German Transplants in California

We’re a long way away from our Swabian village. Here in sunny California, the roads are wide, parking is plentiful and you throw everything away in one place. Welcome to the land of plenty. We’ve been here for one week, and my mind has been in a big jumble sorting out major decisions such as where to live and what cars to buy.

The differences abound and the culture shock is subtly creeping in: translating 2nd floor to 1st, writing dates with the month first, converting ounces and pounds to grams, and bad driving. Here’s a running list of things I’m adjusting to:

  • Buying organic. As Sarah once wrote, bio is pretty mainstream in German and much more affordable. I almost cursed in front of my children when I read how much frozen organic peas were at Vons: more than double the price of half the size we usually got in Deutschland.
  • Turning right on red. We love this one! Unlike in Germany, you are permitted to make right turns at red traffic lights here in California!
  • Not stopping or slowing down for rechts vor links. This one seems to be getting my husband especially. Whenever we are driving through residential neighborhoods, he slows down whenever there is a smaller perpendicular street. (He also seems to be struggling with the many stop signs!) To be fair, I found myself searching for the clutch with my left foot at the beginning. (Oh, and yes, automatic drive rules once again!)
  • Most restaurants close their kitchens at 9 PM/21:00.
  • The eggs taste like¬†absolutely nothing. The potatoes from Costco were not bad, but they really couldn’t compare to Frau Wagner’s potatoes from the potato stand at our market in Aalen. To be fair, we still have to explore the farmer’s markets here.
  • My children watch very little TV on a regular basis. The exceptions were always Saturday afternoon football (a.k.a. soccer) games or when their American grandparents were visiting. That’s when they got to watch a Sesame Street DVD. Now, the battle against screen time seems to be a losing one. There is a big screen TV in the breakfast room of our hotel, DVD players in cars and a television in every single room of our two bedroom hotel suite.
  • Disposable everything. We’re staying at the Marriott Residence Inn. I like having breakfast included, but it seems a bit criminal to throw out our plates, cutlery and cups every morning. I don’t really enjoy eating off of these paper plates and eating my oatmeal with a plastic spoon.

This leads me to my final point. I am understanding a bit more the whole moan about the lack of culture in America, particularly the West Coast. It has nothing to do with the number of art museums or historical sights, does it? Rather, it’s the pervasiveness of doing things on the go such as eating and drinking or how medical professionals in Germany would never step out of the hospital in their scrubs, but here I see health care professionals step straight out of an operating room into grocery store aisles.

I fear that I might begin to sound like a complaining German, so I’ll stop now. Coming from Pennsylvania, California is almost like a new country to me. I’m determined to approach this relocation just as I would any other – identifying and taking the good from each place I’ve had the privilege to live in. I’ll keep you posted on how that is going along with the bits of Germany I find here along the way.