Living for the holidays is something common to I and most of my friends back in the UK. Working very hard is commonplace, and after family, taking care of yourself, renovating your home, seeing your friends you don’t end up with a whole heap of free time to ‘be’.
When we arrived in Germany (and lived in hotels for three months) quiet time (1pm-3pm), shops closing at 8pm and very little being open on Sundays wasn’t a big deal, in fact it was refreshing and really relaxing, which was great considering the stress of the moves so far. However when we moved into our apartment (which came with its very own set of rules) I began to understand other expats hostile reactions to what they saw as the restrictive elements of German life.
It is incredibly annoying to realise that you don’t have any milk left at 8.01pm on a Saturday night and you are supposed to make Yorkshire puddings for Sunday lunch, crap. I know, first world problems, right? There really isn’t any use in sitting around and whining about it, I got myself organised. This in itself takes time, as just one shop never (ever) has everything you need, and any alternative ‘expat items’ you want to pick up (self raising flour, mint sauce, treacle etc) have to be scouted for in at least two different Asia shops. After a while you get to know the short cuts, petrol stations can have pretty decent shops attached to them (and some aren’t horrendously expensive) are open on Sundays, same for some bakeries, and bigger train station shops are open too!
Since shops are out of the question past (8pm in Bavaria) 10pm in Baden Württemberg, Saturday evenings and Sundays you have so much more time to spend exploring, getting to know new friends and more quality time off. I think in moving here I got off the conveyor belt that I was on and switched to a slower one, still travelling forward, with ultimately the same(ish) goals just one that allows me time to experience what I’m travelling through rather than shoot past it.
Dare I say it? that the work life balance actually exists in Germany, and it is even encouraged.