A year ago, I would have laughed if someone told me I was going to love Germany. Germany and me just didn't have an instant click. In my first week here, I remember asking a store attendant in the local supermarket if a certain product was in stock. She replied with a loud 'Nein!' and didn't bother looking at me. I sneaked out the aisle quiet as a mouse. What had I done wrong? In Wales, where I used to live, the answer would have been something along the lines of: 'I'm terribly sorry love, but I'm afraid we've run out of it. Let me just check though.'
A year on, and this directness - or if you prefer, rudeness- doesn't shake me up that much anymore. My skin is getting thicker; thank you Germany! Honestly though, there are many other reasons why Germany is lovable. For me, the main thing that helped me integrate is my social network here, a bunch of very kind, open-minded Germans and internationals. They give me a sense of belonging. And I have found lots of other reasons to love this country.
1 Holidays and the Outdoors
Germany has so many holidays I almost feel guilty when telling friends in other countries I am off...again. Who would say no to an average of 40 holidays? On public holidays - and Sundays - most shops close and people spend a lot of time outside. The atmosphere is chilled, especially in summer when long lazy days are spend with friends and family. There are many fairy-tale castles to visit, as well as national parks, lakes, rivers and mountains. Just make sure to bring your own picnic.
2 Proximity to other countries
I live in Düsseldorf, which is very close to the Dutch border. Indeed on all those public holidays there are enormous traffic jams to Dutchieland, as Germans enjoy picturesque sights, the beach and stock up on groceries on the way home. Likewise it's a short distance to Belgium, Luxembourg and France. Germany is an ideal base for exploring, with excellent and reliable transport links to the rest of Europe.
3 Parties and Beer
As with all other aspects of life, Germans are very serious about partying. Famous Oktoberfest, where beer is flowing non-stop (Who talks about pints? Keep those litres coming). Then there is Karneval, starting in November lasting till the big parades and dress-up parties in February. Meanwhile, there is Christmas of course, with the enchanting Weihnachtsmarkte all over the country. In summer, there are many summer fairs and festivals. What I love about summer is that the cities burst with vibrancy and people celebrate the many warm nights by watching sunset on the river Rhein with Grills and Bier.
4 Cleanliness, order and functionality
No piles of bin bags and assorted wheelie bins on the pavements. In cities they mostly use underground systems which assure clean streets without that nasty refuse smell that's around in the UK on humid days. Germans have a system for waste collection - and if you mess up your neighbour won't hesitate to tell you how it needs to be done. In general, Germans like Ordnung anyway so make sure you stick to the rules. It might seem exaggerated, but it does help in terms of safety and structure. Everything has a function and when something is broken, just inform the council and it will get repaired soon. Similarly, as a tenant, I don't have to chase up my landlord till he sends out a dodgy firm repairing a broken window. It will be solved professionally and asap.
5 German honesty and loyalty
First impressions might not be right here. You need to take the initiative and not give up when someone comes across as stern. It took me some time to master this, as I was waiting for smiley faces and warm invitations. But when I actually took the plunge (for example, suggesting to have a coffee together) I have been pleasantly surprised. In the UK, people would often say: 'O you must come over for tea some time', meaning: 'I'm just being polite now sod off'. Here, when someone invites you, they mean it. It makes life easier and more straightforward. Once you get to know people, they are very welcoming and will be loyal, trustworthy friends.
6 Food (not just sausages and bread)
In the closest shopping street to my house, there are about 15 different bakeries. They do bread in all varieties so be warned that your waist will expand considerably. Sausages and ham are very popular and when you ask for a Schnitzel Menu you will get a humongous piece of meat with a pile of paprika-drenched soft Pommes (who mentioned veggies?). But what I am really talking about is Turkish and Italian food. Thanks to the large Turkish community, the kebab houses here offer fantastic food. Germans are crazy about Italian food too and there are some very authentic Italian restaurants and gelaterias around. Better still: ice-cream scoops always cost 1 euro, no matter the size.
Finally: the serious stuff
I haven't even mentioned heavyweight arguments, such economic and political stability, a high standard of living and ambitious strategies (such as the Energiewende), which are reasons why many Brits have recently applied to become German citizens. After all, most of us would feel safer with Frau Merkel as an expedition leader than risking the fall into self-dug pits with Theresa May and her crew. So if you want a serious alternative, consider Germany. You might just fall in love with it.