Where did they put *insert anything*

One interesting aspect of moving countries is that you get to see how things are arranged in these countries, at various levels. When I moved from The Netherlands to Germany, I didn’t expect things to be so different. I grew up a couple of kilometres from the border. I married a German woman. What could be so different and surprising?

The only right answer is everything.

Even the smallest details are different here in Germany. I mean, I obviously noticed when driving from the Netherlands to Germany that the average speed increases, probably by 50 percent. This is quite striking, given that the road conditions generally decrease. I also noticed that the Germans love their bureaucratic machinery and whatever needs to be arranged will be sent around in an old-fashioned envelope. They want everything signed manually. Preferrably no scans, only originals. In The Netherlands, I doubt that the younger generation still knows how to write. Most things are digital, and the last time I used an envelope in The Netherlands was long ago. Here in Germany, each tiny village has a dedicated shop with ‘Schreibwaren’ (translating to something like ‘writing stuff’) – where you can buy pens, paper, envelopes and maybe the local news paper. This kind of business has long been dead in The Netherlands. The same is true for local butchers and bakeries. I still remember times where these kinds of shops were more common in The Netherlands. These days? They’re mostly gone. Every German supermarket has a specialized butcher section. In most Dutch supermarkets you can buy factory meat, packaged elsewhere. Subtle differences are really everywhere. Some things are much better in Germany, others in The Netherlands.

Today I was in search of one particular item that I have commonly used in the past. A soil drill. It is one of these devices that you can use if you want to install a new fence, or place a pole somewhere in your garden (because why wouldn’t you?). Maybe I’m biased by having been a gardener for a long time. Maybe I lived in Wageningen too long. (A soil drilling championship exists there) Anyways, not the point. What I meant to say is that these tools were so familiar to me, that I have bought them before. In The Netherlands, they are present in every DIY market. Or garden center. Or ironware shop. Here in Germany, they first of all don’t sell the classic Dutch version. We have an odd-looking version at my chair (but ideally I need a couple of them). I figured I’d pick one up at the hardware store. Nothing. Most people seemed to understand what we were talking about. Why wasn’t it there?

I don’t necessarily miss my home country much. I miss my friends and family, but other than that I am just fine abroad. However, today was one of those instances where I realized that I am still not at home in Germany – and it was a moment where I missed the familiarity of home. I am still figuring out every single thing I need to know or find. It’s a struggle every time I go to one of these stores*. It’s exhausting and makes you feel quite silly to continually find that even the most common things are not in the place where they make most sense to me.

I’m still waiting for the day I can say “Hey, that’s how we do it at home”.


*Except IKEA – IKEA seems to be the same everywhere, although the Eching-Ost IKEA is most certainly the most shabby and worn-out IKEA I have ever been to.

Published by Robin Heinen

Father of two | Husband | Entomologist and Ecologist | Postdoctoral Researcher @ TUM | Traveler | Coffee Addict

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