“Hallo” from Mannheim, Germany!

Hey everyone! Sorry for the lack of updates, but I’ve been pretty busy ever since I got here! I’ve been in Germany for about two weeks now, and I have to say, living abroad here is definitely a lot harder than living in Chicago, where it’s so similar to Toronto, or living in Australia, where I had no other responsibilities, than making sure I was having fun everyday.

While I can’t exactly say I’m having the time of my life right now (I’m sure this will come once I’m more settled and have sorted out a few pressing issues I have in my life at the moment!), I can say that I do like being in Germany so far, and have pretty much decided that I want to stay in Germany after this year, and either continue with teaching, or look into grad schools.

And so, here’s a few highlights and discoveries I’ve made during my time in Germany so far:

  • There’s NO air conditioning. I happened to arrive during the hottest days in Mannheim, and was shocked how hot it was in the airport, train station, in the stores, and at my apartment. The reasoning is to be conservative and protect the environment, and being an environmentalist, that’s actually one of my favourite things about Germany….but when you’re exhausted, jet lagged, and can’t sleep at night because of the heat, it’s definitely not very fun!
  • Pillows – still as large and square as I remembered!
  • Water – still bubbly (do anyone other than Germans actually like this?)
  • German doors – still very difficult Β to open!
  • My knowledge of German has gotten pretty bad from not practising it since April. I think I’m slowly picking it up again, but it’s been great having a Canadian friend in the city (who also happens to be fluent in German) help me with everything from opening a bank account, to getting a German phone, and so much more.
  • Ditto with being at the school, where most of the older teachers don’t speak much English. Luckily I’ve brought my German textbook so I’ll have to go over everything a few times (or maybe a hundred times).
  • Cost of living here is super cheap! (Then again I’ve lived in Toronto, Chicago and Sydney, which are pretty high up in the expensive cities to live in list).
  • Also alcohol – very cheap! Even at bars! The first few times, I looked at the menu in disbelief, and had to confirm with my friends to make sure it actually was that price, and not some “happy hour special” even though it was at night (In Toronto, it’s more like $7-15, plus tax, plus tips).
  • Physiotherapy in German is called “Krankengymastik” (literally: sick gymnastics)…no wonder I couldn’t find any practitioners through Google!
  • The trams here are amazing! You can get from one city to another in less than half an hour! I have an amazing discount through my school where I pay 37 euros for a monthly pass that allows to me to travel within about 7-8 cities (in Toronto, a student pass is $109 a month for a very unreliable subway system that’s only located right in the city…no wonder people constantly commit suicide in the subway tunnels)
  • My apartment search still continues. Luckily I’ve found a place to sublet until the end of September, but finding an apartment for October is pretty pressing, and not easy to do in Mannheim, where there’s so many students and everyone uses the same website. When you go to see a place, it’s pretty much like getting “interviewed” by all the others living there. You kind of have to plead your like-ability and awesomeness and pray that they like you more than the other “candidates.”
  • Random people you meet are generally very friendly. After looking at an apartment, one guy I just met drove me back downtown, and other girl walked me back to my apartment on my second day here when I took the tram by myself for the first time and got a bit lost….
  • One of my most memorable moments was when I was going from Frankfurt to Mannheim directly after my flight, and I had so much luggage with me. I was one of the first to line up by the train, but people kept trying to get on before I could. This one guy saw that I was struggling, and placed his hand out, and wouldn’t let anyone from behind try to push past me, and helped me get all my luggage on the train. I hope he wins the lottery or something.
  • The students in the Gymnasium are so well-behaved! They are seriously so cute (although I heard the exact opposite about kids at the Realschule next door)
  • I was at a 3 day work conference in Altenberg (a tiny village outside Cologne), although I kept forgetting I was in Germany as it felt more like I suddenly enrolled in a British boarding school (must be the 120 or so other language teachers who all happened to be British). We had workshops during the day, and hung out in the “outside bar” at night. It was pretty comforting meeting hundreds of others who are all nervous about teaching, speaking German, and have been very unsuccessful in finding housing (some had to be taken in by some of the teachers at the school because they had no luck with finding a room!)
  • The housing thing is really not our fault though, considering how the website warns Germans of being wary of e-mails they receive from people who speak English, and are from countries outside Germany (thanks a lot!)
  • I’ve realized that I’m very bad at following German instructions. The other day I received my pin for my debit card in the mail. I thought I was suppose to peel off the sticker to see my pin number, only to realize that I was actually suppose to scratch it off. Then I spent the next 15 minutes trying to put all the little pieces I peeled off back together, in an attempt to save my pin.
  • I’ve also developed a strong love for Turkish food, so I guess I chose a good time to be in Germany!

So I guess that’s my time in Germany so far in a nutshell. When I have more time, I’ll take some photos to post up here.

Until then, tschΓΌss! πŸ™‚

Edit: I just found a permanent apartment, so no more housing rants from me!



  1. September 1, 2012 / 6:47 pm

    Welcome to Germany! Glad you are finally here and getting settled in. We will have to plan a meet up once you’re all settled since we’re so close. Plus, I’ve never been out in Mannheim and I’ve heard great things. And I get ya on the pillow thing…

    • Michelle
      September 1, 2012 / 10:10 pm

      Thanks! πŸ™‚ Yea we definitely should! I think Karlsruhe is only about an hour away by train πŸ™‚ Feel free to send me an e-mail, and we’ll see when we’re both free πŸ˜›

  2. Nadine
    September 2, 2012 / 1:41 am

    Just stumbled upon your page when working on a German project for my son. I’m German myself, who made the big move to the States.
    I hope you enjoy Germany for all its wonderful things that I miss so dearly! The annual visits are never long enough…
    Eat a Doener for me!

    • Michelle
      September 7, 2012 / 8:36 am

      Thanks Nadine! Where in Germany are you from?

      And I will! Have eaten quite a few dΓΆners already! πŸ™‚

  3. September 6, 2012 / 1:41 pm

    Sounds like a real adjustment! But I really like the fact you picked a place with a lower cost of living. Good luck finding an apartment!

    p.s. Because everything is new, I think you’re being a little hard on Toronto πŸ˜›

    • Michelle
      September 7, 2012 / 8:40 am

      I was assigned this city, but I love it here already! I definitely feel very at “home” here now. And I’m happy to say that I’ve found a permanent apartment for next month (a really nice one too!) so I’ve just narrowly avoided experiencing German homelessness…haha.

  4. Evgueni
    September 7, 2012 / 3:59 pm

    Goodluck in Germany!!!

    • Michelle
      September 9, 2012 / 11:00 am

      Thanks! πŸ˜€

  5. September 28, 2012 / 8:19 pm

    Great post and I like to read it as a German exchange student facing similar problems to adapt here in the States πŸ˜‰ Wish u a lot of fun in Germany.

    Greetings from Louisville, KY

    • Michelle
      September 29, 2012 / 10:40 pm

      Thanks! Hope you’re having fun in Louisville as well! πŸ™‚

  6. December 13, 2012 / 7:43 pm

    I’m moving to Mannheim end of January to attend the University of Mannheim. I thought your post was a really honest picture of what it’ll be like for me! Hope you’re enjoying Mannheim! Great Post!

    • Michelle
      December 14, 2012 / 4:41 pm

      That’s so cool!! Will you be an exchange student? My roomie studies there πŸ™‚ I’m sure you’ll love it!
      Feel free to email me if you have any questions about Mannheim before coming, or if you’d like to meet up for coffee or drinks sometime! πŸ™‚

  7. December 14, 2012 / 7:36 pm

    I’m emailing you now! πŸ™‚

  8. Ute
    February 21, 2013 / 9:11 pm

    Hi Michelle –

    I am a Mannheim transplant that ended up in Texas over twenty years ago. Great to see a picture of the Marktplatz!
    Unfortunately I do not get to visit as often as I would like and really miss it. I hope you got to enjoy Christmas time and the Weihnachtsmarkt am Wasserturm – my favorite πŸ™‚

    • Michelle
      February 22, 2013 / 1:43 am

      Thanks, I did!! I’ve been told that locals tend to prefer that other Weihnachtsmarkt….the smaller one by Engelhorn πŸ˜›

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