Tuesday, January 22, 2008

What I´ve learned so far in Germany

It´s been an educational 10 months in Germany. As it should be, after all, I am studying here. But nonetheless, I´ve certainly picked up more knowledge about German culture and quirkiness than I have about anything linguistically related. Let me share some of my favorite tidbits...

When it comes to TV, Germans love animals, cooking, and travel. Or at least the programmers do. The favorite part of my TV-day begins with 'Das Perfekte Dinner,' when it´s replayed in the morning. Every week 5 new people in a new town, trying to make the perfect dinner based on presentation, host-liness, and good eating. During this show I can be found searching recipes and kitchenware online while trying to invent a reason for a dinner party. Next comes 'Auf und Davon,' about teenagers who study or work abroad. By the first commercial break, I´m already searching for plane tickets to Argentina, China, or wherever they happen to be that day. Luckily, my bank account holds me back. Then begin the animal shows, some about zoos, some about crazy kinds of house pets, some about vets. But they´re pretty much endless. I refrain myself from watching those too long, unless of course Knut or Flocke are on, otherwise Michael comes home to me saying, "Can we get a baby seal? Or how about a small elephant, just for a little while?" 'Goodbye Deutschland' is my last favorite reality show, because it could never have a counterpart in America. But it´s a good thing all those people are moving out of Germany, to leave room for others like me!

Germans really are as eco-friendly as their stereotype suggests. That goes beyond just trash-sorting, usually up to 5 different trash bins exist in a house, canvas grocery bags, and their love for public transportation. As of Jan 1, 2008, all cars that want to drive in the center of Berlin must have an Umweltplakette, a sticker saying the car is eco-friendly enough. There are 3: red, yellow, and green. With red you can only drive your car here for 2 more years, then it´s time for a new one. Yellow, 4 years. Green, you´re good to go. So, if you just bought a brand new tiny car with Diesel to save on gas money, looks like you´re in the market for a new one in the next few years. Either that or no visits to Berlin allowed.
(in a side note, Michael´s very proud that his 17-year-old Golf, Enzo, got green, when we actually thought he wouldn´t be allowed anything)

One of the best ways to improve your vocabulary in a foreign country is to get sick. Then you´re forced to interact with either a doctor or at least your local pharmacist, using various embarassing hand gestures to try to explain that you can´t sleep at night because of your cough, or that your nose is so painfully stuffy it makes your jaws and ears hurt. Eventually, you learn the key words, such as my new favorite: schleim. why do we have such a ridiculous word like phlegm, when we could just say schleim (pronounced schlime)? It´s so much more to the point.