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The 10 Things the UK Needs to Adopt from Germany

It’s never easy going home, but when you have to leave a country as overwhelmingly wunderbar as Germany, saying goodbye is even harder. I will soon be leaving the land of beer and bratwurst to return to my grey, sodden Great Britain, but there are a few things I wish it were possible to pack up and take with me.  

1. Pfand

I’m not so sure about England, but Germany is certainly a green and pleasant land. Solar panels cover the countryside and failing to recycle is a fineable offence. Their best green policy, however, is Pfand: a small 25 cent deposit placed on bottles and glass, and returned to the customer when they bring back their packaging to be recycled. This revolutionary practice not only keeps Germany green, but it helps those who are hard up, too. They stay on the lookout for bottles which have been thrown away, collect them and exchange the pfand for cash. Cleaner streets, less waste and a helping hand for those that need it. Three solutions, all in one little bottle — now that’s German efficiency!

2. Ein Helles

Once you’ve tried German beer, an English ale will never be the same. Smooth, light, and refreshing, a German beer just cannot be beaten. Instead of dingy pubs selling lukewarm lager, Germany is home to more than 1,300 independent breweries. Up and down the country, there are Biergartens and Bierkellers in which to enjoy these uniquely blended beverages. Going for a pint has never been more pleasurable!

3. Lakes

Lakes in Germany and Britain truly are an ocean apart. The lakes I’d grown up with were cold murky looking things, often with the odd shopping trolley bobbing around the reeds. A German lake on the other hand, is a natural beauty spot, surrounded by mountains or meadows as far as the eye can see. As the thermometer creeps higher, Germans decamp to take a dip at their closest blue-green oasis. Cool, clear water, German lakes are national treasures in an almost land-locked country and beat a wind-swept British beach any day.

4. The Bread

Moving abroad, I had to reevaluate everything I knew about bread. The humble British loaf I had grown up with was suddenly sneered at. Sometimes known as “Toast Bread” here, most Germans wouldn’t dare put the pappy white fluff anywhere near their mouths. Who can blame them when they’ve been reared on real bread!? Crusty loaves with aeriated inners or those small rolls which crack and crumble as you tear them apart. And don’t get me started on Laugengebäck. This bread-subsection produces a variety of rolls and knots all with a dark pretzel-like outer shell and a soft, squidgy inside. England may be the home of the sandwich, but we need to bake some better bread if we want to serve up something as sumptuous as our German cousins. 

5. No Sunday Trading

While in the UK, we have jumped on the idea of 24-hour shopping, Germany has retained some purchasing restraint. With shops closing at a reasonable hour every night and staying firmly shut on Sundays, Germans have a bit of peace and quiet every weekend. High streets fall silent once a week as the manic crowds disperse in a way rarely seen in consumer-centric Britain. A bit of forced calm allows people to indulge in their hobbies or spend time with their families and making sure to do your food shop the day before seems a small price to pay for this tranquility.

6. Language Learning Germans

If you want your language skills to feel inadequate, go and speak to a German. With their native tongue ranking as one of the more complex European languages, Germans have no difficulty picking up English. While the average Brit can barely stutter out a “Sprechen Sie Englisch?”, the overly-modest Germans will caveat their near-native conversation with a deceptive “My English is not very good”. I’ve had enough of being embarrassed by our national lack of linguistic skill — it’s time for us to pick up our grammar books and learn a language like a German! 

7. Hot Summers and Cold Winters

Only when I moved abroad did I realize quite how bad the UK’s weather really was. Having four seasons which can all be described with the word “mild” suddenly struck me as odd in a country where snow and temperatures over 30 degrees do not automatically make national news. Germany has seasons — real seasons. Being British, I was of course, totally unprepared for any extreme of weather. I shivered through snow and survived sticky summers with a single pair of shorts. Despite my inadequate preparation, I learned to love the changes in the weather. Stunning snowfalls and balmy summer days are a good deal better than 12 months of overcast skies and drizzling rain. 

8. Christmas Markets

As December darkens and the cold weather threatens to get you down, Germany offers the perfect pick-me-up. In every Platz or public place, a Christmas market is rammed in to add a touch of seasonal cheer. Trinkety baubles, incense smoking nutcrackers, and glowing candles all illuminate the shopping street, scenting the air with a festive fragrance. To keep the customers keen in spite of the negative temperatures, German markets dish out steaming mugs of Glühwein. As mulled wines sweeter cousin, Glühwein is deliciously drinkable and will warm -up even the most frozen Christmas shopper. Compared to a crammed Christmas Eve down Oxford Street, Germany’s Christmas markets are a charmingly civilized place to spend the run-up to the big day.   

9. Exercise and the Great Outdoors

As the German national diet seems to consist primarily of pork, I was mystified as to how the local population are not overwhelmingly obese. Perhaps Germany’s rich diet is partly offset by their weekend exercise routines. Cycling through the countryside or hiking up a mountain, every German seems to have their specific sport — and they take it seriously. In the mornings, the parks are packed-out with outdoor yoga practices and jogging groups and at the first sign of a Feiertag, the Germans grab their eminently practical footwear and pick up their fitness regime. Fresh air and exercise are never a bad thing, but in a landscape as awe inspiring as in Germany, the great outdoors has never been better.

10. Travelling to Your Heart’s Content

Germany really is in the heart of Europe. Just a quick trip over the border and you could be in France, the Netherlands, or Poland — all without ever having to cross open water! If you’d rather stay within Germany, there are still plenty of places to visit: from the metropolis of Berlin to the beautiful Bavarian Alps. Even on a tight budget you can see a surprising amount. The extensive train network offers deals and discounts on frequently traveled routes, making day-trips around Germany exceptionally doable. As a humble island-dweller I have been endlessly impressed with the international possibilities and it does not cease to amaze me that Germans can drive to another country, and still be back in time for tea.  

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