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


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.

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?
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