West Virginia: Wild and Wonderful
Iowa: Fields of Opportunities
Ohio: Birthplace of Aviation
Germany: You Should Already Know.
We love living here in Germany. It has not been the easiest thing in the world (dropping everything and moving to a country where you don’t speak the language? Is it ever easy?) but I would not trade the experience for anything.
That being said, it would have been (and would continue to be) a lot easier if we could know what is going on some of the time. I know it’s not just us – foreigners from other countries here agree that there is a strange secret club in Germany, where everyone already knows everything that needs to be known. They’re more than happy to help out and answer your questions…but you have to know what to ask first. And that’s the tricky part.
It took me about 3 months (which culminated in some blatant spying on students) to figure out how the library locker system works at the university. It wasn’t until a December trip to Berlin that a fellow passenger explained the Deutsche Bahn seat reservation system. And I suffered a recycling-related injury the first time I returned a cafeteria cup to get my damn 25 cent Pfand.
In the hopes of shedding some light on these and other rituals, my husband and I attended a weekend seminar for foreign students on the cultural customs of Germany. It ended up pertaining more to situations involving meals in a professional setting (none of which is so very different from the U.S.). We spent an inordinate amount of time on the following worksheet, where we discussed what was wrong with each of the following pictures. With each explanation, our teacher used the phrase “Man muss” or “Man darf nicht” (“You must” or “You must not”); hence, the inspiration for the title of this series of blog posts.
1. “Man muss” – rub your husband’s chin like he is a cat.
2. “Man darf nicht” – cry in public places*
3. “Man muss” – take a quick nap after eating your schnitzel
6. “Man darf nicht” – eat like a dirty, slovenly American
7.”Man darf nicht” – smoke around people who have permanent whiskey face
9. “Man darf nicht” – have poor dental hygiene in Germany
*This one is not a joke. This picture is actually meant to show that it is not appropriate to cry in public in Germany. It is, however, appropriate to cry in a few select places, such as hospitals, churches and airports, but nowhere else. Guess this is why I’m not in the secret German club.