There is a nostalgia and self-reflection that naturally takes place when something comes to an end.
Even a year as toxic and troubling as 2020 still inspires in me the same sort of contemplation.
One of my favorite end-of-year activities is cruising the top ten lists in music, books, art, fashion, technology and design. Time Magazine posts a great variety of lists that I enjoy every year.
Enjoying these lists inspired me to consider, what would I count in a top ten list for this tumultuous year? I’ve been living in Germany all year, and it’s in the spirit of these thoughts that I present my personal top ten:
The Top 10 Things I’ve Learned From Living in Germany
1.Kindness is indeed contagious. Yes, it’s possible to live somewhere where people inherently respect each other and their property. Even lost wallets are left on park benches here in the hopes that their owner will return and be reunited.
2. Rules are not merely suggestions. There are rules for how to follow the rules here in Germany, but in some ways, they do make the lanes of life (and traffic) flow more smoothly. I admit that I’m still a notorious rule breaker.
3. Smiling is completely optional. I know, many of us are taught to just smile, and in some ways there is a gladness that can be stimulated from a smile, but I’ve learned from being in a land where smiling is optional that smiles are best when shared with purpose.
4. Biking is the best form of transportation in the world. This is my highly biased opinion, but I’ve developed a deep love for biking living here in Germany. There is so much freedom in finding a new path.
5. Pretzels and beer are truly a magical combination. Germany has this combination correct and yes, I can attest that it even makes a great breakfast.
6. Crowded doesn’t necessarily mean chaotic. I’m pleased to report the cities of Germany have quite a serene feeling as people embrace respecting each other’s air space as well as personal space.
7. Recycling can be efficient. It took a few months to truly embrace the German way of handing refuse, but believe me, there is much to be learned from a careful sorting. I can’t imagine now not separating glass, plastic, paper, bio, and trash. Recycling more effectively just feels good.
8. House shoes rule. If you’re not sure about what these are, you can find a set of them on amazon. Leave them near your front door and let your friends enjoy warm toes without tracking dirt through the halls.
9. Paperwork can be a part-time job. There is paperwork to begin the paperwork here in Germany. Of course, there’s also paperwork to prove your paperwork has been done. The overall effect is that much more time must be put towards keeping up with one’s own paperwork.
10. Social systems are not scary. Universal healthcare and stronger rights for workers increase the quality of life for everyone. If you don’t think so, just come and stay in Germany a while. While their systems aren’t perfect, there is more give and also more take-away for each citizen.
I have so much faith in 2021 and the fresh lawn stretching out before me just waiting for my yard sale thoughts to fill it up. Cheers to each of you and the infinite possibility of a new year!