German customs

July 17, 2015

It’s normal to spend up to 2 hours in the waiting room of a German doctor’s office.  On one bored occasion I wrote this…

Here at the doctor’s office for my 35 year old check up.  I don’t know if I’ll ever grow accustomed to saying “Guten Morgen” to everyone when I walk into the waiting room.  It is comparable to public speaking.  I’m allergic to public speaking.  And saying “Auf Wiedersehen” to every single person who leaves the waiting room is so much work!  It disrupts my reading time.

Five minutes after I sat down in the waiting room, I’ve said “Guten Morgen” three times and “Auf Wiedersehen” once.  The last thing I want to do when I’m sick is talk to other people.  Leave me alone.  But that’s not the norm here.  Wait… wait a minute… a lady patient just walked in to the waiting room.  She said nothing.  NOTHING!  I looked at her strangely.  I even glared at her with piercing eyes of judgement.  How dare she?!

German customs now only take 6 minutes to sink in to my skin.

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Some more weird German Customs:

  1. No drilling on Sundays.  You are not allowed to do manual labor on Sundays.
  2. Every office must have a view of the sky.  Otherwise, it is in violation of a health law.
  3. No masks at protests.  You can not wear a mask over your face if you are protesting.
  4. No nighttime piano tuning.  Strictly verboten.
  5. “Deutschland, Deutschland über alles” is illegal to sing. It means “Germany above all” and it was introduced as the German National Anthem by the Nazis.  It was banned from singing at the end of WWII.

Baking in Germany – Don’t do it America!

January 10, 2014:

The great thing about moving to a country where everything is foreign is that all of those things have the potential to be the highlight of your day.  Simple tasks, like getting from point A to point B, become adventures.  Mundane tasks, like buying postage stamps, become extraordinary.  Learning new things is an every day occurrence.  Most of the time it’s exciting, but sometimes it can be so damn exhausting.  I can now add one more thing to the “Damn, this is exhausting” list:  Baking in Germany.

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I will preface this blog by stating that I knew beforehand my first baking experience in Germany was going to be a painstaking process.  To bake, one must already be meticulous in measuring out ingredients.  This is something I do all day in the lab and I think it’s why I don’t enjoy baking as much as I do cooking.  And after last Thursday’s attempt to make pumpkin bread, I can conclusively state that baking fracking sucks.
Let’s just list the sucky suckiness:
1.  Converting everything from cups to grams
2.  Converting from Fahrenheit to Celcius
3.  Baking soda??  What the hell is that?  Baking powder, yes, the Germans have this.  Baking soda?  What the hell is that?
4.  The 3 hours of online research required to translate all ingredients from English to German… including baking soda.
FYI — Baking powder is “Backpulver”.  It comes in little packets about the size of 2 sugar packets.  Baking soda can be hard to find, but they do have it.  It’s called “Natron”.   It also comes in little packets and you must use 2-3 teaspoons per 500g of flour (See #1)
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5.  All purpose flour??  What the hell is that?  Germans use a number system for their flour.  The closest thing you’ll get to All Purpose Flour is called “550 Mehl”.  They have all kinds of numbers to choose from.  405, 550, 600, 1100, 1200… my head is still spinning from the American/German differences on this one.
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6.  Vanilla extract??  What the hell is that?  We have vanilla beans or vanilla aroma.  You will need one vial of vanilla aroma per 500g of flour (See #1 for repeating frustration)
7.  Greek yogurt is not the same in Germany as it is in the United States.  US Greek yogurt is high in protein and low in sugar.  Germany’s Greek yogurt is like regular Danon.  The closest thing they have to greek yogurt consistency is something called Magerquark.  But, in my grocery store, it’s called Speisequark – Magerstufe.  It’s like trying to find a needle in a haystack.  I’ve never seen so many different kinds of yogurt.
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8. Wheat flour??  Ohhhhh, you mean Weizenvollkornmehl!  That would be 1600 (see #5).
9.  Using an oven that doesn’t heat properly
What was supposed to be a 1.5 hour baking period turned in to a long nightmare.  After 2 hours of baking the bread in the oven, the middle was still gooey.  So I picked off the edges and trashed the rest.  Then I poured my 2nd batch in to muffin cups and baked those in under 2 hours.  Even after all the baking research I did on Toytown (an expat website for people living in Germany), I think I still had the Natron amount wrong.  The batter didn’t rise as I would have expected it to in the U.S.  It was komisch (weird).
OK, so almost 4 hours of my Donnerstag (Thursday) was spent doing something I don’t really enjoy.  But I learned so much and I think that alone made it worth it.
Finished product = not so good looking.  Honestly, they are fugly.  But, my co-workers seemed to enjoy them.  Or they are just being nice.  (FYI: Germans can’t fake nice.)
photo

Doors, Trams, Worms and the Post

tram

May 28, 2013:

I’ve been living in Germany for 27 days and I’ve seen and experienced a whole new world. These days have been filled with mostly amazing, a little weird and very interesting moments for me. First, the doors here are massive. this is probably why B&E’s are endangered here. Why can’t Americans just make extremely large and heavy doors to solve part of the crime problem? Also, when i think i should push a door open, it’s always a pull. When I’m certain exiting through a manual door requires a pull, it almost always needs a push. I should know that “Drücken” means push by now because it’s on every single crosswalk button, but my brain is still preoccupied with the fact that I LIVE IN GERMANY BITCHES!

Second, the trams are a bit confusing, especially if you don’t know the stop you want to get to or the stop you’re leaving from. Dresden’s Tram Map looks like an electrical wiring system and isn’t much help. To add to the confusion, when I first arrived I had no clue how to use the automated ticket machine. The Internet told me there was an English option button, but the Internet apparently lies. There is no English button. I just had to remember what I read about tariff zones, figure out I will always need to travel only 1 tariff zone and each one-way trip costs 2 euros. Oh, and don’t forget to validate the ticket! There was a DVB (or Dresdener Verkehrsbetriebe) transportation officer on my tram this morning, checking “everyone’s” ticket. I say “everyone” but I think he was targeting foreigners. Anyway, PHEW! I bought a 30 day ticket a couple of days after arriving and fighting with the non-English ticket machine. He flashed his DVB card to the guy in front of me while he was staring at me.

I looked up and said, “Mich auch?”

He understood me! It was amazing-ness. So I flashed him my fancy 30 day ticket and he said, “Danke.”

And, of course, I replied “Bitte.”

*Edit, I should have said “Meins auch?”*

Even though I probably shouldn’t have, because who’s nice to racist transportation officers? The poor Indian looking Australian sitting in front of me was reprimanded loudly for not having validated his ticket when boarding and I am pretty sure he was issued a fine as I exited at my stop. Although, the guy did seem like an idiot as he forgot his passport and had no official ID on him.

Thirdly, I do science on worms. Worms. Today I learned how to pick worm eggs off of a contaminated plate (petri dish) and put them onto a new, clean plate. I also watched under a microscope as a worm died in a bleach bath, split open and revealed it’s eggs onto my new, clean plate. So cool. Kinda morbid.

Lastly, the postman rides a bicycle (or Fahrrad in German). I had to look twice when I saw him this morning. It’s true. No car. Mail is being delivered by bike. And it’s awesome. I guess you can’t be a tub of lard to deliver mail here. Or maybe you can and I just haven’t seen the post delivered that way yet. Ich weiss nicht – I don’t know.

Das ist alles – that is all. I’m going to grab a tee or something with a co-worker at a never-before-seen-by-me cafe tonight and I’ll wake up tomorrow morning to fight more doors and kill more worms in Deutschland.

Expat in Germany

January 10, 2014

I have lived 2 hours south of Berlin for 7 months and up until December had only been there once, to fly out of the airport.  Finally, I made a trip to this international city for a weekend with a good friend (A friend who has now left me for Belgium.  Thanks a lot, friend. ::wink::).

First impression:  This city is HUGE.  It’s so spread out compared to Dresden.  Then again, Dresden is pretty small.  Maybe that’s why I like it so much.  One point, Dresden.

Second impression:  It’s dirty.  Dresden is clean.  Berlin has tons of graffiti and trash lining its streets.  Two points, Dresden.

Third impression:  The people I met can pinpoint an East German by attitude, clothing and whether or not he/she had a baby by the age of 22.  I found this hilarious but also true.  The history of East/West Germany is still affecting the way people live here.  One point, Berlin.

Game over.  Dresden wins!!  Ok, I’m a bit biased.  Berlin is probably a lovely city, but I didn’t have a lot of time to see the sights.  We were there for a house party and it was also too cold for me to muster up any enthusiasm for sight-seeing.  But hey Berlin, you’re only 2 hours away… that’s what I’ll probably tell myself for the next 7 months to come.

mm

A Legal Alien

May 7, 2013:
It’s official!  I am a legal alien living in Germany.  I received my work permit at the immigration office this afternoon.  So I’m celebrating with a new dress and a bottle of vino!

Prost!  I guess I’ll continue this over a glass of my tempranillo…

Other accomplishments of the day:

1.  5K run along The Elbe to Schillerplatz.

Elbe

2.  Found my new apartment in Blasewitz.  After running to the bridge at Schillerplatz, I walked my stink and sweat around town until I found the exact address of the place I will call home on Friday.  I walked through a midday market and found myself here:

Schillerplatz

Does it look familiar?  It should.  Check out the previous post.  IT’S REAL!  IT’S REAL!  Not like Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy.  My apartment really is here.  Are you kidding me?!  Someone pinch me, I’m dreaming.  I live a few steps away from a tea shop.  Given my obsession with Earl Grey, I find it highly appropriate and mildly disturbing, like someone is saying, “I will give you an all access pass for now, but you better be ready to pay up in the future.”  Good thing I’m in academia and don’t have any thing to give back.  Sucker butt.

3.  A delicious home cooked dinner consisting of fresh made chicken filled ravioli in a tomato basil sauce.  It goes well with the wine.

So it may not seem like I accomplished a lot today, but I am exhausted from being an excited expat for the past couple of days.  I arrived last Thursday, after almost a complete day (yes, 24 hours) of traveling.  I managed to drag my jet lag to a seminar on prions the following Friday and I met my boss for the first time.  Appropriate that our fist meeting was over a couple of beers, right?!  GO GERMANY!  That same evening, I took my first trip to the grocery store (which I will now call Netto or Lidl or something else that will totally confuse me when I read this again in America).  Guess what I was excited to find.  Earl Grey!  Gimme that.

Earl Grey

Since Friday, I have been to the Zimmer and the Frauenkirche, both took my breath away.

The Zimmer (a palace):

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The Frauenkirche (a church):

Frauenkirche

I also found this restaurant that I was so excited to try before I moved here:

Alte

It was worth hunting down.  The view of the platz was incredible.  The food was delicious.  I will be making a second visit for the creme brulee.

The view:

platz

There is still so much more to do and see and I’m ready for all of it.  Tomorrow is my first day at work.  The following day is a holiday!  I just found that out.  Ich liebe Deutschland!  I guess I’ll have to make another trip to the grocery store, I mean I mean… Netto, before tomorrow night if there’s going to be any at-home wine drinking on Thursday.

The 7 Day Countdown to Moving Day

April 24, 2013

My new home

In one week, I will say “Auf Wiedersehen” to USA and “Hallo” to Dresden, Germany. I have never been so anxious, nervous, excited and stressed out. If I ever decide to do this again, pray I read this and remember how stressed I am at this very moment.

Friends and family all want to say goodbye during these last days in the States and I just don’t have the time right now. I thought I did a good job of planning and trying to see everyone before this final 7 Day Countdown and I am so grateful to have such good friends, but I am about to scream and then go run into a hole and hide until May 1st arrives with my airplane.

Let’s move on to nervousness. Ich bin nervös. How do I say “mascara” in German? Where do I buy pillows? Which direction is the US Embassy (thanks Liz!)? Will people be willing to help me if I forget all the German I know?

And now the exciting part. I’M MOVING TO GERMANY!   Thank you Kirsten, for reminding me why I’m doing this and how excited I should be.  Finally! I am doing something I’ve wanted to do since college. Ok, so it was always Italy where I envisioned living amongst the natives. But Italy is going down the crapper right now, along with Greece and Spain. I visited Germany twice last year and fell in love (plus I’m half German, is that racist?).  So, Germany it is! I’ve always wanted to live somewhere where I didn’t speak the language, and I’m doing it! Boom.

In 7 Days, this picture will be my new home.