In 2007 I lived in Augsburg, Germany for three months. At the time I had a Windows Live Space (remember those? No? Oh well), and I posted some of my thoughts on it. Windows Live Spaces no longer exist, so I thought all my hard work was gone forever—but then I discovered that Past Me had actually planned well for once, and had sent these thoughts as an e-mail to some friends. Good job, Past Me!
Fast forward 11 years: I just returned from an amazing two weeks in Germany and the Czech Republic that helped reset my internal equilibrium (I’m feeling so much better). I have some preliminary sketches about that trip, but while I work on them I thought I’d share some of my thoughts from 2007. Enjoy…
So, I’ve been in Deutschland for four days now, and I love it. OF COURSE. But also of course, there are adjustments. In English I can say exactly what I want to and can even sometimes appear semi-educated; here my speech is slow, grammatically dubious, heavily accented, and generally tortured. ’Tis humbling.
A few other observations:
- Just because you can find your way there, that doesn’t mean you can find your way back.
- Under no circumstances should you ever challenge a kamikaze bicyclist. Under no circumstances should you try to dodge one, either, because regardless of which way you frantically dart, the bicyclist will swerve in that same direction, leaving you in the path of a bicycle and rider who is now even closer than before. Just close your eyes and stand perfectly still, like when you’re avoiding a tyrannosaurus rex.
- Tram doors do not open automatically. Unless you push the button to open the door, the tram will leave the platform while you stare through the windows at the passengers who are staring back at you, wondering why this idiot doesn’t just push the button, already.
- The landlord is not completely naked. She is wearing swimsuit bottoms, albeit very small ones. Sometimes, in the late afternoon, she also wears a shirt.
- Although to your American English-speaking eyes and ears these street names are functionally identical, you will not find your lodgings on Großburgerstraße if you live on Gabelsburgerstraße.
- Brussels is not the only European city with iconic decorative fauna. Wolfenbuttel also proudly features a large yellow bell-wearing cow.
- Yes, that person really did say “ausflippen”.
- You must bag your groceries yourself, in bags that you either furnish or purchase yourself, and asfastasyoupossiblycan. German cashiers are incredibly dexterous and want you to go away. If you wait for the cashier to bag your groceries, as they do in that dumb entitled place you came from, your food and newly purchased bags will pile up untidily at the end of the conveyor belt while the cashier and other customers give you the Stare of Dumbfounded WTF.
- Germans do not jaywalk. Your cavalier street-crossing will engender startled and/or disapproving expressions from nearby genteel persons and counter-culture renegade anarchist teenagers alike, all of whom patiently wait for the light to change at an intersection with no cars in sight.
- It is possible to smoke a cigarette while riding a bicycle.
- Though German has an (admittedly improvised) phrase for “escape pod from the mother ship”(I needed a way to describe Smart Cars), it has no word for “jailbait.”