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4 Differences Between Canada and Germany

Tomorrow will be exactly 6 months since I arrived in Germany and if I’m completely honest, I still haven’t processed that fact that I’m thousands of kilometres away from where I grew up. On the flip side, life feels totally different than it did when we were still living and working on Vancouver Island 12 months ago. Of course, a big part of this is the fact that I’m now a mom, but there are differences I come across every day that remind me that I’m no longer in Canada.

This post stems off of my 4 Things I Love About Germany (apparently my brain likes to write about things in groups of 4…), but when we’re in a new environment it’s always so easy to compare things to what we already know and I find it interesting how different countries can do things completely different to another!

Coffee Culture

Yes, Canadians do love their coffee, but it’s usually in the form of a Tim Hortons Double Double or any other kind of take-out coffee. I’m sure in the bigger German cities take-out coffee is more common, but for the most part you will find people enjoying their coffee at home or sitting at a cafe somewhere with their cappuccinos and latte macchiatos. As a coffee lover and former barista, I really love this. Coffee is for enjoying and the Germans really know how to enjoy their coffee.

Bicycle Helmets

In Germany is isn’t mandatory that you have to wear a bicycle helmet. Sometimes you see children wearing them, but not always. In Canada, it’s illegal not to wear a helmet when riding a bike and I can remember from when I was in school, learning about how a helmet should properly fit on your head and the risk of brain injury from bicycle related accidents.

Considering there are almost as many bicycles as people in Germany, this can be surprising for a Canadian, but to reduce the risk of accidents in this country, they take the approach of creating lots of bike lanes for people to ride in.

Smoking Culture

Cigarette Vending Machine

While there are definitely a lot of people that don’t smoke, it’s definitely more acceptable here in Europe than in North America. If you’re planning on visiting an Eis Café (Ice Cream Cafe) on a hot, summer day, don’t be surprised if someone at the table next to you is smoking. Stores don’t need to hide their cigarettes behind the counter and wait for someone to ask for them, and I’ve even seen cigarette advertisements outside the grocery store! I was also a little shocked to find cigarette vending machines all over the place!

In Canada, the laws regulating where you can smoke do vary from Province to Province, but generally you are not allowed to smoke in public spaces or advertise cigarettes and in some provinces, cigarettes also need to be locked behind a store counter. About 10% less of the population smoke in Canada compared to Germany and you’ll find people have no problem reminding smokers how bad it is for their health.

Vehicle Maintenance

One of the first things I noticed when I arrived in Germany is that most people really take pride in their vehicles maintenance and cleanliness. This is definitely a cultural thing, but there are also regulations in place regarding vehicle safety and I think this stems from that.

I don’t think it’s too uncommon in Canada to see, what I would refer to as, an Old Clunker. A car that is old, rusty, barely runs, and is definitely not safe to drive! People will drive their cars into the ground or they keep getting resold until they no longer run. You can definitely find older cars in Germany, but every 2 years every car must be inspected to make sure it meets all of the safety standards. You will be issued a decal for your license plate when it does, and if not, you have 1 month to fix any problems. While this does make owning a car even more expensive that it already is, I think we can learn something from our German friends in this regard!

I hope this provided you with a little bit of insight as to what life in Germany is like. Having my family here really helps to make this feel like home, but the daily reminders of seeing things that are different from what I’m used to, remind me that I’m a long way from where I grew up.

As always, I love reading your comments and answering any questions you may have!

Thanks for reading!

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