14 April 2009

Subtle Differences

Anyone who moves to a new country, and or new city, notices the differences. Some of these differences make life more difficult, i.e. not knowing the language makes it much harder to decipher a bill or do your own taxes. Some differences are inconsequential, like different food brands. Some differences make life easier, like the fact that the ATM gives your ATM card back before it gives you the cash. No one ever forgets to take the cash they just debited, but how many times has an ATM card has been left behind in the machine?

And then there are the differences that make your life spectacular... especially in Bavaria. For example, we just had a four day weekend, because not only is Easter Sunday a State holiday, but so is Good Friday and Easter Monday. Bavaria has six more public holidays than most of Germany. In 2009, 21* public holidays fall during the work week. Furthermore, we also are guaranteed 30 days of vacation. For the kids, they get out of school for 14 weeks** in six chunks through out the year over the seasons. Now I might be scratching my head, wondering how great this is when my kids are home this much, but I bet that my kids are going to be thrilled. No wonder Germans travel so much.

The only downside to all of these Holidays is that it doesn't only close businesses like my husbands office, but it also closes the stores. So, you had better have all your groceries bought before the holidays start, because there is no where to go to pick up a last minute bottle of milk. The only exception to this rule is gas stations, restaurants and tourist attractions like castles and museums. The same is true of Sundays. With the exceptions of restaurants, gas stations and tourist attractions, everything is closed. At first this was annoying we were used to being able to run out on Sundays for some last minute item we needed at the store, and sometimes we did our grocery shopping on Sundays. Now that we've adjusted, we are forced to relax and enjoy ourselves on Sundays. There will be no running errands on Sundays here. And if for some reason we don't have groceries, we have to go out to eat. Shucks.

Furthermore it's rare that you meet many Germans who work longer than 50 hours a week, and most only work 40 hours.

Now this might make you think, this can't be good for business. The German economy must be in the hole. However, according to the IMF, World Bank and CIA Factbook, Germany has the fifth highest GDP in the world, following the United States, Japan, China and India. Yet it only has 82 million people, compared to the USA's 306 million, Japan's 127 million, China's 1.3 billion, and India's 1.7 billion. I'd also like to point out these figures are after West and East Germany reunited, and it is after Germany converted to the Euro, both which were huge drags on the German economy.

So, Germany must be doing something right. It proves that there can be a comfortable balance between quality of life and productivity. You don't have to work like a dog to be profitable.

*I might have the exact number off here, but it is still signficantly larger than it was at home.

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