As my regular readers know, I love to point out the absurdities of other cultures whether foreign or domestic. I am an equal opportunity “pointer-outer”.  A friend of mine recently sent me a list of 50 things that Germans found odd about Americans. These are the highlights from a survey taken by the German magazine “Die Zeit” in 2002.  Many of my American friends may possibly look at this quizzically, because, after all, this is what you are used to. But if you are familiar with other cultures, this is really fantastic.

1. They are fatter than the Germans even though everything at the grocery story claims to be fat free or low-cal.
2. Whoever isn’t fat is a fitness fanatic.
3. Their money bills are all the same color and size – odd for a country that worships money.
4. They are so superstitious that there isn’t a 13th floor in hotels.
5. They always say “excuse me” when they happen to walk quickly in front of someone at the book store causing a momentary blockage of view for the other person.
6. Many Americans express their statements in the form of a question? That’s annoying?
7. For completely normal melancholy, they only know one word: depression.
8. Americans talk a lot about love, even when it’s just about a chocolate bar.
9. Terrible understanding of geography: Bombs in Beirut means many US tourists won’t go the opera in Bayreuth (this is probably lost on most of you, because, well, you’re American:)).
10. They consider actors completely competent in all areas of life (i.e. Talkshows, politics)
11. Peanut butter and jelly. (OH YEAH!!!)
12. They talk too loud in restaurants and public transportation.
13. Their heavy duty washing machines look like tanks.
14. They don’t see the point in learning a foreign language.
15. They even drink their milk with ice cubes.(And in the south, their wine!)
16. Millions of lawsuits against everyone and everything.
17. American boobs aren’t real.
18. Nothing costs what it claims. There’s always a tax added or
19. Ridiculous super sales that make no sense (Buy 2 shirts, get 1 pair of socks absolutely free!!!)
20. Frappuccino Decaf with strawberry flavors = living the Italian life.
21. Because they are so fat, when you go to the beloved Monster Truck Rallies out in the country, you don’t know which one’s the truck and which one’s the monster. (Ouch!)
22. Ridiculously short attention span.
23. They constantly take pills. Vitamins, minerals, powders for and against everything.
24. They talk about relationships like an accountant: “I invested so much in her…!”
25. Many have bull necks. Must be from all the hormones in the food.
26. Every politician has a side part.
27. In general, a love for helmut-like hairstyles, especially the news reporters (I would also submit those on TBN)
28. For some reason they believe: Heidelberg is Germany. Period.
29. They drink beer out of brown bags.
30. With their Double Whopper and extra large fries they drink? a large Diet Coke.
31. They all call each other by their first names.
32. Even better: using nicknames!
33. When they come home, the TV is turned on just like the lights.


No Reservation

November 15, 2011

Standing in wait. People everywhere. All frantically look around suspiciously at each other. Palms begin to sweat. Glistening beads of perspiration form at the brow. Eyes dart to and fro. The heart begins to beat anxiously in the chest. Restless legs attempt to stay in place. Strategies begin to form. “How can I beat them?”

Then you see it. It’s approaching. People begin to herd closer together with all their luggage. Elbows begin to be used for their evolutionary intent – knocking people out of the way. This makes boarding Southwest Airlines look like tea time. Then it is noticed that that train that is approaching is already full! Sheer panic begins to break out, though not outwardly. The Germans are much too refined for that. It’s an inward panic that begins to sweep the crowd. “There aren’t enough seats. I paid a lot of money for this ticket. I want a seat.”

The train stops at the platform. Now the real pushing and shoving begins. People with enough luggage to clothe a small country shove their way forward. The poor disembarking passengers fight their way through the chaos. The waiting-to-board passengers hold a collective breath until that final passenger disembarks.

Finally, the last passenger is off. And all hell breaks loose.

Cute little grandma is shoving and cussing. Mothers throw their small children head first onto the train directing them to scramble through legs to find open seats. Italian tourists yell really loudly in Italian, gesturing with gusto in different directions, but then you realize that has nothing to do with boarding. It’s just what Italians do. The French join the stampede because the French don’t ever stand in line. The Spaniards join because they think the bulls are coming. And the Americans stand around looking perplexed because they don’t know how to ride a train and, naturally, don’t speak the language. (You can always pick them out. White running shoes on a fat person).

You get caught up in the crowd, being shoved from every direction. And then you make it. You get on the train. And you see that open seat. But so does that person coming towards you. You are equi-distant from the seat. Who gets to have it?

Depends on who you are. The Germans make an all out dash and pretend they don’t see the other person. Survival of the fittest. The French follow suit. The Italians are too busy yelling to notice there was an empty seat. The Spaniards – well, I’m not sure what they think, and the Americans have just realized that the door to the train is open and perhaps that is an invitation to get on. Upon realizing there are no seats left, they begin to complain loudly.

Welcome to the Deutsche Bahn (German Rail) without a reservation.

Disclaimer: the author has been known to use hyperbole when sharing her stories. Please consider much of her posts to be tongue in cheek.

Dirty Windows

November 14, 2011

Look at these pictures. Do you see anything particular about them?

I didn’t either. But…

Germans are very particular about their windows. Well, they’re particular about a lot of things in their lives, but next to the condition of the air and always having a kleenex available at a moment’s notice, the Germans are inordinately preoccupied with the cleanliness of their windows.

A German friend came home and within the first 36 hours of being home mentioned how dirty the windows were at least 4 times. Um, really? It’s not like they’re are covered in mud or something. But in all the years I’ve lived here, there is an unhealthy preoccupation with the windows.

She even told me that her neighbors probably gossip about how dirty her windows are. I told her that 4 of my windows got lucky in the Spring when I decided to clean them. The rest? Well, like most American windows, haven’t been touched since the house was built.

Now if you Germans had screens, perhaps your windows wouldn’t get so dirty, eh?

Shut the window! There's a draft!

I didn’t realized yesterday while posting that I would have a part 2 to the Lufthansa story. But after a lovely Skype session with the hubby, I realized that this story had to be shared.

So, I’ve shared before on this blog the obsession Germans have with the state of the air in an enclosed space. If you are completely clueless as to what I am referring, please read here. The rest of this blog will really only make sense if you do.

I boarded the flight near the end of the cattle call. Look, I’m about to be on a plane for 8 hours. I’m delaying the inevitable for as long as a can. Plus, there was football on at the gate! Hello!? Who wants to leave that? Anyway, so I got on the flight, got my stuff all situated, settled in for my cozy flight, when to my right I hear those words. The famous words heard ’round Germany. The words that will forever bring laughter to my countenance.

“Es zieht”

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, the 2 Germans sitting across the aisle from me were looking around with perplexed looks on their faces complaining about the fact that “es zieht.” It was all I could do to keep from dying laughter. Here I was, not even 2 minutes into my German experience, and already I was hearing, “Es zieht.” After the laughing fit passed, my next thought was, “Um, yeah, es zieht. We’re in an air tight tube. Something has to shoot air around in here or we’re all gonna suffocate.”

So, of course, the flight attendant was called. Before I go on, though, I must give this couple credit. They were never rude. They were just concerned. I mean. Very concerned. Like the headless horseman was on his right then!!! (Again, if you haven’t read my other post about “es zieht” this is lost on you.) They relayed the message that “es zieht”, and it was cold and asked if the crew could turn the temperature up. Um. No. There are 300 people on this plane, half of them European…DO NOT TURN THE TEMPERATURE UP!!!! It will get hot and you know what happens to Europeans when they get hot? Yeah. Body stench. I’ll freeze, thank you very much.

The flight attendant said she could bring more blankets, but that was all that could be done. Well, over the course of the next HOUR AND A HALF, multiple flight attendants came by to address the concerns of the couple (who at this point had 8 blankets between them I might add. I’m not joking. I counted. Yes, I’m that retarded). And to Lufthansa’s credit, none of the crew ever got rude or short with the couple. I was floored. If it’d been US Airways or United, the first complaint would’ve gotten an ugly look and then the couple would’ve been asked to cough up $20 for an extra blanket. But not Lufthansa. They were extremely courteous. Finally, the head flight attendant, Alexander Stein (really, can you get much more German than that?) came over to assist them. He worked out some seat arrangement where the man could sit in another seat and also gave them a complaint form to fill out. All the while, speaking as though he’d been an NPR reporter his whole life.

Well, the man ended up getting up. He disappeared for a few hours, but after one my short cat naps and my routine stretching, I looked over to find him mysteriously returned and not only returned, but returned with a blanket wrapped around his head!!!! Again, this is not a joke. I’m telling it like it happened. Because, you see, folks, if he had sat on that entire flight with air blowing on him, he would’ve died. Really. In Germany if you have air moving across your face for too much time, you will get sick. Just like in Azerbaijan, where if you sit on cold metal, you will get sick (OK. So that came out of left field, but I’m making the point about old wives tales etc…go with me on this).

As we de-planed, I followed the couple out. As they passed Alexander Stein, he stopped them and, no joke, said to them “Thank you so much for bringing the situation in your seat to the attention of Lufthansa. You see, where you were sitting happens to be a spot on the plane where two units meet and so the airflow is a bit stronger. I’ll make sure this gets in the right hands.”

Now, I don’t know if Alexander Stein really will get that complaint into the right hands, but Alexander Stein treated them with immense respect, and gained mine.

Way to go, Alexander Stein! And odd couple, I hope you don’t have the sniffles today…but I’m sure you do because your psyche told you you would. Oh well…

Germans and Gas

July 6, 2011

Nooooo…not THAT kind of gas. The other kind. Sheesh.

There are 2 things that never cease to amaze me in Germany (and really all of Europe)

1) The price of gas which currently is $7.14 a gallon in Austria.
2) The fact they drive as if oblivious to the fact that they are giving their kidney away every time they fill up! (They have more than 2 kidneys over here, by the way. They have to in order to drive.)

For countries who have an intense PR campaign that depicts them to be environmentally friendly, the people don’t seem to pay attention when they stomp the gas in their BMW’s, Audi’s and Mercedes like there’s no tomorrow! It’s not like they are driving cars that get 100 miles to the gallon. Their cars are just like ours…granted, more of them diesel, so their gas mileage is better. But come on, when you’re doing 0-60 at Mach 3, it doesn’t matter what kind of gas your car uses.

And, see, this type of behavior is aided by the government. Let me explain. The government is in charge of road construction, signs, lights etc…Well, they have this handy little red light system that not only gives you yellow when it’s time to stop, but gives you yellow when it’s about to turn green. It’s actually quite handy. All the drivers sit with bated breath for that wonderful yellow light to appear that indicates for them to “start your engines!” and when that light turns green, you’d think it was the Indy 500! Screeching tires! Smoke rising from the asphalt! Rouring engines (or high buzzing from the poor Fiats and Chevys). But, alas, it is not. The next light is a mere 100 feet ahead and that yellow light that just brought them so much pleasure is now ending their few moments of joy by lighting up and heading in the wrong direction to red.

A Draft

November 28, 2010

Disclaimer: I hope that those of my German friends who are now reading my blog have read other parts of this blog and understand that everything I write about is tongue-in-cheek; that I only write about things and people that I actually really love deeply (well, unless I state otherwise in my post). So all my lovely cultural stories I share about your fair land are shared solely because they are things I find absolutely charming about your country.

Back to posting:
So next to personal packages of kleenexes, crossing the street only at the intersection (which now I learned something new about, which will be shared in another post) and putting on slippers – the next most important thing to Germans is the air in the room in which you are currently existing. I never knew that so many things could “be” with the air in a room. In my American life, air in a room is either hot, comfy or cold. Other than that, I’d never really thought about it. But then I came to Germany and discovered something – they don’t have machines that blow the air around the room – you know, like air conditioners and furnaces. There’s really no need for AC except for a couple weeks a year, and they rely on radiators for heat. So I have discovered the states of air “being” and will share the different states over the next few posts.

Today we will focus on – “Es zieht”

This has got to be one of my most favorite German combination of words, because it is said so often, and each time it is said, I snicker. Literally translated, it means “it’s pulling” but in reality means that there is a draft. I’m not sure if there is anything worse in the German state of air “being” than a draft. I mean, the instant someone feels a draft, you’d think the headless horseman was on his way and the only way to protect yourself is to shut the windows. I’m not kidding. Seriously.

I could share so many wonderful stories, because I have heard this phrase so often in my German life, but I will share my most memorable. It was 10 years ago, and I was singing with the Kammerchor in Dresden. I came into a rehearsal about an hour or so into it (don’t worry, I was excused!!!). It was the middle of Winter, so it was rather chilly outside so the church was shut up tight, snug as a bug against the grueling wind and snow. With great expectation and desire for warmth, I opened the door and was met with…the wonderful smell of stale human. I mean, I’m talking, serious stale human. You can imagine my disappointment. I thought I was gonna die. Both the lack of oxygen and the smell entering my nostils brought on an acute case of hyperventilation/suffocation. Fortunately, a break soon occurred and someone had the great idea to open a window. I was thanking the Lord profusely. I mean, these people were all about to suffocate, and they didn’t know it! So a couple windows were opened and the human aroma began to leave. I kid you not, within about 30 seconds of the windows being open, someone yelled, “Es zieht! Es zieht!” and I was like, “Yes!!! And that is a good thing!!!” But alas, the headless horseman was on his way – and all my hopes of stale human leaving and oxygen returning were dashed.

Well, unless your German (or Tom Cruise). Germans don’t seem to have an issue telling you the truth. If you say your hair looks bad, and it really does, they’ll agree and say, “Yeah, it looks pretty bad today.” If you have gained a few pounds, they will not miss a chance to let you know. But, on the other hand, they’ll also let you know if you’ve lost weight.

For example, I saw my friend’s parents for the first time in 10 years. I came into the room and said, “Hi! It’s so good to see you again!” and the first thing out of his mom’s mouth, “Wow! You’ve really lost weight!” I mean, I’m not going to complain about that, but still, how about, “hey good to see you, too” then mention that weight loss.

And then tonight we were looking at wedding pictures of the wedding I missed. And my wonderful German friends sat around and made remarks about everyone in the pictures. “Oh, she is so fat. I mean, very nice, but she is really fat” and “Ach, why did she wear that? No one would put that together. I would’ve worn this instead…oh but she is so nice” And then the best… my friend’s father said about his own daughter, “That’s not a good picture of her. I mean, she’s got a pretty face but her figure isn’t that great.”

Gotta love the Germans!