Expat Stories: Differences I noticed after moving to Germany from the U.S.A as a teenager

24th February 2022 in Uncategorised

This month we have a guest piece from Aysha Hodzic, who we helped to relocate to Berlin when she was 12 years old. Now after 3 years in Berlin, she shares her perception of how life in Germany is different for US teens.

It was just about 4 years ago, when I was 11, when my parents had told me we’d be moving to a new country, an entirely new continent even! I was excited to leave the small town in Tennessee that I’d lived in for about 10 years, although sad to leave my childhood friends. A part of me was worried and scared. Would I be able to adjust to the different culture? Would I be able to learn the language? Would I be able to make new friends?

Ultimately, I was able to become comfortable with Berlin and German culture and find an amazing group of friends (although with some trial and error..) who have helped me grow into the person I am today. I go to an amazing American-German school (John F. Kennedy Schule), too! Soon, I’ll be 15 and have lived in Berlin, Germany for almost 3 years, and each day I notice more and more how different life is here compared to America. Here’s what I’ve noticed the most to be different in Germany! 

Germany, Berlin in specific, is much more accepting than the U.S.A.

After moving to Berlin, I realized how many unique people there were. All kinds of culture, fashion, sexualities, and languages in one city. It’s such an  open-minded city, no one judges your fashion style or anything, they keep to themselves. Moving to Berlin opened my eyes to so many different styles and arts. It really helped me realize who I am and what I like.

Public Transportation

Germany’s public transport is far better than that in the U.S. Rather than needing a car to go everywhere, you can simply hop on a train and go to your desired location. Another thing is that many teenagers and even children take the transport alone and travel the cities with their friends, without their parents. 

Cash vs. Card

Unlike the U.S., Germany is a cash based country. This makes it easier for teenagers to go shopping and buy food for ourselves since we don’t get a credit or debit card until later in life. It’s not uncommon to see a store or other shopping area to take a card, however, it’s very rare to see a shopping area only taking a card.

German Friendliness

In America, it’s normal to strike up a conversation with the person at the cash register or even just a stranger you ran into. However, in Germany, it’s quite the opposite. Germans, as mentioned before, keep to themselves. Not only that, but they also are very straight forward. In America, it’s taught to kids that they must always be “polite” to whoever you’re talking to. For example, you get the wrong order at a restaurant. An American would say something along the lines of “I’m so sorry, but I think this is the wrong order. Could I please get the correct order if it isn’t too much trouble?” However, a German would not beat around the bush. They’d simply say “This is not my order. Bring me a new one.” This doesn’t mean Germans aren’t friendly, they’re just friendly in their own way!

Stores

Most stores in Germany work until 6 or 8 P.M. and don’t work on Sunday! This is very different from the 24/7 schedule in America. Be prepared to plan your grocery shopping!!

Educational System

The educational system is not quite the same as the American educational system. For example, you can leave school after 10th grade if you pass an important presentation/test called the MSA! You can also go to school to specifically learn how to work. Sports are also definitely not as big of a deal in German schools (at least not the same sports). Students also get longer breaks here!

Food Quality

The food in Germany is much higher quality. There are healthy food stores (or as they’re called in Germany, BioMarkt) on almost every corner and the food in general is much better! I actually tend to get stomach aches when I eat American  food now.

The language 

Unlike in English, the German language has many more formalities! For example, to be polite and if you’re talking to someone older than you, you use Sie/Ihren. In English, it’s just you! There’s also Der/Die/Das, which are different articles and ways to say the, and then there are even more ways to say those different forms/genders the. It gets quite confusing! 

Car Permit/Driver’s License

In America, you would begin driving around 15 or 16. However, in Germany, you’re only allowed to start driving at 18! You can drive a motorcycle or moped at 16, or you can drive with a legal guardian at 17.

Protests

The Germans, especially those from Berlin, are passionate about their views. They will protest for and against anything they believe should be argued for. There are frequent protests (although some may be.. problematic) in Berlin and have become  a norm for me and those around me.

All of these things are what made me consider Berlin my home. Germany has its differences and quirks, but that’s what makes it so beautiful and unique. Just as president John F. Kennedy said, “Ich bin ein Berliner!”