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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!

 


 

Video: Expat Bachelor Weekend Ends with Frenzied Housecleaning and the TUI Marathon in Hannover, Germany

Over the weekend of May 5, 2013, my German wife was at an overnight bachelorette party with her friends in Braunschweig, Germany. I had the apartment all to myself, so I did what any self-respecting American male would do when his wife is out of town; I stripped down to my undies, watched porn, ate beans straight out of the can and drank a fifth of vodka.

The next morning, as I emerged from my coma of bachelorhood with nervous bowels and a headache, I left the apartment to go do whatever chores my wife had asked me to do before she left. I had no idea what those chores were because I wasn’t listening, but the point is I was in no mood to find myself in the middle of the goddamn 2013 Hannover TUI Marathon.

What follows is a video of this marathon, which I recorded with shaking hands and thinly veiled contempt.

I retreated from these strangely tribal sounds and dragged myself home. My wife was due to return from Braunschweig very soon, and she likes to keep our apartment nice. Now, remember, for the past 24 hours I’d had the apartment all to myself, so you can imagine how thoroughly its state of order devolved from “Euro Chic” to “Hurricane Pig Grenade.”

Check out these pictures I took 5 minutes before my wife walked through the door, when I was scrambling to clean up everything like a tornado made of panic and teardrops.*

* What has two thumbs and is totally up for the Husband of the Year Award? THIS guy.

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