As a South African living in Germany, I am often asked what the differences are between life in Germany and life in South Africa. To be honest, though there are many answers, the small differences between South Africa and Germany are more entertaining to write about, so here goes.
Autobahn. The first time I was in Germany back in 2002 I was irritated by the huge walls next to the Autobahn every time I passed a town, and I wondered “What are they there for?” As a tourist I wanted to see the little villages and towns as we drove from Frankfurt to Eisenach. And then it came to me, the barrier was obviously to keep people from crossing the Autobahn and also to keep wild animals off the road. You can imagine what an anti-climax it was when I found out that the walls were there merely as sound buffers or barriers. As in South Africa we have a lot of pedestrians involved in accidents on the highways, primarily due to them crossing the road, which is not allowed-- for obvious reasons. In some rural areas broken fences raise the risk of livestock or wild animals being on the highways too.
Breakfast. I must admit that my first breakfast in Germany was a miniature culture shock: salami, ham, cheese, liver pâté, and what appeared to be raw mincemeat. I had to check my watch as I thought I had woken up at lunch time. The breakfast egg, coffee and toast on the table kept me calm and I ended up having coffee and toast. In South Africa I was used to usually having breakfast cereal and on Sundays we had a cooked breakfast consisting of bacon, eggs, toast, sausage and fried onion and tomatoes.
Gardens. It took me a long time to understand who exactly lived in the small fenced off gardens with tiny houses on them. Initially I thought to myself that there were in fact a lot of poor people in Germany, as on the edge of every city I went to there were these small fenced off Gardens with tiny little wooden huts on them, some nicer than others. As I came to Germany during winter the first time, I really wondered how anyone could survive in such a hut in minus temperatures; I thought to myself that generalization ‘Germans are tough’ must be true. Subsequently I found out that these spaces were just gardens and only used in summer. Well, that was also strange to me-- having a garden that was not on the same property as your home.
Public Transport. Lastly, the public transport system here is really great in comparison to the one in South Africa. The South African authorities have been working relentlessly to upgrade the country’s public transport system, and I truly hope that it serves the needs of the World Cup visitor as well as being sustainable after the World Cup has ended.
After five visits to Germany between 2002 and 2005 I have grown used to and do not always notice the small differences that initially were so apparent for me between South Africa and Germany. These days it is only when I go back to South Africa that I notice the differences between Germany and South Africa, which is a little ironic!
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