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Sunday In Germany: Retired Life In Germany

by Ken Yeager

So you ask, what is it like to live in Germany in the 21st Century.  Nice is the short answer.  The long answer will take a little longer but here goes…..

Electrical cables, with the exception of the high-power cables, are all underground and not subject to high winds like in the US.  We have suffered the occasional power outage but usually only for a few minutes or an hour at the most in the eight years we have lived in Grosshansdorf.  The water is good to drink right out of the tap but bottled water is very popular with the Germans.  We have gas heat in our leased house and I am thankful for that…buying oil in bulk can run into some big money while gas is paid by amount consumed.  We have trash pick-up every two weeks for plastic (Monday), bio-degradable stuff (Thursday), other trash (burnable stuff) on Friday and paper once a month on a Wednesday.  Glass goes into special containers scattered around the Dorf (village).  Plastic bottles are returnable at the grocery store with a 15 cent deposit on each bottle.  You feed the empties into a machine at the store and get a printed receipt and give it to the cashier at check out.   Works nicely except for those who only come once every six months with their empties and take 20 minutes to feed them all into the machine.  Hate those types.  Batteries and long-life bulbs go to electrical shops or special containers for disposal, NOT into the trash.

We go to an open air market twice a week generally and buy fresh foods.  Went today (Wednesday) and bought eggs (organic), fresh loose butter and two kinds of cheese, rolls for breakfast tomorrow morning, some fruits and vegetables, and three Matjes (Dutch herring) as well as some Graved Lachs plus six balls of birdfeed for our dining room terrace feeder.  Will go again on Saturday morning for more items but purchases will probably include fresh pasta, more cheese, some leberwurst and ham, apples, Clementines, and more veggies and fruits.  Afterwards we will walk into the shopping area of Volksdorf and buy a new lotto ticket and look around a bit.  Might hit a grocery store for some milk, cream, jams and the like.  Paper products are bought in a droggerie (like a US drugstore but without a pharmacy).  We also use grocery stores for yogurt, ice cream, beer, junk food, some wines, and miscellaneous items.  Food is expensive in Germany.  My little shopping on Wednesday above cost about € 40.00 or $51.00.  Quality can vary depending on where one shops.  The open air market tends to be more expensive than the grocery stores but the products are fresh and the vendor knows his or her suppliers and we know the vendors as we have been dealing with them for our eight years in the area and Gisela’s mom dealt with them previously as well.  Fresh produce, fruits, meats, etc in a grocery store are from who knows where and how old.

As you have probably seen me post hither and yon, gas is expensive too.  The price of one liter of gas can change several times a day but recently has been around €1.58 or a bit more than $2.00 with four liters roughly one gallon.  You do the math.  Our car, a 2003 Audi A6 station wagon, is good on gas mileage and is no slouch on the highway.  2.4 liter six-cylinder motor can easily run at 100 MPH and does so when we are on a trip.  I think it tops out at about 230 KPH or about 140 MPH.  that’s a bit fast for me so I cool it and run between 140 (87mph) and 160 KPH (99 mph).  We have the variety of stations, Esso, Aral, BP, Shell, and some smaller names but all are priced about the same.  We DO NOT have the type of pump where different selections of gas all use….each type of gas has its own hose so we have separation of E10 and Super, and Super Plus.  Needless to say, oil is also costly with a liter running around $20.  As most of you know, I am a retired U.S. government employee (U.S. State Department), but we have no access to any of the military facilities in Germany, plus there are none in northern Germany anymore.  Retired military in Germany do have PX and commissary access but have to pay German taxes on their purchases.  Only those covered by the Status of Forces Agreement can purchase without local taxes.  Same for fuels.

Restaurants are plentiful and with a large variety of foods available.  Here in our Dorf we have two Italian restaurants, one “International” but leaning to Italian as well, and one Greek.  Siek, which is five minutes by car from our house, features a first class dining experience and the place where we have been celebrating New Year’s Eve for the past few years.  Excellent kitchen.  Ahrensburg, 10 minutes by car, has two Chinese restaurants (never tried), a couple of steak places, one of which is very good (Block Haus), an Indian restaurant, one Greek, one German, a place specializing on fish, plus a few smaller places for basically snacks.  One of our favorite places is about 20 minutes away and a coming attraction there will be roast goose (Martins Ganse).  Hamburg, of course, is filled with restaurants featuring foods from around the world.  Hamburg is, after all, a major European seaport even though it is 100 Kms from the Atlantic Ocean.  We are partial to Chinese food and we both enjoy Sushi.

Germany has lots of big stores (chains) although Walmart tried to do business here and failed.  We have stores like Metro, Familia, Lidl, Aldi, Real, Karstadt, Saturn, Media Mart, etc.  Like most folks we try to save money where we can but we like the service and attention we get in the smaller stores.  Plus one gets to know the owners/sales personnel and they treat you well if you give them your business.  Case in point….we special ordered an electric grill, but then found something better in a catalogue.  We asked to return the grill (unused at that point) and we told no problem and got our money back.  That most likely would not have happened in a large chain store, not after being special ordered.  One really nice feature with living in Germany is the automatic two year guarantee on all electrical or mechanical devices.  Have used it once or twice and it works.  In that respect, good service.  On the other hand, some of the big chain stores have terrible service and if you can even find someone to help you out, they often have no idea about the product involved.  Again, a good reason for using small stores.

I have to admit that I haven’t really played any golf since I left Morocco.  Playing golf in Germany is both expensive and difficult.  As to the expensive side, I suppose that I am a bit cheap in that regard.  I hate spending the equivalent of $50 in green fees for 18 holes of golf.  Secondly, it is very difficult to play on most German courses unless you have a handicap card from some club of which you must be a member.  Handicap cards from other clubs are honored but you pretty much have to join a golf club to qualify for a handicap card.  There are two courses close by where handicap cards are not required.  Both clubs are owned by a Brit who detests the German way of requiring the cards.  One is very close to us but I’ve never played there.  My time one nice days is riding the motorcycle so I guess my golf days are over.  The big question is how long can I continued to handle my 700 lb motorcycle?  70 years old ain’t that far away.  I still do my once a week exercise class for “older gentlemen.”  I hate it.  I am a lazy person and I am proud of it.  Gisela is active with a once a week Yoga group that she enjoys and she tries to do Nordic Walking twice a week when the weather is reasonable and not too cold.  I can’t pin down exactly how we pass the time during the week except for mentioning the shopping, cooking, doing laundry, Yoga, doctor’s appointments, etc. but we seem to stay busy.  Breakfast at 0845….lunch about 1330, nap time after that, some garden work or shopping in the early evening, Abend Brot (light dinner) at about 2000, and TV, reading or computer stuff (like now).  It is now getting dark at about 1630 but light at 0700.  I do dislike the winter days and the early darkness.  Summers are the best time when it stays light until about 2200 and I can look out into the garden and see the flowers, the birds and the squirrels playing or working or whatever they do.

And with that, I shall end this waste of time (fortunately not paper = trees) and bid you all a good evening, a good rest of the week and hopefully a good weekend.

2 comments to Sunday In Germany: Retired Life In Germany

  • Mike McNally

    Ken, your writing is wonderfully descriptive. Many thanks. Any chance you could take another trip to Saigon and send a missive from the Pearl of the Orient?…Mike

  • Kenneth R. Yeager

    @ Mike – I’d love to go back to Saigon for a visit but several things keep me away. One is the cost…I’m retired, and US gov’t pensions are not bad, but one doesn’t get rich working for the goverment so yes, $$$ is one reason not to go. Reasons two and three are I might fall in love the place all over again OR I just might hate it. Having reached late middle age, I tend to NOT opt for change and I know that Saigon over the past (almost) 50 years has seen many changes and I’m quite positive that I would not appreciate many of them. Like you, I’m sure, my memories of Saigon are nothing but good ones and I really enjoyed my teen years there with all the fun people at ACS. Another reason for not traveling to Saigon is, frankly, over my 32 years in the Foreign Service, I’ve traveled a lot and getting on airplanes is no fun anymore. I like being home with my wife, surrounded by things that all have memories attached to them. So, no, I think a trip to Saigon or just about anywhere anymore is a non-starter. Still……..

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