Germany vs NZ? Germany and NZ.

I’ve done it.

Exactly 10 years to the day that I left Germany for NZ. My own version of “Daheim in Bayern, zuhause in der Welt”, roots in Bavaria, at home in the world.

It took me a year from the decision to go for dual citizenship to actually having achieved it. Or depending how you look at it, 10 years from having boarded my flight to NZ on a one way ticket.

Do I feel different now as a NZ citizen?

Yes. A deeper sense of belonging, of NZ now not just being my home but also my country.

But surely you cannot truly belong to two countries?

Yes you can.

I equally love both countries. I equally feel at home here and there. And I feel equally grateful to both for the opportunities and the life that I had, and now have.

It’s been an amazing journey. Not easy. Quite a ride in fact. But incredibly rewarding.

I don’t know where life will take me over the next 10 years. The South Island comes to mind.

But whatever will be, I’m confident that it will continue to be the most exciting mind blowing experience that I had never even dared to dream off.


Germany vs NZ: Healthcare

It’s been nearly 10 years now that I moved to NZ. And therefore nearly 10 years since my last tetanus vaccination which I had done just before I left.

Time to see my GP (‘Hausarzt”) here.

As opposed to Germany where you can just go to your GP without an appointment, it’s a must here to make an appointment. This might be different if it’s something really urgent, but otherwise you don’t stand a chance to get to see the doctor.

The next big difference is that upon arrival, you’re probably one of maybe 2 or 3 people in the waiting room. And no way you have a chance to read one of the magazines there. You’ve barely sat down and picked up a magazine when the doctor calls you to see you.

Yes you’ve heard it all right, there are literally no waiting times. Your appointment time IS the time you’ll see the doctor, give or take a couple of minutes.

So I got my booster shot done, plus a smear test which I was due for. Smear test at the GP???? you might think? Yes ALL basic healthcare is done by your GP, even the female stuff. And note that a smear test is only done every 2 years based on research that shows that doing it annually doesn’t deliver any additional benefits.

But the differences don’t stop here. When leaving, you don’t just walk out. Or if you did the nurse would come after you pretty quickly. Time to fork out the doctor’s fees which for my visit were $58 for my vaccination, $69 for the doctor plus $5 for materials he used.

Bill paid, I left with a lab request in hand for a routine blood test as I’m now approaching the ‘danger zone’  as he calls it being in my mid 40s.

You see, GPs don’t take blood samples here. For this purpose, there’s labs specialised in this. Off I went to the lab. Thankfully, blood tests are government funded so no need to dig out some dosh this time.

Maybe you wonder why I don’t just get health insurance to have it all paid for. in fact, I am insured, like around 30% of people in NZ. But when taking out insurance, you realise pretty quickly that the full package would be rather costly. So it’s best to tailor it to your situation and get cover for what’s really important: Diagnostics and surgical stuff.

Yes you can get access to all of this through the government funded public system. But there’s a problem here: Wait lists. Long wait lists. People dying off wait lists, or what started off as a problem having grown into a big problem by the time it’s your turn.

Hence me having taken out health insurance. But there’s another reason why I’ve not gone for the full monty. Even the most comprehensive package available here won’t give you the coverage that you get through what’s compulsory health insurance in Germany.

Germany has an absolutely top notch fantastic health insurance system. Something I wasn’t really aware of until I emigrated for the green NZ pastures.

I say it again. Germany is AWESOME when it comes to healthcare and health insurance. Think about it next time you’re about to complain…

What concerns medications, some are government subsidised i.e. cheaper whereas for others you pay the full commercial costs. This can be quite hard or even impossible for some people in particular those with serious or chronic diseases. Imagine you have to pay out of your own pocket for some medication that could make a real difference to you but it’s so new and/or expensive that you have to pay for it yourself.

Guess what happens. Some people do fund raising to scratch together the money they need for a particular treatment. No joke.

Let’s get back to medications. So your GP might have prescribed something and prescription in hand, you make your way to the next pharmacy. The pharmacist there will by no means give you a branded and labelled package of pills. What he does is put the pills the doctor prescribed into a little container or cardboard box, prints off a label including instructions how to take your medications, plus a copy of  the general information about the medication (‘Beipackzettel”).

You won’t get to see original packaging. Stuff is bought in bulk and then given to you in the amounts you need. Not more. No unneeded pills going into the bin.

In a nutshell, the system here works well if you have money. If you don’t there’s some challenges here that you wouldn’t have to worry about in Germany.

So if you’re in Germany, next time you find yourself stuck in a waiting room full of other people and still waiting to see the doctor despite the appointment you had made for what now is 2 hours ago, think again  (as you’ll have plenty of time in this situation anyway….). Yes the waiting times in Germany are really, really bad.

But all the rest is being taken care of  courtesy of your health insurance.

Germany vs NZ: How I beat the winter chill

Yes I’ve made it! No more being cold in winter!

After an unusually warm autumn, winter has finally arrived with a vengeance.

Yesterday morning, Gregor and I went into town for the German Language Meetup. Blue sky, sun shining, breakfast by the beach basking in the warm sun.

2 hours later, greetings from Antarctica with a strong Southerly blowing, the hills in cloud and the first drops of rain falling.

Overnight, the temperature in the house dropped to a cozy 10 degrees. Winter, there you are….

But this time, I was well prepared. Seriously well prepared. Winter, this time I will laugh at you because I have won the battle against the cold.

So here’s the secret to how I beat the winter chill.

Layer 1:


Close fitting cotton T-Shirt and bottom warming nickers. Forget about flimsy underwear. We’re into some serious thermal insulation business here.

Layer 2:


Speaking about thermal insulation,next is the layer of good old polyprop thermals, plus a pair of woolen socks.

Layer 3:


This is my favourite one as I get to wear all those soft warm Merino jumpers I bought from the second hand shop for a bargain. Add a pair of fluffy lamb fur boots and thermal pants and the world is not looking so unfriendly anymore.

Layer 4:


Nearly there! Beanie on my head, down jacket zipped up to my chin and track pants on. If it wasn’t for the fact that I’m stuck behind a computer most of the time, it would be all good now.

Layer 5:


Big thumbs up for my final line of defense against the cold: My pink sleeping bag!

As I write this, I’m in full winter combat gear and smiling. Hell yes, big time, from one ear to the other.


In Germany, you just turn up the heating when winter arrives.

Here in New Zealand, you pile layer upon layer. We have the OECD’s coldest houses here. Not a record to be proud of for sure. If you think about it, actually quite embarrassing for a so-called developed country.

NZ may be God’s Own Country, but it’s certainly not paradise. If you layer up though (or spend mega-bucks on heating), you can have a good life here.


Germany vs NZ: Barbecue

Today I’ve spent most of the day setting up my new computer. Each time I thought I was done, I realised that there was something else I still needed to do. But now I really have it all sorted.

Yesterday I went to the German Language Meetup barbecue. It was sooo German: Charcoal. Men at the barbie, and the women had brought salads. Beer. It took a good hour until the embers were ready to put the meat on, and by then we all were starving. Excellent German sausages, and marinated pork. And Jaegermeister to aid digesting the excessive amount of food.

So what’s the difference really in how a Kiwi barbecue looks like?

There is no hungry wait for the meat – you start off with nibbles. Beer but also wine. When it’s time to progress to the mains, just turn on the barbie, it’s gas, and 10 minutes later the meat is cooked. Meat that’s not normally marinated, and sausages that don’t even deserve to be called sausages because they are so BAD. Then everyone eats too much (no difference to the German barbecue here). No Schnaps, just more beer and wine.

So Kiwi style barbecues are more like a quick outdoor meal. Whereas German barbecues are an event that takes several hours.

Germany vs NZ: Small talk

Yesterday, I hosted my second German Language Meetup. It was really nice again, with a good mix of people and good conversations.

One item we discussed is how much easier small talk is in NZ compared to Germany. The reason is that in NZ, there’s a script that small talk generally follows. It goes like this:

A: How are you?
B: I’m good, and yourself?
A: Not too bad. What a lovely day today, it’s really spring now.
B: Yes, and the forecast is lookong good for the weekend, too.
A:That would be nice, after all the miserable weather we had lately.
B: Any plans for the weekend?
A: On Saturday, my eldest has a rugby game on at his school, so I’m taking the whole family there. And on Sunday, my wife and I want to clean out the garage. What about you, any exciting plans?
B: Not really to be honest. I might just get the grocery shopping done and then sit in the sun with a good book and relax.
A: Nice. So what are you going to read?
B: ……

…and the conversation continues….

In a nutshell, you start off politely asking each other how you are doing, then move on to the weather, and/or the weekend coming up or the weekend that’s just ended depending on what’s the case. By then, there’s a good flow of conversation established and you just take it from there.

Really, it’s that simple. It’s like a little dance with a choreographed intro and by the time you get into improvisation, your muscles have warmed up and your moving in sync with your partner.

Whereas in Germany, there’s no such socially agreed script or choreography to help you. Unfortunately, using the NZ approach in Germany probably wouldn’t work because first of all, your partner in the dance wouldn’t know the moves.

Then some of the NZ moves would literally mean to step on your German partner’s toes:

Enquiring about how the other person is doing is somewhat intrusive if the other person is not a good friend or family member. The same applies to asking people about their weekends.

Also an NZ cue to do one thing might mean something entirely different for your German partner:

In German culture, talking about the weather is what you resort to if there is nothing else left to say. It’s an indication that the conversation has reached a low point, and that it’s time to find someone else to talk with. Rather than the perfectly valid and common way to strike up a conversation which it is in NZ.

Isn’t it bizarre that in Germany where there’s a rule for everything, there’s none to guide you through small talk.

Germany vs NZ – food and food culture

I haven’t written about Germany vs NZ for a long time. Here’s one I just really have to do as it’s such a fundamental one. Food and food culture!

They belong together, yet I’d first like to talk about food.

When it comes to food, you can have everything here, the good, the bad and the ugly. You can get some excellent produce here if you have the money. The fish, the beef and lamb, the fruit and vegetables can be excellent. There’s a much bigger range of different fish, fruit and veg available than in Germany, and if you by NZ produce, it’s fresh.

Fruit, veg and grains also don’t have to be expensive if you do what I do, which is buy directly from the producer. Just as an aside, I also find it a lot more satisfying to know who grows my food, and knowing that they know me.

Enter the average NZ supermarket, and you’re assaulted by cheap crap. It’s actually a mental effort not to give in and just pick the good stuff, e.g. the fish, the organic yoghurt and butter that I had on my shopping list. Most times, I win and walk out with what I wanted to buy only. On rare occasions, I surrender and buy some seductive looking crap, only to take a few bites and then leave it behind on the next park bench because it’s just fat and sugar that doesn’t even taste nice.

So that much about food quality. If you have the money, the brains and the will power, then it’s all good.

Now let’s look at food culture. That’s an interesting one as from a continental European perspective, you could either say that NZ simply doesn’t have a culture around food at all, or you could say that it’s pretty awful.

I’m not just talking about table manners which are informal to the point of off-putting here. Ever seen an attractive, well educated woman slouching over dinner and bending to get their mouth to their spoon instead of lifting it to their mouth? Let alone using knife and fork…

My main point is that I think the non-culture here shows a profound lack of appreciation of food and of the person who prepared it. If someone has cooked for a group of people, there is not necessarily waiting for the cook to sit down and then start the meal together. Everyone may just start eating once they have their plate. To me, this disregard of the cook is plain rude.

Then the meal doesn’t necessarily even take place at a table. It’s by no means uncommon that it’s on the sofa, with your plate on your knees, TV on, and everyone watching. Everyone focussing on the TV not on the food!

Now if the food is an utter disaster and really you can just get yourself to swallow it by distracting yourself from it, then this would explain it. But generally speaking, it’s not so bad that it would fall into this category.

If it’s not the TV, then it’s the computer. People cook their dinner, then retreat into their rooms and eat it over their computers. Again focusing on something else not the food. Not even fully appreciating the food they have prepared themselves.

This focus on the distraction, and the general preference of this distraction over actually having a conversation with someone over dinner is deeply unsociable in my view. It takes the heart out of eating which is feeding your body AND your soul.

In continental European culture like the German culture, meals are a sociable thing. In German flats, meals are a reason to turn off the TV. Taking your dinner into your room is a sign that you’re either seriously unhappy in your flat, or seriously weird.

Going out for lunches with people from work is nice though as this actually is a sociable thing. So that’s one of the few occasions of eating with Kiwis that I do. And I do bring a cake for morning tea when it’s been my birthday.

The difference is that in Germany, you would usually bring a homemade cake, and if you don’t you apologise. Here, it’s pretty normal for people to bring convenience food from the shops and no one thinks much about it.

To me, considering convenience food as not much different to home made food is again a sign of lack of appreciation for preparing food yourself, and of the cook.

So in terms of food culture, I’ve long ago decided to stick with the German way. It wasn’t a difficult decision, as it’s a choice between culture and non-culture. And even though this makes me different, there’s no question that I’m happier that way.

Germany vs NZ: Christmas

It’s that time of the year again where I’m most aware of the seasons being the other way round here.

Christmas just doesn’t work for me here. Not just that, it actually spoils my summer feeling (if there is such a thing as summer in Wellington at all, but that’s a different story).

Christmas here has an altogether different feel to it than Christmas in the Northern Hemisphere. It’s not a time of retreat where you’d light a candle, make yourself a nice hot drink and then relax you the well heated cozy flat.

No, Christmas here is about bright sunshine, barbecues and a ridiculous number of work lunches or team building events. My work’s Christmas party on Friday had a cruise ship theme!!!

So I personally don’t do Christmas at all here. For me, it’s summer soon and the summer holidays just a week away. A time to pack my tramping & camping gear, to head off down South on Friday night. A time to have ice cubes handy for a glass of whiskey in the evening. A time to stick your feet into the sea to cool off.

It’s actually not that hard to ignore the Christmas thing. You simply don’t notice glittery colourful & lit up decoration very much, as the whole world is lit up, glittery and colourful at this time of the year anyway, at least when the weather is nice.

The real downside of Christmas in summer though is that there is no Christmas in winter! Winter is just long, dull and unpleasant here all the way, and a festive season is really missing from it.

It’s a gap that I think could easily be filled by celebrating Matariki (the Maori new year) more widely. It would also be nice as it would put a Maori event on the national calendar of things to celebrate as a nation. And it would help to strengthen a unique NZ culture and identity.

Anyway, time to have a nice light lunch now and some of the delicious cherries we’ve been getting from the farm in the last couple of weeks.

You all have a great holiday, and a nice Christmas if you celebrate it!

Germany vs NZ – climate & weather

Oooh, that’s a funny one. While Germany and NZ both are mostly temperate, NZ weather is a lot more… well, temperamental.

Overall, it’s milder than German climate, with cooler summers and warmer winters due to sitting in the middle of a vast ocean. However, microclimate plays a by far bigger role here in NZ and differences in climate between different regions are quite significant.

Wellington is a prime example: It’s extremely windy here, hence it’s considerably cooler than even just a little bit further up North or down South. Or take the fairly dry East coast of the South Island, and compare this with the West Coast which is incredibly wet.

Another difference of course is that NZ is quite a long country, so while the top North is slightly subtropical, Stewart Island in the very South is almost subarctic.

What concerns the weather, this is a lot more changeable here than in Germany. Whatever weather usually doesn’t last more than a few days, and even within one day it can go from warm and sunny to cold and wet, and back again. The good thing is that you know that if the weather is absolutely horrible right now, in a few days it will be nice again. And even on the most horrible days, the sun usually comes out at least briefly.

When looking at what global warming will do to the climate in the next few decades, it looks like NZ will be less impacted as the ocean will apparently work as a buffer for a few decades. Funny that even the climate is a bit backwards here – which of course is great in this case!

Germany vs NZ – Trade Me

This may seem like a bit of a weird topic to you – writing about the NZ equivalent of Ebay, which is Trade Me. So the first notable thing is that NZ has got its own thing, whereas the rest of the world, or most of it, has Ebay.

Then the rules are also slightly different. But the really interesting bit is that used stuff sells for quite a bit more than in Germany. So while in Germany, from a seller’s point of view, you get very little and it may not even be worthwhile to put the stuff you want to get rid off on Ebay at all, here it’s time well spent.

Washing machines are a good example. In Germany, you’d get a good used front loader washing machine for as little as 50 or 100 Euros. Here, you’d look at about 500 dollars, which is about 300 Euros.

So it seems that in a less affluent society like NZ, proportionately more people have to buy used stuff because they cannot afford to buy new, hence there’s more demand for used goods and the price for it goes up.

In a way that’s great, since things get re-used rather than dumped. On the other hand, it’s not so good for poor people who will have to pay more for the essentials than would be the case in Germany.

What it’s done for me is that I appreciate my stuff a lot more. Another factor in this is that things aren’t as available here than in Germany, but that’s a different story. In any case, I hope that my precious front loading 1450 spin washing machine will last many more years.

Germany vs NZ – Housing

Let’s face it – NZ housing is crap. The typical NZ house:

– is not insulated
– doesn’t have double glazing
– has draughty windows & doors
– has no or insufficient heating (which then would usually be a fireplace or gas heater in the lounge room)
– is outdated regarding its wiring & plumbing (electric fuse wires only not whole fuses, separate taps for cold and hot water, water-wasting single dual flush toilets).

If you then look at what the typical reasonably affordable rental property is like, you can add “run down” and “outdated interior design” to this list…

The really important thing about what that all means is that the temperature inside a house is usually about the same as outside. For half of the year, this is seriously uncomfortable at 10-14 degrees, with another few months with temperatures of about 15 to 17 degrees, which is not exactly cosy but sort of ok. This is Wellington I’m talking about – up North it would be a bit warmer, and down South it would be quite a bit colder.

Another issue is that it can get really damp, with the windows fogging up and the water running down the glass, for example if you don’t keep the windows open when cooking.

The house I live in is a typical NZ rental. It’s actually pretty good, as our house is fitted with a powerful flued gas heater in the lounge, and a fan heater in the bathroom. For my bedroom, I’ve got a little electric heater, and I also have a dehumidifier for the lounge room, should it get so damp that opening the windows doesn’t do it anymore.

You may now say “Why don’t you just turn up the heater”. Well, yes, that would make the place a bit warmer & dry it out at the same time. But consider that there’s no insulation, single glazing and if it’s windy like on most days, there’s also a draught. So most of the heat is going out the window or through the roof, which makes it pointless to heat a lot, and it would also be really expensive.

It’s not like housing is cheap here you know – I’ve never paid so much rent before (and our rent isn’t very high at all for Wellington). But in a way it’s hard to compare it with Germany, as housing like this simply doesn’t exist in Germany. Also while housing quality is lousy here, it’s still often a detached house with a bit of a backyard and garage. Basically more space (and in our case also a view of the sea), but uncomfortably cold most of the year & not very flash…

Why and how I’ve been able to put up with this for four winters by now? A great job where I spend most of my time, fantastic flatmates who also do their bit to keep the place dry, and a long holiday somewhere warm during winter…