Monday, December 21, 2009

The Dentist

So today I had my first experience with the German health care system. I went to the dentist.

I'm not really the kind of person who dreads going to the dentist. In fact, I actually like a good tooth cleaning. I attribute my attitude to good genetics. Now going to the orthodontist is another story entirely...

I don't know how this is possible in the western world, but I went to the dentist today and had little more done to my teeth than an x-ray and a visual check up. The visual checkup consisted of me opening my mouth and the dentist saying numbers and commenting on the condition of my teeth. teeth cleaning.

I left the dentist today feeling a bit cheated.

According to my husband, the dentist only cleans your teeth if that's necessary. Since I have had my teeth cleaned every six months for as long as I have had teeth to clean, they apparently didn't need to be cleaned.

So either I have very good dental hygiene or my dentist is lazy. I can't decide.

Okay, so I don't think she is lazy. The dentist was very nice and really seemed to know what she was talking about. I think this is probably just normal practice in Germany. According to my husband, you are only encouraged to go to the dentist once a year. He did tell my that next time I can ask them to clean my teeth even if they don't think it is necessary.

On a positive note, I didn't have to pay a dime.


Saturday, December 12, 2009

A Christmas Carol

Today, David and I were discussing movies and the subject of "A Christmas Carol" came up. We were trying to decide on a movie to go see. My German isn't good enough yet to follow a film, so our options are a bit limited. We were trying to decide between "Inglourious Basterds," the new Twilight movie, and the latest Woody Allen movie. I should mention here that three movies in English is a VERY good selection. Throughout all of October and November, the only English movie in town was the Michael Jackson movie - and we were NOT going to see that.

In a bit of a bold move, I suggested that we go see the latest movie version of a Christmas Carol, because any American could follow that movie in any language. As a child I must have seen the play live at least 5 times. Every Christmas, my brother and I watch the Muppet version as a bit of a fun tradition.

Upon mentioning "A Christmas Carol," David suggested the we should go see it. - I thought he was kidding.

Apparently, in one of the nearby towns, there is a one man show of "A Christmas Carol." In English. David has even seen it 3-4 time there. The guy who puts on the show is a British guy. David said that the show would be in English, which surprised me.

Here is a bit of our conversation (with some embellishment).

David: The show is in English.

Me: Really? They don't translate it.

David: Nah, the guy is British. Why would they?

Me: Well it's not like it's hard to translate. It's just Charles Dickens.

David: Who?

Me: The author of the play! ....(awkward pause)....Nevermind....

David: It sells out every year.

Me: Wow.

So now, David an I are planning to go see the one man version of "A Christmas Carol" in one of the best preserved medieval town in Germany. This should be interesting....

To be continued....

Thursday, December 10, 2009

How is this possible?!?!?

My husband has NO idea who Audrey Hepburn is.

Not even a clue. How is that even possible!?!?!?????

This makes me sad. A bit depressed even.

The other day i was wearing a t-shirt with an Andy Warhol style picture of the lovely Audrey Hepburn on it. David then asked me why I am wearing a shirt with Marylin Monroe on the it.


Audrey Hepburn and Marylin Monroe are not the same person. One is classy and the other is a bit trashy (sorry for the rhyming).

Not sure why i wrote about this....

Monday, December 7, 2009


German Word of the Day: Raus (Out)

On Saturday, David and I took our took dogs to their first dog training class in Germany. We have been trying to coordinate getting our dogs into training classes for the last year, but due to many unforeseen conflicts, we have not been able to. Needless to say, our two dogs are sweet, but lack the good manners necessary to be taken out in public on a thrice daily basis.

Our dogs are already well versed in a few standard commands: SIT, DOWN, LEAVE-IT,..

Somehow the German commands seem to be a bit more effective. We are teaching the dogs German commands and they actually respond better.

To give a good example of this I will use the word sit. In German, SIT is SITZ. That extra z really seems to drive the command into the dogs head. Both David and I agree that they respond better to the commands when we give them in German.

One possible argument is that our dogs have simply stopped listening to us. Emma

The more likely reason, the German command has a much harsher and more stern sound. When you say a word like SITZ or PLATZ (DOWN), you can't help but sound like you mean business. Dogs need authority. Most dogs actually like authority. The exception here would be our Emma. Emma is as stubborn as a dog comes, but that's another story.... Back to German dogs commands.

My favorite command to give the dogs: RAUS. This means GET OUT. It's just fun to say. Not that I don't want my dogs around, they just tend to have a bad habit of getting into things they shouldn't.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

My Rules for Riding on Public Transportation

When riding any form of mass transportation there are unwritten rules:

1) Keep your eyes to yourself. ( I find a book helpful here)

2) Don't sit on a seat that is facing backwards. (Just weird)

3) Keep a straight face. (This applies specifically to situations when someone sits near you who hasn't showered but has tried to hid the stench with cheap perfume)

4) Don't sit next to anyone unless you can't find another empty seat. (This rules is an important one)

5) Ignore people acting strangely, crying children, and stupid schoolchildren without parental supervision. (It just feeds the insanity).

6) Be conscious of the elderly and offer them you seat. (this is just good manners even though most people don't do this.)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Blame it on the fairy tales

German word of the day: Wort (word)

There is one thing about the German language that really annoys me. All of the nouns are capitalized.

For the last week of class I kept thinking that it must just look like my teacher is capitalizing random words.

My mistake....

Like a good student, I was doing my homework last night. As David looked over my work, he told me to capitalize the nouns.

Me: Why? The staaten (state) isn't a proper noun.

David: All nouns are capitalized.

Me: What? Weird. Why?

David: I don't know. I know more about English grammar than German grammar. Ask your teacher. He'll know.

So today I asked my teacher about why all nouns are capitalized and I got a story worth sharing.

Apparently, the first German dictionary was compiled by the Grimm Brothers. Grimm like the fairy tale guys. When they took the dictionary to the editor, they were told that there were too many worts (words). ( Uh duh, it's a language. The breadth of any language isn't short. Sorry for the aside, I just need to add in my two cents here.) The editor told them they needed some way to distinguish between different types of words. So they capitalized the nouns...and it stuck.

Danish (and one of the other Scandinavian languages) also used to be like this. Then, after WWI, they wanted to deGermanize their languages and took out the capitalization of all nouns. During the communist era, many leftists in Germany tried to rid the German language of the old, bad ways. It didn't work. So here we are today...capitalized nouns.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

My hands are purple!?!

I've finally moved into my new apartment and have so time for a brief blog.

My husband LOVES red cabbage. He loves it so much that he decided to buy two of them for us and 3 for his parents. (Yes, my mother-in-law thought it was a bit much too.) Don't get me wrong here, I like red cabbage. However, two red cabbages is the equivalent of 4 pots of cooked red cabbage. This means lots of work for me. I love to cook so normally this wouldn't be a problem, but there was a tiny flaw this time....I just moved to a new country and don't quite have the equipment to cook red cabbage. So here is how it all went down:

I stare a the cabbage and like any good engineer, I assess the problem.

I attempt to cut the cabbage in half. However, I have a 2 in knife that is pretty dull as my only sharp kitchen tool.

I fail miserably.

I take a deep breathe, regroup and I decide instead to use the grater. I soon find the 3 kg cabbage a bit too heavy and too large to manage with a grater.

I put the cabbage on the cutting board and take the dull knife and start to manually shred the cabbage.

I find this method to be slow, but it gets the job done so I continue.

About a tenth of the way into shredding the cabbage, my father-in-law comes in and observes the madness.

Ralf: I'm no expert in the kitchen, but usually doesn't one use a long knife to cut such a vegetable.

Me: Usually I do, but this is all I have.

Ralf: Oh dear!

30 minutes later....

The cabbage is shredded and in cooking in the pot.

I survey my work space, and to my horror everything is a lovely shade of bluish-purple--- INCLUDING MY HANDS!!!

Sigh...the things we do for those we love.

Monday, November 2, 2009

die Orgel

I have a new favorite German word...Orgel (organ). It's just a fun word to say. When I first saw it printed I had to giggle...just a little.

Last night I went to a concert for the Baden-W├╝rttemberg state youth choir. The concert was held in the church of David's parents. While this church is by no means and architectural wonder like the well-known churches in Europe, it does have some beautiful stained glass windows and a very impressive organ. This organ is so impressive that it takes up the entire back part of the church.

We got to the concert with a few minutes to spare, unfortunately there were no good empty seats on the bottom level. We ventured up to the upper floor in search of seats. As luck would have it, three seats with a prime view of the choir and organ had just been emptied. These made for an excellent show. One thing about going to watch a choir is that it is purely entertainment for the ears. Since I need to have multiple levels of sensory entertainment, I was lucky enough to be able to watch the organist play, which is a show in and of itself.

In the middle of the concert, the choir took a break and the audience was treated to a wonderful piece fur die orgel (btw the u in fur should have two dots above it but I'm not using a German keyboard at the moment). During the piece, David and I started talking about the organ. Commenting on things like 'where does an organist practice? In a church?' From there, I commented about how it would be impossible to own your own organ because even the small ones cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. David told me that the church actually renovated the organ about 15 years ago for about 1.3 million euros. David even rode his bike to help raise money for the renovations. I think it is pretty great that there are still places in the world where a church wants to spend that kind of money to renovate an organ and that there are still people who want to work to raise the money.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Broken doorbell, broken German

Have you ever had a conversation with someone only to realize long after the conversation is over what the other person was trying to tell you? This happens to me all the time in Germany. The problem is that I currently only speak a little German, but I want to try to converse with people in German if at all possible. My stubbornness often lends itself to confusion for all parties involves. Today, the doorbell rang and a young man was standing there with a parcel. This is how it all went down:

Mail Guy: Hallo! (hello!) Followed by a bit of German that I can only assume meant something like "I have a delivery for Frau Koch"

I take the box from him.

Mail Guy: More German words I don't understand, although I pick out the word hund (dog).

I point at Emma, smile, and laugh.

(Sidenote: Emma was barking like crazy which is how I knew that the guy was at the door)

Mail Guy: Frau Koch?

Me: Ja! (Yes!)

He hands me the electronic signature pad and I sign.

Me: Chao! (Goodbye!)

I begin to close the door...

Mail Guy: Points at something on the side of the door and says something that I couldn't even begin to understand.

I stare at him in confusion as he waits for my reply.

Me: Ok...Danke! (OK...thank you!) Chao!

I smile and shut the door.

I then went inside and sat down only to realize a few minutes later that he was asking about the doorbell. There isn't a doorbell here and I think he wanted me to tell him where the doorbell was. I told my father-in-law this story and he just laughed and said I should have as the guy if he spoke English. Oh well. Maybe next time, or maybe I'll just learn how to say "the doorbell is broken, we've replaced it with a dog." Any thoughts...

Game shows...beware

Last night David and I decided to go to our favorite place to grab a bier (beer), Vogelbrau. We walked in and looked around for a seat. The place was packed, so we sat at the bar until a table opened up. We hadn't even gotten a chance to place our drink order, when we saw a couple standing up and putting on their coats we made a beeline for their freshly deserted table.

Once seated, I looked up and found myself 2 feet from a big TV screen that was showing the USA vs. Germany soccer game. I thought to myself, 'sweet, prime seating.!' So we settled in, ordered our drinks and a piece of onion pie.

The restaurant was quickly becoming more and more crowds. Shortly, after our beers arrived, we found ourselves sharing our table with an older German couple. The man looked at empty half of our table with the same look that my dog Millie will give me when she wants food. We gladly welcomed the couple to our table. ( This is fairly common in Germany as all seating is self-seating so often in crowded restaurants and bar you end up sharing your table.)

Soon our food arrived and we dove in. At this point the soccer game had ended ( 0:1 USA) and a German game show was playing. About halfway through my food, I looked up and to my horror saw naked people running around on the screen. I turned to look at David, eyes wide with shock, "They can show THIS on TV? Here?" Apparently, I was the only one in shock. I quickly turned my head back to my food, although by now my appetite was gone. Apparently, the couple sitting across from us noticed my reaction. They looked at the screen to see what had me so upset. Once they took a glance at the screen, they turned around and gave a little chuckle. The man then asked me if I was American(Despite speaking English, my reaction to nudity made it clear that I was American and not British). The couple were quite lovely. . I told them I was from Atlanta, Ga. The man replied that he knew of Atlanta from the Olympics. He told me that he and his wife had just returned from Budapest. He asked me if I had been, and I sadly replied no. He said it was wonderful and reminded him of Vienna, but not good for a relaxing 4 day holiday. Too much walking from place to place. ( Sidenote: Budapest is a very expansive city that straddles the Danube River. It is actually two cities Buda and Pest, each corresponds to a different side of the Danube.) I should point out that European vacations are typically much longer and slower-paced than American vacations. As an American, I often travel to a city and cram in as many sites and activities as possible in a few short days. Four days in Budapest, would have been a good amount of time for me. However, too a European I can understand and appreciate how that might have felt rushed.

More to come soon...I'm going to a fish restaurant for dinner tonight. I'm sure I'll come home with a good story or two.

Monday, October 26, 2009

A pinch of this and a sprinkle of that

My attention is currently too short to write an entry on just one topic. Therefore, I give you a list of a few things that are on my mind.

1) Black, brown, and gray are definitely the "it" colors this season. That or no one likes color here. Never thought I would think that my wardrobe is too colorful.

2) Even the Germans have tired of Obama. When I visited downtown Karlsruhe back in May, I noticed the 'Yes We Can' hamburger restaurant. Now, not even six months later, this restaurant has already been replace by a chinese place...or something like that. Maybe it was put out of business by the Hooters that has opened across the street.

3) Nothing moves at a quick pace here. I now expect everything to take longer than expected and longer than told.

4) You get used to the cold. It's not so bad. Hot tea has never looked so good.

5) Sunday really is a day of rest here. You can't even toss glass into the recycle containers or drill holes. Too loud.

6) You can learn English here by reading Crime stories. Englisch lernen mit krimis. My father-in-law reads stories like "Roses don't bleed" and "A Painting to Die for" to improve his English. When I took Latin back in high school I had to read Caesar, Ovid, and stupid stories about annoying Roman kids traveling to Britian who got stuck in a ditch. Not fair. Although I can't complain about Ovid.

7) Wine tasting here is a lot of fun. You can bring your dog, stay for as long as you want, and afterwords go for a hike to a ruined castle. Not to mention you can buy a case of wine for the price of two drinks at a jazz club on Bourbon St.

8) Pointing and saying "das" will get you far when buying produce and cheese (kase) at the market.

Just a few random thoughts....more soon

Monday, October 12, 2009

Here we go...

After much agonizing and failed attempts, I've decided that I'm going to finally publish something on my blog today. Ripping of the band aid is always the least painful when you do it quickly, right?

I've started something like seven different blogs entries, but most seem like incomplete stories that still have yet to come to an end. So I've decided I will wait to post them until they do come to a logic end. Most of these entries concern different obstacles that I have run into while setting up the apartment David and I will live in at some point. More on this subject later, and onto today's topic.

So here I am, sitting in my in-law's attic, my home for the past few weeks, trying to decide what to write about. Maybe I'll just start with a few observations about living here in Germany...

1. It's cold here. I've always known that air conditioning doesn't exist here, but I was pretty sure that once it got cold here that people might turn on the heat. I was wrong, apparently cold is a matter of opinion. Right now, it's 50 F outside, and 60 F in the warmer parts of the house like the kitchen. My Germany family, could not be more pleased about the weather conditions outside. They can still wear their short sleeves inside, and outside too if they will only be out for a short time (less than 30 minutes). In contrast, I am wearing a long sleeved shirt, sweater, wool socks, and a scarf...and that just inside. I've even caught a cold from being in a cold house all the time. Oh how I miss climate controlled 68 F living, I don't think I ever fully appreciated the thermostat until now. To make this whole situation even more humorous, when my in-laws were in Georgia during the heat of summer, they all caught colds from being inside in the air conditioning. The nice thing about having a cold, is that it is a good excuse to lie in bed and read. Nothing better than snuggling under a blanket with a hot cup of tea and I good book. Yesterday, I did just that. I passed the time with The Patron Saint of Liars by Ann Patchett and a cup of green tea. So I guess, the upside to being cold is that I get to read more. I've read 4 books in the two weeks I've been here. If I keep going at the rate I'm going to run out of the books that I brought with me. I was so worried about not being able to buy books in English here that I brought 10-15 books with me. I am hoping this supply will last until Christmas, but at the rate I'm going, and the rate that the temperature outside is lowering, it probably won't. Oh well, at least there is a library here for american books. I will admit that I'm sort of afraid that it will just have weird random Agatha Christie. Most of my relatives here, when they read books in English, will read dective novels or mysteries or Dan Brown. I'll see. I'm hoping to make it to the American library soon, but soon means whenever David gets a chance to tell me how to get there. That being said, soon will probably be something like two weeks to a month. Oh well....

2. Space is a luxury not a right. For the last year I shared a 1352 square foot condo with my husband and two dogs. Now I'm sharing a 130 ft room with the husband, two dogs, eight suitcase worth of clothes and shoes and the contents of my in-laws attic. It is tight living, but that seems to be the norm here. Granted, most people don't live in attics (which is only temporary for us) but still, living quarters are cramped. No matter what window I look out of I can usually see two to three other homes. This is an intrusive feeling for me. I'm used to the wide open countryside. Okay, maybe not wide open, but at least not living right on top of other people. While I am used to living around neighbors, it's a little different here. In my old neighborhood in TN, I lived amoungst retired people who spent their days sitting in their garages watching what was going on in the neighborhood. What was going on was usually my husband and dogs walking around the neighborhood. Whenever, we were gone for a few days someone always noticed. It was actually a bit creepy in a way. Here, things are a little bit different. People are used to living around other people, and your privacy is a given. Whenever, I sit on the bus to go down town, or I go out to the supermarket, people are always careful not to make eye contact and to give you your space if you need it. I think it's nice. This type of privacy is prevelant in big cities around the world, but coming from the small town southern USA it's a luxury. Funny how the closer people live to one another, the less they seem to care about their neighbors. Considering, the fact that my German is not very good, I'm grateful that every cashier at the store, doesn't feel the need to ask me about my day or comment on something I'm buying. No need to make conversation, just do their job. It's different, but still nice.

I think that was a good first attempt. My apologies for the lack of structure, but at least it was something. For my next blog, look forward to the ins and outs of buying a sofa in Germany.