Social Fabric Part II

Social Fabric Part II

If you haven't had the opportunity to read Part I of this post please go hier

So as planned there are several points I wanted to explore regarding the living and goings on between the U.S of A. and Deutschland. Again, my goal is not to be a numbered list where I go on and on about silly things like access to bike trails or the absence of built in microwaves. I prefer to just touch on things that may be impactful on your comparison and contrast of the two countries especially when considering moving or staying in either. Nothing here is more important than the next or any order. 

Let us continue...

Leisure - Freizeit

The aspect of leisure used to be a non factor for me. I used to work a lot of hours sometimes 80+ a week. The idea that I could be looking out for opportunities to play was just not on my radar. I often centered my personal life around my work and based many choices on how this or that could affect my ability to perform. I also never thought of or went on vacations or holidays as Europeans called them because I could not afford them. I functioned like this for so long I didn't know what it was like to actually book a flight or a hotel room. As for the daily need for vitamin D and fresh air, well neither crossed my mind. I rarely opened my windows let alone went outside for leisure sake. I often wondered why certain peers of the pink persuasion often planned out social calendars and took care to be outdoors or let the sunshine in. It wasn't until I quit work to travel and then took two years off to care for my ailing mother that I realized the importance of free time. So after that I sought a space where I could open all the windows, sit outside with my dogs and walk to work. And while having such a space was only for a brief moment it set the tone for the remainder of my life. In Germany, people are always looking for a break to soak in rays and breathe in the frische luft. People seek out good apartments, green spaces and recreation nearest to them. Now I have at no point embraced lust for these things but I now know that I need them. And that is where Germany sometimes gets me down because it doesn't provide much sunlight. But it does provide a lot of greenery and wide open spaces that I personally had never experienced in the States or at least not on the East coast. So I appreciate living near parks and there always being some sort of outdoor festival or activity for us to get out of the house. I feel like single people can really get out there and make the most of the events Germany has. Back home I would never go out to eat, drink or dance alone. In Germany, I not only feel safer but I know that it won't be frowned upon to just take chances for ones livelihood. It is encouraged to join clubs, "do sports" or just stroll when ever you can. So I enjoy my time much more now and I feel in Germany it isn't rushed or scrutinized. Of course there were clubs, fitness and outdoorsy things over there too but it all seemed like there was always a catch. I guess the American in me prefers the non-obligation part of having fun and genuinely doing so if I opt in. America just doesn't allow that sort of freedom.

Quality of Life - Lebensqualität

So here is where I confuse everyone. I had a much better quality of life in America. I say that because there seemed to be an endless supply of resources to ensure that where I was. I was in Florida. The climate is mild to hot. The crime is sort of light in comparison to other places in the North or Midwest. The cost of living is extremely low even though rent is rising. And the attitude is just down right lazy as most people are retirees or passing through. In my last few years there I had the luxury of living in several decent neighborhoods. Decent as in I could walk many places, there was adequate public transportation, plenty of water and green spaces and an abundance of local activities. I regularly went to certain bars, I had brunch on Sundays, I had access to friends pools or a neighborhood pool and I had four pets that always kept me on my toes. I had stopped driving and sold my car. I was doing things that I loved and working mostly part time. I had a great apartment and most of my neighbors were long time friends and or colleagues. In Germany, while I can get around easier I am forced to use the trains because traffic and parking availability. While the Rhein is not too far from my home I don't visit it often where in Florida I passed a huge lake with fountains and swans daily. We have plenty of parks near our apartment in Köln but they are occupied with homeless people and rowdy students. I also don't have my pets now so I rarely feel compelled to visit the better green spaces. While the activities and events in Köln are constant I have no friends to accompany me. So if my husband isn't interested I find myself trying to convince acquaintances from Deutschkurs to go with. I cannot work in Germany especially in the capacity and environments I used to. And my apartment while nice is five stories up and in the middle of what I deem as urban surroundings. I cannot go a day without seeing hundreds of people, hearing horns honking or witnessing graffiti or public urination. Most days I don't want to leave my house because of all the ugliness outside that everyone says is normal. For me that isn't normal. What is normal to me is palm tree lined streets, walking barefoot outside and having a circle of friends who like mimosas by the lake. While Germans can afford lavish vacations and residential amenities they mostly require it because they live in concrete jungles. They have to get away. Back home my life was the get away. I miss it and I wouldn't trade that access to a better lifestyle with anything other than Bali or something.

Environmental Issues - Umweltprobleme

There is a certain demographic in both countries that are trying to insight positive change in regards to environmental issues. This is Generation Y and Z and I commend there for their awareness and bravery. But I see how Generation X and Boomers in both countries have poked fun at youth activists for trying. The reality is they will not be here and not me either as I am on the cusp of being a Millenial. I have found dark sides of the German Web with parody videos and memes of Greta Thunberg and they are deplorable. Frankly, I think she is annoying too but then I remember why she is doing what she is doing. There are Native Americans in the US and Canada that are constantly battling for their resources and to save the planet. There are Inuit people doing the same to protect their lands and fight climate control. The French are in alliance. South Africa is learning their lesson. Germans are doing their parts with recycling, pfand, zero packaging stores and the Green Party. I strongly believe both countries have skewed awareness about just how bad problems are and will become without our activism. Germans seem to turn a blind eye to the increase in temperatures, the lack of insects in the sky as well as the pollution all that smoking and driving causes. Americans are wasteful and they too are missing the changes in our natural resources, weather trends and wildlife. While we can tell children tips to lower their environmental footprint we aren't showing them what their contributions can do for awareness. And sadly the elimination of fucking straws isn't going to kickstart the world from killing itself. So for now I say let the kids have their platforms at least to bring awareness so we can help them facilitate a better place for themselves and their children. And that would be a global start.

Religion - Religion

I hate religion so I'll keep this brief. I do not personally believe in anything. However, late in life I came to feel a hidden connection to innate spirituality. I do frequent a lot of Atheist and Agnostic spaces just so I can poke fun at religion all the while exploring other views on pseudo belief. In America religion is forced upon you at every turn. Scripture is on everyday packaging, popular businesses have religious agendas, it is on money and people always find some way to insert prayer even if they do not practice. As a Black American it is even harder to navigate Black spaces without some religious affiliation. If you do not belong to a church or pray over your food you are considered an outsider. So it is very hard to find like minded people who have defected from their religious upbringings and or church congregation. As for other religions there simply isn't much exposure in the Black community but we do embrace Jewish people. A lot of Black people may have explored Catholic, Protestant or Episcopalian faith but even that is sort of scrutinized as most Black Americans are raised Baptist. There is also this classist hierarchy of poor heathens attending public, non-religious schools and elitists being educated in faith based private institutions. It is pretty clear when affluent families send their children to non-faith based schools. This is how they announce their atheist or agnostic "affiliation". However, those that have no choice but to let their children attend public schools seem to place their children in religious organizations and clubs that are still accessible in those institutions. I attended faith based private schools my entire upbringing but I occasionally went to public school. Trust I have experienced heated debate over prayer and religious organizations in those settings. I also endured Christian students disrupting class over what they deemed unacceptable like lessons on evolution, animal dissection or the reading/banning of certain "evil" books. While America likes to say there is a clear separation of church & state there clearly wasn't one before the Class of 1999. In Germany, the choice to practice whatever religion is a right but exposure is minimal. While the country is littered in churches one never feels forced to enter one. I have taken notice in Köln there are a lot of mosques and a few synagogues - and they appear way more active than any church. I have also befriended a few Mormons as the Church of Latter Day Saints just opened Germany's first temple in Frankfurt. We were invited to the unveiling which was the first time in history outsiders would have been able to view inside of one. We sadly declined by not going and I think that sort of killed the relationship. For now I have started going to church in a viertal where millennials go. They have specific nights for loitering where everyone drinks kiosk beers and smokes weed. It really fascinates me that that is even a thing. There is also the constant need to place a Christmas market directly in front of a church and while that makes sense I don't understand the drinking. Germany tolerates drinking to oblivion nearest to their God houses. Not to say Americans have more respect for their religious institutions but we just don't feel the need to drink anything other than the blood of Christ near one. I have noticed a lot of Germans feel like attending church on Christmas Day redeems them for doing absolutely nothing religious the rest of the year. We have also been invited to multiple Christmas services and have also "politely" declined by not showing up. And while there are plenty of people in the US that attend services on most holidays instead of every Sunday they seldom invite sinners like us. I feel like Germans become way more warmer and eager to bring on others when religion is involved. My husband is one of the few Germans I have encountered that praise themselves in having zero affiliation. Yes, the pun was intended.

Politics - Politik

I also hate politics so I'll keep this brief too. I have like zero interest in political speak. I avoid the news. I don't care what party is doing what. And for now I cannot vote in Germany. However in the states and abroad I take the right to vote very seriously and I have voted in every election since the age of 18 - big and small. I have also voted while in Germany and plan to do so in 2020. Since moving to Germany I have watched the world burn politically from the U.K. to Iran to Washington, D.C. and all I can tell anyone is just be aware. The problem with most Americans is that we set values and stances way too early. We simply adopt the generational choices of our parents and their parents. Most Americans seldom make choices based on intuition or self thought. They look to media and television to assist them in their choices or make the same party choices year after year. Americans are being brainwashed by illegitimate sources and they want to be influenced to make decisions from what color to wear in whatever season down to the sexual choice of others. So this makes our country look like a freak show to other nations and being in Germany I see our reflection. People are quick to ask me why it is the way that it is and I cannot answer them. I know that I am a non conformist who takes every election with a grain of salt. I inform myself on candidates and their positions. I vote with my mind not my heart. I have never voted strictly on race, sex or political party and that really bothers a lot of people especially my family. Surely, I would love to see more minorities and women in office but I would much prefer the ideal candidate. I also vote for my unborn children as much of what comes of my votes will steer the long term future. So in that I function much like a German. This is why I like the grass roots campaigning methods used in Germany as well as the EU. This allows people to see their choices out and about. Meanwhile, Americans are struggling to watch highly rehearsed speeches intercepted by quips and puns aka debates. Americans also go to polls under a lot of pressure. Election Day is on a Tuesday and polls are closed by 7pm. Legally, your school or job is supposed to let you take time to vote but that is never the case. So for those that work, have children or cannot get adequate transportation you may not be able vote at all. Germans vote on a Sunday when nothing is open so there is no excuse. The public transportation system allows you to get to the poles before closing. And everything is well executed meaning a large metropolitan area is given one strategic polling location large enough to host all the voters without crazy wait times. Unfortunately, I have experienced my polling precinct change multiple times and twice it was held in a restricted community that could not be entered without proper ID. America has a history of maligning its voters by forcing them to show ID or commit to party affiliation when voting. From what I do know about the systems and processes in Germany is this sort of scrutiny isn't necessary. My husband is a poll worker so maybe I don't see Germans elections as chaotic because he is very organized and has shown me the entire election is well thought out. As for other political goings on I am virtually clueless and that is fine by me.

Education - Bildung

Germany feels like they are the experts on institutional education. And I don't deny that. I cannot understand the logic behind this as I have not studied in Germany. The only way I could compare & contrast the educational system here is to have children who attend. And even still I would be observing and listening to their educational experiences which may vary in the future from others. My husband describes a classist hierarchy of families steering their children into specific institutions that groom them for planned lives. For children that do not have well educated parents or live in low performing areas they suffer with a trajectory that will not fare well for them later in life. Our local grocers cashier is grumpy because she was cycled out of proper education and told to study to be a cashier. And her only career and life choices will revolve around her initial aptitude or lack thereof. Now I am smart and so is my husband but I have no idea if our children can navigate this outdated system of performance politics. I do not want to pressure my children. I also do not want to deny my children access to higher educations. Germany's system is telling me I will have to. In America it is okay if you wish to drop opt of high school, seek a secondary education in whatever trade and work. While your family and peers may think less of you it is brief as a trade makes great money and affords someone freedom and quality of life. But at any point a tradesman can opt into going to college and Germany says no to that. So what becomes of the late bloomer, slow reader, shy and or gifted child that cannot perform in a fashion that grants him access to Gymnasium. Is her or she just supposed to suffer and stay pigeon holed into trade or low pay work.

Social Services - Sozialdienste

Socialism is the big, bad S word in America and Germany loves the S word. I sort of like the idea of helping your fellow man and knowing the trust fall is happening behind the scenes for everyone. Yes, I can fall backwards and the arms of Deutschland will open and catch me. I will be safe in her arms if I lose my job, become ill and or retire. Knowing that I am entitled to my own personal fall fund makes me feel very good and knowing that everyone contributed to it makes me feel less guilty. The "I too helped" thing makes all the nonsense about it being a handout dissipate. I wonder why that sentiment doesn't work back home. Is it the idea that I'm doing it all while the recipient does nothing? Is it because I cannot see where my tax payer dollars go so my assumptions eat at me through jealousy and envy of the unknown? Is it because a lot of us know we will die and never see a single dime we contributed come back to serve us? Yes, maybe it is more of the ROI portion of socialism that we do not like as greedy, selfish Americans. We want to be a part of the pie, but we do not want a slice; we would like to have multiple pies after giving a single slice. We want to mutate ... financially not socially and figuratively. If I give a hand out I want an arm in exchange! It sounds so bad and unimaginable to believe people actually think like this. This is the hill a lot of Americans would like to die on - uninsured, desolate and alone. Not blanketed by their brothers and sisters until they die. So it just stays cold and lonely for so many of us. And pretty much all of those in the group called us cannot and will not survive the lack of reform or change in America. Many of us will flee running towards countries who do do the right the thing for their citizens. And the rest will parish taking their withheld tax deductions with them to the promise land. 

The Birth Rate - Geburtenrate

Germans aren't having enough babies but neither are Americans. And that is quite alright. Zero population initiatives have been my jam for decades. I am completely fine with women exercising their reproductives rights. I am also fine with those who volunteer not to have children whatsoever. I feel like men and women who make brave choices to sterilize themselves are heroes for the cause. I just cannot get down with babies having babies they cannot support emotionally or financially. However, I am disappointed that educated, successful couples who desire children cannot or will not have them. I understand infertility way more than I wish to discuss here and I feel like both Germany and the US do not make fertility options easy for barren couples. I also feel like adoption is horrendous and surrogacy is the way for those parents who can conceive but are ill equipped to carry. The costs for fertility treatment costs more than a car or a home and there are no guarantees. Women are putting their bodies through torture and going bankrupt in the process. Most men do not cooperate with these processes and leave before anything can come to fruition. And this is for the want to be parents of means that can access and afford these treatments. The "comfortable" couple remains childless or put through the rigor for adoption. And god forbid the working woman wants any incentives for storing her eggs until she is capable. As for Germany they have let religion get in the way of science banning surrogacy and putting all these regulations on fertility treatments. So it makes parenthood for those affected by infertility stuck between leaving the country for more options or forgoing legacy. While treatments are more accessible and affordable there are practitioners who make it so difficult to comply. Age restrictions, clauses, waiting periods - all nonsense for potential parents who have already waited long enough to conceive. And while Germany is teeming with young, active adults who can bear children who would want to in a climate where having 2.3 children is just not possible with lack of housing, kindergarten places and reliable resources. So yes there are more seniors or pensioners in Germany than there are children and maybe that is okay. However, in the states the resources are plentiful but the costs are extraordinary. This is why people aren't willingly having their 2.3 offspring because they simply cannot afford $30k+ a year childcare for at minimum twelve years AND 20k a year "affordable" college educations that can last two to five years. These people have jobs to maintain that pay the bare minimum on student loans, healthcare and rising taxes so they cannot feed any more mouths than their own. So I think selfishness over selflessness can be put into perspective on this subject and maybe for Mother Earth the lack of people can turn out to be beneficial.

Healthcare - Gesundheitswesen

I hate healthcare options in Germany and I would do anything to have my "Obamacare" again. I was one of the few to have decent and accessible healthcare for the first time in a long time under the Affordable Care Act. I had struggled with constant unemployment or being under employed which left me without job supplied healthcare. I also had pre-existing conditions that needed to be managed by specialists - my infertility woes, anemia, a bum ankle, dental work from a brief stent on pain management as well as myopia. So I needed medical coverage to access a primary care or Haus Praxis doctor at all times as well as adequate coverage for specialists, vision and dental. I could not pay for these physicians out of pocket without incurring disastrous bills that were beyond my household expenses. With ACA I could access the same doctors I had under employer plans, never be turned down for care for my pre existing conditions and pay an affordable cost scaled off my income. I wound up being covered for three years under ACA and keeping all of my doctors, surgeons and specialists. The only hiccup I ever had was not being able to get radiology procedures at the location of my choice which caused me to pay for an MRI from an outside provider in monthly payments for over a year. Prior to that I could go at a local hospital that dealt with my insurance but ACA caused a riff so they began to give patients alternatives. The biggest takeaway from this was that I had alternatives. In Germany I rarely feel like I do. I have to commit to a doctor under public insurance plans. And with private plans I am committing to cost not care. I have had both and I have experienced nothing but negativity. Firstly, with private plans I had luxuries like private room hospital stays and doctors with more upscale practices. However, all lab work and tests were ran through the same entities as public providers but cost me more. When we switched to public it was because I finally got my immigration stuff squared away so I could get a plan. We shopped around and I was denied by several providers stating I was overweight, high risk due to pre-existing conditions or best one was because I was missing teeth. I knew in the states had I sought my own health insurance I would probably be examined and of course denied if I had smoked or been terminally ill. But I never imagined I would be denied insurance for my BMI not being status quo or because I had two extractions and chose not to get a bridge for crowding sake. I was pretty pissed that an insurance company of any size would deny me coverage after all we would be paying them for a service. In the end we went with a family trusted provider who seemed way more accommodating. But thanks to our household tax bracket we are paying 500 Euros a month for my public coverage. There are no perks in this cost because I still find myself paying crazy amounts for certain tests or procedures, my prescriptions as well as for hospital stays where I've been in a private room anyways. So my issue with German healthcare is why the division if what people are paying for and receiving intersect and not in a good way. I much preferred having a primary care doctor affiliated with a group and or hospital where my care was constantly managed by her and her team regardless of my issue. Now I am standing in lines to see my Haus Praxis as everyone with both public and private insurance is seeing her during open office hours. Then we are steered into a room where we all cough on each other for hours as she takes patients without appointments in whatever random order. I have to hand carry my records, an Uberweisung or hand written letters from one provider to another. I also have to strategize what specialist is best for anything beyond her scope because no one can tell me how that works but I pay 500 Euros a month. In the states I paid anywhere from $17 to 54 a month, $10 or less co-pays per appointment and when I needed anything my primary care doctor and her staff worked for me. They sent in my prescription to a pharmacy of my choice. They ordered my tests stat from whatever lab or department. She got on the phone and she made things happen. But when I leave my Haus Praxis I am walking around sick going from place to place and then receiving some other bill for something like a teeth cleaning or allergy monitoring. I never dealt with this even when I was uninsured. Then I could access nurse practitioners, ER clinics or self treat myself with OTC drugs. I cannot do any of this in Germany. So although people make a big deal about ACA being tricky or expensive it isn't for the people who need it. Most people that complain can take out their own insurance or afford to pay out of pocket. And for those saying electing plans are too difficult I had an advocate all three years. I spoke with them annually and they signed me up for the plan that best met my needs making sure that I kept my doctors and could pay the premiums. No one is calling us in Germany making sure we can pay that 500 Euros a month or asking if we are getting the care we expect. And do not get me started on doctors in Germany as they are pretty much all incapable of doing their jobs. Most Americans maintain their doctors and providers a lifetime while in Germany I have now had four ob/gyns, three dentists, two Haus Praxis and a multitude of specialists who treat me like a number. Add in grievances like lack of pain management, lengthy wait times and lack of bedside manner and I would much rather go home. At least my root canals can be gassy and my Pap smears come with a kostenlos privacy sheet.

Now there are plenty of things I did not cover like terrorism, sexuality, immigration, substance abuse, mental health etc. and while these are dark subjects they are problems in both places. So I think I may continue this series after the holidays and into the new year. For now both countries can enjoy the festive feeling of being tormented by the guy who is clearly diseased and on drugs talking to himself and sticking out his tongue at you while you shop for last minute gifts. Sorry not sorry. Bis gleich.