Welcome to Leipzig

Welcome to Leipzig!
Here are my impressions of the city after living here for a few weeks.
Leipzig is roughly comparable to Oklahoma City: decent size, similar population, a fair number of modernizing programs, and fast-growing.

The public transport system is extensive. Leipzig has a modern fleet of trams and buses; this system can get you anywhere you want to go. During business hours, trams come to any given stop every 10-15 minutes for each direction. This allows for a good amount of flexibility. In Oklahoma, I have hop in my car to travel five miles. In Leipzig, it’s a simple tram ride. However, trams can take a good deal longer. The trip from my dorm to the university building that I am studying in would take less than ten minutes by car. I have to allow 40 minutes for the tram, because the tram often leaves early or late from the transfer point, making it necessary to take the next one, 15 minutes later.

The city of Leipzig is a walkable city. I have walked many miles since arriving. Sidewalks are…enormous. The one in front of my dorm is so wide, it doubles as a fire lane. Most paving is done in cobblestone or flagstone, making the terrain an interesting walk. Plazas are frequent in the inner city; the area inside the old wall (a few square kilometers making up the inner city) is practically an enormous plaza. People are always out and about and street venders abound. Bicycles are encouraged; there are bike lanes everywhere, even on sidewalks, and the university has a bike parking garage (one of the most unique sights to see).

A number of things we consider normal in the states are somewhat different here. The electric plugs are round and offer 220 volts instead of 110. I had an accident with one, blew a fuse, and was laughed at in German by the good-natured housemeister. The toilets are flushed by a button on the wall; no tank is visible. Often, more upscale toilets will have two buttons, one for a small flush and the other for a larger. All light switches are large toggle buttons instead of actual switches. Windows can either swing open from the side, or tilt open from the top.

Water and public restrooms are not free. You will pay for both. For example, the main train station offers toilets for 1€. The upside to this is that public restrooms are usually very clean. In cafés and restaurants, it’s not uncommon for a sign somewhere politely (for Germans) requesting .50€ for use of the restrooms if nothing has been purchased. Water is expensive. When you ask for water, you get bottled water. This comes in flat (what you and I would consider normal) and bubbly (what Germans consider normal and what we would consider an abomination). I once confused flat water and tap water at a restaurant, and ended up paying 7.50€ for a ¾ liter bottle of fancy water. One often cannot obtain tap water for free. Water and soda actually cost more than beer at many restaurants. You also won’t find soda in quantities that you are used to in the United States; the largest you can buy at many restaurants are .4 liters, and that’s a bit smaller than a “small” at most American restaurants. Bottles are precious here; I ended up buying a six pack of water bottles at a supermarket, and refilling them every night. With all the walking I’m doing around the city of Leipzig, I’m drinking about 3 liters of water daily. I’ve also learned that you can often get cash back for returning bottles.

Considering everything, I like the atmosphere these differences make. It is a bit different than America, but if it was the same, what’s the point of going abroad? The differences I have found here stem from a different culture with different values and ideals from my own; I wasn’t expecting it to be the way it is. Yes, I was expecting differences, but I mainly thought them to be subtle and more philosophy based rather than practical. I find the entire experience to be entertaining and enlightening, and I Intend to thoroughly enjoy myself while I’m here.

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