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My First Impressions of Life In Germany

I am currently sat at the table in the kitchen of our top floor flat in Bochum. I have a mug of West Country hot choc in my hand which I brought from home and am trying to fight the urge to rip open yet another packet of salt and vinegar crisps. Our day has been filled with meetings of all kinds. Visa meetings. Registration meetings. Doctors meetings. A day very much like every day that has gone before it over the past month. So, what better time than now to sit down and share with you guys a few things we have learnt over the past month. 

Everything here is done by the book
Being from the UK, I am used to there being systems in place for certain things (like opening a bank account or applying for a passport) but the systems here make the UK look like a cool uncle that is one or two homebrew ciders away from selling his house and moving into his van to live a life that isn't controlled by the man. Germans seem to love a good system. I mean, even to sign up to a gas company when you move into a new house, you have to go to a government building with all of your documents and rental agreement and gas meter details and register yourself as the new occupant and have the previous occupants also go there and remove their names from the account. There's no cutting corners either. Everything is very above board. 

Doner kebabs are big
During our first two weeks here, we basically lived off of fast food. It is cheap, accessible, plentiful, and doesn't require the use of a kitchen. However, I got a very bad stomach because of it which led to a lot of doctors appointments, hospital visits, and a round of antibiotics. So, yknow, enjoy in moderation. Anyway, the biggest thing here has to be kebabs - they are absolutely everywhere. And seem to be something that has come along with Turkish immigration but has now become a bit of a staple here in Germany. Despite everything, Isaac still can't get enough of them. But, for me, I will be sticking to things my stomach understands - like French bread smothered in butter and huge chunks of watermelon.

Cheddar cheese doesn't exist here
This has been my most heartbreaking discovery so far - cheddar cheese just isn't really a thing here. They have edam and gouda and a lot of soft cheese but nothing even close to cheddar. Which is very difficult for me because I have been craving cheese and salad cream for a while now. I mean, it got to the point where I was so desperate that I tracked down a cheese shop, went in and announced to the man (in German) that I am English and in desperate need of some cheddar. I managed to leave with a chunk of Jersey cheese that wasn't too far off but only after paying almost 5 euros for the privilege. 

Everything is closed on Sundays
Yknow how in the UK shops shut around 4 on a Sunday and you get that mid-afternoon panic when you realise you literally have no food in the house and have to literally sprint to a Tesco? Well, Germany have taken it one step further. Literally no shops are open on a Sunday. Not even food shops. The only things that open are restaurants and kiosks which are kinda like off-licenses but don't tend to stock much in the way of proper food and drinks - just crisps, chocolate, fizzy drinks, alcohol, and cigarettes. Not really a combination of things you would choose to feed your two year old, that's for sure. This means you have to be sure you have milk in the fridge on a Saturday. Stock up like you're heading towards some kinda apocalypse. Else you will find yourself doing an hour round journey searching for a petrol station that has a mini shop attached to it that happens to be open. And paying 3 euros for a litre of milk at said mini shop. 

Childbirth here is a bit different
The whole medical system is different to the UK in that it is an insurance based system. However, as I learnt from my doner kebabs from hell fiasco, you can get a doctors referral for a hospital stay which flouts any fees. But, other than needing insurance, the maternity side of things is pretty similar. You have a midwife who deals with all your health concerns. You have a little booklet all about the pregnancy that has all your medical info in. Oh, and most people labour without any pain relief. Umm what?? Apparently, you have the option of an epidural which a large number of women take (which I already know I don't want) and elective C-sections are a lot more common here. What isn't common here is gas and air (aka the only thing that got me through my first labour). So, cue me worrying tirelessly for the next two months over how I am actually going to bring this child into the world without gas and air, an epidural, or anything stronger than just a paracetamol.

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