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.