In a recent email exchange with an old friend of mine from the past, I asked her to tell me a little bit about her life in Germany. A few years ago, she moved with her husband to Germany where they have since had two sons. Many times our cultural ethnocentrism causes us to believe that the quality of life in our country is greater than in others. I know that in the US, people tend to believe that this is so. And this is also very true for Spain, where I am constantly being told that I must live better in Spain than in the US (¿a qué se vive mejor en España?). My general belief is the majority of the world would prefer to stay put and not live away from their culture of birth. Even people who have emigrated due to extreme hardship in their home countries generally hope that one day the living (or political) conditions will improve so that they can return. And it is also very true that just because a country is poor or even politically oppressed (say as in Cuba or Morocco), many people prefer not to leave and can live happier lives than in wealthier nations.
In any event, I believe that looking into the ways in which people live their lives in other countries can teach us a lot about how to improve the quality of life in our own countries. For that reason, I am posting my friend’s description here:
Our quality of life here is fairly decent. There are no long commutes, no bumper to bumper traffic, my eldest son goes to kindergarten by foot 5 minutes each way. He actually gets upset with me if I drive to pick him up.
It’s clean, safe and in the summer it’s mad rush to collect, use or preserve everything that nature has provided for us…rhubarb, currants, cherries, blackberries, prunes, apples, pears, etc. In fact we collected 300 kg of our apples, took them to an “Obst (Fruit) Presse” and pressed our own apple cider. It’s so satisfying to know exactly where our juice comes from and to be assured that it’s 100% organic, free from pesticides and harmful chemicals. I planted my first salad garden this past summer, conveniently picking only what I needed and cherry tomatoes and herbs were on the balcony so my eldest son would just go out and pick them on his own. He was so cute, he’d run out with a pair of scissors and cut me parsley when I needed it.
It’s kind of crazy but we also have a fish farm…since my mother-in-law’s passing, my father-in-law has a new hobby, raising rainbow trout. We have a little pond in relation to the big pond so whenever we want to eat fish, all we have to do is catch it, but they’re smarter than one would think and can prove a little bit challenging although very humorous.
We buy our milk from a farmer in the village. Every week we take our 4 liters of bottles and brave that first noxious step into his barn and get the best tasting milk I’ve ever had. They don’t allow bovine growth hormones, are very against genetically modified foods, and we certainly won’t be eating any cloned meat any time soon.
My husband has an incredible work schedule; he’s not allowed to be on site for more that 37 hours per week, he has every other Friday off plus the unheard of number of weeks off for vacation. He just took 5 weeks off, consecutively! That’s pushing it a little bit he admitted himself, but since they were closed for 2 weeks anyway it was technically only 3. I don’t think anyone could realistically do that in the States and not be guilt laden, or have to wait until one has served a company/ organization for 15 years!
I love the fact that Germans are so environmentally friendly. We have the option to purchase Biodiesel…a mixture made from Raps, our trash pick up is only once every 2 weeks based on how we sort our waste; and incidentally our trash cans are pretty small. The packaging, cans etc, is also picked every alternating 2 weeks, and paper once a month. We compost everything that’s biodegradable and those who don’t have space to compost have a separate trash can with a green lid. Glass is taken to the sorting containers that are ubiquitous as are bins accepting clothing, bedding, and shoe donations. And of course many of our beverage bottles, glass and plastic alike, come with a bottle deposit. It definitely requires a little bit more time and effort to sort everything but it’s well worth it.
I see more and more solar panels, and for a region that isn’t considered the sunniest it’s a positive indicator of future trends. Most of them have been on barns so I’m not sure if the government subsidizes farmers or if they’re just willing to make the investment. Wind turbines also are very prevalent, however controversial because of the long term ROI but at least we have a government that backs renewable energy and really means it!
Healthcare is great. It’s expensive, but I would take the risk of saying that we get more value here than we would in the US. Since I’ve been here they’ve implemented a new co-pay…a whopping 10 euros per quarter, and let me tell you the public at large was not happy about it. It was an outrage. They’re upset that the government wants to make the standard work week 39 hours! ???? Another wonderful aspect is should I ever fall ill and be incapable of taking care of the kids, my husband could in essence receive a doctor’s note so that he could be caretaker and would be compensated for his missed work days through the health insurance.
Opportunities for physical activity are literally right outside our doorstep. There’s a club called the LFL, or Leichtathletik Freunde Lüchtringen and they sponsor the cross country track that runs through the forest. Once a week I’ve been running with them for an hour and it’s nice because knowing that there are others there makes it easier to stay committed, plus its more fun to have company. They also meet for basketball and soccer once a week which my husband participates in. In that sense its very community oriented.
Bike riding is a dream here. We’re along a river, and on both sides there are paved paths so that’s mostly what we do in our leisure time when the weather is nice. Plus, riding into the village takes just a few minutes so it’s ideal to run a quick errand. Mountain biking is accessible right up the hill from us, in the forest. There isn’t much here but we have all the basics covered …small grocery store, drug store (like CVS), post office, bank, apoteke, bakery, and the butcher. Can’t forget the shoe repair/ shoe store or the train station.
We could ride to Holland, or St. Petersburg if we wanted to. Some time, possibly this year I’d like to ride up to Bremen on the North Sea from here. Based upon the 2 day trip we took last year, it would be doable in about 4 days, then return by train. Geez, so what’s missing? Everything sounds so ideal when I read it on the screen here. It’s a clean, healthy, lifestyle in a socially and environmentally progressive country.