Aug 21, 2017

Stuttgart Top Ten Lists

Things I loved about Stuttgart

  1. 28 days of vacation a year, plus tons of public holidays.
  2. Everyone, from the state burocracy to the local drugstore, delivers a constant and dependable level of professional competancy. You may have to fill in a lot of forms, it may be initially unclear what is required, but if you go and wait, you can ask, and they patiently and politely answer your questions. In the end, it’s logical, straightforward, and clear. And they do their work.
  3. Low-to-mid rise urbanism (most buildings five to six stories). There’s enough people and businesses to feel like you’re in a city, but you can feel what’s going on street level from the building, and on the street, you don’t feel trapped in a canyon.
  4. Efficient, mostly clean, fast transportation to nearly every corner.
  5. People seem to value the social contract- there’s not much theft, littering, or even jaywalking. It’s more polite than the US, with a kind of genteel cultural framework if not adhered to, often respected, and always acknowledged.
  6. Perfectly located for exploring Europe. 3.5 hour train ride to Paris. 3.5 hour drive to skiing in the Alps. Barcelona, Amsterdam, Porto, London within a 3 hour flight.
  7. Especially in the neighborhood where we lived, the old stone buildings from the turn of the century- everything built to last, and well-detailed. When I live in a building with stone carvings, I think about the craftsmen who labored over a hundred years ago to carve the work, about the architects and designers who felt that the buildings should be beautiful, and that buildings where people lived were worthy of the expense and effort of fine detail and craftsmanship. It’s like flying first class- the quality of the experience is designed to make you feel like you are someone special and important.
  8. Attitudes towards alcohol, and driving. When you can drink beer at 16, you’re drinking largely with your school buddies in the park, or at home, at least under the eye of the public and your parents. It seems to me there is much less binge drinking in college simply because the novelty has worn off. And you can drink almost anywhere, which means there can be large, lively festivals year round. Drivers licences are hard to get in Germany, time consuming, and expensive. Everyone takes extensive private courses, and racks up many hours before they can even sit for the exams, which are notoriously difficult. Partially as a result, deaths from cars are half of what they are in the US.
  9. Thermae. Squeamish Americans need to learn from Japanese, Germans, Finns, and many other cultures which can see nudity as something other than ugliness or sexuality. Seriously, saunas are great, the most relaxing places I’ve ever been, and for me, it’s an elegant reminder of how much we all have in common, our physiological heritage (what does it mean to exist as a largely hairless primate?), and a visual reminder of our transience.
  10. The attitude towards public space is different- it’s treated more like a shared ammenity, and it looks extremely flexible in its use. Sidewalks are wide because more people use them for walking, but also because they’re used for stands, temporary parking, loading zones, cafe tables, and a wide vareity of uses which blur the lines between public and private. There is a very small bar in Stuttgart, for example, which can seat somewhere around 500 people because everyone who goes there just buys beer at the bar and sits in the massive public square around the bar. Servers bring drinks out to the square and collect empties. Other public squares are used for festivals, vegitable and flower markets, flea markets. In the US, this kind of space is disseaparing, eaten by private space.

Things I hated about Stuttgart

  1. Too fucking far from my family in the US
  2. Almost no imagination nor excitement to the city, apart from festivals.
  3. The slow and constant drain of joy and spontaneity until you're just like them.
  4. The mentality that change is bad until proven good, with backing studies, comparisons, and twenty years of long-effect studies on said change.
  5. You're already too late to plan anything. If you haven't booked your vacation at least two years in advance, good luck, and I hope your reserved that restaurant for dinner at least a week in advance. On the upside, Germans only ever holiday in Mallorca because that's where all the other Germans go.
  6. German contracts. For example: I'm leaving the country. I want to cancel my internet. I have to give three months notice before the end of my contract period, or I have to pay for the entire next year to the next end of contract.
  7. The world view which is divided into that which is local, or correct, and that which is other, which is exotic and exists solely for your entertainment.
  8. Routine and organization is too crystallized. If you want to join a neighborhood softball team, you are expected to commit to three practices a week, plus beers afterwards. Nothing can be done quickly nor provisionally. If you play soccer, that is your life. If you bowl, that is your life. Your free time hobbies should be approached like a job.
  9. General lack of taste in design, music, modern architecture, and food.
  10. German language is unnecessarily complicated, and saddled with a smug surety that the refusal to adapt to changing culture is somehow a good thing.

There was an article on the BBC for returning expats, and one of the things it advised people to do is to write down and acknowledge how they changed from their time spent abroad. I'm not sure that it's really valid in my case. I've had a lot of life in the four and a half years since I graduated, and I'm less convinced that living internationally changed me as much as the life did.
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