Thursday, June 21, 2012

Dreaming in Germany or Dreaming of Germany

I realized it has been a while since I have posted but it's been a combination of a bit of work keeping me busy and nothing exciting happening. Now that I'm really thinking about it though, there has been a lot going on.
I guess I'll start by sharing my first half German, half English dream with you then maybe my dinner from last night with some American colleagues and finally a rant about some differences between Germany and America.
Yeah, this is TOTALLY me...
I was told that after living in a new country and speaking the language for a month or two, you begin dreaming in the language too. Unfortunately, I haven't been speaking much German here because almost everyone in the apartments speaks English and at work, most of the time, they don't even bother and speak English as well. In the community they speak German with me and they are quite patient too but when I need to do something with my visa paperwork, I try speaking German and the people say "oh, you're American and can't speak German. I'll speak English." BUT this dream was half German, half English ... Kind of like my life right now ...
So, in my dream the other night ...

I was somewhere in Germany and I was with this couple, they looked familiar but I couldn't tell you who they were. We rented sports cars (or owned them, I don't know) and we were in a hotel parking lot. I think the cars also turned into bedrooms though because that's where we were sleeping ... Yes, I realize that this makes no sense.

The couple I was with was having a photo shoot of themselves done and I think the cars may have been involved but I don't know. I also had some pictures taken by this photographer and the couple went into their bedroom / car because it was supposed to rain. The sky was quite dark and I wasn't tired or maybe I just didn't want to be alone.

I walked to a cafe and met some friends there, again, not quite recognizable. Though I think one of them was the Brazilian guy I met a few weeks ago when I went to dinner with some people from the B.I.B. but who really knows?
Tables like this but Outside
We were sitting outside at a high top table and this older lady asked me to hold her coffee cup while she did some errands and I set it on the table. We were all talking and hanging out and I saw the lady come back and it still hadn't rained so I thought I should go because it looked like it was going to rain still. I said my goodbye's and I grabbed her cup and took it to her.
It was empty and she said as much. I thought I noticed someone drinking it but I didn't know. Probably the Brazilian. I apologized and said I had to go before I got wet from the rain an motioned to my bike (where was I keeping it? Inside the sports car?)
She said, "but, you're already all wet" and that's when I woke up.
Can anyone tell me what all this means? I was super confused when I woke up.
The Euro Store
Moving on, this is an exciting week because I know someone from America who is here for work for a few weeks. OK, she's German anyways, but still ... It's a familiar face. Verena and I met last summer while I was an intern at Benteler Automotive in Auburn Hills. She works in the purchasing department for Benteler and is here for some meetings for a few weeks (I think.)
Yesterday, I chatted her through the company's e-mail system and she invited me out for drinks and dinner with her, her boyfriend, and two friends of hers (Nicole and Alek) that I met when Dominik took me to the "Roadhouse" (the "typical American diner".) Alek was one of those two friends and he's an American working her for a more extended period of time. (Also, he's old ... I hope there's someone out there reading this that gets my reference.)
The entrance to Alte Residenz 
We met up at "Alte Residenz", a restaurant / bar in Schloß Neuhaus. Unfortunately, I had already gone home from work (around 3 PM maybe) and we were meeting up at 6 PM, back near work.
On my way home from work I stopped at the "euro store" as I like to call it, but it's real name is "T€Di". I finally bought a cork screw so I can open my own bottles of wine and not have to rely on someone else to do it for me and a toilet bowl brush so I can clean a bit better.
Around 5:18 PM, I got on my bike and rode back to Schloß Neuhaus. Why does my morning ride seem so much longer than this one was? I got there at 5:36 PM and had to wait for everyone to arrive. I looked in some shops and then decided to just sit near the restaurant's entrance for them to arrive.
When they arrived, I was given a hug and we went inside to find a table. Surprisingly the place was nearly empty when we got there, all the tables were open, except for at the bar.
We sat in the corner at a table and ordered our drinks, cola's all around. It was really nice to be able to talk to a familiar person for once, face-to-face that is. We joked all night and I learned some funny stories involving "squirreled eggs" and other mispronunciations. I told them about my bike and how crappy it is, and Alek offered me some WD40, I have been meaning to ask at work but haven't got around to it yet. One problem solved.

Speaking of the bike, I learned something new. Headlamps and brake lights are required by law when riding bikes at dawn, dusk, or night. It makes sense and all, but I also learned that police sit and wait for people without them (even school children) and if you don't have your lights on, or just don't have lights, then you get a ticket. That's crazy!
We ate a great meal and I had a small salad which was WAY too big for me. The basic dressing that comes on every salad in Germany is a yogurt dressing and it kind of reminds me of only being able to buy cole slaw, not a real salad. It was good though. It had different types of lettuce, corn, different types of beans, bread, fruit, everything.
Around 9 PM, I rode my bike home from dinner and when I got back to my apartment, I went to bed. This morning, I woke up at 5:45 AM like usual, even thought my alarm doesn't go off until 6 AM, and decided that those extra few minutes of sleep were necessary. And then, who-da-thunk-it, I was at work.
And as promised, I have a few rants for you about the differences between German and America.

A typical German keyboard.
Keyboards and Communication
The keyboards are almost identical except with the adding of the umlaut (ä, ö, ü, ß, etc.) and the "y" is in the English keyboards "z" position and vice-versa. But when typing in English on a German keyboard, I use the "y" a lot and not the "z" so much. It gets confusing and I always type the word "crazy" as "crayz." I don't even notice it most times, then I use spell check and realize my mistake.

Also, on the German keyboard, things like the ', the *, the ) and ( that are all very commonly used in English are all in different places. Often I stare at the keyboard trying to find these common items for two or more minutes.

Shortcuts on the keyboard are the same though which is nice, until you realize that "control z" is nearly impossible to do one handed and takes more concentration to complete. Also, I still haven't figured out how to make a plus sign. I see it on the keyboard but I can't get it to work.

There is and "Alt Gr" key too for using the characters below the letter such as the "€" located below the letter "E" on the German keyboard.

Then, of course, my personal laptop, my cell phone, my iPod, and all other electrical communication devices that I own and brought from the US have an American keyboard so I am constantly switching from the German to the American keyboards and back.
I have also come to realize that the U.S. telephone number system is quite idiotic: all area codes are three digits long, while all phone numbers are 7 digits long. So obviously, large cities need several area codes. All these area codes count as local calls however, and local calls are dialed differently from long-distance calls. So you need to know at all times which area codes belong to your local area; when moving around in a city, you have to be aware of the area code you're currently in. And all this information keeps changing over time: when a city grows, they simply add new area codes.

In Germany, every city has a single area code. Large cities have short area codes, small cities have long area codes. In small cities, the phone numbers are short, in large cities they're long. Solves all problems.
Study Habits
You don't see many students doing work on campus cafes and in the workrooms most universities provide for their students, and in libraries and computer labs but you do see them in public. Students are reading and marking up books, learning from a stack of flash cards or reading papers were handed out. This is probably mostly because if you were to study in a cafe here, the waitress would complain that you're taking up a table without drinking fast enough and, after all,  there aren't as many cafes in bookstores like is common in North America.
Finding your way around in Germany is really easy though (if you're not me that is) because they have a lot of people who don't speak the language and are way better off on German streets due to the signage. Just look at the traffic signs: If you can't read, you can't understand half of the signs in the US. In Germany, they use symbols, even more so than the rest of Europe. I mean, look at these and tell me that they aren't helpful ... 
Alcohol and Food
Contrary to popular belief, alcohol is not more readily available in Germany. There are frequently arrests and fining of supermarket sales personnel and closing of bars and clubs where alcohol was handed out to underage customers. I would say it is enforced quite well. However, it is one of my favorite jokes / comments that in America the government gives us a few years to learn how to drive before we're allowed to drink and in Germany, they're given a few years to learn how to drink before they're allowed to drive.

Doggy bags in Germany aren't very popular. If you order too much and you can't eat it all, then you leave it. But, I wouldn't say taking along your food in a "doggy bag" in Germany is really frowned upon. I haven't had a restaurant where anyone objected to that or even looked askew. It is, however, not a very common thing to do. This may be different in 5-star-establishments, though. But your average Greek tavern or Italian restaurant will happily let you take food home.

Finding a table in Germany is different than in the US as far as restaurants go. While they don't have anyone assigning you a table in a restaurant in Germany, they do have "table reserved" signs. So, you may just sit down anywhere, but you can still make reservations. Oddly enough, you don't usually sit down at someone else's table, even if it's one person at a six-person table. (Though I think it is a bit different depending on the atmosphere. I do it in the Canteen and sometimes when we go out for lunch in Schloß Neuhaus.) Germans will try to squeeze a group into a small table before they ask a patron to share his table.
Free refills are NOT a thing in Germany, or Europe for that matter. I find it hard to believe that they're losing money on this one but when you buy a drink in Europe, you get one glass, no ice, and usually pay €2,50 for it. It depends on where you are of course though. We had a discussion about this last night at dinner and we all agreed that it was something that needed to come over here too.
Germans are very classic with their food. I think some of this may be that German's may have a tradition that they keep where in the U.S. we may 'fudge' around with a recipe and change it around for sometimes good results.
The more regular start times for TV shows in the US compared to those in Germany are probably mainly due to the fact the US is stretched across several time zones and that they produce their material themselves. E.g. 45 minutes is a "one-hour-show" because they can have 15 minutes of commercials - in Germany, there's a law about how many commercial breaks and how many minutes of commercials may be in a show of a certain length, so the stations that show lots of US shows have to start at odd times or show blank screens or additional short programming.
Also, in Germany it actually makes sense to start shows at 20:15, because that's when the majority of people are home and have watched their news. In the US, the time zones mean that when one part of the audience has already been home for an hour, another part is still in their last hour of work.
Ok, this turned out a LOT longer than planned. I have nothing to do at work today, again, but I do have lunch plans with Dominik and Verena. Then my MRI at 1:30 PM, I will keep my next post shorter, hopefully.

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