Ada Abroad: Living and Working in Germany

An online journal recording two years spent as a Fulbright/Pedagogical Exchange Service Teaching Assistant at secondary schools in Germany. (2003-2004 I was in a village near Bautzen; 2004-2005 I will be in Nordrhein-Westfalen.)

Location: Münster, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany

I'm an American living in Germany, working as a foreign language assistant at a secondary school. Future plans: getting my Ph.D. (probably in Germanic Linguistics), becoming a professor, living an ethical and meaningful life.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Greetings from the Fashion Capital of Europe

-Friedrich Dürrenmatt, Der Richter und seine Henker (German Lit)
-Bastian Sick, Der Dativ ist dem Genitiv sein Tod (German lite)
-Anne Frank, Het Achterhuis (Dutch)

-cornmeal pancakes (which don’t taste quite right, because German cornmeal is too fluffy)
-pinto beans with weird German salsa
-tap water
-an orange

-this bloody snow that won’t stop falling even though it’s already the middle of March

Greetings, ladies and gentlemen, from the Fashion Capital of Europe. No, I’m not in Milan or Paris, or even Düsseldorf—it’s a little-known fact, but the Fashion Capital of Europe is actually a village 8 km north of Bautzen (population: about a thousand). For security purposes, the village will not be named, but that won’t stop your Intrepid Fashion Reporter from filling you in on the latest fashion trends in this often-overlooked region!

First, let’s take a look at the standard-bearers of the local fashion industry: 12- to 15-year-old girls.

This season calls for jeans so low-riding that you need a Brazilian bikini wax to wear them in public. Ideally, these should be coupled with brightly-colored thong underwear that sticks out a good inch over the back of your jeans. When choosing a shirt or sweater, make sure that it reveals least two inches of your stomach—more if you’re overweight or if the forecast predicts temperatures above 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Your shirt or sweater should be inscribed with a borderline-meaningless English phrase: something like “Harvard Girls’ Squad ‘68” or “Kiss Me Long, Soft, and Sweet.”* (What it says doesn’t matter. Just remember: English is cool. Other than in English class, of course.) A low-cut neckline is also a plus!

Your earrings should be at least three inches long. Fluorescent-colored plastic hoops are big this season, as are dangly metallic things that appear to be made out of tinsel that didn’t sell at Christmas time.

Now for the young men:

The must-have accessory for the discerning young gentleman this season is a backpack or pencil case decorated with the English curse word “F---“: preferably in white-out, but if you don’t have any it’s ok to borrow your sister’s nail polish and write in that instead. Beyond that, be sure to pick up a pair of baggy cargo pants in olive green or camouflage print. Fill as many of the pockets as possible, and then roll your pant-legs up to mid-calf, exposing your scabby shins and leg hair. Complete the look with a T-shirt or sweatshirt with weird English writing on it.

Now let’s move on to wear this area really comes into its own: hair.

If you’re a woman or girl between 10 and 80 and your hair is its natural color, then shame on you!!! At the very least, you should have highlights. And when I say “highlights,” I don’t mean the conventional streaks meant to accentuate the natural color of your hair. Oh no. The point of highlights is to stand out, be unique (like everyone else in the village), and draw attention to yourself. Which is why they should be as far from your natural hair color as possible. If you have black hair, consider putting in platinum blond highlights, for example. (The “Cruella deVil” look.) If you’re blond, then purple is the way to go, and of course candy-apple red looks good on anyone.

Better yet, dye ALL of your hair. Again, the point is to look as unnatural as possible. The combination of fire-engine red and jet black (yes, on the same head) is quite popular with ladies in their fifties and sixties, for example. And of course, don’t forget to let those roots show!

As for hair styles, the eighties are back with a vengeance: let’s celebrate the return of the Vokuhila (vorne kurz, hinten lang) or Manta-Friseur! Mullets are everywhere in Germany, so grow out your hair! (The back part of it, at least.) Particularly trendy: a cut popularized by the newscaster on ZDF—keep most of your hair short, but grow out a few stringy strands in back and then let them curl up at the ends, flip-style. Another variation on the “Canadian waterfall” theme: sport a mullet and a Mohawk at the same time!!!

Gentlemen, there’s only one rule to keep in mind when selecting a hairstyle: wash your hair as little as possible. This cuts down on the cost of gel needed to attain the “spiky look” that’s so popular this season. But nevertheless, I would like to draw attention to a truly original style sported by one of my more troublesome eighth-grade boys. He keeps most of his hair short, but has grown out his bangs and slicks them up into a four-inch-tall conical formation using what must be an enormous amount of gel and/or hairspray. It makes him look like he should be a minor character in the “Archie Comics” series. –It’s the wave of the future, and he’s a true pioneer.

(Postscript: Yes, I realize that I’m not the world’s most stylish person myself—I own a pair of velour pants, for example, though I never wear them outside the house—but after seeing an umpteenth retiree with hair the color of a fire truck, as well as yet another sixth-grader in an obvious thong, I needed to vent somewhere! Don’t worry, this blog is not going to turn into a running fashion critique. And I’d still rather eat a live grasshopper than buy an issue of Vogue.)

* actual phrases on sweaters worn by my ninth- and tenth-grade girls


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Adrienne:

I love your descriptions of the trendy fasion look. Almost pissed myself!

10:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i'm glad i can wear my granny panties and get away with it :)

12:25 AM  
Blogger Ada said...

RTC-- Thanks! Involuntary urination is the highest form of flattery.

Christina-- Amen, sister!

11:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


When you get back home this summer you can teach the family on how to be stylish and up to date. You can Start with Grandma and work your way down. Do you think the trend will catch on in Crystal Falls? We are so looking forward to our lesson.


4:04 PM  

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