For those of you intending to travel to or live in Germany, Austria or Switzerland, here is some information that will help you
From my own experiences travelling through Germany, Austria and Switzerland and dealing with many expats, I have gathered a wealth of fundamental knowledge you need to know.
I discovered that to achieve a comfortable level of integration, you will mainly need to overcome the hurdles related to finding an apartment, finding work, or simply finding new friends. The most vital issue is having a working knowledge of the German language. To be well accepted and welcomed you really should know German. Many citizens there understand English and are happy to practice it on you, but you will gain a stronger and more satisfying connection to the people and the environment when you yourself can converse in German.
Here are ten points to look forward to in Germany:
- Life in Germany is awesome, people in general are friendly and helpful. Learning at least the basics of the German language will carry you far when it comes getting a foothold in the local culture. Germany is now the second most popular destination in the world for immigration. (USA is still #1). Now is a good time to move to Germany as the economy remains one of the best in Europe.
- In the daily life you will discover that Germans take rules and regulations fairly seriously. For example, Germans almost never cross a street against a red light. Even if there is no traffic to be concerned with. They will patiently wait till the light turns green. When I myself first moved to a big city I got a bit of culture shock when I learned that even jaywalking is considered a serious offense. Trust me: It's probably better not to cross an empty street when the light is red.
- When it comes to punctuality, Germans are much more likely to frown on lateness than those cultures where being on time is looser. Be on time for any appointment you make and if by chance you are running behind, you must call ahead of time to apologize. This will be highly appreciated.
- German food is just delicious. In the South you will find Spätzle, egg noodles which are similar to pasta but way way better. In the North you will get a lot of fresh seafood. If you are a vegetarian, you'll have no trouble finding a great meal as almost all restaurants offer nice vegetarian dishes. There are a variety of subcultures within the various provinces throughout Germany, each with their own foods and traditions. Bavarian culture differs from Hamburgish culture as much or more so than New York differs from New Orleans.
- In my travels throughout Germany there is an interesting observation I made. There is an obvious distinction between West Germans and East Germans; even decades after the reunification of Germany. Social openness, for whatever reason, differs between the Eastern and the Western parts of Germany. In the West, people tend to maintain more of a social facade and their true feelings and opinions are somewhat concealed. On the other hand, East Germans are more likely to express their actual opinions and show their true face. There, people will smile and be friendly - when they really are happy and friendly. And if they are sad or irritated, you will see it on their faces.
- Do not miss attending a German Christmas market. They are famous for their fantastic traditional food. Lebkuchen, Glühwein, Bratwürstchen, you must try them all. The first Christmas Market opened in Munich in 1310! I visited the Christmas Markets in Heidelberg, Nürnberg and Rothenburg and loved them all!!!
- If you are looking to rent an apartment in Germany you will need to pay at least two month's rent just for the deposit. And you need to have patience. Luckily, there are companies which will lend this money to tenants. If you’re new to the country with no credit history, I’m afraid looking for apartments in Germany will mean coming up with the deposit without the help of a loan. If you’re planning to live in a Wohngemeinschaft; a living association with roommates, you should take care to learn from your potential housemates their ideas on shared living.
- There are very many great places to visit in Germany but I'd like to tell you about a few of my very favorites: You have to visit the Carl Benz Auto museum in Ladenburg. It's the most interesting automobile museum in Germany. The building is the original family home and first factory of Carl Benz, inventor of the automobile. And not far from Ladenburg is the town of Wiesloch, home of the pharmacy which became the first “gas station” in the world. It was made famous when Berta Benz, Carl's wife, stopped there to fill up on fuel during her famous drive in 1888.
- One of the most enjoyable hotels in Germany I've ever stayed at in the Apart Theater Hotel in Halle, Saxony Anhalt. Each room is designed with its own artistic theme with hand painted murals on every wall. And the breakfast spread is overwhelmingly generous with tons of of organic, home-made food.
- If you love the old German cities, one of my favorites is Esslingen, near Stuttgart. Esslingen became a market town more than a thousand years ago. It's beautiful buildings from the middle ages are still in use as shops, crafts-factories, offices and homes.
Next we'll take a look at ten points to know about Switzerland:
In order to understand Switzerland and the Swiss, you need to know some essential parts of Swiss history. The official name of Switzerland is:
- Schweizerische Eidgenossenschaft. Hence a Swiss person is an Eidgenosse.
Eid = Oath. Genosse = Comrade => Oath-Comrade (Brother-in-arms). The people of Switzerland have a very strong sense of community with themselves, one to another. Switzerland has countless mountain bunkers – Swiss mountains are like their cheese, pocked with holes drilled inside – one of them being a big bunker with a small train, for the Swiss government.
- It is not only the natural beauty for what Switzerland is known. The Swiss have an outstanding sense for keeping things clean and in high elegant design. The water quality is amazingly high. You can find drinking water in most of their many fountains throughout the cities. The Swiss are also famous for growing herbs, from which they produce many tinctures and herb teas.
- The biggest mistake many foreigners make is to think they don't have to learn Swiss German since because many people there speak English. Think again. Take the time to learn some Swiss German words.
- The Swiss love gardens everywhere. They like to keep the air fresh and clean and enjoy the beauty of flowers.
- Punctuality, even more so than in Germany, is a serious subject in Switzerland and appointments are expected to be kept. Trains, buses and boats depart exactly on time. Discipline is the order of the day in Switzerland.
- It's also a great place to be an expat. Healthcare is excellent. Hospitals are immaculate, all runs smooth and in a high quality. The schooling is great. Generally Swiss kids learn about three languages. They have often outside activities. The Swiss have the highest salaries because they work highly efficiently and don't waste manpower and resources working against each other. In Switzerland everybody is valued and treated equally, hence Switzerland pays everybody a good wage, even cleaners and supermarket cashiers. Since the mentality encompasses no “servant” class, there is also no “ruling class”. In the government, all of the federal councilors including the Swiss President go to work using the train. In fact, there is no so-called President of Switzerland. The country is ruled by the Federal Council, a seven-member executive council which serves as the Swiss collective head of state. Each year, one of the seven councilors is elected President of the Confederation.
- The most cherished word in Switzerland is compromise. It means to make a deal by minimizing the combined unhappiness of all parties involved.
- The Swiss are generally reserved but friendly; a Swiss local, greeting you with 'Grüezi', expects you to return the greeting (Grüezi) with a smile.
- Switzerland is one of the most famous producers of chocolate in the world. The average Swiss eats more than 23 pounds of the chocolate per year. And if you love cheese, aside from maybe France, this is one of the best places to eat! Yearly, the average Swiss consumes about 47 pounds of cheese.
- If you want to enjoy one of the most beautiful places then you have to go up Mount Pilatus. The top can be reached with the Pilatus Railway, the world's steepest cogwheel railway.
Ten points about beautiful Austria:
- In Austria you need to know German language. And this is not enough; Austrians speak their own version of German language called ‘Österreichisches Deutsch’ (Austrian German). Flex your Austrian German skills and say ‘Servus’ for hello! and ‘Baba!’ instead of goodbye! There's really a lot to do here and it's an amazing place for anyone to visit, Austrians are friendly people and they love greeting everyone they pass with a smile on their face. After a few days there, you’ll soon get used to hearing ‘Grüß Gott’
- With Budapest and Prague just a few hours away from Vienna, and Munich, Zurich and Venice not very much further away, traveling by train in Austria is highly enjoyable. The trains are very clean, comfortable and always right on time. Even if you’re simply passing through Austria by car, you’re in for the trip of your life. Driving on beautifully smooth roads that are framed with stunning mountains, glistening lakes and a rich tapestry of idyllic countryside – that’s what I call an epic road trip.
- If you’re meeting a friend in Austria, show up on time. And I mean precisely-to-the-exact-minute on time.
- The Austrians know their desserts. Such as croissants (yes, the Austrians invented these pastry delicacies, not the French). Then there's Buchteln, Linzertorte, Sachertore, Apfelstrudel... you get the idea.
- Another enjoyable thing to do in Austria is to soak up the sun by the mirror-like lakes. Austria can do beaches, turquoise waters, action-packed water sports and beach bars with majestic mountains in the backdrop.
- Every summer, a large island in the middle of Vienna is transformed into a tropical paradise and hosts a giant music festival called Donauinselfest (Danube island festival). The best part? It’s 100% free! Think: constant music, swimming, surfing, cycling, inline skating, bars, restaurants, BBQs and general non-stop good times.
- Other interesting things to see are: The oldest zoological garden in the world is the Tiergarten Schönbrunn in Vienna, founded in 1752. The Zoo in Schönbrunn is beautifully. You must see it!
- Austrians are the top recyclers in Europe (Germany is second best), with 63% of waste being recycled.
- One thing you will certainly notice is the quality of the Austrian coffee house. Nothing like what you are used to. White tablecloths, elegant, even luxurious surroundings and décor high quality china and the inevitable side dish of cake. Fantastic.
- Lastly, don't miss visiting the Vienna Ferris Wheel. Built in the 1800's it was the largest Ferris Wheel in the world until just a few years ago. You can even reserve a cabin for a romantic candle-light dinner. Enjoy!