In my last article, I wrote about a bunch of drawbacks to the idea of moving to Germany. Mostly because I am a powerfully negative person and a bitch on a level that can only be measured with exploding suns. But, I have returned to give you the other side of that coin. That drunken, drunken coin.
Now, this is by no means a complete or comprehensive list, because all of the things that make this nation wonderful are hard to fit into a list in a column that's known for having more dick jokes per paragraph then the GDP of Rwanda, but I digress.
I could ramble about the health care and stuff like that, but I'll focus on, first of all, the things that you, my readers, care about. And secondly, I'll focus on the stuff that I can immediately remember, because I really don't put that much effort into my articles. Seriously, at this point I'm convinced that the only reason my editor hasn't burned me in a pile of weasels yet is simply because PetSmart ran out of weasels and he's waiting to get more.
Regardless, please take a moment out of your busy schedule (the last season of Breaking Bad isn't out yet, you have a couple of minutes) and enjoy hearing about the swimming pool in the river.
1. School is Free Here
This is the first and most important thing I want to tell you, and it's actually kind of important so I'll see if I can try and get to the point without making too many dick jokes. Okay, basically, the USA is one of the only countries that charges more than a token amount for higher education, and yes, the rest of the world laughs at us for paying $27,000 a year to become a philosophy major, and not just because you wanted to become a philosophy major. However, that is why your parents laugh at you when you're not around.
So, how does this work? Well, basically, most European countries got together and decided that instead of running their schools like businesses with profit first and students a distant 472nd, they would go ahead and educate their young'ns and then maybe, just maybe that would help out the country in general. And hey, look at that… they were completely right.
"So how much does it cost, really?" you ask, because you're a cynical bastard. And the answer is, honestly, anywhere from a couple hundred to a thousand or so. Sometimes more. Per year. Not semester. Yeah. You read that right. And some schools don't even charge that much.
Germany—hell, Europe in general (except England, but seriously, fuck those guys right in their wizard asses)—believes in the idea of education. And how can you get in on the action? Well, I'll write something a little more in-depth on that some other time, but for now, just start learning a language in a country you like and look into their temporary immigration laws.
2. Alcohol, Everywhere
I found my first liquor store the other day. Well that should be easy, you think, because you're terribly racist about the Germans, just walk outside and go into a random building and you can buy liquor. And that…is…is actually pretty much correct, but that brings me to my point. Since so many places sell liquor, if you need something special, it's actually pretty hard to find a specialty liquor store, since they don't see the need to open many. And more or less that's fine, because again, everywhere sells alcohol. Everywhere.
Many of you have been grocery shopping. Maybe you still live with your mom and make her do the shopping because simple grid patterns confuse you. Or maybe your over-providing girlfriend does it for you because she has very obvious issues that you've yet to notice. Regardless, if you've been to any sort of store with a check-out area, you'll notice that they're full of candies and other tiny, impulse buys. Plenty of things.
In Germany it's all personal-sized bottles of hard liquors, and I cannot stress how much I am not joking. Seriously, they have everything from Jagermeister to weird egg liquors in little double shot-sized bottles. And you buy them, like an alcoholic 8-year-old, because why the hell not, it's only 80 cents, may as well get four.
And they all have full liquor departments in every grocery store, because not only can grocery stores sell alcohol above 21%, unlike in the USA, I'm pretty sure they don't even need a special license to sell it. Because fuck yes.
Are you out grabbing a burger at your favorite burger place? Wanna get shitfaced at the same time? Of course you do. Grab a few beers while you're at it, because every single small restaurant and corner store and sewing shop sells a wide variety of alcohol. Enjoy.
Oh, and the drinking age? While in most of Europe, it's 18, in Germany it's a beautiful 16. Or 14, if you're in a private home with your parents' permission.
3. A Hundred World Wonders are a Few Hours Away
Wanna see Prague? From Berlin, it's three to four hours away by train. Want to gaze upon the majesty that is literally anything awesome and European? It's close, cheap, and you don't even have the possibility of winding up in "Greasy Handjobs 4: The Handjobbening" as a form of payment for hitchhiking, since buses and trains are both quite affordable, and sometimes planes are even cheaper. Seriously. Look into Ryan Air, Airbus, or a couple of others, book in advance a bit, and you can get a flight for 35 bucks from somewhere like Berlin to Paris or London or something.
Or! You can use this awesome website the Krauts have that has a quite frankly unpronounceable name (NAME) but is just a car sharing website where someone is going somewhere by car, and you offer to pick up part of the gas tab, and you get a ride to where you want to go. Plenty of countries have car sharing websites, but the German one is ridiculously well-used, so you can always find rides to wherever you want to go, often with little to no forewarning.
4. Yeah, the Autobahn is Fucking Sweet
So fucking sweet.
And surprisingly they don't have too many accidents. Comparable to most civilized countries, really. Because it turns out that even without speed limits people tend to go at the speed they feel comfortable, regardless.
But to answer your questions, yes, you can pretty much go as fast as you want, and if I was reading the speedometer in the car properly I was going somewhere just shy of 180kph (110mph or so), which is awesome, but after a certain point, it all seems the same.
The funny thing is though, no matter how fast you go, there's always someone passing you.
5. The People are Better Looking
This may be a drawback if you're really ugly, since, you know, more competition. But if you're like me and don't really care about sex and can just sit back and appreciate the majesty of a perfectly chiseled jaw line, then you have got to love the fact that everyone in Germany, and Europe in general, is just absolutely neat-looking.
Forget what you know about the matronly, overweight German woman in some sort of traditional German outfit, because you're racist. Instead, get used to the idea that Germans are, on average, so much better looking than you. And that's not even touching on the other nationalities that make their way around here. Women from the Czech Republic will make you want to stay inside forever so as not sully them by making them breathe the air that your ass has tainted (that might just be me), and anyone from any Nordic country (Sweden, Norway, etc) defies all possibilities of attractiveness. Like, holy shit. They're breeding them for some sort of sexy war up there. Fuck the French (because they're gorgeous) but people from the Nordic countries are just…just swell.
That was kind of weird.
I'll stop now.
6. Freedom from ID Requirements
In our American land of Freedom (© 2013 United States of America) we are able to do a lot of things. Like bitch about how much freedom we don't have. But one thing we can do is buy alcohol, lighters, and a copy of every movie starring Hannah Montana all at the same time without getting arrested, like we probably should, if we're honest with ourselves (although you may be entered into a database of some sort).
But, you have to pull out your ID.
Alcohol, okay, whatever, I guess I can see that. Cigarettes? Sure, I guess. Fireworks, yeah, maybe, but… Oh, you need ID for lighters? Um, sure…I guess having a portable arson tool is a little bit— wait, paint? You need ID for paint? Okay America, it's getting to be a little much. And in reality there are a shitload of things that you need to be at least 18 years old to buy, and you will have to prove that you're 18.
In Germany? Nope.
More or less, if you look like you might be close enough to the right age to buy something, they'll sell it to you. And that of course is why you hear so many horror stories about the constant alcohol-related problems, arsons, and paint explosions across the nation. Oh, wait…you don't hear about that? Because it's not that big of a problem here?
You don't say.
7. Student Discounts
A few things in this article are actually "Awesome Things About Europe" as much as they are "Awesome Things About Germany", but hey, you're not the one with your own comedy column on a well-regarded* comedy site. Unless you are, which in that case, looking for new writers? All I charge per article is one jar of bees and one bedtime story read to me in the voice of Peter Gabriel. Think about it.
Anyhow, in Europe, being a student has some wicked benefits beyond the aforementioned free-ish school. For one, in some countries, it's possible to not only get discounts on local transit, but even on an international level you can get better prices on trains and whatnot.
Like culture? Of course you don't. You're reading my articles, after all. But you probably know someone who likes culture, and if you do, then they're in luck, because most museums, many music shows, and other attractions can be attained for a reduced cost by the simple virtue of being a student. Now, normally, you have to show some sort of student ID to get the discount, but it never hurts to mention it anyway. I've gotten reduced prices on orchestral performances and museums, and even admission to the Bone Chapel outside of Prague for free, just by claiming to be a student, all without ever flashing an ID.
Also—and this is, as best as I am aware, for German citizens only—when you go to university, depending on your parents' income, the government will pay you money; just throw it at you, so you can afford to get an apartment and cover the meager costs of school. And if you have to pay it back, then at most you pay back half of it. And even then, only after you secure a job that pays over a certain amount, and even then, you still pay a meager amount based entirely on how much currency you fall into.
Pretty neat, really.
And if all of this stuff that I've mentioned fails to convince you, then you should still come over because…
8. There's a Giant Swimming Pool in a River
Go ahead and rev up your Xzibit-related memes, because here, without any fanfare, is a swimming pool in a river:
Now, you may have seen that floating around the internet before, and maybe assumed it was photoshopped, but nope, it's a real thing, and it's swimmable year-round here in Berlin.
Now, you might find yourself asking, "What and why is it?"
It's made out of the heavily-modified hull of an old ship, hence its actual name "The Badeschiff" ("bathing ship," in English), and it's there because why not? Also, while there are many lakes and ponds in the greater Berlin area to swim, the river itself if not actually very safe for swimming because of how polluted it is. So someone decided to fix that problem. It's not free (it costs five euros, or 7,000 American dollars, to get in), but it's a fun atmosphere, there's a bar and snacks to buy there, and if you ever find yourself getting bored, all you have to do is remember that your swimming in a river without swimming in a river and then giggle forever.
And yes, I did say it was open year-round. In the winter, instead of freezing to death, they simply cover the Badeschiff with several heated structures and call it a day. I haven't been to it in the winter time yet, but the pictures make it look something sexual: