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.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Signs You've Spent Too Much Time in Germany

1. You automatically flag your 1’s and cross your 7’s.

2. You find it quite difficult to speak “pure” English (without any German words, phrases, or idioms) for more than a couple of minutes.

3. You make jokes about Angela Merkel.

4. You add canned corn to dishes in which most Americans would find its presence inappropriate or even bizarre—like salads, pasta, and pizza.

5. You wear jeans under your skirts.

6. You know your European shoe and clothing sizes, your height in centimeters, and your weight in kilograms.

7. You crave döner kebabs and rote Grütze.

8. You aren’t ashamed to wear the same outfit two days in a row.

9. You have acquired a slight German accent in your English, and you frequently use German syntax when speaking English—especially with Germans.

10. When you bump into someone, you automatically say “Entschuldigung!”, as opposed to “excuse me.” (If you stare straight ahead, pretend that nothing happened, and keep on walking, then you've spent way too much time in Germany.)

11. You hold your utensils European-style—even when no one is watching.

12. You’ve tried Blutwurst, Hackepeter, goose, and bread smeared with lard. (If you’ve eaten horse or Bregenwurst, surrender that blue passport now!)

13. You can identify the German “voices” of several American actors.

14. You’ve acquired a taste for carbonated mineral water.

15. You are tired of disclosing your political leanings to strangers, tired of explaining that there’s a lot more to American cuisine than fast food, tired of pointing out that the average American actually has more education than the average German, thank you very much! and you think that if you hear the words Ami or Ami-Land one more time, you will scream.

Footnotes (For those who need them)

As the old saying goes, “if you have to explain the joke, then it isn’t funny.” But I think I owe some explanation to those of my readers who haven’t spent much time in Germany. So, here goes:

1. A handwritten European “1” has a little flag on it, so it looks a lot like an American “7.” This is why Europeans cross their “7”s: to keep them from being mistaken for “1”s.

3. Angela Merkel is the leading politician in the Christian Democratic Union, Germany’s most socially conservative political party. She’s a lot like Margaret Thatcher, but not as warm and cuddly. Making fun of her is, after soccer, Germany’s second national pastime.

4. Germans put canned corn in everything.

5. Jeans (or any kind of pants, really) under skirts is quite popular over here. It’s cute, it keeps you warm, and it makes it easier to ride a bicycle.

6. Shoe and clothing sizes are different in Europe. Examples: in the U.S. I wear size 2 pants and a size 4 ½ shoe. In Germany, my sizes are 32 and 35, respectively.

7. The döner kebab is Germany’s national fast food. Germans think of it as “Turkish,” but actually it was invented (by Turkish immigrants) in Germany. It’s something like a gyro, only better. Rote Grütze is a jam-like dessert made of cooked red berries (raspberries and currants, mostly). It’s usually served with vanilla sauce.

8. That’s normal in most of Europe.

11. Instead of just picking up their knives when they need them, like Americans do, Europeans hold both knife and fork during the entire meal: knife in the right hand, fork in the left. It’s very easy to spot an American in a restaurant, because we’re pretty much the only country which has retained our (archaic) style of utensil usage—so when Americans overseas get sick of being stared at, they have to learn a new set of table manners.

12. Blutwurst is sausage made from blood. Hackepeter (also called “steak tartar”) is seasoned raw hamburger meat with onions, usually served on rolls. Bregenwurst is sausage made out of brains. (Thankfully, in the era of BSE, its popularity has waned.)

13. Instead of using subtitles, Germans dub foreign films into German. The German “voice” of a non-German actor is always the same, unless the guy doing the dubbing dies. So, for example, there’s some guy whose entire job consists of being the German “voice” of Robert DeNiro!

14. Next to beer, carbonated mineral water is probably the most popular beverage in Germany. Order “Wasser” in a restaurant, and this is what you’re gonna get.

15. Ami is a stupid nickname for an American—it used to refer specifically to American soldiers, but now they use it for anyone with a blue passport. Ami-Land is a stupid nickname for the United States of America—kind of like referring to Canada as “Canuckistan.”


Blogger bridging-divides said...

hey - here comes the answer to your 15 points from a German Fulbright Scholar to Massachusetts, Worcester (Boston-Outback)

1. letters bearing a flagged-1 zip code won’t arrive
2. you speak and think and dream in English, so when you call home and somebody around you asks you a question, you answer the poor guy in German without noticing.
By the way – is there any German (person) left who speaks a “pure un-english” language? Adapt!
3. German can’t reach the number of jokes made here on the subject of GW Bush
4. Pretzels with sugar and cinnamon, chocolate, garlic & onion… don’t show this to my Baecker!
5. That’s a tough one. I still do not blow-dry my hair
6. You don’t convert the temperature from Fahrenheit to Celsius. You know what’s freezing cold
7. Oatmeal and Bagels keep you up and working all day (I hate coffee…)
8. uups – should I be ashamed of that?
9. sometimes you just can’t remember the German expression (especially when talking science)
10. how are you – fine (39° fever)
11. you wash the dishes before putting them into the dish-washer
12. apple cider, eggnog, rootbeer. Just for the non-alcoholic drinks
13. you realize that German television advertisements are quite ingenious
14. don’t leave the tub water in your bottle for longer than 1 day, it will taste like a swimming pool
15. Germans do not love David Hasselhoff. Not all of us drive BMW. I did not wear a Dirndl to school

Great Blog! I really enjoyed reading it a bit :)

3:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

yea guess we'll stick with it until you stop calling us krauts :D

5:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm an American who has lived in (southwestern) Germany for about five years. I'm enjoying reading your blog.

On your last item: I don't think "Ami" is a slur, exactly, it is more a friendly nickname, like calling someone Joe instead of Joseph. I could be wrong.

To the last commenter: I don't think Americans have called Germans "krauts" since the 1950s, even though Germans are convinced that we do.

12:19 AM  

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