Tuesday, November 16, 2010

"All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us."

That quote in the title is pretty relevant to (part of) this blog post. After doing some research and looking into colleges and all that fun stuff I decided some pretty important things about my future. Most of which can be said in 3 simple points.
1.) I think I want to go to SUNY ESF at Syracuse University to study Conservation Biology/Environmental Studies.
2.) I think the right career for me is to either go into Wildlife Biology or be a Conservation Officer.
3.) I am definitely studying abroad again. Even though it has only been two months, it's been great and I can only see it getting better as my German improves. I can't decide if I want to do a full out gap-year (I am looking at Belgium, Sweden or Latin America) or do a summer in Greece and start college at the regular time. Then hopefully I will be able to study abroad again in college.

Now onto the reason most of you read this blog, what's happening in the present. I just updated not too long ago so there is not much more to say. On Saturday I went out with another exchange student. Her name is Dajana. She is from Bosnia and Herzegovina so we went to a Balkan restaurant in Reutlingen. There we met up with Nikola and John (language school) and basically Dajana and Nikola spent the whole night talking in Serbian. I have no idea what was going on but honestly, what else is new? Yesterday we got our tests from English back. I got a 1 (the highest) and everyone was like "are you kidding me? How did you get a one?" It was just writing an essay on why it is important to do volunteer work. Writing a short essay in English, easiest English test I have ever had. Also that makes me feel a little better about the 6 (absolute worst) I got in Gemeinschaftskunde. That is the study of German government and politics. It was from the first or second week and I had absolutely no idea what was going on, half from missing the entire the lesson and half from it being in German.

Now on to some of the cultural differences between the USA and the BRD (Bundesrepublik Deutschland/Federal Republic of Germany


Garbage
In the USA, we have one type of garbage. It goes into some sort of container and then the local government disposes of it. Recycling, is available but not to many people do it. At least where I live, the town recycles but the city doesn't. That would be basically the exact opposite of Germany. In our kitchen there are 4 garbage containers. A black one for "normal waste", a yellow one for "plastic waste", a little one for "biodegradable waste" and then some other one that I have never used. I am pretty sure that it's for glass bottles and other containers. Then in the front closet there is another container for paper waste. All of these get dumped into the separate trash cans in the driveway. The Bio-m
üll, the gelber sack, it's all there (we even have an extra one that isn't used). We have that thing where you bring cans and bottles back to the supermarket for 5 cents. Germany one-upped us on that too. Here you bring back plastic and some glass bottles and get 25 euro cents back (roughly 37 US cents). You have to pay that deposit on every bottle you buy. The garbage bins in public places are also divided into the categories. One thing I can not for the life of me understand is why so many people here throw garbage on the ground. We leave school for lunch (on the two days of school that I have school past 12:30) and walk into town to buy food. When they are done, the wrapper goes on the floor. Then they go buy candy and once again, the wrapper goes out on the sidewalk or in the road. They always ask me why I take the 30 seconds to walk over to garbage can and throw my trash away. I asked why they throw their trash down and they responded "is that not allowed in America?". I kind of get the idea that it might actually allowed but why would anyone allow it? To be honest, I don't blame them. If I had to always think about where to throw each little thing away, I would feel a little rebellious too.

Driving
The driving age here is 18. Also it costs about 2000 Euro (3000 USD) to get your
Führerschein. Also, they take like an intense version of driver's ed. It is mandatory and a lot of work. That price up there is for the basic driver's license. If you want to be able to drive a motorcycle add on another fee, tow something add on another fee, bigger vehicles add on another fee. Also you have to pay for each person that you drive with on your permit. In America they just have to be a licensed driver and over 21. Here you have to name people that you think you will drive with and it goes right on your permit. Just part of the reason that the Bahn is so popular. I always get the same reaction when I say I have my permit. They always say "you're only 16" or "80 dollars, are you kidding me?".

Patriotism
Before I left the USA, I read blogs from past exchange students. Every single one of them talked about how patriotism in Germany was basically non-existent. Not in the way that Germans are not proud of their country but in the way that there are not flags flying on every corner. I didn't really notice it until I really thought about it. There are some flags here but not like in the US. Also, I don't think I have heard the German national anthem since I have been here. If you want to hear the national anthem go to youtube and search "Das Deutschlandlied" or go here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VhQwLeMcbRY.

Is that even legal?
The drinking age in Germany is 16 for beer, wine and champagne. All of the hard alcohol is 18. People just don't check id here. In the USA, most stores make my parents and sometimes my grandparents show id to buy alcohol. The other day I saw the bartender give beer to two kids who were probably 14. He didn't even ask for id. Also, there are cigarette vending machines all over the place. Needless to say, if you are not 18 and you smoke, getting your hands on cigarettes is ridiculously easy. You just borrow someone's id and put it into the machine. It doesn't matter if it is not your id because the machines don't compare pictures. The real riddle for me is that they just go out and buy alcohol and cigarettes like it's nothing but J-walking; absolutely unheard of. They always wait until the signal is green. It doesn't matter how long you have to wait.

Geld
Germany is incredibly expensive. I would say it's in the middle of the Euro zone (metaphorically speaking). It is way more expensive than Spain but way cheaper than Ireland. A meal at McDonald's that costs 5 dollars in the USA? Here it costs about 10 dollars. Clothing is just as bad. At the regular big stores, a pair of jeans can easily set you back 100 dollars. Nike shoes are so expensive. Most shoes are but especially Nike's. Unless you want to spend about 130-170 on name brand shoes, buy them in the USA. I guess the difference in prices has to do with the income level in Germany is higher than in the USA so the prices are too. When you work here in Germany, it makes no difference but when you're level of income is the USA level and you are paying German prices, your bank balance plummets.

That's all of the major differences.

The English language needs to adopt two words from German; Genau and Doch. Genau is the German word for exactly. They use it all the time.
"I don't understand this math problem."
"You just have to [insert random math/garbage here]."
"Like this?"
"Ja, genau."

I guess you just have to hear how they use it.

The second one (doch) is like a mixture of "what are you talking about?", "I disagree" and "but".

"
Das Wetter ist schön."

"DOCH! Das Wetter ist
scheußlich."

"The weather is great."
"DOCH! The weather is atrocious."

The -ch in doch has that guttural German sound.

Also another good German word is Krankenwagen (Krah-nk-en-vah-gen). It means ambulance and I am sure it's much more fun to say than it is to actually need.

The next word, geil. When used around teenager's, it means cool. When used around adults, it takes on a whole new meaning. The meaning it has with adults is not a nice word. I would compare it to the English word pimp. It doesn't mean pimp but when teens use pimp they mean that something's cool. When you say pimp to an adult, they get offended and use the "other" meaning. All the teenager's here say "oh that's so geil". So being blissfully unaware of that, I said geil to my host mom a few weeks ago. It was kind of awkward. Luckily, she knew what I meant and explained the difference to me.

Today someone came over to talk to my host mom. She asked me where I was from and I replied "New York, but the Staat not the Stadt.". Stadt is city and Staat is state. To me they sound exactly the same so I always try to draw out the -aa in Staat. I ended up saying Staaaaaaat and looked slightly ridiculous. But on a good note, I remembered to call her Sie instead of du. Out of respect, you call people you don't know or people like teachers, doctors and police Sie. Friends, family and people you know are du. I always forgot that rule. On our entrance to Germany, I addressed the customs officer with du (big no-no). Then a few weeks ago, I did the same thing to the lady who works at the bakery. I guess that some people take it as an insult when you use du. Now I have been really careful as to how I address people and I finally remembered to call someone Sie.

Things that I miss from America
  • cupcakes, you would think the land of Kuchen would have cupcakes.
  • Macaroni and Cheese
  • American candy
  • Cabbage and Noodles (ignore how weird it sounds, it's actually good)
  • Steak
  • Pasta
  • hamburgers, the restaurant that we have at school deep fries the burger meat. What is that?
  • Yogurt
  • Snacks, Germans just don't snack like we Americans do.
That's probably all for now. Except today I finished off the stash of American junk food I had in my room, what a sad day.

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