We have lived in Germany a scant five weeks, yet I've observed some things about the differences between Germany and the US that I've found interesting.
- Everything is closed on Sundays, except for restaurants. Even in touristy places, shops are locked and the lights are off if it's Sunday. It makes for a relaxing day, but we've already realized too late on Saturday that we didn't go to the grocery store on time.
- So many people smoke! Most of the cigarette cartons (or are they packs?) I've seen have rather gruesome pictures of lungs and throats that are ruined from smoking, but it doesn't seem like a huge deterrent. There doesn't seem to be a "no smoking within __ feet of building" law here either.
- We were told that no one wears sandals (sans socks, anyway) shorts, dresses, or colored pants. Perhaps Hessen is the big exception to that, but so far, we've seen all of those things in great abundance. I would say that in general people wear layers more than I'm used to, but they definitely do pull out the shorts in the summer.
- The trains and buses are on a sort of honor system. You can enter the train station and get on any train without showing the conductor a thing, but there are random checks for tickets periodically and if you don't have one, you have to pay a 60 Euro fine, or you get kicked off the train (and I'm thinking you probably get written up for that, but since it hasn't happened to me, I don't know).
- You have to ask for the check in restaurants. Flagging down a waiter and asking for the bill feels SO RUDE to me, but I think the idea is that the waiter/waitress will let you enjoy your meal on your own time, which is actually pretty nice. They also tell you what you owe there and you pay them right away. Instead of saying "I need __ Euros back", you just say the amount you want to give with the tip included in that and they calculate the change you need back. If you don't need change, you can say "Stimmt so" (this is from my trip to the cafe where we learned how to order, so perhaps it's not the same everywhere). The tip is given to the waiter, and not left on the table.
- Tap water is safe to drink! Hurrah! It feels strange to fill my water bottle up in a random bathroom, but there aren't normal water fountains around, so that's what you do. Also, the hot water is SUPER HOT. I don't boil water for tea or coffee, I just use the water from the faucet and I still have to wait a little bit to drink it. On that note, it wouldn't be difficult to scald yourself while taking a shower or washing your hands. It's nice because I've never had the water get remotely cold while showering.
- Most bottled water is sparkling here. I quickly learned to read which ones are bubbly and which are not (the bottle will say ohne kohlensäure). I don't hate the bubbles, but it doesn't feel nearly as refreshing to me.