Things that Surprised Me about Germany

As the train moved into Germany, my view out the window quickly began to change; snow appeared on the ground, the rolling fields of France rose into hills and the earth became covered with tall pine and birch forests. And once I got off the train, I noticed the people were taller, and the bread was darker and earthier.

And while a lot about Germany didn’t surprise me, like the crazy-good beer and tall, handsome men in their business suits, a lot did.


1. The food was delicious.

On a cold winter’s night who doesn’t want to cozy up to a hearty potato soup or golden potato latkes with apple sauce? The food I had, especially at the Christmas markets, was scrumptious and perfect for winter.

German Christmas Market

2. The hospitality was even better.

I could not have experienced more German hospitality when I was in Cologne. While Americans stereotype Germans as being cold, my Couchsurfing host, Christian, and the lovely Julika, from Sateless Suitcase, were so warm and welcoming.

3. German bread is just as good as French bread.

There, I said it. Sometimes I don’t want a baguette. Sometimes I want grainy, earthy, nutty breads with substance. And while I still hold French bread in very high regard, German bread is just as good but in a totally different way.

German Bread

4. Germany is not credit card friendly.

For such a modern country, it seemed strange that I could rarely pay with credit. I guess it really is true that cash is king in Germany, or Nur Bar ist wahr. That being said, Cologne was much cheaper than Paris.

5. Cologne didn’t have one Christmas market, it had lots. And they were all awesome.

German Christmas Markets

I had imagined that there would be one central Christmas market in the main square in town. But there were six in town and all were quite different from one another- there was even a gay pride Christmas market!

7. Bringing up the war led to a few tense moments.

After hearing a few comments about how the U.S. ruined Cologne by bombing the city during World War II, I bristled and said something along the lines of, “We bombed Germany because there was no choice but to do so.” It surprised me that more than 60 years after the war there could still be tension.

6. Germans feel uncomfortable being proud of their country.

Hearing this from Germans deeply saddened me. They have so much to be proud of; the German people are an incredibly intelligent and warm people, and Germany is so culturally different from its neighbors. One German said that they could only feel proud at football games.

Well let me just say this; I hope that Germans will one day regain their pride, because Germany is such a special place. I freaking love Germany.

8. German beer is supposedly better than Belgian beer.

Apparently, German beer is a lot better than Belgian beer because of stricter quality standards. German brewers still adhere to the German Purity Law of 1516 which mandates that beer will only be made of water, malt, yeast and hops.

Which may explain this beautiful creation:


9. I understood a lot of German words.

I noticed that when listening to German I could understand lots of simple, everyday words- i.e. water, bread, baby, father, mother, snow, house, probably due to common roots with English. I actually really like the sound of German and am now considering learning it.

10. I really, really liked it.

What surprised me most about Germany? How much I fell in love with it. How much I enjoyed walking into a brauhaus and sliding onto a wooden bench, chatting with new friends and ordering a cold, golden Kölsch.

What I liked most was the lack of pretension; in France I often feel so inelegant and out-of-place;  I spill my water down my shirt, my boots never match my purse and I don’t know how to fold my lettuce properly onto my fork. But in Germany the casual atmosphere made me feel relaxed and happy.

Ah Germany, I miss you already.

Note – if I have written anything incorrectly or that you disagree with, please let me know – I’m not trying to offend anyone here! Just making some observations on a country I enjoyed spending time in. And thank you to everyone I met in Cologne for all the Gemütlichkeit.

Have you ever been to Germany? How did you like it?

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About Ashley Fleckenstein

Ashley is a travel and lifestyle blogger who lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Since college she has au paired in Paris, backpacked the world solo, and lived in Uganda. Her work has been featured by Buzzfeed, Forbes, TripAdvisor, and Glamour Magazine.

34 thoughts on “Things that Surprised Me about Germany”

  1. You know, for the longest time I really didn’t have much desire to visit Germany, but lately, inspired by reading posts like this one, I’ve been warming to the idea of doing so after all.

  2. I was in Berlin a few days ago and I’m coming back there tomorrow, can’t really wait. I also loved the food especially sausages at the Christmas market. I agree, there are so many Christmas markets around, but I didn’t like the bread there. The bread in Brussels and Oslo is much better. Germans are very hospitable and they always were willing to help me out when I got lost. You are so true about Germany being credit card unfriendly. I bought shoes and had to rush to the back to take some cash out because one of the biggest shoe stores didn’t accept any cards :)

    • As an American the credit card thing killed me (we sure do love paying with cards, haha) but everything else was great, especially the Christmas market food :)

  3. Interesting observations :-) There is some wonderful, hearty food in Germany, that is for sure! And German bread is my favorite, I’ve yet to find bread as good in America. And by that I mean bread products as a broad category. Food tends to be much less sweet which is a good thing :-) And, yes, bringing up World War 2 or any aspect of it or American politics tends to be a bit of a risky proposition, the emotional scars are still tender as there are many people still alive who lived through World War 2. Regardless of the rationale and reasoning behind what happened in WW2, it is still an emotional subject.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • I wish there was good bread in America, that’s one of the hardest things for me to deal with when living there! I definitely learned my lesson with the World War II issue, it’s really better not to bring it up at all as there are still hard feelings deep down. In fact my grandfather fought in World War II and a lot of Germans I met had grandfathers who fought as well.

  4. I was really drawn in when I saw the title because I am always so intrigued to hear people’s thoughts on German and honestly, I think you said it all really well. Particularly on Germans not being proud. While I have not experienced this so much with our generation, the older generation is not only not proud, but even still ashamed. I had someone once tell me they are proud to be a European, but not a German. I see so many wonderful things happening in Germany. Their economy astounds me to think where they were 70 years ago.

    I also love that you loved the language. Movies give German such a harsh reputation but I love the sound – probably because I find it so special and difficult to replicate.

    Anyways, glad you had a wonderful experience and you’re welcome to come explore the Southwest region with me anytime.

    • Hi Alex! That’a really sweet offer, you’re welcome in Paris as well :). And I’m glad to hear that you saw eye to eye with me on a lot of the points, I was only there for four days but I tried my best to pick up on as much as possible. And the German language truly is beautiful!

  5. Aww, this was heartwarming! Great post! I’m so glad you had an amazing time in Germany! If you your craving for German beer and bread gets unbearable, be sure to come back and visit me :)

  6. It always makes me well up a bit when someone says such nice things about Germany… with the pride thing and stuff, you know. Because I find this to be a huge issue, but no matter how often people from abroad tell me that we as a whole should just get over ourselves and be proud, I can’t seem to really lose my inhibitions about it. Anyway, thanks. I’m glad you like Germany. I think it’s pretty freaking great myself, through all its faults :)

  7. I went to Munich for a weekend a few years ago and fell in love with the country. Since then I’ve really wanted to do a train trip around the country- hopefully this dream will come true someday!

    And ever since that trip I’ve wanted to learn German. I always thought it was harsh, but it’s actually SO COOL. German also has some of the best words, the name of my blog comes from a German word.

    Great post!

    • Ah I’m glad to hear that someone agrees with me that the language sounds really cool! I wish I had time to learn it, but we’ll see :). And if you ever decide to take that train trip email me!

  8. I absolutely love Germany! The beer is reason alone, but I also found the locals to be so friendly and helpful. I studied French and German in school, and I remember one of my teachers saying that, in general, many really basic words in English (like water and house) usually have German roots, whereas more sophisticated words (like rapport, critique, garage) have French roots.

    • That’s so true with English, and the reason why is actually very interesting- Saxon tribes settled England in the 500s, bringing with them their German-based language. Then in 1066 the Normans, who were French-speaking, took over and became England’s ruling class. So that’s why livestock words like cow, swine and sheep are from German and the words for the animal as food are from French (beef, pork and mutton). The Saxon-speaking peasants were caring for the animals and the Norman rulers were eating them!

  9. Really enjoyed this post and it’s chock full of useful stuff for me since I’m visiting Germany for the first time next week.
    I’m kind of surprised by the credit card thing! Definitely good to know.
    Will you be off to Germany again soon? Where’s next on the list?

    • You’re going to have such a great time! My next German destination will hopefully be Berlin, I think it would be a fascinating place to visit :)

  10. I really liked Germany when I visited. People there were really friendly, and like you mentioned, fantastic food and beer. I don’t remember paying with a credit card, so I guess I didn’t have that issue when I was there, but it’s good to know. There’s already so much snow over there!

  11. i think germans are so friendly and warm! a lot of people tell me otherwise but after living there and traveling there so many times, i beg to differ ;) glad someone else has a similar impression.

    so happy you enjoyed your time there!! it will always be one of my favorite places on the planet.

    • It quickly became one of my favorite places as well… and maybe I will have time this year to find out what the Norwegians are like as well, and also finally meet up with you! :)

  12. I was in Germany several years ago around Christmas as well and while the food is perfect for winter, I felt so heavy after just two weeks! That said, now it would be nice to have some chilly weather, hot soup and a pretzel…it doesn’t feel anything like Christmas in Thailand…

    Anyway, I didn’t spend enough time there to get a good sense of the country – no strong feelings about it either way – I appreciated reading your post and hearing about it in such a good light!

    • I spent Christmas in Chile a few years ago it was more than 90 degrees most days; it just felt so strange sipping Bailey’s in a tank top! I’m glad you enjoyed the post and definitely think about going back, it’s so much fun there.

  13. I’m going to Germany next february (and will stay there for a year) as i’m participating in AFS exchange programme and I just. can’t. wait!!!

  14. Hi Ashley,
    in Germany we prefer to pay cash or with our EC cards event though we all got credit cards as well. To be honest, the only purposes for me to use credit cards in Germany are online shopping and car rental.
    Best regards from Wuppertal/Germany

  15. After reading your blog I got more and more interested in travelling. Only two years more of school… :D
    I’m German and very surprised about your post, because I often hear people talk about how cold Germans are. But actually we’re not. :)
    If you will come back once, visit Frankfurt. I really love the multicultural atmosphere and the different districts.
    One the one hand a typical old german city and on the other hand the tall skyscrapers of the city of banks. I love it ♥
    This should not be an advertasing, but a tip of one of my favourite cities in Germany.
    Awesome post!

  16. Love Germany too! If you liked Cologne at Christmas, you should check it out for Carnival in February – a lot of fun, with everybody in fancy dress for the whole weekend! I can’t decide if Hamburg or Berlin is my fave…!

  17. I’m german, we are proud to be germans. The problem is, we can’t tell it loud. If we say we are proud to be German, others will always call us nazis. We lost our patriotism because of prejudices caused by history and stupidity.

    • I’m always sad to hear that Germans don’t feel able to express their patriotism. Hopefully someday Germans will feel comfortable being openly proud of their country, because it’s a wonderful place!

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