Here are some tidbits about life in Germany from the perspective of a North American that I thought I’d share.
- Most residents and people working in shops have a working knowledge of English so with their English, my bad German and lots of handwaving we can usually figure out what’s going on.
Everyone at the local IBM office and my customer have very strong English skills, so meetings, discussions and documents are all in English. I appreciate their understanding!
- Gas is roughly $3.60/gallon for the cheapest grade and $4.00/gallon for the hi-test.
Diesel is only $2.80/gallon but apparently the extra taxes you pay when you buy a diesel car offset the cheaper price of fuel over the life of the car.
- Due to the price of gas and insurance, most cars are very small.
My teeny-weeny car (rental for a year) has a 1.0 liter engine and it gets about 35 mpg around the city! It got about 40 mpg on the highway, averaging between 90 and 100 mph in the hilly sections of southern Germany during our Easter vacation. There are a few large cars out there but considering how small the parking spaces are, I wouldn’t want to have to live with one.
- Sales tax is 16% and every price you see in a store or restaurant already has the tax calculated in - I like this.
Income tax rate is said to be around 50% with virtually no deductions. They do get a lot of government benefits for that 50% though including universal healthcare and free higher education.
- Tipping is strictly optional and the waiters all stand next to you and wait until you give them the money or sign the credit card slip. They carry little black leather purses that they use to make change.
FLASH: Alert reader “Carsten” emailed me about the above comment and passed on this information to clear up my confusion:
Tipping in restaurants: It's definitely not optional. Tips in
Germany are not as big a part of the waiters' income as in the USA and the tips themselves are usually smaller. However, you would only not give a tip if you are actually very unhappy with the service. Not
giving a tip when the service was ok would be considered to be very stingy.
- There are a huge number of restaurants here, mostly German food also but an incredible number of Greek, Turkish and Italian resturants which reflects the predominant immigrant community numbers.
- All residents have to register with their new city hall when they move and the document you receive is used like an in-country passport - I had to show mine to be able to rent videos from the one shop in the
city we found that rents English videos.
- All utilities are billed per month, but on an estimate only!
They read the meter only once a year, then the difference between the real usage and what you paid over the 12 months is billed or refunded. What about when you just move in? They make something up! My water and gas bill was about 4 times what it should have been according to the owner, so I called the company and bargained them down on the monthly bill. We’ll see how it turns out at the end of the lease...
- The people here love their dogs, so you see them everywhere including stores, restaurants, and on buses and trams - they even have their own tickets prices.
More facts of life