Monday, June 9, 2014

Overheard in Germany

I have had the opportunity to spend quite a bit of time with Americans in Germany, through the student groups I brought here from my school in Fond du Lac, WI, 7th-grade exchange students who spend three weeks in Esslingen before returning home to Sheboygan with their German exchange partners, and family and friends who have visited and stayed with us from one day to several weeks. The things they say at times reveal some of the differences between life here and life there.

I would love to have a similar list of things German visitors to the U.S. say as they travel around and notice things that are different. I do remember several of the German 7th graders last year being surprised and uncomfortable about the fact that the bathroom doors in their host families' houses didn't lock. In German homes, doors to most rooms - including the bathrooms - are kept closed. In the U.S., generally a closed door means "Don't come in here" or "occupied".

Here are some of the things I've heard and remembered (or written down) over the years:

Does everyone smoke over here?
What do you mean, 'They don't take credit cards'?
There's no elevator? But our room is on the third floor!
Wait. We have to pay for water
OMG, Frau Schwabi! I think we accidentally clicked on a porn channel! We didn't mean to! Are we going to be charged for that?  ("It was probably just a late night commercial. Don't worry about it.")
Wow - gas is only 1.59!  ("That's Euros per liter. Which converts to $8.21 per gallon.")
A stairway without a railing? That would never fly in the U.S.!
So apparently most of the things you tell us about in class [about the way things are in Germany] are true! 
Are Germans thirsty all the time? Their coffee cups are tiny, there are no drinking fountains for refilling our water bottles, and you have to pay for water
We're walking to the train station? How far is that?  ("Twenty minutes at most.")  Isn't there a bus?
Can someone tell me how this bullshit shower works?!?  Oops. Hi, Frau Schwabi.  (I had just come to the girls' room for curfew-check on one of my student trips as a very frustrated student was coming out of the bathroom in her bathrobe.)
Sam? SAM! Why can't he hear me?  ("Because our walls are made of concrete.")
Frau Schwabi, on my first day at my host family's house, I fell down the stairs. All the way down. And it was a spiral staircase." 
How old is this church?  ("It was built in the 13th century.")  Are you kidding? 
I can't believe how hot it was. And my host family didn't even have air conditioning! 
Patients have to walk up two flights of stairs to get to their physical therapy appointments? How do they manage that?  ("Carefully.")
Frau Schwabi, now I know why you love this country so much!  

 Just for fun, here's a recent conversation between one of my German students (7th grade) and me:

    Me: "What do you want to learn about next?"
    Student: "How about the Middle Ages?!"
    Me: "We can't really learn about that in relation to the U.S. because there were no Middle Ages in the States."
    Student: "What do you mean, 'no Middle Ages in the States'?"
    Me: "The United States is only about 240 years old."
    Student: "No way."
    Me: "I'm serious. No knights, no castles, no beheadings."

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