Differences between living in Germany and the US (2022)

As some of you may know, I grew up in Germany, but for the past 13 years, I’ve been living in the US. First, I’ve called beautiful San Diego my home and after a short stint in Beijing, I moved to San Antonio, and now I am back in San Diego.

During this time as an Expat in the US, I’ve seen and experienced the differences between living in Germany and the US firsthand. I don’t want this post to turn into a stereotype kind of post, I merely want to point out tendencies that I, as an individual, have observed as someone, who has lived in both countries for extended periods of time. If you have any other observations or opinions, please feel free to share them in the comments! I am looking forward to reading your thoughts!

1. Customer Service

Compared to the United States, Customer Service is a dry and barren, almost dead land in Germany. Returning something to a store? You need a receipt, the product in its original packaging, and must return it within 7-14 days. No questions asked return policy like at Costco? Doesn’t happen in Germany. Need assistance in a German store? You better be ready to hunt down a store employee and pin them down, or otherwise, you might never get any help.

2. Politics

Politics is a hot topic and I don’t want to start a heated debate here. But one of the differences between Germany and the US politics that stuck out to me the most is how much more polarized political opinion is. In my opinion, this stems from having a two-party system versus a multi-party system. In the US, the parties have to differentiate themselves more and more to appeal to the more extreme points of view within the party.

In Germany, parties never form a majority and therefore have to build a coalition to reach a governing majority. While the parties still each have their own point of view, they are forced to work together and compromise. They also cannot burn bridges, because they might find themselves in a pickle, when they have to work with that party after the next election.

(Video) The USA vs. Germany | Is living In Germany Better Than Living In The USA?

I feel that the US could do with a little more working together rather than building up more walls, whether it is around them or within their own boundaries.

Differences between living in Germany and the US (1)

3. Guns

To be honest, the whole US gun culture thing still freaks me out. I understand that if you live in the middle of nowhere or pursue hunting as a sport, you want/need a weapon. If I’d lived in some remote part of Montana, heck yes, I would have a gun in the house. But the idea of going to the grocery store and buying semi-automatic weapons off the shelf seems just completely bonkers to someone from Germany.

I see the historic relevance of why the first settlers depended on guns for their survival and to bring order to a brand new and very diverse nation. Things have changed since the 2nd amendment has been put in place. We have a stable political environment, a functioning society and the US is no longer the ultimate frontier that it used to be.

4. Everything is bigger in the US

Well, for starters, the US is about 26 times the size of Germany. It takes me longer to drive through Texas than it does to drive through 5 countries in Europe. I love to drive long distance and enjoy the wide open space of the United States. There are really remote places, where you are the only human being for hundreds of square miles. This is something that just doesn’t exist in Germany. It is beautiful to have the opportunity to jump into the wild like this and disconnect from society.

(Video) Biggest Differences Between Living In Germany vs The US

But it isn’t just the size of the country, everything else is bigger too. The cars, the houses, the grocery stores and everything in it is just ginormous. A bag of chips would fill half a grocery cart in Germany.

Another thing that makes the eyes of Germans pop out during their vacation in the US are the restaurant portions. A typical burger in a restaurant in the US is about the size of three burgers in Germany. And lets not even talk about the taste. Germany has some great food, but when it comes to burgers, the US is simply in a league of its own. This is probably one of the biggest differences between living in Germany and the US that is also obvious to people who only visit each country briefly.

5. Taboos and Prudishness

Differences between living in Germany and the US (2)When I told my host mom in Louisiana that many German girls don’t even bother to buy the top to their bikini, I saw an expression of shock and surprise. Topics like nakedness and sex are much more openly discussed in Germany.

It is not that Germans are talking dirty all the time, but they tend to see it more as a matter of fact and a natural thing. Women have breasts and men have a penis. Ok, let’s move on.

6. German Bluntness

If you ask a German friend for their opinion, you will get it. In all its honesty and, sometimes, brutality. “Does this dress make me look fat?” “Well, yes, your ass looks huge in this one. Try the blue one, I think it’ll look nicer.”

(Video) Is living In The USA Better Than Living In Germany?

Germans are very blunt compared to Americans. In the US, parents teach their children: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” This is quite a different culture and sometimes can lead to some hurt feelings and misunderstandings.

7. Renting vs Buying Houses

The decision to rent or buy a house is also one of the big differences between living in Germany and the US. The dream of the house with a picket white fence is alive and well in the US. Due to low down payments and relative easiness to get a home loan, buying a house in the US is something many young adults can already achieve.

People also tend to buy homes for their current situation rather than waiting for their “Forever Home”. The Real Estate market in the US is much more fluctuating, house prices are much easier to compare and people tend to buy and sell houses much more frequently. The majority of houses in the US are also built by developers and even brand new homes are built in a cookie cutter style.

In Germany, on the other hand, most people buy one house. THE house where they will settle and live the rest of their lives. This is why many people in Germany build a custom house to make sure it will fit their needs in the long run. Also, in most cases, the bank requires you to have a rather high income, a stable job and a minimum down payment of 20% (most people tend to put up more down payment though).

8. Consumerism

I always feel that there is probably nothing that you cannot buy in the US. There is a gadget for everything. Americans buy a lot of stuff and in huge quantities, sometimes even more than they need. Food waste is a real problem in the US and I have to admit that I am sometimes guilty of that as well, especially when I travel a lot and don’t get around to using up all the things in my fridge. Luckily, my neighbors are happy with my frequent food donations 🙂

(Video) General differences between USA AND GERMANY. HOUSING/FOOD/ INTERACTION/ Americans living in Germany.

I find it fascinating that Americans found a way to make a business out of almost everything. While I love that many of these products and services free up your time and make things easy on you, it comes at a price and I sometimes wonder, if people just spend more time working so they can afford the luxury to pay someone to do other tasks for them.

9. Work-Life Balance

Differences between living in Germany and the US (3)For me, this is one of the biggest differences between living in Germany and the US. In Germany, people get a minimum of 21 days of paid vacation a year, unlimited sick leave and paid maternity leave, and workers are protected by a variety of laws to ensure that they are fairly compensated for their work.

On the other hand, when you look at the output of a German employee, you can see that they are very productive. They tend to be highly focused on their work and chitchatting and dilly-dallying is kept to a minimum. Meetings have an agenda and are to the point. There is a different mindset as well. If you work overtime every day in Germany, you’ll leave a negative impression with your boss, because he/she will think that you don’t get your stuff done in 8 hours and are not efficient and productive enough.

In the US, there is no minimum number of vacation days or even sick days, there is no maternity leave and you can get fired if you get sick. People work very long hours and if they are lucky enough to get vacation days, they don’t even take them. Did you know that last year over 50% of paid vacation days were not used? On the other hand, people can earn a much higher income in the US, taxes are lower and it is generally easier to find a job.

These are some of the biggest differences between living in Germany and the US that stood out to me as a German expat living in the US for the past 10 years. Each country has its advantages and disadvantages and it depends on your personal preferences of which country’s values and believes fit best with your own. I have to admit that I sometimes suffer from the “the grass is greener on the other side syndrome”. Some of the things in the US still don’t make sense to me, even after such a long time.

(Video) The truth about living in Germany | An American's point of view

Have you lived in Germany or the US? What were the biggest differences between living in Germany and the US in your opinion?

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FAQs

What are some differences between Germany and the United States? ›

How does German culture differ from American culture? ›

For Germans, rules are there to provide an example of how to be a good citizen and are believed to be in place for highly logical reasons. Americans, on the other hand, tend to question rules and consider whether it makes sense for them as an individual.

Is Germany a good place to live as an American? ›

Overall, Germany is a great place to live. It has a high standard of living, a strong economy, and plenty of culture and entertainment options for a good work-life balance. The cost of living can be high in the major cities, but there are also many benefits to living in Germany.

How are German houses different from American houses? ›

German houses and apartments are often sold with no lighting fixtures installed. The new owners get to select (and buy) their own. American houses and apartments have built-in closets and storage space. German houses and apartments usually have no built-in closets or storage space.

Which economy is better Germany or USA? ›

United States has a GDP per capita of $59,800 as of 2017, while in Germany, the GDP per capita is $50,800 as of 2017. In United States, 15.1% live below the poverty line as of 2010. In Germany, however, that number is 16.7% as of 2015. United States has a top tax rate of 39.6% as of 2016.

Is it hard to live in Germany as an American? ›

It is not difficult to move to Germany from the US if you have a valid reason, such as a job offer, a letter of acceptance from a German university, or wishing to join your partner. However, generally speaking, everyone outside the EU/EEA or Switzerland needs a solid reason to receive a German residence permit.

What is considered rude in German culture? ›

Basic Etiquette

It is rude to chew gum or keep one's hands in one's pockets whilst talking with someone. Cross your legs by putting one knee over the other. It is impolite to rest your feet on furniture. Tight punctuality (Pünktlichkeit) is expected in most professional and social situations.

What is the German mentality? ›

Germans are stoic people who strive for perfectionism and precision in all aspects of their lives. They do not admit faults, even jokingly, and rarely hand out compliments. At first their attitude may seem unfriendly, but there is a keen sense of community and social conscience and a desire to belong.

What are the pros and cons of living in Germany? ›

Cost of living in Germany
  • + PRO: Low cost of living. ...
  • - CON: Extreme tax deductions. ...
  • + PRO: Good work-life balance. ...
  • - CON: Rising through the ranks can be tough. ...
  • + PRO: Locals are disciplined and punctual. ...
  • - CON: Locals aren't particularly friendly. ...
  • - CON: Language barrier. ...
  • Lifestyle in Germany.

Is it cheaper to live in Germany or USA? ›

The average cost of living in Germany ($1325) is 37% less expensive than in the United States ($2112). Germany ranked 30th vs 6th for the United States in the list of the most expensive countries in the world.

Why are houses blurred in Germany? ›

Almost 250,000 Germans have told Google to blur pictures of their homes on the Street View service. The German government insisted that people get the chance to make the request as a condition of letting Google operate Street View. It said personal privacy would be violated if people did not have an option to opt out.

Why do houses in Germany not have kitchens? ›

So why Germans don't have kitchens in apartments? German landlords aren't obliged to fit kitchens in apartments before renting them out. Therefore, it often falls on the shoulder of the tenant to organize the kitchen and other equipment for a new home.

How do you act in Germany? ›

German Etiquette for Everyday Life
  1. Use the proper greetings and goodbyes. ...
  2. Formal vs. ...
  3. Punctuality: Don't be early, don't be late. ...
  4. Dress the part. ...
  5. Don't stare at the naked people. ...
  6. Don't misinterpret the more reserved attitude. ...
  7. Get some “house shoes.” ...
  8. Keep an open mind about closed doors.
2 Mar 2022

Are wages higher in Germany than US? ›

Salaries in the US are about twice higher than in Germany. Yet, Germany compromises on salaries to provide better social security benefits and various free services for employees. Whereas in the US, people spend more money on retirement and health care.

Is Germany more productive than the US? ›

The United States ranks fifth, according to the OECD, contributing $68.30 to the country's GDP per hour worked, countering claims that Americans are the most productive workers in the world.
...
These Are the Most Productive Countries in the World.
CountryGermany
GDP per hour worked$ 65.5
Employed Population43,057,000
GDP (USD)$3,857b
Average work week (hrs)26.3
34 more columns
4 Jan 2017

Why is USA richer than Europe? ›

Because of its geography and size ots huge land and its huge amount of natural resources and America Economy or GDP is the largest in the world at 21$ trillion which is higher than all of Europe combined it Europe has a higher GDP per Capita combined and even some some European countries as well.

Why are Americans moving to Germany? ›

Its favourable economy, employment opportunities, better education system with few tuition expenses have made many people, especially Americans, want to immigrate to Germany from the US. As an American moving to Germany, you must have put great thought into this change.

Is moving to Germany worth it? ›

All in all, Germany is a country where you can find both the fast city life or the quiet sub-urban experience, all from a position of safety, security and stability. In short, the country's safety, highly developed infrastructure and robust economy allow Germany to offer you a very stable reason to move to the country.

What are the differences between the United States and the United Kingdom? ›

1. The USA practices the federal constitutional republic form of government while the UK uses constitutional monarchy and a parliamentary system. 2. USA has 50 states and one federal district whereas the UK is a single state kingdom comprised of four different countries.

What distinguishes Germany from other countries? ›

Germany is a highly industrialised country, one of the greatest economies on the planet and a leading export nation above all for industrial goods. A long tradition in the manufacturing of advanced technologies, together with the early introduction of ecological standards, has encouraged eco-innovations.

What is the difference between America and the United States? ›

The term America (or the Americas) refers to all the lands in the Western Hemisphere, comprising the continents of North America and South America. (Central America is actually part of the North American continent.) The United States of America, or U.S.A., is a country in North America.

What is the difference between German and Germany? ›

Germany is the country , and German is the person from that country (Germany).

What is considered rude in England? ›

Do not shout or be loud in public places and don't use excessive, demonstrative hand gestures when speaking. Staring is considered impolite. Do not be too casual, especially with the English language. The English avoid speaking in superlatives.

Is UK or US better to live? ›

Generally, the living standards in the UK are better than in the US.

Are Americans friendly? ›

That being said, Americans are, on the whole, very friendly people and happy to help when asked. (Southerners have a well-earned reputation as the most hospitable people in the country, and will often go out of their way to make a foreigner feel more at home.)

What are the pros and cons of living in Germany? ›

Cost of living in Germany
  • + PRO: Low cost of living. ...
  • - CON: Extreme tax deductions. ...
  • + PRO: Good work-life balance. ...
  • - CON: Rising through the ranks can be tough. ...
  • + PRO: Locals are disciplined and punctual. ...
  • - CON: Locals aren't particularly friendly. ...
  • - CON: Language barrier. ...
  • Lifestyle in Germany.

What is the German lifestyle? ›

German people tend to be thrifty, be sensible, and respect one another's privacy, and they typically respect the structure and laws of society to an above-average degree. There is no place that this sense of 'order' is more apparent than in German business culture.

What is America the best at? ›

Aerospace and aviation. The USA is the world leader in space exploration, aerospace and aviation, hands down. The nation reaffirmed its top spot with the recent SpaceX rocket launch, which was the first ever commercialised space flight.

Why do Americans call themselves America? ›

While the colonies may have established it, “America” was given a name long before. America is named after Amerigo Vespucci, the Italian explorer who set forth the then revolutionary concept that the lands that Christopher Columbus sailed to in 1492 were part of a separate continent.

What is America called now? ›

On September 9, 1776, the Second Continental Congress adopted a new name for what had been called the "United Colonies.” The moniker United States of America has remained since then as a symbol of freedom and independence.

Why German is so different? ›

Why is German so different than most other languages? German is conservative, and retains the capitalisation of all nouns which other Germanic languages dropped a log time ago. This makes written German look a little unusual compared to Dutch, Danish, English, and so on.

What is harder English or German? ›

Some parts of German grammar are particularly tricky for English speakers to get to grips with, but German grammar is actually arguably easier to learn than English grammar because it follows set rules that are laid down by the three regional authorities, in Germany, Austria and Switzerland (with small differences ...

Is German grammar like English? ›

This is why English and German share a great deal of vocabulary. All of this overlap in pronunciation and meaning means that despite German's complicated grammar, English and German are still considered 60% lexically similar.

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