Living in Germany for 30 days now has had it's ups and downs. There are wonderful things about being immersed in a different culture and there are difficult and frustrating times as well. We are having a hard time with learning when things are open. First you have the American amenities on the base that all have different hours-some daily, some most days and others only certain days. Then there are the German stores and restaurants. Some things close in the afternoons, others don't open till evening...trying to find an early dinner at 4pm is a challenge and hoping to find an open store after 8pm is nearly impossible. I think this is part of what they mean when they tell you it will take 6 months for you to start feeling comfortable. It will take at least that long for us to figure out when things open and close. In the mean time we are trying to stay flexible...but we are more used to the stores and restaurants being flexible 24/7-not us.
Laundry is a different subject here too. Staying in our temporary apartment-our "ferienwohnung"-is I guess comprable to staying in a vacation condo in the States. We are responsible for all of our own cleaning and laundry. The landlady will clean our bedding for 5 euro a set (that is $7.50) or we can do it ourselves. BUT we can't use her facility. So she recommended I take our laundry to the Waschsalon-German style laundromat-that is a couple of blocks from our ferienwohnung. So, I did. I packed up our dirty clothes, towels, etc. in a suitcase and rolled it down the street to the only-German-speaking wasch-frau at the Waschsalon. Upon learning that I knew as much German as she knew English, she proceeded to put my dirty clothes in the washing machines for me (wierd), put in the soap and run them (3 loads). She instructed me to come back in one hour. I was confused by this point but willing to go with it-practicing the art of flexibility-so I left and came back an hour later. She had moved some of my things by then to the dryers so I quickly went through to make sure nothing shrinkable had made it in and then moved the rest myself. Once things were set, she started the dryers (at what heat, I have no idea) and told me to sit and wait. So I got out my wordsearches-thank you 3rd grade teachers!-and proceeded to wait. 15 minutes later I was pulling my warm, dry clothes out and folding them nicely into the suitcase. I then went to the counter and waited for the wasch-frau to take my money. I didn't know how much it would cost, so I was prepared for anything. She got out her calculator and added up 3 loads of wash and 2 dryers running for 15 minutes....total=20.80 euros. WHAT? Could that possibly be correct? Ok...being flexible, I paid her (all in coins b/c she wouldn't take my 20 euro bill) and left with my clean laundry. I cannot describe the feeling of shock I had walking the 2 blocks back home realizing that I had just spent $30 on 3 loads of laundry!!! THIRTY DOLLARS!!! Unbelievable. A few days later a friend on base told me that there are laundry facilities on the base camping grounds that take quarters that I can use. So, my second laundry experience was packing the suitcase, taking the bus, walking on base to get American Dollars from the ATM (you can choose Euros or Dollars), walking to the campgrounds, finding the laundry, putting my bills in the change machine, starting 3 loads of laundry myself, putting them in the dryer myself, and then folding it and returning home. All of this for less than $5...go figure. A little more effort and a TON of savings. Some things will just always be better in the States. :)