Tag Archives: Hannover

Culture Shock: The 2014 FIFA World Cup as Experienced by an American Expat in Germany

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Photo by Alexandre Breveglieri — Subject to copyright — https://www.flickr.com/photos/breveglieri/

Until this year, I had never, in all my life, watched a World Cup soccer match. Oh, I caught a few Bundesliga games last year, but they did little more than inform me the Bavarian team (FC Bayern München) is much like the Los Angeles Lakers; they have all the money — and therefore all the star players — and regularly put their foot so far up everyone’s ass they can taste the shoe laces. It comes as no surprise, therefore, the German national team is comprised largely of players from the Bavarian team (many of whom come from other German cities, states or even different countries entirely). What did come as a surprise — at least to me, an American with absolutely no interest in soccer or sports in general — was just how incredibly good they would be.

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Holy flying monkeyshit, these guys are circus freaks! They never stop running. (Their heart and lungs have clearly been replaced with top-secret BMW engine components, which run on jet fuel and processed uranium.) They’re fast too, constantly stealing the ball and passing between tight groups of opposing players. They’re also smart. They plan ahead, executing plays with all the unfeeling precision of a serial killer. And their goalie, Manuel Neuer? Nothing gets by him. Jesus Christ, that handsome homunculus is clearly the offspring of long-armed orangutans and a randy Chewbacca. Even the coach, Joachim Löw is a badass; he’s all business, and he’s a total fashion stud too — with his churched-up designer clothes and full head of raven-black hair. (Maybe it’s Mabelene?) But you know what struck me most about the Germans? They play as a team. Oh sure, they’ve got their high-scoring players — their superstars, like Thomas MüllerAndré Schürrle and Miroslav Klose — but I never got the feeling anyone was showboating. The German national team really worked together, with equal emphasis on both offense and defense; a trait which would prove vital during the World Cup games themselves.

Of all the 2014 FIFA World Cup matches, my wife and I saw exactly 4 of them here in Hannover, Germany. These are my reactions and experiences:

June 26, 2014: USA vs. Germany

Score: 0-1 (Germany)
Reaction: “Shit, I don’t know who to root for!”
Experience: My wife and I sat inside a chain restaurant called Maredo on Georgstraße, in the back room, directly in front of a flatscreen TV with a shaky video stream. (It lost its cable connection enough times we shan’t be returning. Amateurs.) Anyway, I don’t think anyone behind us could see around my gigantic, baseball-capped skull, but you know what? Fuck ‘em. This was the first World Cup match I’d ever seen. I deserved the pole position.

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So after beating Ghana, who took us out of the last World Cup, the US faced one of the best teams in the world: Germany. I knew Germany was going to beat us, but I was surprised by how well we did against them. The final score was only 0-1 — far from the red-assed spanking I expected. I was proud of our team and simultaneously impressed by the German team. I really had no idea who to cheer for. I had my native country on the one hand, and my new home country on the other… and a visibly inebriated gang of German fans behind me. What was I to do? With absolutely no guidance from my wife, I opted to cheer for both. I must have looked like the world’s most confused soccer fan ever. “Nice save, USA! Yeah! Oooo, Germany is kicking ass! Good job, boys! Ain’t no shame in losing, America! Go Germany! Go USA! Hooraaaaay!” *Followed by awkward hand clapping, double fist pumps in the air and a few violent Tourette’s syndrome tics.*

July 4, 2014: France vs. Germany

Score: 0-1 (Germany)
Reaction: “Heh heh, the French guys look like roman candles.”
Experience: For this game, The Wife and I sat in a café called Finesse in Bothfeld. The place was packed, and the only available seats were at the bar. This proved to be a blessing in disguise, as we were the only people to receive immediate beverage service. (Everyone else had to wait for a very overwhelmed, very meltdown-primed waitress to come around.)

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Image collage featuring photos by Epic Fireworks — Subject to copyright — https://www.flickr.com/photos/epicfireworks/

It was a good game, with both sides displaying fantastic athleticism. But the only thing I can really remember about it was the French team jerseys. They wore dark blue shirts and shorts, with knee-high red socks and fluorescent green/yellow cleats. I was reminded of roman candle fireworks — you know, the ones we shot at each other on the 4th of July while our mother’s weren’t looking? I was mesmerized by those jerseys, even managing to overlook all the diving going on. Seriously, “diving,” or “flopping” is one of the primary reasons Americans have been so slow to embrace soccer. It disgusts us to see grown men flailing around on the ground, grabbing their ankles like they’ve got a compound fracture, only to see them stand up a few seconds later and play the rest of the game like nothing happened. No, no… we expect to see our athletes win games with blood flowing from their ears and vertebrae sticking out of their backs like dinosaur spines. Anything less and you’re a pussy.

July 8, 2014: Brazil vs. Germany

Score: 1-7 (Germany)
Reaction: “What in the sweet holy fuck is going on?!”
Experience: The Wife and I watched this game from home. We grabbed a couple of brew doggs from the basement, flipped on the tube and watched the madness unfold. My wife tried to correct a few term papers at the same time, but I knew right from the start that was a pipe dream. Also, I dropped one of said brew doggs on the staircase coming up from the basement, so I had to deal with that before I could watch the game. (And our basement still smells like a brewery.)

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Finally the whistle blew and Brazil came out like a swarm of pissed-off yellow jackets. Jesus Christ, they were so balls-out, I thought surely their intensity alone would win them the game. I mean, Brazil is supposed to be the best in the world, right? Some guy named “Pelé” played real good for them, or so I’ve heard. And they had the home-field advantage. But of course, Brazil lost their star player, Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior, when a Columbian player named Juan Camilo Zúñiga delivered a flying knee kick straight into his spine. Brazil also lost their star defender, Thiago Silva, after he earned his second yellow card in the game versus Columbia. But all the frenzied intensity in the world could not make up for these losses — or prepare them for the icy power of the German national team.

While the Brazilians sprinted around the field like a bunch of headless chickens, Germany played it cool; they matched Brazil’s speed and dexterity, but their demeanor was freakishly calm, like they’d done this all before. “Yes, yes, this is a very important game, we know, but we still have the final to win. No sense in getting all emotional.” Man, when Germany scored in the first couple of minutes, I thought, “Oh, maybe Germany can deal with these psychos.” And then, BOOM, BOOM, BOOM, BOOM, within the span of 15 minutes, Germany racked up the score 5-0. My wife and I could not believe it. Our thoughts — in sequence — were:

  1. Something is wrong.
  2. Someone bribed the Brazilian goalie.
  3. All of the referees are on the take.
  4. The Germans are on steroids.
  5. Everyone will blame Brazil’s missing star players.
  6. The citizens of Brazil are going to murder the entire German national team.
  7. For the love of God, Germany, if you value your lives, stop running up the score!
  8. Oh God, everyone is crying…

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Thankfully, Brazil scored a dignity-saving point, leaving the final score 1-7. Still, I could not believe what I had just seen. Even if the final match between Argentina and Germany proves to be amazing, people will be talking about the bizarre 2014 World Cup match between Brazil and Germany for the rest of their lives.

July 13, 2014: Argentina vs. Germany – FINAL MATCH

Score: 0-1 (Germany)
Reaction: “Ole, ole, ole-ole-ole… SUPER DEUTSCHLAND!”
Experience: We watched this final championship game at the Leibniz Universität Unikino with a big group of our friends and enough concealed beer to kill a rhino. I was so nervous I wanted to hurl.

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The game was fantastic. Both teams were perfectly matched, which made for some real nail-biting moments — especially with that disqualified goal by Argentina. I wasn’t convinced Germany would win, but it did seem like most of the game took place on the Argentina side of the field. That was a good sign. And then BOOM! Mario Götze bounced a pass directly off his thunderous heart and booted it past the Argentinian goalie. Hot potato! And then the rest of the game played out, both sides fighting for the victory, but it was Germany who proved the better team. They won the World Cup and took home that hideous trophy. (Seriously, that thing looks like disembodied souls being crushed by the sun.)

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Photo by Charles Kerr — Subject to copyright — https://www.flickr.com/photos/ckerr/

Here are some pictures from the game. Click one to start the slideshow.

And here is a video I recorded, which summarizes the whole experience — from the game, to the win, to the aftermath with drunken German fans singing (very loudly) in the subway station.

 

Thank you for reading our blog, and we hope you enjoyed the World Cup!

 


 

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American Expat Gleefully Passes German Integration Course

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“Yeaaahhh BUDDY!” — Photo by Toms Bauģis (https://www.flickr.com/photos/toms/) — Subject to copyright


For the past year, I have been taking an intensive German integration course here in Hannover, Germany. The class is mandatory, requiring expats to attend 3 days per week, for 4 hours at a time, and then pass the B1 exam and an orientation course exam in the spring. If you pass the tests, you can extend your residence permit and even apply for permanent residency. The overall goal, of course, is to learn the German language and integrate into German society. Needless to say, this transition hasn’t always been a smooth one.

First, there was the language itself. Almost immediately I found German to be both logical and precise, but unnecessarily complicated. (Seriously, nouns don’t need gender-based articles unless they have, A: testicles, B: boobies, C: both, or D: neither.)

Then I encountered challenges with my German teachers. A few of them were so awesome they deserve to be showered with money and rose petals, have their toes massaged with clover honey and dipped bodily into swimming pools filled with beer and immortality. The rest of my teachers, however, were downright awful. These people should not be allowed to teach. Instead, they should be chased by killer bees into a jungle full of septic cats, which, in turn, chase them into a valley filled with molten hot lava. (And the lava has herpes.)

But of all the challenges I faced, none proved greater than the students themselves. My classmates came from all over the world — Russia, Kosovo, Latvia, Poland, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Ghana, Sudan, Senegal and The Ivory Coast — but it didn’t matter to me in the slightest which country they came from or what their socioeconomic background might have been; I only cared whether or not they took the class seriously.

Unfortunately, only a handful of us were really there to learn. We were the ones who showed up on time, did our homework and studied for the tests. We turned our cell phones off before class, payed attention to where we were in the book, and listened whenever someone — especially the teacher — was talking. In short, we were the nerds of the class, and I was their angry leader.

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“Today we are learning the word, ‘hassen,’ which means ‘to hate’…” — Photo by Shane Global (https://www.flickr.com/photos/shaneglobal/) — Subject to copyright

The rest of my classmates were obnoxious slackers who showed up each day simply because they were required to do so by the German government. They strolled in an hour or two late, interrupted class by joking around with their friends, made us repeat lessons because they never did their homework and turned each class into a unique nightmare for the rest of us. Every single teacher we had said our class was, “the worst one they’d ever taught.” Seriously, the worst one, and some of them had been teaching for years! God dammit I hated that class! And you know what’s worse? Most of the slackers were supported by the German government, so the class was essentially free for them and their public transportation expenses were reimbursed too. Since my wife is a German citizen and she has a good job, each quarter cost me €250 euros plus transportation and the cost of the books, which means I spent over €1000 euros to sit in class with a bunch of rock-banging neanderthals with the combined IQ of a pork chop.

Now, keep in mind, all of us were required to take this class and pass the DaF B1 Integrationskurs exam and the DaF Orientierungskurs exam if we wanted to extend our residence permits. It made absolutely no sense to dick around and jeopardize one’s visa status, so I studied my sweet American ass off, took both exams and prayed to that 9 pound, 7 ounce, big baby Jesus in the sky. On the last day of class, we all went up to the administration office to receive our test results, and you know what? I passed! I nailed both tests! I nailed them like a Bangkok ladyboy waking up at the docks on a Sunday morning after the sailors left town.

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“Hallelujah!” — Photo by zaphodsotherhead (https://www.flickr.com/photos/zaphodsotherhead/) — Subject to copyright.

I was so happy! Oh dear lord, it was such a weight off my mind! And best of all? I never had to return to that class again. As I walked out of the building, about ready to barf with pride, I noticed all of the slackers from my class looked very sad. Like, full-on downtrodden. Most of them scored in the A1 and A2 range, which meant they would have to repeat the entire class all over again. Oh sweet justice! I don’t normally celebrate the misfortune of others, but in this case, I wanted to drop trow, grab a fistful of my manly bits and mushroom stamp those sons of bitches right between the eyes. My scrotum would make a satisfying *BOOP* sound as it made contact, leaving behind a cartoonish red mark in the shape of a heart…

*BOOP* “You like that, Achmed? Maybe you should have studied harder instead of showing up late every class and asking questions we JUST answered half an hour ago!”

“And what about you, Franciszka? Still feel like talking to your stupid cross-eyed friend so loud I can’t even hear the teacher?” *BOOP*

*BOOP* “That one’s for you, Badrani, with your goddamn cell phone going off every 15 minutes…” *BOOP* “…and that one’s for your phone. Look, it even left a sweat mark on the screen!”

“Well hello, Fahran! What’s the matter? Do you have to repeat the class because you were always throwing shit across the room and laughing with your functionally retarded friends?” *BOOP*

“Abdulla! There you are! Remember how you always wanted to share my text book because you couldn’t afford to buy one of your own, and yet you always had a fresh pack of cigarettes in your bag? Taste my salty plums!*BOOP*

Okay, I feel better now. Thank you for reading all that. I can now put my integration class behind me and forget all about it, bit by bit, like a harrowing nightmare that is slowly receding from memory. As for next steps, I will be switching schools as soon as possible. I am hoping to find one which attracts people more like myself — huge nerds with zero tolerance for tomfoolery — so I can one day command the German language with as much irresponsibility as I do English. But first, let’s celebrate!

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“Zum Wohl!”

 


 

American Expat in Germany Experiences His First ‘Green Cabbage Walk’ (Grünkohlwanderung)

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At the end of an arduous journey through the snow, who WOULDN’T want to see this steaming pile of horror?

Winters in Germany last a long time, and by long, I mean like half the year. They are cold, windy and darker than your worst nightmare. As a result, there are lots of fun social traditions during the winter months to keep people happy and less inclined to go down on the business end of a shotgun. In Niedersachsen, as I’ve recently learned, there is an old tradition known as ‘Grünkohlwanderung;’ large groups of people taking long walks through snow-covered forests with frequent stops to take shots of liquor and play extraordinarily humiliating games. At the end of the walk, everyone gathers in a restaurant to eat green cabbage (kale) and fatty sausage, hence the name Grünkohlwanderung, AKA:”Green Cabbage Walk.”

Recently, one of our German friends had a birthday. To help celebrate, we joined 20 other people and went on a Grünkohlwanderung through the Eilenriede forest in Hannover, Germany. We knew we were in good company because there were two wooden wagons chock-full of beer, liquor and party favors. To start things off, all the men had to stand to one side, dangle a tea bag from their teeth and swing it to see who could toss theirs the farthest. I thought I was pretty clever dousing my tea bag with beer on the sly beforehand — you know, to give it more weight — but it landed like 2 yards in front of my feet anyway. That earned a few laughs and absolutely no respect from the Germans, so I spiked my beer and pounded it with great haste.

We walked and talked, and everyone had a great time. I even got to meet a couple who brought their baby along with them. My favorite part of that particular conversation was when the mom readjusted the baby’s blankets and — without missing a beat — freed-up one hand by sliding her beer in the milk bottle-holder of the stroller. The gesture was so fluid it was like watching poetry in motion.

Thank Christ I didn’t have to participate in the next game we played: the birthday girl made two teams compete against each other in a whistling competition — while chewing on mouthfuls of dry white bread — and the rest of us had to guess the songs they were attempting to whistle. You should have seen the bread crumbs fly. It was spectacular. I have no idea which songs they were whistling, because most of them were traditional German drinking ditties, but I definitely heard some Lady Gaga in there.

We kept walking and drinking until I discovered one of the people in our group was a medical student. I went to great lengths to convince him Germans are taller on average than Americans. I even tried to get scientific about it:

ME: “Look! Look at those two handsome bastards in front of us. They’re like 7 feet tall!”

DOCTOR: “Those are my cousins. They are exceptionally tall.”

ME: “No dude, all of you guys are tall. In America, I’m the average.” (Note, I am 5′ 10,” standing up straight, with shoes on and tall thoughts in my mind.)

DOCTOR: “You think so, huh?”

ME: “I know so. I think it has to do with the climate. You guys need more surface area to absorb sunlight because the weather in Germany sucks.”

DOCTOR: *Laughing* “It probably has to do with diet…”

ME: “Damn. I hadn’t thought of that.”

*A squeaky voice chimed in behind me, and I turned around to see the shortest German woman in the entire world.*

SUPER SHORT GIRL: “Not everyone in Germany is tall. Look at me.”

ME: “Nobody asked you, Short Round!

Finally, we arrived at the restaurant, and I gotta tell you: kale, sausage and skinned potatoes may look like hell, but after a long, cold walk and copious amounts of alcohol, they taste amazing.

grog whiskey water hot drink medieval germany modern funnyCheck it out! That’s real German grog right there! The drink of vikings! (Somehow, I always imagined grog would be a mixture of moonshine and beer, but apparently it’s just hot water, whiskey and lemon juice. Whatever. I still felt like a berserker when I ordered it.)

Grünkohlwanderung potatos kartofelnThat’s my wife fixing up a couple of plates for us. I will never understand why Germans don’t like to eat potatoes with the skins on. That’s where all the vitamins are! (Or so my mother always taught me.)

Bregenwurst Grünkohlwanderung potatos kartofelnAnd there you have it — the Grünkohl meal. I have seriously desired this food every night since I first had it, but if I ate it all the time, I would be typing this blog post from a hospital bed with clogged arteries and a pacemaker in my chest. “Nurse! My bedpan is full! Also, this hospital grog tastes like steaming pee pee.”

American Expat Living in Germany Looks Back at Blogging in the Year 2013

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“Damn dude, you have CHANGED.” — Photo by Alex Archambault (http://www.flickr.com/photos/lostintexas/)

2013 was a big year for The Wife and I. After living in the States together, we moved to Hannover, Germany! Now, I’ll be real honest with you: it was scary at times (there may have been tears). I dropped everything, including a house, car and job, and moved across the globe to a country in which I did not adequately speak the language. Meanwhile, my wife scrambled around finding us an apartment here in Hannover, moving everything in and launching her post-university career. Jesus Christ, I think I’m going to have a panic attack just thinking about all that stuff again. Yep. It’s on. “Honey, call the Krankenwagen; my thunderous American heart has finally given out.”

2013 was also a big year for our blog. In addition to our usual denglish posts, I began writing about life as an American expat in Germany, and the culture shock and linguistic misadventures which ensued. I also started making videos and posting pictures from our travels around Germany, which brought in a lot more new readers. We were featured on The Local and several other expat resource websites. On top of all that, one of our posts was ‘Freshly Pressed’ on WordPress.com. Our readership just exploded over the past year, and as of the writing of this post, we’re about to pass the 10,000 subscriber mark!

We would like to sincerely thank you for reading our blog and invite you to take a look at some cool information from this past year, including:

  • Silly Statistics
  • Our Most Popular Post Ever
  • Where Our Readers Come From
    …and of course…
  • Our Top 5 Blog Commenters

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 320,000 times in 2013. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 14 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to view the 2013 blog stats from Oh God, My Wife Is German!

Expat Focus: An American Answers Questions About Living as an Expat in Germany

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Expat Experience Q&A with
Oh God, My Wife Is German.

Interview conducted by Expat Focus
December, 2013

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Who are you?
I am an American expat from Portland, Oregon, now living in Hannover, Germany. I am a freelance graphic designer and copywriter, and an avid blogger of all things humorous (though I most often take aim at subjects like Germany, expat life, culture shock and my beautiful — and unintentionally hilarious — German wife.)

Where, when and why did you move abroad?
I moved to Germany in September of 2012 in order to be with my wife. If she’d been from England, I would have moved to England. Had she come from Italy, I would have moved to Italy. Had she been from Siberia, I would have said, “Sorry honey, but I’m sure there’s a very nice guy for you in Siberia. Probably the quiet type, because he’s frozen to death.”

What challenges did you face during the move?
My wife and I lived together in Portland before we moved to Germany, and in that last year, we were both working full-time jobs, planning our destination wedding, arranging for my wife’s future career in Hannover, and worrying about how I was going to continue my own career in Germany without speaking the language. It was probably the most stressful year of our lives thus far, and we dealt with it by eating cake, pizza and drinking copious amounts of beer. (My wife looked amazing in our wedding pictures. I looked like a bloated veal calf.)

How did you find somewhere to live? (e.g. how did you locate a suitable property? what was the buying/renting process like?)
Our location was determined by my wife’s job; she’s a Gymnasium teacher (and a fantastic one at that), and she landed a job at a school in Hannover. Finding an apartment in any German city can be stressful, and we were prepared to hire a broker if necessary. Luckily, we knew a friend of a friend in Hannover, so we were able to figure out the kind of neighborhood we wanted and what we could afford. But finding an apartment is rarely a pleasant experience, and no matter the country, moving sucks.

Are there many other expats in your area?
Yes, there are actually quite a few expats in Hannover. There is even an expat group called Hannover4EnglishSpeakers, which meets up a few times each month for drinks, sporting activities and to watch movies in English. (I think they even have a group for expat parents, so their little English-speaking trolls can roll around in the mud together and give each other the flu.) There are expat groups like this in every major city in Germany, and they can be very useful for things like making friends, getting recommendations for doctors and dentists, buying and selling furniture, and complaining about how the German language uses gender-based articles. (Seriously. Every noun is either a ‘he,’ ‘she’ or an ‘it.’ (And all added together, between the 4 cases, Germans use a total of 16 definite articles. Sixteen.)

What is your relationship like with the locals?
I work at home in front of the computer all day, which makes me both a geek and a shut-in. And like the rest of my pale-skinned brethren, I only leave my coffin when the bloodlust takes me and I am forced to venture out into the night to feed. Just kidding. We have a lot of friends, and I’m also taking a German language class, so we mingle with the locals quite a bit. (Though never with drunken soccer fans. Those guys are scary.)

What do you like about life where you are?
Germany feels safe. I like the pace of life here. And Hannover is similar to Portland in that it feels like a big, little city. Or a little, big city. However you say that. Also, as an expat, you’re always challenged. The people, the culture, the godforsaken and unnecessarily difficult language — everything is new. You’re like a perpetual student, so there’s no time for boredom or plateau. You gotta get up every day and launch yourself into that alien landscape like an astronaut about to pee in his space suit.

What do you dislike about your expat life?
Having two families on either side of the globe. You’re always bouncing between them for the holidays, and one side always misses you while the other gets to bask in the radiant splendor of your company.

What is the biggest cultural difference you have experienced between your new country and life back home?
Customer service. In America, strangers are sickeningly sweet to you, especially in places of business or over the phone. Sure, the person being nice to your face might actually loathe you right down to the very marrow in your bones, but at least they ensure a smooth, professional transaction. Not in Germany. Oh no, here, customer service falls into two main categories: standoffish and downright abusive. Naturally there are exceptions to this rule, but even my wife agrees, saying, “Americans are like peaches and Germans are like coconuts. Americans are sweet on the outside but hard on the inside, and Germans are hard on the outside but sweet on the inside.” (While I try not to take offense at the notion of having a foreign object at my center that is stone-like and unfeeling, I think she makes a fine point.)

What do you think of the food in your new country? What are your particular likes or dislikes?
Traditional German food is heavy, fatty and served with beer. I love it! I am gleefully eating and drinking my way toward my first heart attack.

Photo by Reiner Kraft (http://www.flickr.com/photos/reiner/)

Photo by Reiner Kraft (http://www.flickr.com/photos/reiner/)

What are your plans for the future?
I plan to ace my B2 level German language exam, which will certify me to work as a graphic designer for a German agency. I will then leave my home office and rejoin the lemmings on their great but inevitable plunge into the quagmire of despair that is working life. I jest, but I will miss making a living in my underwear. (Wait, that made me sound like a stripper, didn’t it.)

What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?
Learn the language of the county in which you plan to live. I feel so passionate about this, I must repeat myself:

For the love of all that is holy. For the love of God and Jesus H. Christ on rice, learn the language of the foreign country in which you plan to live. Every single word you learn, written or spoken, will make your life easier. Be glad you are starting now, rather than later. Feel angry you weren’t born a native speaker, but be grateful you can learn to become fluent. Learn as much of the language as you can before you get there. Keep on learning while you’re there. If you return to your home country, keep on learning it anyway. Throw yourself into that language like a fat kid at the deep end of the pool.

I took classes, bought books and software programs, practiced with my wife and taught myself as much German as I possibly could before I moved here. This added up to exactly 1.5 years of language training, and I still depended upon my wife to translate any interaction more complex than, “Would you like another beer, Sir?” Answer: “HELL yes.”

If I could download the entire German language into my brain like in The Matrix, but it would cost my entire life’s savings, I would do it. I would do it right now. If I had to pay my entire life savings and then kick a puppy too, I would hand over the cash and punt that little doggie like a football.

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The 2013 Soulplex Dance Competition in Hannover, Germany – As Experienced by An American Expat and His German Wife

2013 Soulplex Dance Competition Hannover Germany

Pictured: Rapidly moving hormone factories.

For my wife’s birthday this year, I bought tickets to the 2013 Soulplex Dance Competition right here at the Theater am Aegi in Hannover, Germany. Soulplex brings together dance groups from all over Europe, and the winner gets €2,500 Euros. This year, competing teams came from France, Belgium, the UK, the Netherlands and Germany — most of whom were teenagers or young adults. And I gotta be honest with you; if I tried even one of the high-speed dance moves these kids pulled off, I would pull a muscle, rupture a disk and paralyze myself before the music even started.

Before I describe the actual performances themselves, I’d like to begin by pointing out the 3 things I noticed upon entering the Aegi theater:

  1. Beer is allowed inside the auditorium. Beer, wine, liquor — whatever the hell — you can bring your indulgence of choice right to your seat. This is all business as usual for my wife and her German compatriots, but for an American expat living in Germany? This shit just never gets old! I love it! I must have hit the concession stand like 4 times for brew doggies, and the only drawback was having to make an equal number of hasty exits to the bathroom: “C’mon kidneys! Don’t fail me now!”
  2. The audience is comprised entirely of teenagers. When my wife and I walked into the auditorium, we discovered a pulsating, undulating hive of high school students. And they stank. Oh my God, this unwashed horde smelled like cotton candy and swamp ass. In every sweaty, sticky claw was a bottle of Coke and a bag full of Haribo gummy candies, and not one of these little monsters had taken a shower that day. So please, if you own one of these things, I beg you; make it wear deodorant. Shame it if you have to. Rub perfume samples under its armpits if you must. Just don’t let it group together with its friends inside a crowded theater, because when these things swarm, they sully they very air we breathe.
  3. Young girls scream like banshees. I kid you not, from the time the show started until it ended, there were girls screaming at the top of their lungs. They cried the names of their friends on stage and howled for their favorite teams, and none more loudly than the gaggle of hell-geese sitting immediately to our left. They shouted the name of one team in particular: Entourage (spelled ‘En2rage‘). But they didn’t just shout out, “Entourage!” like one might reasonably expect. They screeched the name, so it sounded more like, “AHNTOHRAGE! OH MY GOD, AAAHHHNNTOOORAAAAHHHGGE!” Now, I want you to imagine the veins popping out of their foreheads. Arteries just barely managing to contain the surge of pubescent wildfire coursing through their bodies. That’s how zealous they were about it. The sound was so grating I was sure their throats would give out — vocal cords exploding from their mouths like those snake-in-a-can practical jokes… oh, that would have been beautiful.

The show began with a scruffy-looking guy with dreadlocks as the MC. He rattled off some German and then introduced the judges. There were 3 of them, and they came from American and Canada. The judges performed solo routines, and then each team — no larger than 20 people — performed their routines in turn. The Wife and I wanted a team called ‘TOCSICK‘ to win. TOCSICK came from the Netherlands, and they were all girls. They wore white t-shirts, black pants and black lipstick. To be perfectly honest with you, they scared us a little. But they were awesome. Their routine seemed to be a mix of Hip-Hop and African dance, and I say that with absolutely no idea what I am talking about. They won 3rd place, but everyone in that auditorium knew they deserved 1st. The crowd went nuts for them and the other dancers got on the ground and bowed down to them. Literally. See if you can spot them in the video below.

This video captures snippets of each performance in chronological order, followed by the 3 finalist teams performing one more time for the judges. See if you can find the following: screaming girls about to blow out their voice boxes; our favorite team TOCSICK kicking ass; the founder of Soulplex, Darren Drake Baldric, proposing to his girlfriend; and the super queer routine by ‘Tom2Rock‘ with the blinking LED lights (that one was hilarious).

Would you like to see another one of our videos? Check out the 2013 Hannover Oktoberfest.

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The 2013 Oktoberfest in Hannover, Germany – As Experienced by An American Expat and His German Wife

Hannover Oktoberfest Ride 2013

“How do you say, ‘Stop the ride, I’m gonna hurl’ in German?” — Photo by Kai Nehm (http://www.flickr.com/photos/trau_kainehm/)

You know us: I am an American expat, my wife is a wacky German, and together we live in Hannover, Germany. Once again, we ventured to the Hannover Oktoberfest at the Schützenplatz fair grounds. This year, we rode all the rides, listened to all the music, ate all the food and drank all the beer. ALL OF IT. We also filmed the entire thing, so you can experience it with us! Check out the video below:

WARNING: Video contains a few F-bombs and some other swear words. (And screaming. Lots of screaming. From me, a full-grown man.)

Would you like to see another one of our videos? Check out our trip to the “Hannover Adventure Zoo.”

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How to Convince Your Neighbors You Are A Thief and An Alcoholic (In One Simple Gesture)

Jelzin Vodka Bottle

Step 1: Cradle the bottle like a precious baby. Love it. Give it a name. Pay it an allowance. Children are the future.

On a Friday night not too long ago, I decided to make mixed drinks for myself and my lovely German wife. I call these drinks ‘Maschsee Mai Tais.’ They consist of a few ounces of rotgut vodka, an equal amount of bitter lemon mixer, a splash of tropical vitamin juice and a whole mess of fish-shaped ice cubes. (Funny ice cubes are the most important part, because smiles are in short supply after you’ve pickled your liver.)

fish shaped ice cubes in rubber tray

This ice cube tray is the one thing I have ever willingly purchased from IKEA.

Funny German Drink Mix Recipe - The Maschsee Mai Tai

I present to you, “The Maschsee Mai Tai.”

Without a single thought, I left our apartment and went to our local grocery store. There, I grabbed a bottle of vodka (or ‘Tears of the Russians,’ as I like to call it), went to the check out counter and paid for it. I took one step outside the store and realized I’d forgotten my grocery bag; I had absolutely no way of carrying or concealing my new purchase. Oh sure, I could have strolled home with a 5th of hooch clenched in my fist, but I find something unsettling about the people around me knowing exactly what I intend to do with my Friday night. “What are you all staring at? This is for cooking — I’m making a spicy vodka sauce over angel hair pasta. YOU’RE NOT BETTER THAN ME!”

Now, I was wearing a stretchy blue pullover at the time, so I glanced down at myself and that’s when genius struck: I jammed the bottle up my sleeve, cradling the base in my hand, and stuffed my hands in my pockets. Like an illusion of perspective painted by the Renaissance masters, the bottle was entirely concealed, and I finally had validation for those 4 years I spent in art school.

Below is a recreation of the subterfuge. Click one of the images to begin the slideshow.

I made it all the way back to our apartment building, but I encountered a problem I had not anticipated: one of the people who live in our building — a tiny Polish woman — had forgotten her keys and was waiting out front to be let inside. She recognized me and asked if I could open the door for her.

Now, my keys were in the right pocket of my pullover, sitting directly beneath the bottle in my hand. Trying to reach them with my left hand would have been physically impossible (though hilarious to witness). I panicked and looked at the woman for a moment, then proceeded to withdraw the bottle from my sleeve like an almighty bastard sword. Like King Arthur pulling Excalibur from the stone. Everything seemed to move in slow motion: the woman’s eyes dropping down to the emerging bottle; her pupils dilating as she realized what she was seeing; followed by the ambiguous smile and world-weary nod of a woman who has just decided I hid this bottle up my sleeve because I stole it.

vodka bottle in germany

Step 4: Unveil your shame, take the ridicule and start mixing drinks until you remember nothing.

I transferred the bottle to my other hand, raised the keys and unlocked the door. The woman mumbled some words of gratitude, but I did not hear them; I was already halfway up the staircase with my baseball cap pulled low over my eyes, shouting for the entire building to hear:

“I’M MAKING SEARED SCALLOPS WITH LEMON AND TARRAGON IN A LIGHT VODKA SAUCE! IT’S A ROMANTIC DINNER FOR MY WIFE — ROMANTIC AS HELL, YOU SONS OF BITCHES!”

Click here to learn more about the term “Culture Shock.”

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10 Easy Steps to Become the Worst God Damned German Language Teacher on the Planet

diverse classroom gradeschool 6th graders

“Put your hands down, idiots. I don’t even care.” — Photo by http://www.audio-luci-store.it (http://www.flickr.com/photos/audiolucistore/)

I am an American expat living in Germany. I have taken a few German classes — including an intensive A1 German integration course — so I have experienced several different types of language teachers. I’ve had phenomenal ones and average ones. Wonderfully gifted teachers and disenchanted wash-ups. Inspiring educators and mind-numbing hacks who have no business standing in front of a classroom. Today, I would like to speak directly to all of the German teachers out there who fall into this last category.

Dear Shitbird,

Would you like to make sure your students are confused and drooling by the end of every class? Do you want to ensure the next wave of expatriates join the workforce as mumbling illiterates? Have you ever wanted to smash somebody’s attempts to learn your mother tongue just to watch their linguistic hopes wither and die like an orchid watered exclusively with table salt and battery acid?

Well, you’re in luck! With an amalgamation of all my shitty German teachers in mind, I’ve constructed the list below to help guide ambitious young educators on the path to becoming the absolute worst teachers on the face of this spinning blue ball we call Earth.

  1. Take absolutely NO joy in your work. Oh ho ho! Don’t get too excited if front of your class. If your students suspect you might actually be enjoying the learning process, you’re sure to lose their respect. Remember: These people are animals. Open displays of energy or enthusiasm will be rewarded with teeth gnashing and poo flinging.
  2. Speak super fast all the time. You gotta keep those students on their toes! And you definitely want to make sure to speak at light speed when a student asks a question. After all, if your answer doesn’t inflict greater confusion than the uppity little shit had before, you just aren’t doing your job.
  3. Never use complete sentences. When introducing a new concept or set of linguistic rules, just point wildly and write single words on the blackboard. Shaking your head or nodding in silence are also effective teaching methods of communication. Who has time to explain things thoroughly? And besides, your students can’t possibly understand you anyway; these dim bulbs come from other countries. Filthy countries.
  4. Encourage shouting matches. How else are you going to find out who the best student is? The loudest, most obnoxious son of a bitch in class is obviously the most gifted, and deserves to be rewarded with all of your attention. Quiet students are weak; they should be left behind as food for the larger animals.
  5. Never take turns speaking. Asking students to actually try and speak the language in an orderly fashion will destroy any chance you have of creative a shouting match (see step #4). If you give each student equal attention, you might accidentally figure out who needs extra help with the language, and nobody likes a downer.
  6. Avoid games at all costs. If you’ve been thinking about incorporating games or activities into your lessons, stop right there: Nothing engages students like asking them to get off their dead asses and do something fun. Your students should have that blank, thousand-yard stare at all times. If you notice the light coming back on in their eyes, you may be giving them false hope, and that’s just irresponsible.
  7. Repetition serves no purpose. If your students don’t get a lesson the first time around, fuck ‘em. Obviously they weren’t paying attention. Saying the same things over and over again is boring — especially for you, the teacher — and anybody who asks you to repeat yourself probably rides the short bus to class anyway.
  8. Make sure your students have side conversations. If some of your students are talking loudly to each other while you or one of your students is speaking, you’ve struck gold! Clearly your class is advanced enough not to require an orderly environment. Besides, you’re a teacher, not a police officer. These knuckle-dragging mongoloids can govern themselves.
  9. Never use tables or charts. Organized information may feel like an effective means of education, but trust me, writing all over the blackboard without regard to context or continuity is how minds are truly molded. If a student needs the clarity of neatly arranged rows and diagrams, they probably never wore a helmet to football practice.
  10. The book should be a better teacher than you are. A lot of time and money went into the text book you use for your classes. Don’t waste it by trying to improve the formula, embrace it! If you need a cup of coffee or a smoke break, just tell your students to turn to page 168 and walk your ass right out of the classroom. Students love that, and it sure as hell beats actually speaking to the slack-jawed mouth breathers, am I right?

By utilizing these 10 simple steps, I promise you will stunt your student’s educational growth and salt the very earth from whence it sprang. You will preserve the German language — or any subject matter you choose to teach — and keep it well out of reach of the unwashed hordes. And this isn’t just your job we’re talking about, it’s a way of life; you should go home after class every day, stare deep into the bathroom mirror and smile with perfect certainty, because you are definitely looking at an asshole.

If you’d like to read about my experience with truly wonderful German teachers, click here.

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German-American Couple Takes the Steinhuder Meer Bike Tour (And I Have an Allergic Reaction to Eel Meat)

bike cyclist sign caution germany

“Bike tour on a beautiful summer day? Obviously something bad is going to happen.”

On a lovely Saturday in August, The Wife and I rode our bikes to the Hannover Hauptbahnhof, got on the S-Bahn and rode that sumbitch out to Wunstorf Station. There, we got back on our bikes and took a glorious ride to the Steinhuder Meer; the largest lake in northwestern Germany.

It’s beautiful, with tons of paddle boats, row boats, sail boats and young people making out on the dock like they ain’t got no shame at all. In the middle of the lake is a small artificial island called Wilhelmstein, with an 18th-century castle on top. (Leave it to some rich old German bastard to build himself a castle. Jesus. I can’t even afford a new bike helmet.)

The Steinhuder Meer is a big lake. It covers an area of about 12 square miles (30 km), but it’s super shallow. Its average depth is 4.4 feet (1.35 m), which means an average person could walk right across it… except for those few spots where it hits 9.8 feet deep. That’s when you go in over your head and scream like a little girl. Air bubbles rising to the surface. Eels coiling around your ankles. Underpants filling with trouser apples.

I’m not kidding about those eels though. The Steinhuder Meer is lousy with ‘em, and the nearby town of Steinhude sells eel sandwiches in every pub, deli and restaurant you can find. Now, I have a deep and enduring fear of eels. Take one look at a group of eels and you just know they’re evil. Evil, and cursed by God.

eel orgy

“Is that an eel orgy? No? Oh good, then I’m just having night terrors again.” — Image courtesy of Peter Harrison (http://www.flickr.com/photos/devcentre/)

So, it was with a good measure of apprehension that I tasted the eel sandwich my wife bought at Schweer’s Aalräucherei. I considered it a revenge bite. Revenge against every eel in the world just for creeping me out. Unfortunately, I am allergic to fish. I had no clue eels were in any way related to fish (I am a wiser man now), so of course I just went for it; I took a huge bite and swallowed that mother like it done me wrong, and I discovered exactly 2 things in the following moments:

  1. Eel meat is super oily and tastes like rubber bands dipped in toilet water.
  2. I am allergic to eel meat. It causes my lips, mouth and throat to swell up, turn red and itch like unholy hellfire.

I am no stranger to this allergic reaction. I’ve tried all sorts of fish, and the only one I can get away with is tuna. Something about tuna fish is just fine with my body. So is shell fish, like lobster and shrimp. But every other kind of fish — especially salmon — makes my throat itch and my lips swell up and stick out like a Simpsons character. The sensation is a combination of burning, itching and aching all wrapped up in one mix of poetic justice. Fortunately, it comes on in like 30 seconds — so fast I can’t really ingest enough to be in any danger of asphyxiation — so I just put the stupid fish down, say, “God dammit,” and wait 45 minutes for the swelling to subside.

After my reaction to the disgusting eel meat, we had a fantastic day and took a bunch of pictures. Click on one below to start the slideshow and, as always, we hope you can dig ‘em!

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