Here we go. Time to temporarily forget about all the things I miss about home and Europe and to consider some items, habits, and cultures which I surely will NEVER miss when being abroad and which I will continue to get annoyed with once I am back in Deutschland. Yes, other blogs might be intended to describe all the wonderful miracles you cannot find in the US. NOT THIS ONE!
At first I thought it might be hard to come up with all of the following points, but it actually was quite easy to scrape them together and to present them to you. Some of these you might have never heard of!
1)Fasching aka Karneval/Fastnacht
The German Version of a good Mardi Gras celebration. It is also called the “fifth season” or the “fool’s season.” Almost every American I met is crazy about it once they get to experience it in Germany, especially in the southwestern area. We tend to celebrate it right. Sometimes too right. And, for my taste, definitely too long. It starts on November 11 at exactly 11:11 AM (11/11 at 11:11 AM, got it?!) and lasts until Ash Wednesday. To spare you the details, the week from Green Thursday up to the particular Wednesday tends to be the craziest. Fasching is just another occasion to party and get drunk, to make a fool of yourself, to dress up, to play pranks, and to be stupid with your friends and neighbors. And I am SICK of it! The last time I enjoyed it was when I was 18, and I tried to evade it ever since. It gets old after a while. Maybe I am also at the in-between age, at which you realize that you are not a stupid teenager anymore but way too young to be sitting with the above-30s and their families. So please wait 10 more years, maybe I’ll change my mind…
2) German Holidays
While we’re at it: German traditions have never really appealed to me. I am not from Bavaria or some other patriotic state, in which you put on your Dirndl and Lederhosen and celebrate each and every farm festival as if the world will cease to exist tomorrow (by the way, the next date is in 2012, right?!). I don’t have a circle of friends who go all crazy about 1st of May celebrations or Tag des Mauerfalls (day the wall came tumbling down). Nope! And correct me if I am wrong, but I think I am a typical German. We are not the most patriotic fellows. We do not praise our country or think of ourselves too highly. A little bit of our “recent” history might have contributed to these feelings.
What I’ve seen going on during Memorial Day and 4th of July in America is 100times more interesting than what I have ever seen in Germany. It’s a different vibe and many happy emotions are conveyed. Just look at all the money Macy spits out for the biggest firework of the year! Outstanding. Nothing can compare to this! Not to mention the over-sized, maxed out BBQs!
…or other European diseases, which haven’t made it to the US (yet), and which we are spared of. Also on this list: certain heat waves, flooding, and other natural disasters. I guess we are facing our very own demons, though, as Swine flu started over here (a few years ago). Well, we will see what we have been spared of this year in exchange for something else.
4) German store hours
Geez, how I cannot imagine NOT to shop on a Sunday afternoon after discovering that I am in the mood for a new dress or need a certain food ingredient. Matter of fact, I have already advised a few of my irritable German friends to just go to the store and get whatever they are missing, without taking into account how early everything shuts down. How I still remember banks closing on Wednesday afternoon. Or my favorite shoe stores shutting down at 6PM or 8PM. And Macys is open until 11PM! If I ever go back, I will have to do some major adjustments. One of them being planning out my Sundays better. I guess it will be tough, especially in the winter time.
5) German rigidity, bureaucracy, and inflexibility
Germans are reliable. To a degree that confines you, especially when you are a young person who hasn’t figured out exactly what to do with your life and who wants to try out a few new things. In Germany it is more difficult to find a job if you studied one subject and want to go for a different area of work. For example, me being a psychology major leaves me with virtually not much choice in pursuing a career in the PR industry in Germany, especially since I only have my Bachelor degree. I think this is sad for people like me, who need more experimentation in life and who excel when finding themselves through many paths.
6) German Summers…
…but how I do miss the fast-paced, snowy, beautiful, and mild winters! Compared to these, German summers are rather unimpressive, though. Too short. Too rainy. Too cold. Not satisfying – at all. It doesn’t help that you have the Spanish Riviera or the Italian coast line not too far from there, because you simply cannot AFFORD flying or driving south every year. As far as I am concerned, not too many seasons can top New York summers. And I want to be very careful as I am only experiencing my second (!) summer in the Big Apple. New Yorkers like to complain about the heat, I bloom! I cannot find much to complain about when marching around in a 100 degrees and more heat wave (40 Celsius), because in Germany this would be simply unthinkable! Heck, I tan in the midst of May for crying out loud! The beach gives you a chance to cool off, and you can still sit on your rooftop in a short summer dress at midnight. I love it! Summers over here go well into the late September days, which is a time in Germany at which you would buckle up your boots and embrace your fall jackets. I want summers to last forever over here, but unfortunately … yes, I know, change of seasons as in nature! Buhuuu!
7) German guys
A few words: Reliable, boring, sweet, boring, predictable, boring. Maybe romantic. Trying to be cool. Sometimes copying American guys in wearing American clothes. Or going with the French and Italian fashion, which makes them slightly more interesting. For other girls, I hope. I had my share of German boys/men, and I am very unmotivated to get with another in the near/past future. I consider men from other cultures and countries tons of more interesting and inspiring and I hope I will keep this attitude for a while. Otherwise I will have to worry about what I have turned into…!
8 ) Turkish Culture
Germany has the highest population of Turkish people outside of Turkey. Impressive? In the 60s, Germany decided to employ some guest/foreign workers from Turkey and their percentage has since then risen dramatically. What we have nowadays is a Mediterranean culture with Muslim roots mixed with a Western country’s ideals and values. Needless to say that some problems have arisen that are quite substantial. Certain honor killings have made their round and have victimized especially young female Muslims who wanted to be free of their restricting, old-fashioned, and hardly realistic family. Whew! That was the negative side.
We do have many Kebab places which offer Döner and other Turkish culinaries. I don’t miss any of these. All I think about are the badass Turkish guys who mess around with our (preferably blond) German girls and then expect their future Muslim wives to be virgins. It is a mess, and I don’t want to be part of it anymore. Luckily, I don’t have to think about these issues, since New York’s Turkish population is virtually non-existent.
9) German TV/soap operas/bad actors
Let’s face it: German TV has never been a big star. It is a copy cat of American TV and does a pretty lousy job in doing this. I am careful in differentiating, as I am NOT talking about theaters, operas, or movies shown on screen. These are, I have to admit, very original on occasion. However, when turning on the television, most of the stuff is just lame, uninteresting, and simply boring. Especially the German soap opera culture has reached its peak in bad acting, uncreative story lines, and happy endings you can predict by watching one show only. Game shows are more lively but not really entertaining. German TV culture is lacking its originality back from the 70s. I hope it gets the hint soon.
10) Travel Destinations
Europe has many great travel destinations: Italy, Spain, Greece, UK, Sweden, Czech Republic, Hungary – to name a few. Easily accessible, economic to travel around, and adventurous for people who have never been there. I had my share of Europe travels since I’ve been six years old. But since I have been stateside again, I feel like a more important part of my life is taking place here. The US has so many natural phenomena to offer, it is quite mind-dazzling. The Grand Canyon, the Rocky Mountains, the Yosemite, California’s beaches, Arizona’s deserts, and so on. Everything is new and exciting and unexplored. And huge! I can see how some Americans have never left this country. I cannot comprehend it, but I can see how they feel that their country is so enormous by itself that it might not compare to anything else. However, what I really come to appreciate is the proximity to Canada and Mexico. Two countries I am more than eager to explore and cannot wait to book my flights for. And if this wouldn’t be enough, South America is practically right around the corner. Hey, almost on the same continent. What could possibly top this? The proximity to various islands, such as the Bahamas, Bermudas, and Hawaii, adds a sweet taste to all of this. Exploring can be done over here to a bigger degree, and I hope I will have the financial resources to do so one day!