Updated: Aug 18, 2020
What you may be accustomed to in the states is slightly different here; no more saying “On the Left” when you’re about to pass someone; you now ring the bell on your bike (yes, you WILL have a bell on your bike!) to alert others that you are approaching. Most walkers/strollers will know to move to the right to allow you to pass on the left.
If you have a sufficient number of vehicles here, you may not need a basket on your bike. However, because many people live inside a city center and can easily pick up flowers, a few groceries, etc. without the need for a vehicle, most bicycles have a basket to transport their goodies! Bikes here do triple-duty; they are recreational, a form of exercise, and a mode of transportation! In most cities, large or small, you will see an abundance of stations to park bicycles and you can take your bike on the train! It's how many people (throughout all of Europe) get to and from work/school!
Most people who PCS here, look to the military sources for travel (like MWR or one of the military travel providers) or they do their own travel arrangements, traveling by train/car and booking their own airlines. However, we discovered the first time we lived here that the local (German) travel agencies often offer far better deals than we could find on our own! Look for one online, or if you’re in a city with lots of retailers you probably have several travel agencies with great deals featured in their front window. Check them out!
A sure way to stand out as an American in Germany, is to cross streets anywhere other than at the crosswalks! And the reason they are the safest place to cross is because German drivers are pre-conditioned (learned at an early age) to stop at a crosswalk if someone is crossing! Sure, drivers might stop in the states IF at a stoplight and the person in the crosswalk has the right-of-way, but where there is no light, German’s really respect the rights of pedestrians in the crosswalk, with or without a stoplight!
Amazon and Prime
If you have a US military affiliation, you have a CMR mailbox that will allow you to still get deliveries from Amazon.com with normal free shipping for “Prime” accounts, but it’s going to take longer to get here. Alternatively, you can shop from Amazon.de, pay for the shipping, and get it delivered to your German house address immediately (which also keeps your spouse from asking “Now, what did you order” when they pick up packages from the base post office!!
However, if you have an Amazon Prime account in the states and you’re accessing it via a VPN *for streaming TV shows/movies, I caution you to avoid signing up for Amazon Prime at Amazon.de (German version of Amazon); we did and had to cancel immediately. Let me explain.
Your US based Amazon Prime account works great in Germany with a VPN. Everything is in English, and all of your Echo devices still work just like in the states. If you shop on Amazon.de they will offer you a 30-day free trial of Amazon Prime which would be great if you’re German and/or speak Deutsch! The moment you click the free trial, everything on your TV has converted to Deutsch! I obviously learned this lesson the hard way, had to call to request they cancel immediately………..not at the end of the 30-day free trial:)
*VPN - A Virtual Private Network gives you online privacy and anonymity by creating a private network from a public internet connection. VPNs mask your internet protocol (IP) address so your online actions are virtually untraceable. Most important, VPN services establish secure and encrypted connections to provide greater privacy than even a secured Wi-Fi hotspot. Since you can set the VPN to a US location, it allows you to use your Amazon Prime TV features, and also allows you access US-based websites that might not otherwise be accessible from Germany.
Surely, there's a lot more to learn about living here...........and I'm counting on some Expats to give us some insights or share some lessons they've learned!