Comparing people or places with each other can be a bit risky, because being different does not generally mean being better or worse, just different. But having lived in Germany a bit more than six months I will allow myself a few thoughts on some differences between Sweden and Germany.
One of the first things I noticed after moving into my neighbourhood was that more German people smoke cigarettes than Swedish people. During the winter months you can be mistaken and think that people love the fresh air, standing on their balconies in the cold evening air or sitting outdoors at a café when there is frost in the air. But the reason is that they smoke. Hardly a healthy habit.
The next noticeable thing was that “cash is king”. I can pay with a plastic card in most big shops but often not in the smaller ones. In Sweden banks don’t want to handle cash (it is costly) and shops see “real money” as a robbery risk, so people have got used to paying for most things with a card. Or we use our smartphones to “swish” money between us or as the offering in the corps/church.
I love the German bread. It has high quality, tastes lovely, is available from small and large bakeries all over the city and there is a great selection to choose from. Within two blocks from where I live (one to the right and one to the left) there are five bakeries. Sweden has some local specialities and the selection is not bad. But most bread you get from the supermarket, in plastic bags and with more air than substance. Good bread from a bakery is quite costly in Sweden but more affordable here.
The United States of Germany
Germany is a large country with about 82 million inhabitants. (Sweden has around 9 million.) I’ve always thought about it as one, strong country. And it is, but I have come to realise more and more that Germany is a federation of 16 states. The states have their own laws and decide about their own affairs, like school systems and legislation for social centres. I live in Nordrhein-Westfalen and today (6th January) we have no holiday, while in Bayern they do.
I don’t know if the German people in general go to church more on a Sunday than the Swedes, but one thing they don’t do is to go shopping in large shopping centres. From 2007 the Federal States have been able to decide about allowing shops to open on Sundays, but the culture of shopping-free Sundays is strong. The exceptions are shops in railway stations and airports. And bakeries/cafés. On Sunday mornings people go to the bakery to buy their fresh bread rolls and have a long and good breakfast. Some go to church but most people then go for their Sunday outdoor activity where families spend time together. And the day is often topped off in the afternoon with a (big) cake and coffee in the café or at home.
Sweden has very good drinking water in the taps. In Germany you can also drink the tap water. Still, in Sweden people buy water, which is often flavoured, in bottles. But I think Germany beats us in carrying home 6-packs of 1-litre bottles of mineral water. And you get it in several brands with various plain water tastes(!), with no bubbles, medium bubbles or lots of bubbles. It is not (yet) very common here to add bubbles to your tap water, although we often do that in Sweden and to me it seems a sensible thing to do. It would help save the climate by using less transport, it would save money and save yourself from carrying this heavy stuff.
And with this I end my thoughts on the subject. There are often as many differences within countries as there are between them and there are similarities, like the favourite complaints – trains that are delayed and roadworks that slow down traffic. Different or similar – to me both factors make life interesting.