Category Archives: Culture Shock

My experiences living in Germany and reacting to the new language and culture.

InterNations: An American Expat Answers Questions About Living in Germany

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Life as an American Expat in Germany, an Interview
with Oh God, My Wife Is German.

Conducted by InterNations
October, 2014

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Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Germany, etc.

I am an American expat from Portland, Oregon, now living in Hannover, Germany. I moved here in September of 2012 in order to be with my wife, who is just German as all hell.

New Town Hall, Hannover, Germany

When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?

I’ve attempted to maintain one blog or another since 2001. None of them lasted because I just didn’t have the motivation, but this all changed when I met my wife. I thought she was hilarious – whether she meant to be or not – and I made a habit of writing down her more memorable “denglish” quotes. I had no idea I would ever share these things with the world. When it all started, I just thought I was collecting little inside jokes for she and I to laugh about in bed while we farted under the covers. Her quotes soon became the inspiration for the blog and — much to my surprise — readers seemed to enjoy them as much as we did. (The quotes, I mean. Not the farts.)

Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?

You know, I’ve never understood what makes one post more popular than another. Some of my absolute favorite posts have tanked, while weaker ones have gone on to be reblogged and republished in numerous places. But there is one fairly recent post which amused me more than the rest: How to Convince Your Neighbors You Are A Thief and An Alcoholic (In One Simple Gesture)

vodka bottle in germany

Tell us about the ways your new life in Germany differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?

For me, the single biggest difference between life back in the States and life as an expat in Germany and is boredom. That is to say, boredom no longer exists. Every day is different, especially as I attempt to live using a second language. And as for culture shock, oh my yes, I have a whole blog category relating my experiences in this arena. Here is just one post of many: Culture Shock 15: The Batshit Insane Ways in Which Germans Tell Time (And Why I Hate Them For It)

Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Germany? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?

There is no way anyone can fully prepare for a life change like this. You do the best you can – learning as much of the language, culture and history as possible – then dive in headfirst. Where do you find a job? An apartment? Friends? Forget it; these things will take care of themselves. And no matter if the transition goes smoothly or not, I guarantee you it will be hilarious.

Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?

This is precisely what my blog is all about, from my wife’s time in America, to my time here in Germany. One anecdote does come to mind, however, but it has long since been lost in the archives of my blog. I think like 12 people read it at the time. It was called, New York Liaison: A Tale of Love and Projectile Vomiting in the Big Apple

New York Liaison: A Tale of Love and Projectile Voliting in New York City

Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Germany?

1: Learn the language.

2: Bring certified, notarized copies of everything.

3: Watch out for bikes.

How is the expat community in Germany? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?

The expat community here is great. There are groups meeting up all the time – English-speaking ones, especially. My biggest problem is bothering to go at all. It’s not that I don’t like them, it’s that I’m lazy and awkward. Socializing makes me tired. What I really want to do is watch the latest season of Game of Thrones with my wife, drink a couple of brew doggies and pass out on the couch.

 How would you summarize your expat life in Germany in a single, catchy sentence?

“Tearless grief bleeds inwardly.”

– Christian Nevell Bovee

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Check out InterNations for great expat networking and social opportunities at www.internations.org

And if you’d like to find out more about life as an American expat in Germany, check out some of our other posts, like this one: Culture Shock 5: Five Things That Suck About Living in Germany


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American Expat in Germany Nearly Killed by an Acorn, Vents His Shame upon the Biggest Spider in the Universe

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I just discovered something you have all long suspected — I am a huge pussy. An American pussy, to be precise, but one who enjoys each and every day spent living here in Hannover, Germany. I love it here! I can handle the cold, hard slap of culture shock, and I am slowly (though painfully) learning the German language, but the simple challenges presented by the changing of the seasons continue to test my mettle.

Today started with the usual routine: I got up, got dressed, and retrieved my bike from the garage so I could ride it to the gym. However, I failed to notice the staggering number of acorns covering the street and sidewalk in front of our house. It is Fall as I write this post, and there is a giant oak tree looming over our roof. Every time I go out the front door, I hear the crack of an acorn as it strikes the pavement, reminding me that every year, a certain number of people actually die because of falling coconuts hitting them on the brain.

oak-trees-in-germany

Though smaller and less threatening, acorns are not the adorable comedic fodder we’ve been led to believe by the Ice Age movie franchise and its clearly retarded squirrel character. No, these little sons of bitches are rock hard and impossibly smooth, so you can imagine how a thin bicycle tire might interact with one at high speed.

After getting on my bike and pushing off, I descended the slope of our driveway and began to make a right turn as I entered the street. My front tire bounced off an acorn and turned my handlebars even more to the right, nearly sending me over the top as I struggled to keep it from going perpendicular. Of course a car was passing by at that moment, but I wasn’t in any real danger of being hit; the car was simply there so the passengers inside could witness the expression of sheer terror on my face and mock me for it accordingly.

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I got my bike under control, pulled over to the curb and looked back over my shoulder. There were so many acorns in the street I felt like I’d just unwittingly navigated a minefield during wartime. “6th Division, Charlie Company, Landmine Detection Unit. We just run right through that shit with blindfolds on. 97% success rate. Best record in the Corps.”

acorns-on-the-ground-in-germany

I’m joking right now, but at that moment, I was pissed off. I walked my bike back to the garage, opened the door and practically tossed it inside. Determined to clear the street of every last acorn, I reached for one of the brooms leaning against the wall and saw something move from the corner of my eye. Oh yes, it was the largest spider in Germany.

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As you can see, I managed to snap a few pictures of the spider after coaxing my scrotum back out of its hiding place. That other thing in the picture, my friends, is a €1 euro coin. When I tossed the coin on the ground, the spider started to shake really hard, as if scared. Then I realized it wasn’t scared at all; it was shaking its web in order to better snare whatever doomed creature had fallen into it. Isn’t that just awful? And isn’t that a perfectly legitimate reason to leave the coin there forever, spider or no, so it will never be touched by human fingers again? Christ, just telling this story makes me feel like I’m covered in bugs. I’ll need 2 milligrams of Xanax and 6 ounces of Jameson if I hope to stand a snowball’s chance in hell of falling asleep tonight.

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Since this spider was obviously too huge to live, I grabbed a garden hoe and — using the flat side downward like a piston — smashed that motherfucker with enough force to cause an earthquake on the other side of the planet. I did this repeatedly, and also while screaming like a little girl. Speaking of little girls, there’s a kindergarten right next to our house and the garage door was wide open, so the kids who were walking home from school that day heard, “AAAAAAAA*clang* *clang* *clang*AAAHHHGG!” while seeing a grown man employ a level of violence so profoundly unnecessary it was probably illegal.

I bet those little kids are scarred for life, crying themselves to sleep every night after begging their parents to explain why their new American neighbor hates living in Germany so badly he beats the very soil beneath his feet.

“Wait, the bad man was doing what now?” soothes the parent. “Screaming? And then he started crying, you say? Oh, go back to sleep, Klaus — you were just having another one of your silly little nightmares.”

 


 

German-American Couple Visits the Altwarmbüchener See, Accidentally Discovers a Complete Freak Show

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Photo Credit: Johan Hansson (https://www.flickr.com/photos/plastanka/) — Subject to copyright

The other day, my German wife and I rode our bikes to the Altwarmbüchener See, a small lake outside Hannover, Germany. We just sort of stumbled upon it by accident, and, as a result, experienced the weirdest bike ride of our lives.

At first glance, there appeared to be no one at the lake. This was to be expected, as the weather that day was menacing; the sky was overcast and the clouds were turning an angry shade of ‘turn back now.’ We rode past the little food stand and the paddle boat rental place, and approached the dock. Next to the dock was a small, asphalt ramp — no longer than 10 feet — which we used to walk our bikes down to the water. That’s when shit got weird.

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Photo Credit: FBellon (https://www.flickr.com/photos/55158656@N06/) — Subject to copyright

Out of nowhere came a fat kid with no shirt on, yelling at us in German not to use the ramp. This was no ordinary fat kid, however — this one had no hands. I’m not kidding. His right hand ended at the wrist, and his left hand was little more than half a palm and the root of a thumb. Had he lost them in some horrible farming accident? I thought to myself. While in the womb, was he subjected to a strict diet of nicotine and horse tranquilizers? Neither my wife nor I had a clue, and we could only watch, hypnotized, as he scrambled to block our way by stringing a metal chain across the path. The chain extended from a post on the right and attached to the trunk of a large tree on the left. Of course he dropped the chain like 5 times, and normally I would have felt really bad for him, but this kid was a dick. The ramp literally went nowhere, there were no boats in the water and no one else around. My wife asked if someone actually owned the ramp, and he breathlessly explained it did, in fact, belong to someone, and it would be very nice if we were to get off of it.

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Photo Credit: Rui Fernandes (https://www.flickr.com/photos/ruifernandes/) — Subject to copyright

We turned our bikes around and rode back the way we came, passing the sandy beach area and a large park. To our right was a wooden bench, and sitting on the bench was a surprisingly well-groomed homeless man. He wore spectacles, had a bike with a basket on the back full of garbage, and a half liter of beer by his side. He was reading a newspaper, but — and I shit you not — the newspaper was upside down. Maybe he was the world’s smartest homeless man, quietly honing his cryptographic skills in anticipation of the day his government calls upon him to crack a cipher intercepted from space aliens. Maybe that beer sitting next to him was not the first one of the day. I don’t know. But riding our bikes past him was like a slow-motion sequence straight out of a David Lynch movie.

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Photo Credit: Mike Lewis (https://www.flickr.com/photos/mikelewis/) — Subject to copyright — Image cropped from original size.

Then it started to rain. Hard. My wife calls this sort of rain a monsoon (which she adorably pronounces “mohn-ZOON”), and the name fits; it was pounding so hard we were instantly soaked. My hands kept slipping off the handlebars of my bike, and I had to physically wipe the water out of my eye sockets in order to see. And as we neared the park exit, you know what we did see? A shirtless man, standing upright, rubbing his massive beer belly with both hands. He was just standing there, rubbing that shit like the god damn Pillsbury Doughboy. I asked my wife if this was a German thing: “I know your people are into saunas and health spas — is this some sort of water therapy? Does rainwater on the stomach help with digestion?” She just rolled her eyes and we continued to navigate our way through this paradigm shift.

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Photo Credit: Surian Soosay (https://www.flickr.com/photos/ssoosay/) — Subject to copyright

We steered our bikes through the park entrance and were almost home free when we encountered the final oddity of the day: three men in hazmat suits carrying laser guns. Okay, I’m exaggerating on this one a bit. It was actually just a trio of hardcore nerds with metal detectors wearing full rain gear, but still! At first glance, they looked like they stepped right off the cover of some horrible sci-fi pulp from the 50s — Attack of the Atomic German Metal Sniffers. And let’s not forget, these dorks were headed to an obviously haunted lake in the middle of a torrential downpour hoping to find precious things. Lost watches and earrings and shit. Can you imagine the conversation?

“Why are we out here in this weather, Horst? My wife has coffee and cake waiting for us back home…”

Shut your dirty hole, Gunther. Today is the day. I can feel it.”

“You don’t mean–“

“Oh yes… today we find the Buried Treasure of the Altwarmbüchener Carnival Freakshow.”

“But Horst, my wife says it’s cursed!”

“Your wife is a sow and a teller of lies! Now turn on your metal detector. You too, Norbert. A pack of twisted circus freaks left a fortune somewhere deep in the sand around this lake, and we will find it.”

“Okay, okay. Don’t get snippy. Hey, look at that young couple riding by…”

“Pay them no mind, Gunther. Only fools and philistines would be out riding bicycles in this kind of weather.”

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Photo Credit: daveiam (https://www.flickr.com/photos/daveiam/) — Subject to copyright

Anyway, my wife and I finally made it home safely and life seems to have returned to an acceptable state of normalcy — probably because the moment our bike tires left the park, the damaged membrane of reality we’d obviously slipped through managed to heal itself and close behind us like a giant, invisible vagina. Needless to say, I’m not in any hurry to return to this particular lake, but my wife keeps talking about it. She wants me to give it a second chance, you see, but I’ve seen Carnivàle on HBO. I watched Tod Browning’s Freaks in college. I know what happens to uppity city folk when morbid curiosity brings them out to see God’s little accidents. If we return to the Altwarmbüchener See, my wife will sprout a mermaid’s tail and magically learn to play the harp, and my skin will turn white as paint as I am overcome with the urge to bite the heads off chickens.

“That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, step right up! For just a few measly coins, you too can see the latest additions to our little lakeside family — Gertrude the Weeping Mermaid and her circus geek husband, Ulrich the Halfwit!”

Click Culture Shock to read more of my emotionally scarring adventures here in Germany.

American Man Accidentally Buys 10 Liters of Beer in Germany

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This is a “Bierkasten,” which translates to “beer box,” or “giant container full of wonderful things.”

My wife is a Gymnasium teacher here in Hannover, Germany, which means she gets 6 weeks off work each summer. So, to celebrate the beginning of her summer break this year — and also our recent move from a horrible apartment in the city into a wonderful new house in the suburbs — my German wife decided to host a small BBQ in our back yard. She invited 4 or 5 of her co-workers and promptly sent me to the local Edeka supermarket to buy beer.

She asked me to bring home exactly “3 six-packs of Ratskrone pilsner,” and she asked me to do this because one can buy Ratskrone (like most German beers) in half liter bottles. But unlike most German beers, you can score a sixer of this shit for like 2 euros. That’s cheap as balls, even by American standards. So I grabbed one of the trolley suitcases we use to carry groceries and shagged ass to the store.

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“I’m coming for you, my little golden children!”

Once there, I grabbed a shopping cart and beelined it for the hooch aisle. Of course there was only 1 six pack of Ratskrone left. How could a simple errand in Germany ever go wrong? Luckily, the clerk — a friendly young man wearing a beer-stained apron — was stocking the shelves nearby, so I approached and did my best to speak German with him:

ME: “Excuse me please. Do you have more of these things? These large… six bottles of Ratskrone beer?”

CLERK: “Uh, let me ask.” (He walked into the storage room and yelled a question to his boss, who then yelled something in return.)

CLERK: “Sorry, we’re all out, but we do have these…” (He said, pointing to a big plastic carton full of individual Ratskrone bottles. NOTE: These cartons hold 20 bottles of beer — 10 liters total — and in Germany, everyone knows who buys them: college students about to get obliterated.)

ME: “Oh. Have these bottles the exact same prices?”

At this point, the clerk walked back and forth between the six pack aisle and the carton aisle, explaining to me the price difference in lightspeed German. I nodded as if I’d understood a goddamn thing he said, thanked him for the help and proceeded to calculate the logistics on my own.

ratskrone-beer-with-kasten-germany

Pictured: “beer math.”

The Wife asked me to buy 3 six packs, I thought to myself. That’s 18 half liter bottles no matter how you count them. I’ll just get these loose sons of bitches instead.

So I put the six pack back on the shelf and placed 18 individual bottles in my shopping cart. Then, I remembered you can buy an entire plastic carton full — 20 half liter bottles — and you get a better deal, so I grabbed an extra two bottles to make it an even 20. That’s when I realized, Shit, the chick at the cash register will think I just want 20 loose beers and forget to give me the sweet carton discount, and there is no way in hell I’m going to be able to clarify my intentions in German.

So, I placed all 20 beers back in the carton, lifted the entire carton into my shopping cart, and went to the cash register. The cashier — a kind, nerdy little woman with glasses — scanned one of the beers and rang them all up. What follows is our conversation, if you were to translate everything directly into German:

CASHIER: “That will be 9.59 euros with refund, please.”

ME: “Okay. Must I take this plastic thing with me?” (I asked, pointing to the container.)

CASHIER: “Uh, no, you don’t have to… but you won’t get your carton refund back.”

ME: (Looking very confused.) “May I not, right now, this plastic thing give back?”

CASHIER: “Well, when you return the glass bottles, you will get your refund back on those, but if you don’t bring them back with the container, you will lose the container refund.”

ME: “I am very sorry, but I am, at this very moment, learning German.”

CASHIER: “Oh, no problem,” (she said, continuing to speak German, only now leaning forward and pointing to things on the receipt.) See, here is the bottle refund, and right here is the container refund…”

ME: “Right, but can I not, exactly now, return the container and get money?”

CASHIER: (Thinking for a moment…) “Oh, I understand. Let me ask my manager.”

The cashier hollered some German words over the PA system and then sat there, waiting, while the rest of the people in line glared at me. The manager appeared — a very thick, very bleach blonde woman — and listened as the cashier explained my intentions:

CASHIER: “This customer does not want the plastic container. Can we just ring everything up again and give him the container refund back?”

MANAGER: “No.” (Then, speaking directly to me…) “You must return the container with the bottles in order to receive the container refund.”

ME: “May I do this right now?”

MANAGER & CASHIER: (Speaking in unison–) “No.

ME: “I do not understand correctly. Must I first exit this food store, walk through this food store, and then give back the container?”

MANAGER: “The container must be filled with empty bottles of this exact type of beer. Otherwise, we cannot be sure you bought them here.”

ME: (About ready to cry…) “Should I just have purchased 20 bottles of beer without the container?”

MANAGER: “No no, this way is cheaper.”

Having recognized the word “cheaper,” I nodded my understanding vigorously, apologized to everyone like a repentant criminal, stuffed the receipt in my pocket and took off. Once outside, I placed the bottles inside the luggage trolley and walked home with the empty beer carton swinging in my hand, letting every single one of our new neighbors know my wife and I spend our Tuesday evenings consuming lethal amounts of beer.

“Hey there, Günter! How you doin’? Yep, the Missus and I are about to go on a real hellbender. You’ve still got that ambulance on speed dial, right? Har har! See you in church!”

empty-beer-bottles-case-germany-ratskrone

Score one for America.

To read more of my emotionally scarring adventures in Germany, please check out my other Culture Shock posts.

An American Man in Germany Finally Sits Down to Pee

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“Quick honey, take a picture, for I have finally achieved my finest moment.” — Photo Credit: Gabriel Cabral — Subject to copyright — Image cropped from original size — https://www.flickr.com/photos/120663298@N03/

I have never been the sort of man who sits down when he pees. Quite the contrary, in fact. I have always taken great pride in my ability to remain standing while exorcising my bladder demons: the stance, the posture, the sigh and inevitable piss shiver… it’s all manly as hell. And if I ever had trouble starting the flow, I would chant a little mantra, saying, “And now I become… Urinatus” — and then imagine myself as a triumphant gladiator in ancient Rome, looming over a fallen enemy. I whip out my sweaty hog, salute Emperor Commodus and then piss all over my foe’s lifeless corpse. Ahhh, sweet victory.

As an upright urinater, I enthusiastically teased every single one of my friends who admitted to squatting when they make water. They claimed it “feels better,” or that it was “just more comfortable.” Hogwash! I’d say. Sitting down to pee is the white flag of the henpecked husband. It is the dying gasp of the masculine spirit. It is that final moment before a man’s testicles drop off and his penis withdraws back up into the visceral cavity, leaving behind a soft pink dimple which will soon blossom into a fully functioning vagina.

These are the things I would say, that is, before my German wife found us a house in which to live. We left our old apartment with its epically horrible neighbors and found ourselves a new home outside the city of Hannover in a nice, quiet, suburban neighborhood. Our new place is glorious. It’s all white, with big rooms and lots of light, and it has that perpetually clean look some houses just seem to retain. It looks so clean, in fact, I cannot bring myself to sully its ivory brilliance. I also cannot bring myself to clean this giant son of a bitch, especially because our new house has 3 separate bathrooms. Do you like getting your face right down next to the toilet bowl so you can scrub it? I sure as hell don’t, and that brings us to the point of this particular blog post.

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“Look out toilet seat, here comes the hurricane!” — Photo Credit: dirtyboxface — Subject to copyright — Image adjusted for contrast — https://www.flickr.com/photos/dirtyboxface/

You see, even I must admit that when a man pees standing up, there is an inevitable amount of splash back. Even if he keeps his urine stream right in the middle of the water in the bottom of the bowl — you know, where God intended — little droplets will unavoidably find their way out and splatter all over the place: the rim, the floor, the walls… after just a few tinkles, all of these things will be colored a fine shade of urethra gold. And they’ll be sticky too, so you gotta clean everything up regularly. (Unless your wife goes out of town for a week. Then you can mark your territory like a filthy dog right up until she gets home, when you clean everything in a frenzied panic 5 minutes before she steps through the door.) But I have decided to avoid this scenario entirely; I have chosen to sit down when I pee.

I am proud to say I have never once urinated while standing up in any of the bathrooms in our new house. The toilets and surrounding areas have remained spotless, and my wife and I are very pleased. Oh sure, it took some getting used to. For one thing, it takes a lot longer to piss when you gotta drop trow completely. I mean, you gotta put some effort into it — a little planning and forethought, am I right, ladies? Gone are the days when I could just snare my junk like a frightened rabbit and aim it at the big white hole, make it cough and then stuff it back before the flush cycle is over. I get it now. And to all those friends I mocked in the past? I am sorry. I too am a squatter, and I am proud to join your bare-assed ranks.


 

American Expat in Germany Moves to the Suburbs and Promptly Drinks the Kool-Aid

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“German boxes on the hillside, German boxes made of ticky tacky…” — Photo Credit: futureatlas.com — Subject to copyright — https://www.flickr.com/photos/87913776@N00/

I’ve done a lot of complaining about the horrible neighbors in our apartment building here in Hannover, Germany, but not anymore! My German wife found us a sweet house to rent, located in the suburbs outside the city. Have you ever seen The Stepford Wives? What about The ‘Burbs or Poltergeist? Our new neighborhood is exactly like that; so perfect — so pretty, quiet and squeaky clean — something is clearly amiss.

I went jogging the other day and saw a police officer casually directing traffic (exactly 2 cars) to allow a line of children to pass safely on their bikes. He was even smiling and high-fiving the kids as they went by. He didn’t arrest a single one of them. Didn’t even ask for identification, and not a single sobriety test was performed. Amazing! Maybe I’m just a jaded American accustomed to the omnipresent threat of police intervention, but I just wasn’t buying it.

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“None of this is real…” — Photo Credit: Newtown grafitti — Subject to copyright — https://www.flickr.com/photos/newtown_grafitti/

On my way home, I saw two women chatting on the sidewalk, both of whom were pushing strollers with fresh babies inside. They actually waved to me and said hello. As I unlocked our front door, one of our next-door neighbors greeted me warmly as well. The man even smiled. Where’s the famous ‘cold shoulder‘ stereotype everyone likes to slap the Germans with? Where did all the pushy, impatient, off-putting sons of bitches go? Oh, that’s right; they’re in the city.

I guess I just didn’t realize I was a suburbanite at heart. After leaving the city, I can already feel my testosterone levels dropping. My testicles are shriveling up like salty raisins. My gut is growing and my soft white man-tits can finally fill a B cup. This is it — the real deal; I’m growing up. The next obvious step is to get a dog, name him after a famous composer with a contrived twist, like Fetchtwig van Barksoften or Wolf-fang Pottychaos Notsmart, and get used to the sensation of picking up his shit at the park. After that comes the requisite baby, minivan and total frontal lobotomy. “Take both lobes, Doc — I don’t want a single one of my former aspirations to wake me from my slumber.”

I’m just kidding. There’s nothing wrong with suburban life or having kids. Hell, if my German wife ever decides she wants to make little half-breed Teutons, I’ll be singing a very different tune. But until then? You’ll find us at the beer garden, because the hedonistic gods ruling our zero-responsibility lifestyle demand a pilsner sacrifice.

Beer on the Maschsee

Hey, if you’ve got a sec, you can read more about my expat adventures in Germany here. Thank you for stopping by and have an awesome summer!


 

Why Americans Don’t Like Soccer – One Opinion from an American Expat in Germany

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“When in doubt, go for the scrotum.” — Photo by John Fischer — Subject to copyright — https://www.flickr.com/photos/stickergiant/

It wasn’t until I moved to Germany, but especially since the 2014 FIFA World Cup, that I actually watched a single game of soccer. Okay, so technically I’d seen a few games before — one in Portland and another one in Seattle — but I had no idea who was playing or what was going on because I wasn’t paying attention. Why wasn’t I paying attention? Two reasons: 1.) I don’t follow sports because I am a huge nerd, and 2.) I am American.

Oddly enough, lots of American kids actually grow up playing soccer. I know I did, and I hated every minute of it. I had no coordination at all, and my grasp of the mechanics of the game were confused at best. It just seemed like a bunch of kids running around in a cluster, kicking each other in the shins until the ball went out of bounds. I’ve seen the old VHS tapes my Dad recorded in the 1980s, and they’re exactly like that — like a pack of yipping hyenas toying with a baby gazelle until it dies.

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“Go Timmy, go! OH MY GOD HE KICKED THAT KID IN THE MOUTH.” — Photo by martha_chapa95 — Subject to copyright — https://www.flickr.com/photos/56192190@N05/

My soccer team was named “Footloose” and I once earned a trophy with the title, “Mr. Offense” engraved on the front. Although I was proud of that trophy, I never felt like I’d earned it — probably because the “offense” I provided all summer consisted entirely of itching beneath my shin guards and staring off into space. I don’t even know which position I played. Probably defender. Anyway, I never put together the fact that every single kid on my soccer team got an award each year, and that my contributions to the game involved absolutely no goals scored ever. Ever.

Given the popularity of soccer among American kids, it seems odd we don’t really follow the sport into adulthood. It begins as a “soccer mom” hobby, with all the minivans and orange slices, but it stays there. Oh sure, it’s gaining popularity every year, especially in cities like my hometown of Portland, Oregon, which has it’s own professional team (the Portland Timbers), but soccer still trails far behind football, baseball, basketball and hockey. I have a few theories on why Americans have been so reluctant to embrace the sport, and they are as follows:

  1. We only root for winners.
    Americans are all about winners. Heroes. Legends. VIPs. We think very highly of ourselves, and we abhor anything which might take away from our godlike confidence. Obviously our national soccer team has become a force to be reckoned with, and a US victory in the World Cup is an inevitability, but we’ve been very reluctant to commit ourselves to our team. I think we would rather turn our backs on the sport entirely — coming up with reasons for our disdain after the fact — rather than feel the sting of defeat in the global arena. It’s like we allow for absolutely no learning curve when it comes to competing against other countries. If soccer were checkers, we wouldn’t flip over the board because we lost; we just wouldn’t play the game at all. “Pffffft, Checkers. That game is for fags.”
  2. We don’t like sharing the ball.
    Soccer is very much a team sport. Virtually every single goal is assisted in some way by another player, and getting the ball near the goal in the first place probably required the entire team working together in unison. You can’t really have a Michael Jordan running up and down the court, schooling everyone single-handedly. Or a Mark McGwire, crushing home runs with arms that are thicker around than my thighs. Sure, there are the stars — the big names, like Thomas Müller on the German national team, Lionel Messi with Argentina and Neymar Da Silva Santos Júnior, who took a Columbian knee to the spine playing for Brazil — but the game really comes down to fundamentals, like passing, position and crossing. I think Americans find fundamentals boring; the back-and-forth of it, seemingly without end. What we want to see is one person, one shining, heroic example of all that is man, rise up and crush the other team with high drama and sweat-soaked glory (and bloodshed, if possible).
  3. We are disgusted by diving.
    “Flopping,” “diving” or “taking a fall” — whatever you want to call it — we hate it. Americans are a macho bunch, and we pride ourselves on our ability to dish out a beating… or take one. Seeing a grown man throw his arms up in the air, twist his face in pain and roll around on the ground like he’s dying — only to see him stand up a few seconds later and continue playing like nothing ever happened — makes us sick to our stomachs. I don’t think anyone actually likes flopping. Even my German wife makes fun of it, putting the back of her hand to her forehead, crying, “I’m dying, I’m dying.” The first time I saw someone take a dive, I was positively outraged. “What is this shit? WHAT IS THIS SHIT!?” So, to me, it seems like the rest of the soccer-loving world puts up with flopping like it’s a necessary evil. Sure, they’ll roll their eyes, but they have fully accepted it. Americans just aren’t ready to do the same… yet.

I loved watching the 2014 World Cup, especially as an American living in Germany. I was just so curious about everything, and with Germany winning it all and taking home that hideous trophy, I was in the perfect position to become a lifelong fan. I think a lot of people enjoyed the hell out of the World Cup — Americans included — and the sport is now more popular than ever.

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Pictured: Thomas “Jesus-With-A-Soccer-Ball” Müller

It would be awesome if every country in the world had a vested interest in competitive soccer. I think it would bring us all a little closer together. I’m not saying it would give us world peace or anything, but it might make us a little more respectful. Like the Olympics. Have you ever wanted to punch a man in the throat just because he won a gold medal and he wasn’t from your country? If a woman from another country defeats the woman from your country, does that really make you want to slap her in the tits? No. It makes you respect the athlete — and hopefully the country from whence they came — and try to do better next time.

So let’s watch a little more soccer, America! We have an awesome team! (And we even stole Jürgen Klinsmann, a badass coach from Germany.) Speaking of Germany, let’s cheer for them now… and then kick their hairy asses in the 2018 World Cup!

Read more about my experiences as an American expat in Germany watching the FIFA 2014 World Cup.