores such as Aldi, Lidl, Penny and Netto means that it’s convenient and easy for pretty much everyone to access cheap prices for good quality groceries, without being overly dependent on unhealthy processed food.
Unlike in North America, you don’t need a car and you don’t need to shop in upmarket stores or at farmers’ markets to buy healthy groceries in Germany.
I hated the lack of choice and the austere appearance of German supermarkets during my first couple of years living to Germany. Over time though, I grew to like it and appreciate it. Less choice means less energy spent on choosing what to buy and less temptation to be upsold a more expensive brand or product that we don’t really need.
For anyone who enjoys a tipple now and again, good quality wine and beer is very cheap to buy in the supermarkets too.
Okay, so anyone in Berlin reading this is probably saying, “WTF, are you SERIOUS mate?!”
Hold that thought for a second.
I agree that Schoenefeld airport (along with Frankfurt Hahn) is worse than many airports in third world countries. However, these are very much exceptions rather than the norm.
The larger – i.e. major airline serviced – airports in Germany offer much more pleasant experiences, especially compared to the UK and the US.
Frankfurt, despite being one of Europe’s busiest airports, is clean, efficient and easy to navigate. Likewise for Munich, Düsseldorf, Cologne and Stuttgart.
Airports in the UK by comparison just feel like disorganised shopping malls, full of noisy kids, that planes just happen to depart from.
Queues for security and passport control are rarely long enough to jeopardise you catching your flight and the baggage delivery is some of the quickest I’ve experienced anywhere.
Having a train station directly under the airport, or a short trip away via monorail, is very handy too. It’s quick and cheap to access city centres without any need for an expensive taxi ride.
9. Efficient city public transport
Local public transport in Germany – buses, trams and S-Bahns – are a true delight, especially for those of us coming from countries where public transport and mass transit aren’t integrated and coordinated in such a logical way.
Sure, the ticket zone system can be a bit confusing, and Germany could learn a thing or two about contactless payment and top-up cards, but the actual service itself is great.
You buy a ticket and it’s valid for a set amount of time, regardless of how many buses, trams or commuter trains you use. Services are frequent and reliable, even on weekends and at night in most major cities.
When you combine the ease and safety of public transport with how much of a pain it is to find off-street parking, it’s almost an inconvenience to own a car if you’re living in Germany’s largest metropolitan areas. Many cities also allow you to carry your bike on trams and S-Bahns for free outside of peak hours, so you don’t need to rely on expensive taxis to get home.
10. Dog-friendly cafes & restaurants
I love the fact that well-behaved Vierbeiner are welcomed into many cafes and bars. There is something quite soothing to the soul about seeing a chilled out dog peacefully sleeping under a bistro table while his owner enjoys a glass of wine and a bite to eat.
As a dog person, this is one of the small things which make independent cafes and bistros in Germany feel so much more cosy than the big chains which dominate in many other countries.
11. Christmas and New Year
Winter in Germany can sometimes feel grey and bleak. The short days and deserted Sunday streets can make it feel like cities go into hibernation for the winter months.
This can understandably have a negative effect on well-being, especially for newbie expats still building up their network of friends.
Christmas and New Year are two fantastic bright spots that are enough to cheer anyone up who is feeling gloomy. Life in Germany during the festive season feels much more traditional.
Yes, the shops are full of people looking for gifts and sure, the TV is peppered with Christmas ads, but it just doesn’t feel as relentlessly focused on consumerism as it does in English speaking countries.
German Christmas markets are a great place to relax with friends. Wrapping up warm and meeting friends for a Glühwein and some traditional warming food are a true highlight! Even better are the smaller, more traditional markets if you take the time to find one in your local area.
New Year’s Eve is great for a whole different reason. It’s the one time of year (other than perhaps Karneval and Oktoberfest) when the Germans throw caution to the wind. Germany is a very orderly, organised place most of the time. The few days leading up to New Year’s Eve, however, is the only time of year when fireworks can be legally purchased in Germany.
The ensuing mayhem on New Year’s Eve is great fun to experience at least once. It’s a weird but wonderful experience, where everyone gathers on the street to drink Sekt (German sparkling wine) together whilst letting off rockets.
12. Outdoor swimming pools
Most apartments in Germany don’t have air conditioning. When daytime temperatures can sometimes reach 35 degrees during the peak summer months, outdoor lidos are a welcome, necessary respite from the summer heat!
Visiting the local Freibad for a post-work swim, or to meet friends and chill with a couple of drinks in the afternoon, is an integral part of summer life in Germany. What the country lacks in access to beaches, it more than makes up for in outdoor swimming opportunities in towns and cities. Some of these are have Olympic sized, 50 metre swimming pools where you can have a serious workout during off-peak times when there aren’t many folks around.
Getting out and going to the pool or the lake beach is something that you’ll never tire of if you want to escape the oppressive humidity of summertime in German cities.
13. Turkish and Asian supermarkets
The plus side of German supermarkets having a somewhat restricted choice of foreign produce are the delightful, independent grocery stores run by the main diasporas who have made Germany home.
Even medium-sized cities and some towns will likely have a Turkish supermarket, and possibly also an Asian store. Italian, Arabic and Eastern European stores are also common with good sized diasporas living in Germany in larger cities. Buying foodstuffs from these places will be way cheaper than in a regular supermarket, and they can feel like a real Aladdin’s cave of discovery sometimes.
Spices, sauces, powders, sprigs of herbs, canned goods, fresh olives, all the way through to meat and vegetables that are more difficult to find in German stores, make a trip to your local ethnic grocer a great experience. They’re usually also really friendly and happy to help if you’re not sure what anything is.
14. The Autobahn
This one needs no introduction.
Every driver from other countries dreams of being able to put their foot down on the gas and push their car to the limit. While traffic congestion and seemingly never-ending construction are common frustrations of life in Germany, there is nothing greater than the exhilaration of speed limit-free driving along an isolated stretch of Autobahn.
It’s not just the thrill of speed and the feeling of freedom though. There are no special warning signs, cameras or a noticeably high traffic police presence, or indeed any other nonsense you would see in other countries trying to deal with all the potential morons who can’t responsibly drive at these speeds.
Ask any German expat abroad what they miss about home and they’ll almost certainly say it’s the bread.
I’ve definitely never met anyone that says it’s the TV!
German bakeries have a huge variety of different loaves and bread rolls and can be found on literally every street corner. Baking bread (and cakes) in Germany is serious business and the traditional bakery is the one shop you can guarantee even the tiniest village will have.
Loaves of bread in Germany may feel hard and stodgy compared to what Brits and Americans are used to. However, the bread rolls are a true delight. The German bakery will feel a bit like Disneyland if you love your bread.
The downside of this, of course, is that if you’re trying to cut down on bread (and carbs in general), Germany will definitely not help your dieting!
So, they are my 15. What are yours? And have I missed out any glaring ones? Leave a comment and let us know!