The first time I ever set foot in Europe was yesterday. This is a place I've dreamed about visiting for years.
Jodi and I are celebrating a lot of "firsts" this week:
First time driving in Europe
First time having a successful conversation in German
First time making a purchase in German
First German sunrise
First German sunset
First of time making a fool of ourselves (out of many to come, surely)
First anniversary of being married
... and many more...
Here's some interesting thoughts from our observations so far:
What didn't take us by surprise:
German grocery lines: they go really fast and you don't mess around
So far Germans don't seem too interested in much more than a "hallo", then getting to business. We are going to have to work hard to stop with the goofy American over-socially-eager smile and "how are you doing?" intro to every social interaction. But really I don't think either of us, being introverts, really enjoyed that aspect of American culture in the first place, despite many people seeing us as being very friendly.
What did take us by surprise:
Reading about German culture one might think that if you're not already friends with someone, it's a cold world to live in. But really most Germans seem to be extremely helpful if you ask. They even smile a lot when speaking with you!
As an expansion of the last point, we had also thought one simply didn't greet others unless they had business with them. But in walking the streets of Kamp Lintfort, I've noticed that just about everyone that passes us says "Guten Tag" oder "Morgen!". One time, a guy riding his bike about 200 feet away from me headed another direction looked at me and said "Hallo!". So, I'm not entirely sure yet what to expect as I know things change city to city. Either way, this has been an amazing experience so far.
I will add more to this later as we spend more time here.