Mittwoch, 31. Dezember 2008

*Guten Rutsch!*

In Germany, people don't say "Happy New Year," they literally say, "Good slide into the new year."

Cool.

Montag, 22. Dezember 2008

*Christmas in Germany*

This week, I have all sorts of posts about Christmas in Germany over here at my other blog. But let me just say that for most Germans, it's not a religious holiday in the least. Frohe Weihnachten!

Also, enjoy this Denglisch poem:

Denglisches Weihnachtsgedicht

When the snow falls wunderbar

And the children happy are,
When the Glatteis on the street,
And we all a Glühwein need,
Then you know, es ist soweit:
She is here, the Weihnachtszeit

Every Parkhaus ist besetzt,
Weil die people fahren jetzt
All to Kaufhof, Mediamarkt,
Kriegen nearly Herzinfarkt.
Shopping hirnverbrannte things
And the Christmasglocke rings.

Merry Christmas, merry Christmas,
Hear the music, see the lights,
Frohe Weihnacht, Frohe Weihnacht,
Merry Christmas allerseits…

Mother in the kitchen bakes
Schoko-, Nuss- and Mandelkeks
Daddy in the Nebenraum
Schmücks a Riesen-Weihnachtsbaum
He is hanging auf the balls,
Then he from the Leiter falls…

Finally the Kinderlein
To the Zimmer kommen rein
And es sings the family
Schauerlich: “Oh, Chistmastree!”
And the jeder in the house
Is packing die Geschenke aus.

Merry Christmas, merry Christmas,
Hear the music, see the lights,
Frohe Weihnacht, Frohe Weihnacht,
Merry Christmas allerseits…

Mama finds unter the Tanne
Eine brandnew Teflon-Pfanne,
Papa gets a Schlips and Socken,
Everybody does frohlocken.
President speaks in TV,
All around is Harmonie,
Bis mother in the kitchen runs:
Im Ofen burns the Weihnachtsgans

And so comes die Feuerwehr
With Tatü, tata daher,
And they bring a long, long Schlauch
And a long, long Leiter auch.
And they schrei - “Wasser marsch!”,
Christmas is - now im - Eimer…

Merry Christmas, merry Christmas,
Hear the music, see the lights,
Frohe Weihnacht, Frohe Weihnacht,
Merry Christmas allerseits…

Donnerstag, 18. Dezember 2008

*Sports Clothes*

When Germans participate in sports, they bring their sports clothes with them, or at least their sports shoes in a bag, instead of wearing them on the way. To me, that's kind of inconvenient, so I get weird looks on my way to and from football, especially when I'm splashed with mud and my shoes are leaving behind caked dirt.

I entered my old post on scarves in Scribbit's December Write-Away Contest.

Freitag, 12. Dezember 2008

*Very Casual Dress Pants*

In Germany, dress pants go with running shoes.

Samstag, 6. Dezember 2008

*Knock on Wood*

Knocking has different roles in Germany.

-When a professor is done teaching, all the students knock on the desks as appreciation. Yup, that was a huge surprise to me.
-All office doors are closed, even during office hours (seems ridiculous to me), so you have to knock and wait for them to say "come in." (Of course, this is especially complicated if you aren't sure what they've said.) After entering, you close the door behind you. I will never ever get used to the whole office hours thing. They're not there for you, you're there for them, so it doesn't matter what you have on your schedule, if you want them to help you, you'd better show up for the couple of hours they have scheduled. (And yes, this even applies when you're calling from a foreign country. They told me to call back during office hours which were during the middle of my night.)
-Sometimes people will come in to a gathering and instead of greeting everyone individually, will knock on the nearest table or doorjamb and wave at everyone.

Donnerstag, 27. November 2008

*Kur*

Coming from America, where health care for everyone is still a hope of the future, I couldn't believe that in Germany, there's a thing called "Kur." As far as I can tell, when you need some kind of long-term therapy, they send you off to some lovely little city snuggled in European scenery, to an amazing spa--for several weeks. I've heard of people going there after surgery or a heart attack; one friend of mine was there for her eczema; others have gone for physical therapy. You have a heated room and a pool, three meals a day . . . and this is fully covered by insurance.

Is it just me, or does this sound almost like "paid-for vacation" to someone else, too?

Donnerstag, 20. November 2008

*Knaben and Mädchen*

Schools in Germany used to have a separate door for the "Knaben" (boys) and the "Mädchen" (girls). They still have the doors marked, but they aren't limited to those people.

Donnerstag, 13. November 2008

*Kinderwagen*

I'm letting Jasmine do the talking this week.

See here.

It's true. Those strollers are insanely amazing.

Donnerstag, 6. November 2008

*Cars in Good Repair*

Cars here never look old and beat up. It was a rather eery feeling when I first noticed it. There aren't missing rear view mirrors or smashed in bumpers. There aren't even crumples on the side of doors. When I was reading up a bit in preparation for my trip to Switzerland (where I was the only driver), I read that there's a thing called the "TÜV" that checks cars and they have to be in really good shape or they don't pass the test. In America, a car with a smashed bumper (ahem, Sequoia) may just stay that way if no one wants to pay for it.

Donnerstag, 30. Oktober 2008

*Zimmermänner*


How interesting is this? German carpenters have carried on the old tradition of wearing funny clothes (okay, so they probably weren't that funny when the tradition started) and traveling from place to place to learn tricks of the trade from carpenters in different cities. When people see them, they know to buy them some food or to take them as far as they're going.

Donnerstag, 23. Oktober 2008

*Hatchback Cars*

Most cars here are hatchbacks. They like the extra storage space, I guess.

Freitag, 17. Oktober 2008

*Aussteigen*

People in Germany get ready to get off trams and buses way early, sometimes right after the last stop. Maybe they're anxious to push the "stop" button, maybe not. But I'm always the last one still sitting.

Freitag, 10. Oktober 2008

*Old People in Ads*

Ads in Germany have old people who don't seem to have been technologically young-ified. They don't hide oldness like Americans do.

Donnerstag, 2. Oktober 2008

*Get Togethers*

Germans take their get-togethers very seriously. I have been completely surprised by all the times that I thought it would be fun just to have some friends over, and it turned into a full-blown, planned party with everyone bringing food and games. One time my fellow students and I wanted to get together to have dinner and catch up a little. I said I'd be glad to have them at my place. One friend wanted to make meat, so I said that was great and could she bring the meat. I was given the assignment to make cornbread and buy mini-barbecues and baking paper and napkins. She ended up cancelling the party (which was to be at my apartment), because I didn't offer to spend the whole day preparing and "Officially inviting people is a whole lot different from some informal meeting with friends." To me, when I want people to come over, they can casually come over, bring whatever/whoever they want, and maybe I'll dig something off the shelf and cook it for us. We can drink water if they get thirsty. We can just talk or play one of the board games I have. But that doesn't work for Germans, though I'm not sure why not because of their complete love of casual Spazieren.

Donnerstag, 25. September 2008

*The Noble Savage in Germany*

Germans have this weird fascination with American Indians. For some reason, they take every chance they can to dress up with feathers and headbands and face paint and moccasins and dresses with those dangly leather flap things (even for primary and ward and university activities). Their dances and costumes are never anything close to authentic, not that I can say what "authentic" is. They reflect their ideas of what American Indians would wear (mind you, I also would be stuck with stereotypes if I were to dress up as an Indian, and yes, it is correct to say "American Indian," I emailed the Library of Congress about it once, and I was actually disappointed, because I also thought "Native American" was better).

Anyway, I think this fascination stems from two things, but I don't think they really get down to it. 1. There was this German author named Karl May who wrote all sorts of cowboys and Indians books that sold very well and are now considered classics, though he never traveled to America until after the publication of his books, and then not further west than Buffalo, NY. However, that doesn't explain the success. 2. Maybe Germans' love for nature applauds those who lived "closer" to the land?

Whatever the reason, I wonder that May's American Indians were always perceived as the innocent noble savages and the lasting impression he has left with modern Germans. Was he/were Germans bitter about German settlers going to America? Did Karl May just write so well that interest was picqued and continues to this day? I don't know.

Donnerstag, 18. September 2008

*Soapy Dishes*


Sister Dixon complained to me recently about this one. A lot of people here don't rinse their dishes. They dry with the soap dripping off, or sometimes they're put straight into the cupboard still wet. (Diarrhea, anyone? Maybe that's one of those stubborn ideas that Americans have, like Germans and going without scarves.)

Donnerstag, 11. September 2008

*Bike Ramps*


Germany has these brilliant ramps for all the people who want to
take their bikes or strollers all over. They go in and out of bike stores, up and down stairs to apartments, and to or from bridges (here is the Eiserner Steg in Frankfurt).

Mittwoch, 3. September 2008

*Recycling*

As a small continuation from last week, here are the details of recycling in Germany. First of all, don't get discouraged. You'll eventually get it.

This picture only shows three bins, but there are actually four bins and something besides. The first bin includes anything that can be considered non-paper packaging. That's bags, cans, foil, and anything plastic. The second bin is for bio-degradable things. That's easy enough to figure out. The third bin is for whatever is left over after all the separating. The fourth (and unseen) bin holds paper products.

Then, somewhere random that may not necessarily be a bin, you will have your glass items, plastic bottles, and batteries. The glass items are to be split into green glass, clear glass, and brown glass. The plastic bottles are to be separated into groups of those you can get money back for (by simply bringing them to the store), and those that you can't get money for. Those that you can't get money for should go into the packaging bin. Batteries are brought to the store.

Where it gets really difficult is when things are mixed, such as a (paper) egg carton with (biodegradable) eggs shells totally stuck to it, or an envelope that has a plastic "window" where the address goes.

Good luck.

Mittwoch, 27. August 2008

*Environmentally Aware*

I read a post giving advice to Americans on being better to the environment, and in evaluating my life in Germany, I think Germans might laugh because these things are so obvious to them. Read my reply:

Reading over your suggestions, I think I'm about as green as the Emerald City.

Small:
I have one energy-saving lightbulb but mostly rely on daylight. This threw me at first when I'd go to public offices and they wouldn't have any lights on. 2. I always use re-usable water bottles that my roommates bought. (I like to replace now and then because of those studies about plastic wearing down and causing cancer.) 3. I never let the water run (even when brushing teeth, and I take short showers, no baths). 4. We, like everyone in Germany, split garbage into a. packaging, b. paper, c. biodegradable, and d. leftover stuff. Even the bags that hold each of those categories is separated into the packaging bin. 5. I use cloth grocery bags or simply a backpack to carry groceries.

Medium:
1. German apartment buildings are made of super-thick stone. 2. My window isn't old or leaky and it takes care of the fact that 3. we don't have air conditioner.

Large:
1. I use a bicycle/public transportation (and not just because I'm a poor student), which is better than a hybrid vehicle and which hopefully makes up for the lack of personal involvement for the next two. 2. I personally don't have solar panels. But Germany is all about wind and solar energy. 3. I vote for people who like the environment.

So, Germany. A+. Or should I say "1,0"?

Donnerstag, 21. August 2008

*Handys and Landlines*

Cell phones, or "handys" as they're called (yes, it's an English word), are on funny systems here. I think it's proof that companies have made things up to make more money--calling a cell phone costs more than calling a normal landline. This threw me off when I was in Kiel and I ended up having to mail money to my roommates. There's no reason it should be more expensive. Landlines can call landlines free-of-charge, but most handies are on a per-call charge unless they want to pay exorbitant amounts for monthly plans. I find the whole thing ridiculous, so I just try to never call anyone. I'm a bigger fan of internet communication anyway, as you hope people will give your writing the benefit of the doubt for having a positive tone. My handy is purely for people to call me who find it worth it to pay for it. Maybe that's a double standard, but it's not my choice if they call me, is it?

Dienstag, 5. August 2008

*Wedding Rings*

In light of me being at a wedding recently, let me point out that Germans wear their wedding rings on the right hand. A ring on the left hand means they're engaged. And wedding rings are very plain. They can't be described as "rocks." They are bands, sometimes with an itsy bitsy diamond in the band--no setting, it's that small. Of course, to make things more confusing, a lot of younger Germans are doing it the other way around.

Mittwoch, 23. Juli 2008

*Guys and Capris*

You know a guy is German/European when they are wearing capris. No American guy would be caught dead in capris.

Donnerstag, 17. Juli 2008

*Smallpox Shots*

A lot of Germans have this scar on their upper arm, closer to their shoulder, where they had smallpox shots as young children. How come we don't have those? I'm sure we had the vaccinations.

Donnerstag, 10. Juli 2008

*Going to the Bathroom During Class*

For some reason, students have absolutely no problem getting up in the middle of class to go to the bathroom. In America, we'd probably say that by that age, people should be mature enough to be able to wait unless it's an emergency. It surprises me every time. It seems rude. You have an hour-and-a-half class and ten people need to go the bathroom and it has to be during that time? Wow.

Donnerstag, 3. Juli 2008

*One Euro Coin*

Remember to always have a one-Euro coin with you. You'll need it if you want to study in the library (you have to lock your things away), or if you want to use a shopping cart, but most importantly, if you want to use the toilet. Otherwise it's on a tree.

I guess it makes sense to charge so you can keep your bathroom clean, but it gets a little uncomfortable when there's a bathroom attendant who sits there with the coin box and constantly cleans up after you.

Usually, I just hold it until I get home or to the university. But if you're traveling, you're going to have troubles unless you're on the train often. I remember seeing a hole in the ground in Italy with footmarks on both sides and thinking, "I'm getting back on the train in an hour. I think I'll wait until then."

As for the library problem, I almost always forget and the bakery close to the library is not keen on giving change without a purchase. Luckily, yesterday as I met with a guy whose doctorate dissertation I'll be editing for moola, I told him my problem, and he gave me this:















I'd already had a plain white chip for shopping carts (attached to my keychain and courtesy of DeutschBank), but this thing is cool! As you can see, it is the plastic, but perfectly representative of the Euro coin. I don't know where you can buy something like this, but it's worth looking for.

Freitag, 27. Juni 2008

*Pillows*

German pillows are . . . a letdown, literally. They aren't very puffy, rather, they let your head fall to exactly where it would be without the pillow there. So I'm not sure why they even have them. Oh well. Whenever I visit other people, I use a sweatshirt wadded up as a pillow. Luckily, an American couple here gave me an American-style pillow they bought, so in my apartment I'm good to go.

Donnerstag, 19. Juni 2008

*Walking and Biking*

This could be several posts, so count yourself lucky. ;)

Americans may get in the car to drive down the street to drop something off, or to check the mailbox. Not Germans. Germans are not afraid to walk. If it's less than a twenty-minute walk, you should walk.

Furthermore, bikes here are used for transportation, not exercise or recreation, thus the bike lanes all over the place, and thus the weird look I gave the first guy I saw smoking while he was riding his bike. To an American, it looked like two opposing things: healthy exercise with unhealthy smoking. I thought it was hilarious.

One of the very first things I noticed the first time I was in Germany was that the bikes here are different. They look like bikes out of 1950s America, like people here forgot to update the style.













Every now and then, you may see a German with one pant leg rolled up. Despite what you may think, this is not a fashion trend. I asked about it and was told it was to protect their pants while riding their bicycles. I asked why they didn't roll up both sides, and was told that that the chain is only on one side. It took me forever to figure out why that wasn't a problem for Americans. I finally realized not everyone here has a cover for the chain that rolls by the pedal, but they all seem to have covers for their tires, which seems soooo old fashioned. Don't be surprised to see baskets on the back of bikes (yes, even of young people), and all bikes in Germany are required to have lights on the front and back or the rider will be ticketed. Don't forget to notice there's a bell too. This is really the typical bike in Germany.

Mittwoch, 11. Juni 2008

*Microwaves and Tupperware and Leaving Food Out*

Since my roommate moved out and took her microwave with her, I've been having some major troubles. What do you do with a bag of already-cooked rice in the fridge? I've been heating it up in a pan using some oil, but I don't think that's the healthiest. How about with pancakes you put in the freezer? Meat? Cheese? (Which, by the way, is shockingly odd to Germans, as shown by the tiny size of their freezers.) It's got me wondering why she took the microwave with her.

I'm the only one who ever used the darn thing. Call me American, but I like my food warm. I don't leave old pots of vegetables or pieces of pizza out to eat later (cold or hot, no in between) or buy them that way (okay, I did once, but only because I thought the lamps on them were heating lamps, and never again).

The first few weeks I was in Germany, I thought my roommates were leaving out their food because they either didn't want the rest or they were just being slobs. Come to find out they like it that way, even the resulting rock-hard bread that you could kill someone with more quickly than you can say "David and Goliath." Once again, I'm the only one who uses Tupperware. I'm not sure why we have it if no one else uses it, but I do have to say that yes, Mom, even Tupperware that is supposedly not used by anyone, has mismatched and missing parts.

I'll make a big pot of rice and save it in the fridge to reheat and eat for a week. Others make a small pot of rice and whatever is left stays there in the pot, on the cold stove, to be eaten some time within the next week, even if there's meat or something in it that can go bad quickly (like cheese). I just don't get it.

Even rouladen is left out over night so the fat can consolidate and be scraped out of the pot. It is, however, one of the few things that is reheated before served. Thank goodness.

Dienstag, 3. Juni 2008

*Psh*

Since last time I talked about a meaning-filled sound in Germany, I thought I'd share another interesting thing I noticed: when people are trying to get others to be quiet, in America they say, "Sshhh." In Germany, it's "Psshhh," which may seem like it would be more effective, but after being around a lot of students and seeing the chaos that is primary each week (I play the piano for the kids), I'm not so sure.

Donnerstag, 29. Mai 2008

*The Affirmative Mmmm*

Originally posted on my blog on November 13th, 2007:

The affirmative "mmm-hmmm" that I'm used to in America is not used here in Germany. I feel stupid every time it slips out. Instead, they say just "mmmm" with a tone that resembles the "hmmm" that means, "I didn't hear/understand you" in American backchannels. I'm sure I've confused plenty of Germans.

German: I started to write that paper.
Michelle: Hmmm?
German: It is going to be a hard assignment.
Michelle: What is?
German: The paper.
Michelle: Oh, you started to write it already?
German: Mmmm.

Donnerstag, 22. Mai 2008

*Windows*

Here's one of those oxymorons you can find in all cultures. If you've read previous posts, you know that Germans seem to think that any exposure outside will cause you to get sick, whether it be a bare neck, bare legs, or not wearing house shoes inside.

However, Germans are fans of saying that the air is "fat" (I think that's our equivalent of "stuffy") and the window needs to be opened. They firmly believe that windows are meant to be open. All the time--regardless of bugs, cold air, or noises from outside. In the middle of winter, I would go into the -10 degree bathroom (where the window had been left open all night) and wish that I was dead instead of having to shower when it was so cold. (Forget about shaving, you're only taking goose bumps off with the hair.)

Every time I complain to someone that I didn't sleep well, they say, "You need to sleep with your window open." Even though they think that being cold will immediately make you sick, they suggest being in the cold for 8 hours every night. How does that make sense? I have yet to understand. I finally tried it one night and was so disturbed by the sound of the tram going by, I closed it again.

Fortunately, their nifty German engineering kicks in to support this need to have the window open. Every window has the ability to swing open or be tilted so only the top is open. Check out this video.


video


Also, there are these nifty things called "Rollos" that roll down over the outsides of the windows to secure them when people go out of town or if they simply want to be more secure. (No, I don't have one. I wish I did sometimes, but I think my problem with lights/noise outside would be solved enough if I just got some real curtains, not the lacy one I've shoved in the window.) I took these pictures at a friend's house.

Nice and sunshiny outside:












The rollo can be let down so there are still holes letting in some sunlight:












Or all the way down, which effectively blocks out all light:

Donnerstag, 15. Mai 2008

*Sun Lovers*

It never ceases to amaze me when I see shriveled up old smokers who have sunburn on their wrinkled faces. I guess I should just be glad I haven't seen the "Free Body Culture" or nude sunbathers in the park yet.

People in Germany are lovers of the sun in an extreme that's not found in Utah even after a long winter. Either Germans ignore the bad effects of sun, or they have firmly decided (like many of their other opinions) that it can only be good for them. Young and old alike stay outside for hours at a time and get burned and don't mind it in the least. While putting on sunscreen, I heard the whole argument about getting vitamins from the sun. Yep. You can do that without damaging your skin and hugely multiplying your chances of cancer.

Now that the sun's out, people are too, and we're not just talking a few more people flying kites at the local elementary school. When the weather is good, people say things like, "We can't do that, we must go to the park." Everything is available outside. Restaurants put tables out on the street and there are ping pong and chess tables outside where people can play. Windows are left wide open for the remainder of the year as far as I can tell, to remind people for the short time they are inside that there is a beautiful outside they are missing.

Freitag, 9. Mai 2008

*Tap Water*

Probably the first three months I was here, and even now sometimes, I'd turn the knob of the faucet completely to the left, expecting to have to wait for it to heat up and hoping to get some warm water immediately, as is normal in Utah. However, the second you put your hands under that water, you remember quickly that here, the water's already hot, and it's hotter than Utah's water is ever allowed to get.

I asked someone once why the water was set at such a high temperature, and he said it was to protect against bacteria. Apparently they don't mind about protecting children or even ditsy adults like myself from getting burned.

Oh, another thing, another friend was surprised that I didn't let it run for a while first. He said the pipes have to clear out, but after I questioned him further about it, he said it was probably just something he was used to from old houses with lead pipes and with his new house it probably wasn't necessary. I haven't been sick yet . . . (Is that the explanation for my insanity and tiredness and loss of memory, ha ha?)

And probably most well-known, Germans don't drink water from the tap. They prefer it to buy it in bottles and with carbonation (no fun for people like me who despise carbonation). The one drinking fountain I've seen here was in a church, and one of my friends watched me use it and said, "What is that?" I miss drinking fountains, they are reminders to drink water, and free!

Donnerstag, 1. Mai 2008

*Men Day*

May 1st is a double holiday this year in Germany, or at least in Sachsen it is. Christ's Ascension and May Day happened to fall on the same day, which, as I've heard described, "is cheating us out of another holiday." (Germans LOVE their holidays.)

So when some friends of mine were laughing about "being men," I didn't get it. Come to find out, since people here have kind of forgotten/don't care about the reason for their religious holidays, they make up their own things. Today is also known as "Men Day," which as far as I can tell, is an excuse for men to do every lame stereotypical thing. They walk around in big groups with ridiculous amounts of beer, cat-call, talk loudly, pee wherever they want, grill meat, and burn things. Fun, huh?

Montag, 21. April 2008

*Brown and Black*

Brown and black are friends in the German fashion world. Some Americans would argue that the right shades together are okay, but I'm all for keeping black shoes, black shirts or tights, and black belts together and away from their brown counterparts. However, this week, due to a sleepover and some pie-making fun, I ended up with a perfectly acceptable German outfit: black, brown, and red together.

Dienstag, 15. April 2008

*Strumpfhosen*

Readers from my other blog may remember that I, the infamous hater of nylons, tights, and all things related (well, actually, I quite love socks, especially the new ones), burned all my nylons less than a year ago.

After ten people per Sunday here in Leipzig saying, "Oh! Aren't your legs freezing? I can see the goosebumps! You're going to catch cold!" I finally gave in just to stop the madness. I am wearing tights again, despite the fact that, as I have told them, only old ladies wear nylons in Utah and that tights just hide the goosebumps that are there anyways.

After having this conversation with someone about nylons on the first day I tried skin-colored (or supposedly skin-colored) nylons, I went to the bathroom and caused a run all the way from hip to ankle. I tore the darn things off and threw them away.

So, the short of the story is that nylons/tights/whatever you want to call the hated things are another one of those things that Germans think you had better wear or you will catch cold.

Freitag, 4. April 2008

*Scarves*

This was originally posted at my other blog on 13 December 2007:

Today I want to talk about scarves. If anyone around here is obsessed with vampires, it's Germans, as displayed by their love, or should I say need for scarves (possibly for protection against those sort that wander out of their castles in Romania). I couldn't quite figure it out. At first I thought that it was one of those cool but silly things (like a guy carrying around a ninja turtles backpack from when he was 10) when I saw guys wearing striped scarves. Then I started to realize that all guys wear scarves. Not even all girls wear scarves where I'm from, so that was surprising. I figured it must be just be one of those unconscious fashion things. Whenever we were getting ready to go anywhere, people would ask me where my scarf was and help me get it on. Then I forgot to wear my scarf one day. And that's how I figured out the purpose (for Germans) of scarves. The conversations that day went like this:

Friend: Where's your scarf?
Me: Oh, my scarf? I guess I forgot it today.
Friend: Oh no! Your neck is going to get cold.

I thought to myself, "Really. Have you ever had a cold neck?!?" The classic ears, nose, fingers get cold, but your neck?

The next conversation was even more telling:

Friend #2: Where's your scarf?
Me: I forgot to wear it today.
Friend #2: That's not good. Your neck will get cold. Zip your coat all the way up.
Me: I'll be okay.
Friend #2: You'll get sick.

Then it hit me: my friend had written about how she was so nervous about getting sick before a concert that she wore a scarf all the time. They think that a neck exposed to cold will make you sick! Do people think that in the U.S. and I just haven't noticed it?

And yes, I wear my scarf every day now. Mostly because it's nice to snuggle my cold nose in.

Mittwoch, 2. April 2008

*Tooth Jewels*

There's been a curious fad appearing around here. It's one of those fads that makes you wonder what's wrong until you realize it's supposed to be there, like those creepy snake-eye contacts that people sported a few years ago in America. Maybe I'm getting too out of touch with fashion, but putting a jewel on your tooth? Wouldn't you worry about swallowing it or having it fall out and stick to your chin or sweater like Thoroughly Modern Millie's beauty spot? It seems funny to me to bring attention to the most potentially-disgusting part of your body that is visible, but I've seen it on more and more lateral incisors of German girls who have otherwise similar tastes. As my cultural analysis, I think these jewels are an unconscious way to show off natural beauty or wealth. Think about it--since only those with perfect teeth seem to wear them, they must either have really good genes or they can afford to whiten and straighten their teeth.

I wonder if tooth jewel wearers will be embarrassed when their kids look back at pictures of them and say, "Mom, you had something stuck on your tooth in this picture!"

Samstag, 29. März 2008

*Ingenious German Binders*

Although I'm a big fan of having three holes for more secure paper-holding, binders in Germany are so cool/useable. Not only do they click firmly closed, they have a hole on the spine to easily take the binder off the shelf, they hold the paper firmly in place, etc., etc. See for yourself:

Dienstag, 25. März 2008

*Frohe Ostern*

Germans rarely go to church. When they do, it is on Christmas and Easter. I have talked to a few people who said they did not enjoy going to church for mass and that they disagree with most of what is said, which is interesting, since Christianity has so many important developments in Germany. For most people, Easter just means two extra days off. Good Friday and Easter Monday are holidays where most stores are closed. The most random thing to me was that it is traditional to have a fire on Easter to burn away winter.

Dienstag, 18. März 2008

*Taschentücher*

I've never seen so many people who religiously carry tissues around with them. I don't mean wads of toilet paper folded in a pocket like I have. These people must spend loads on keeping their backpacks and purses stocked, because everyone here carries the professionally-wrapped, mini packages of tissues, and a free package comes with each purchase you make at the pharmacy. Even boys who have nothing else with them will at least have a package of tissue. How funny.

Dienstag, 11. März 2008

*Hoch Betten*

It's not unusual, at least in student apartments, to build a so-called "high bed." It's different than a bunk bed because it only has one level and it is built right into the room. Mine was already there when I took the room, but I still had to pay the previous renter how much it cost her to make the bed. And it creaks so much I've learned to sleep without moving (so as not to wake myself up). The good thing about Hochbetten is that rooms here are also used as studies and living rooms. Thus I have more room to study and entertain people than I would if there were a bed in the room.

Dienstag, 26. Februar 2008

*Glückwunsch zum Geburtstag!*

Since today is my birthday, I find it fitting to talk about birthdays this time.

Birthdays in Germany are amusingly important. In my experience, birthdays become just another day after you turn 19 or so, and then the big ones are at 40, 50, 60, 80, and 90. (Don't ask me why I've never seen a 70-year-old bash.) So when I saw how important birthdays are to people in Germany, and at any age, I was a little surprised. The first two birthdays I thought were exceptions. However, I soon found a few things:

1. Never, ever wish someone a happy birthday before it's their birthday. It's bad luck.
2. Don't expect anyone to do anything on their birthday. It's their day and they don't want to get up early or go to a meeting.
3. Lots of food, friends, and family.
4. Real gifts.

Samstag, 2. Februar 2008

*Doctor Appointments*

Since this week marks this second time I've gone to the doctor in Germany, why not post about that?

Walking into the doctor's office, you hand them your insurance card which has a chip in it. They get your info from it, you pay the deductible, and the nurse asks if you need an "Überweisung" which is a card you can bring to another doctor so you don't have to pay the deductible again. In other words, you can go to as many doctors as you need to each quarter of the year and only pay once. You are told to go sit down. When you go into the waiting room, you say "hello" or "good day" to the room in general, and everyone murmurs something back. Your coat, gloves, scarves, etc. should be hung up, and everyone watches you while you do that. Once you sit down, no one looks each other in the eye or speaks. You are surprised by how many people are scheduled at the same time for one doctor--it's a good fifteen to twenty people. Every now and then, a name is called over a loudspeaker and someone leaves the room. Patients who have already seen the doctor come back to retrieve their things and say "goodbye" or "see you later" as they leave, which is promptly answered by all twenty waiting patients. You wait. And wait. And wait.

Finally, your name is called and you are directed to a certain room. There you wait in a room without the lights on. Apparently they think the light coming through the window is enough. Finally, the doctor comes in. He takes a look, asks a few questions, spreads some goop, has the nurse put on a bandaid, doesn't really answer your questions, and disappears out of the room saying that the nurse can answer your questions. The nurse doesn't answer your questions. You remember that you heard German doctors didn't have personable appointments and go to get your coat, almost forgetting to say goodbye as you leave the waiting room.

Donnerstag, 24. Januar 2008

*Essay Writing*

I've got essays on the mind this week, so it's the perfect time to post about them.

English-style essay: I have something I've researched. I'm going to fight it to the death. In my first paragraph, I'm going to spell it out quite simply for you. Then I will give you some clear examples and link them back to the first paragraph. In my last paragraph I'll restate what I've fought so hard for another way just in case you weren't smart enough to get my point.

German-style essay: I have something I've researched. Here is one side of the argument. I'll give you a few reasons why this argument is good and a few reasons why it's bad. Here is the other side. I'll give some good and bad sides of this viewpoint. Then in my last paragraph I'll surprise you with the side I've decided to support, of course assuming this whole time that you can follow my writing because you're a smart person.

These differences of course cause some difficulties between cultures. Germans writing in English have to be told to fight! Take a side, sound sure of yourself! English speakers writing in German have to be told that they sound bold and uninformed because they haven't explored both sides.

Mittwoch, 9. Januar 2008

*Spazieren*

For those of you who don't speak German, that's "Shpotseeren." It's the word that is used in German when people want to go for a walk. So what's so special about it? This word is used more often than any American would expect. Don't take your spazieren lightly!

If you want to go spazieren like the Germans do, follow these instructions:

1. Schedule a specific time to go. Do not change this time, and make sure you don't have any pressing issues close to that time.
2. Invite other people.
3. Take the spazieren seriously.
4. Saunter. Do not, in any case, walk fast. (I have trouble with this one.)
5. Do not have a goal in mind. You are just walking around. (I also have trouble with this one.)

Donnerstag, 3. Januar 2008

*House Shoes*

House shoes. In every house in Germany, there are places to put your shoes by the door, and they have house shoes for you to wear so your feet don't get cold. They will never be flip-flops, because then you can't keep your socks on. Perhaps they also do this to keep the floors cleaner? I think my roommates wonder why I walk around with my normal shoes on.

*Heaters*

Somehow Germany is stuck in the days where there is not heating in the walls. Instead, they have those little heating systems (usually located under the windows) that have to be turned up and down. They make weird noises and they command a lot of time every day. The bigger picture is to show you how the heat is adjusted (as an American, I always turn it up the highest it goes). The smaller picture has a chair in it to show how big the heaters really are.









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