Now I realize that my particular situation is unique. Most Americans living in Germany are affiliated with the military and have several American friends/co-workers to figure things out with, or speak German fluently and can use that to their advantage in learning to get around.
I'm lucky however, I have very little German under my belt, and have been placed in a situation of total immersion. Ansbach is a decently small town, not everyone speaks english, and I'm at a riding school where speaking english hasn't ever been on their agenda. That's not to say that many people here don't speak at least a little english (thank God!!), its still a bit of an adventure finding out how to get around over here.
The most difficult part of this trip for me has not been the horseback riding, the getting up early, or the taking care of the horses, its been being confident getting myself around Ansbach. Not only are the street names nearly unpronounceable, but due to the way Europe and its towns developed, its not on an easy grid-system like the States. In Ansbach, the center of the town is a maze of pedestrian and bike paths winding through small shops and restaurants with no particular rhyme or reason to the layout of the streets, they were just built where they were needed. As much as the confusing nature of the streets and walkways makes getting around a little tricky, its one of my favorite aspects of living here. It has forced me to never be in a hurry to get around, I take the bike that Mr and Mrs Nimsky have generously lent to me and wander aimlessly around the town until I find where I want to go. My first bike adventure took me an hour around the town before I found the grocery store it now takes me 10 minutes to get to.
I learned also to wait to cross the street until the pedestrian light is green, how to yield to pedestrians, and how to start a bike quickly. Grocery shopping is also very different, I carry my own bag and fill it up as I wander around the store trying to come up with inventive recipes using ingredients I'm already familiar with, while trying also to maintain some resemblence of a healthy meal (as an aside, I really can't get anything instant to microwave over here, because I can't read the directions...a plus side to knowing little German!). I then unload my bag on the checkout belt where the cashier rings them up, and I place them back in my bag, as quickly as possible (holding people up causes some pretty dirty looks and severe sounding comments from the queue).
The biggest difference between how I get around here, and how I get around in the states, I've already mentioned. Its sooo much more relaxed!! If I can offer any useful advice to anyone looking to move to Germany, I recommend a bike, or a good pair of walking shoes, lots of free time, and a relaxed attitude. The idea of buying groceries, a cell phone, books, etc in a foreign country can be intimidating no matter how much you know about the customs associated with the tasks; but the best way to learn is to just go out and do it, try to be respectful of the culture and the people will kindly correct you when you make a mistake and answer any questions you may have, provided they can answer you in a language you will understand.
As Emily told me a day or so ago, its like Nike says, Just Do It.