I’m pretty much half German.

I’m nearing the end of my third week here in Germany so I thought I’d share with you today some of my experiences. Hopefully you find this somewhat entertaining.

What I do with my time:

I think the single biggest revelation I’ve had since leaving the states is this: I am lame. When I’m not out and about working, I spend the majority of my time in my hotel room…on the internet. Might as well have stayed in the States ’cause I definitely haven’t taken in all Germany has to offer.

I think I have at least a semi-acceptable excuse for being lame though… I’m all by myself. Cool things are less cool when you don’t have someone to share your experiences with. Thankfully, Girl Ninja is actually on an airplane right now en route to come visit! She’ll be here for one week and we are planning on hitting up France, Luxembourg, possibly Belgium, and obviously a few cities in Germany. I’ve been pretty lame these last few weeks, but hopefully I can make up for it towards the tail end of my trip.

What’s weird to me:

The stop lights in Germany are on the near side of the intersection. I have no idea why the lights are situated in such an awkward spot. If I am the first car stopped at an intersection, I have to open my sunroof (or bend down and look straight up) just to see when the stoplight changes ’cause it’s literally directly above the car.  Why aren’t they across the intersection (like in the states) for easy viewing?

Why aren’t Germans fat?

I also don’t understand how Germans aren’t fat. The food here is pretty heavy. Lots of fried meats and carbs. I haven’t really ventured in to the world of Schnitzel yet, but I have eaten many many Doner Kebabs (kinda like a Gyro). Every time I do, I feel like I’m going straight to hell…or at least gaining 10lbs. I’ve been trying to find plates that at least have a salad and some (non-fried) chicken. Here’s a shot of one of my dinners….


I did manage to get out one weekend and drove to Heidelberg, Germany; a fairly small town about an hour south of Frankfurt. I visited the Heidelberg Castle, which was originally built in 1214! That was really awesome. Being that I’m from America, I hadn’t seen anything older than a couple hundred years. It was really fun walking around the city, feeling like I was experiencing authentic Germany. I’m excited to see even more this weekend. Here are a few pictures from my outing…

This isn't a castle. It's a freakin' house!!!!
A shot of the castle, it's huge!!!
View of the city from the Castle Courtyard
Awkward naked man/god fountain thingy
Shot of the Castle over the city plaza
This is where all the smokers hang out
Hey, wait! Where have I seen one of these before?


A few other things that are “different”…

  • Dogs are allowed to hang out in restaurants.
  • The waiter wont come to your table and check on you unless you waive them down.
  • Very few, virtually no, restaurants take credit or debit.
  • If you order a water, you’ll get laughed at.
  • Sales tax is 19%.
  • This letter… ß …makes an “s” sound and not a “b” sound.
  • It’s normal to park your car on the sidewalk.
  • Daylight savings wasn’t until last weekend.
  • Gas is no joke, $8/gallon.
  • Everything is closed on Sunday. I’m talking like 99% of shops and restaurants in my area.
  • But the weirdest thing so far was when I went 110mph on the Autobahn…and got passed!!!!

Which foreign countries have you been to? What were some things that stood out to you as odd?

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32 thoughts on “I’m pretty much half German.”

  1. Hhaha all so true! Spatzle is soo good!! I saw it in your pic and you should try kasespatzle. I’ve been living in Germany and your accusations are spot on. People park wherever, no one actually orders water, and yes, Sunday is a rest day.

  2. Wow, so much rich history! NZ is also a really young country, so I understand where you’re coming from.

    Here we usually have lights on both sides of the intersection – the near side and the far side…

  3. My Dad’s Scottish, so we’ve been to Scotland many times; kinda cool to go to a foreign country where they speak English! Scots are BIG on their history and heritage; very proud people! Edinburgh Castle is amazing! I was 10 the first time I went; I remember every detail of that trip (33 years ago). They drive on the other side of the road… that’s still kinda freaky to me.

    In July 2006, I went to Budapest, Hungary to help train our then-newly-centralized European Customer Service office; spent a week there… it was really cool! You’re totally right when you say cool stuff is much cooler when it’s shared with someone you love… my Hubby’s 1/2 Hungarian (he’d been to Budapest before), and I would’ve enjoyed my downtime more with him there. The “Buda” side of the city is all castles, beautiful parks, nicely maintained… the “Pest” side is the business/industrial side… not as pretty, and their infrastructure is archaic (the subway system is pretty good). If you politely smile at someone, they look at you like you’ve got a 2nd head growing out of your neck; I did meet some awesomely nice people, but for the most part, they aren’t warm and fuzzy people. Still, it was a cool experience, and was glad to go on the company dime.

    Your pics of Germany are AWESOME!!! Have a wonderful time with GN!

  4. So if they don’t take credit/debit, did you have to pull $ out of the ATM and pay a fee?
    19% Sales tax….ridiculous! Have you spoken to any locals about the wages/tax system there and find out how it compares to the USA?

    • My first two withdrawals were free. Everyone after that is $2.50…which I will be reimbursed for.

      I haven’t asked the locals about the pay/tax situation, but I spoke with an American who said his wife (who works here) pays about 45% of her income in taxes. But since they are both US citizens they can deduct the German taxes on their US taxes.

      Gas is no joke $8/gallon out here. Craziness.

  5. Well…I’ve been to 16 countries and find there are always things that are different in each country. When I moved to Ireland, I remember thinking how inefficient it was to have to go to 5 stores to get what I needed. I had to go to the hardware store for an extension cord, a housewares store to buy storage baskets, an odd store where they brought you what you wanted from a mysterious store room to get a hair dryer, etc. Where was the Super Target?!?!?! When I got home, I was completely overwhelmed by the size of our grocery stores and wanted to go back to Ireland where I had my choice of 10 salad dressings instead of sorting through the salad dressing isle! I think the main thing I’ve learned is that just because something is different, doesn’t mean it’s better or worse.

      • Geez, better don’t ask me how often I almost ended up in the middle of the crossing trying to orientate myself by the stop lights when I moved to the states! Also, I miss the the yellow light before green, guess that explains why everybody is driving automatic here!

  6. I had the chance to spend 3 weeks in Beijing a few years and that was an amazing experience. The subway system insanely cheap (about $0.30/trip) and I spent all my free time wandering around. There are a lot of extremely old temples/monuments/architecture. Also, there were a lot of restrooms that were basically a hole in the ground. My favorite was one in the Forbidden City that had a sign stating that it certified as a 4 star bathroom (a 4 star squatty potty).

    At one point, I visited Super Wal-Mart to see how it differed from the version at home. Got some awesome candy and then came across a few fish tanks with large live turtles. In the grocery area. I used to have a pet turtle, so I was surprised to find out that turtle soup is a popular dish.

  7. If you get a chance to stop by Vienna…take note of the dogs. They’re all well behaved (because you need a license to own one). And they have doggy poop bags stationed around the city for your convenience. This was definitely something I have never seen anywhere else. Wonder if I can make this suggestion to city hall….

  8. Oh man, I’m jealous! I spent 2.5 weeks in Lahr (Germany), 3 days in Paris, 3 days in Cannes (France), and 3 days in Grindelwald (Switzerland) in summer of 2004. 3.2 megapixel cameras were cool back then, and because of that, I have not a single picture that can really be blown up. Take lots of good ones, or you’ll regret it in a few years!

    Oh, and if you feel like dropping off an authentic German Döner in Minneapolis on your way home, let me know. I must’ve eaten one of those every day I was in Germany….not only are they delicious, they’re also crazy cheap! Unfortunately, it’s impossible to find a good one at these so-called “authentic German restaurants.” A gyro is not the same thing, and people fail to understand that =(

  9. Awesome pictures! The different customs are interesting, too. It’s funny that, given the food that’s popular, more Germans aren’t fat like us Americans. I think they are a more disciplined culture in general. They are famous for their financial precision and ability to save, and your comment about credit cards not being used in restaurants probably reflects that. I hope you and Girl Ninja enjoy your upcoming European tour. Pictures!!!!

  10. I think the single biggest revelation I’ve had since leaving the states is this: I am lame.
    Why should this be a revelation?

    Cool things are less cool when you don’t have someone to share your experiences with.
    Lame. I’ve traveled by myself many times.

    What’s weird to me: The stop lights in Germany are on the near side of the intersection.
    So why not stop a little farther from the intersection?

    Why aren’t Germans fat? The food here is pretty heavy.
    Well, yes, if you’re living off kebabs from the fast food shops. Why not look for a little market and make your own. I used to do that in Paris all the time – just bought a baguette, some ham, cheese, vegetables and fruits. Voilà – dinner.

    Very few, virtually no, restaurants take credit or debit.
    Surprised to hear that. I’ve not found that to be the case in my travels, certainly not in urban Germany.

    If you order a water, you’ll get laughed at.
    Maybe it was your pronunciation?

    Which foreign countries have you been to?
    N/S America: Canada, Mexico, Panama, Costa Rica, Colombia.
    Europe: UK, France, Spain, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Czech Republic, Belgium, Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Finland.

    What were some things that stood out to you as odd?
    Have to work on that.

  11. That letter you mentioned is actually a substitute for two s’s. So of course it makes an s sound. (I took three wretched years of German in school. At least that’s one thing I remember… as well as a song about a three-cornered hat. Booya.)

  12. I am glad girl ninja will be there and help you be less lame!
    Enjoy her visit and Luxembourg as that was my favorite place when I was over there.

    And of course: “Have fun storming the castle”

  13. 15 states, Canada, Mexico, Carribean, Peru, Egypt, England, Ireland, France, Spain, Italy, Greece, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Germany, Austria, Denmark, China, Tibet, Korea, Australia, NZ. I have been land locked having 3 kids in the last 3 years, so making this list made me smile:)
    Enjoy your Euro vacation with GN, and like Nick said, have fun with that great camera!

  14. Why aren’t Germans fat?

    Funny, I asked that to my German friend who was in the US for a year on internship. She stated that it’s in moderation and they walk a lot. But the same thing could be said elsewhere in Europe as well. My boyfriend’s part Belgium (his maternal grandparents are) and his grandfather went back for the first time in about a decade 2 years ago. He came back saying how surprised everyone was not fat and complained about the amount of food AND walking they did.

  15. I visited England (3 times), Scotland, Ireland, France (5 times), Portugal, Spain, Italy, Greece, Belgium, Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Russia, Poland, Germany (2 times) and Monte Carlo. I am a little surprised the restaurants did not take credit cards! In Europe, it is very expensive to have a car, so many people use public transportation and walk. That is one of the reasons for them staying thin(er), the other may be smaller portions.

  16. Dude! I really hope you get out there and enjoy a bit more of what Germany has to offer before your time there is through. Personally, I think solo travel and exploration is THE BOMB, but I know it’s not for everyone.

    My husband and I are actually headed to Germany THIS WEEKEND – spending 5 days in Berlin and then heading to Prague for another 4. Can not wait!

    I’ve been fortunate enough to do quite a bit of travel in my short lifetime, and thus far have visited the following countries: Britain, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, Bosnia, Croatia, Slovenia, Slovakia, Austria, Hungary, Czech Republic, Poland, Costa Rica and Panama. Oh, and Canada. But having grown up in Michigan, I’m not sure that counts. This will actually be my FIRST time to Germany (other than for layovers), and I’m so psyched. I’m also beyond excited to visit Prague again – a city I used to call home, and I’m especially excited to share it with my husband, who’s never been.

  17. And as for why Germans aren’t fat, it’s most definitely all the walking. When I lived in Prague, I dropped 25lbs WITHOUT NOTICING simply because I walked everywhere, all the time.

    As for the 19% VAT, it’s very important to note that it is INCLUDED in the sticker price, so when you buy something that’s labeled 10 euros, you actually give the cashier 10 euros for it, rather than 10 euros plus 19%. The fact that tax is built into the price completely changes peoples perception of it.

  18. We pay 13% tax on top of the purchase price here in Ontario, so 19% doesn’t shock me that much.

    I’ve been to Angola, Botswana, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique, Senegal, Egypt, Israel, United Arab Emirates, Afghanistan, Thailand, Japan, Colombia, Mexico, more Caribbean countries than I can name off the top of my head, France, Germany, Austria, the UK, Ireland, the United States, and of course, Canada.

    I’m trying to think of what struck me about any of them as odd… definitely not being able to change money in Zimbabwe- I had never been to a coutnry where you literally could not get foreign currency. Quick lesson in international economics on that one! And I’ve never been able to figure out why the USA can’t just use metric like the rest of us.

  19. I’ve never been out of the US, but I’m pumped for my Italy trip in the fall. I’m hoping to hit up France, Switzerland, & Germany while I’m “in the area”.

    Gotta love the value added tax (VAT). It’s actually a requirement that all (I think all) EU members have one. There’s been talk of the US adopting one too to help ease the deficit, but I think it’s a long way off.

  20. Yes, the relative healthiness of Germans despite the food is definitely the walking. I spent several years living there while I was growing up, and many Germans prefer to walk to restaurants, the bakery, the grocery, etc. instead of hopping in the car like we do in the states. (A year ago I actually got rid of my car and rely on the San Diego public transit system, and I dropped nearly 50 pounds in the first six months!)

    In recent years I’ve also spent a lot of time both in Mexico and Brazil. One difference in both places is that typically the waiter will not bring your bill until you actually ask for it — if he brings it before you ask, people feel like they’re being told it’s time to leave. In Latin America it’s typical for customers to sit for hours drinking coffee or talking after a meal, while in the US it’s all about turning over that next table for more profit and more tips.

    Another big difference in Brazil is that I almost never saw people eating food with their bare hands. Pizza is eaten with a knife and fork, and even sandwiches are eaten with a napkin wrapped around them. Oh, and they put KETCHUP on their pizza!!

  21. Belgium = FAR FAR SUPERIOR to anything France and Luxembourg have to offer. Seriously, it’s the coolest little country you’ll ever see. DO NOT MISS IT!!!!

    • That’s an interesting comment, though I wouldn’t agree. From what I’ve seen of Belgium, I would spend time in Ghent, Antwerp, and especially Bruges, all of which I found more charming than Brussels.

  22. Great photos of Schloss Heidelberg! That was the first sight I saw years ago when I went on a 6.5 week trip of Europe with a quasi-study abroad tour, right after college. It was an amazing trip – I still can’t believe some of the stuff we did. I had taken some German in high school and college and communicated surprisingly well in the German-speaking countries. The hubs and I went to Europe about 4 years later, and at our first overnight stop in Trier, Germany, the owner of the Gasthaus went out with us to show us how to park. Sure enough, he motioned us to pull up on the sidewalk – he told us the police would ticket our car otherwise! We looked up some distant relatives on that trip, which was also an amazing experience.

    I’ve been to Canada and Mexico, England, France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Japan, the Bahamas, Honduras and Belize. Plus a plane change in Iceland, so technically, I was there too. Japan was by far the most different place – what really stood out in Tokyo was how crowded it could be without feeling too overtly dangerous.

    Don’t feel like you’re lame, especially since you’re in Frankfurt (you’d be out all night if you were in Munich – a lot more Gemuetlichkeit there) – you’re just getting into foreign travel and taking it slow. You and GN will have a great time!

  23. I’m with Larry on lameness…what he said.

    Countries visited: US. I’ve been all over. Europe: I’ve been to 15 countries and some a bunch of times. Asia: China, Korea, Thailand, Singapore, Taiwan, New Zealand, Australia, Africa/Middle East: South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Egypt, Israel. Wow, there are still a lot of places to see.

    As far as germany goes, the thing that was seared in my memory was seeing old buildings in Berlin with gunshots and bullets lodged in them from world war 2. The other thing that’s so striking is the total non-existence of a middle class in many 3rd world countries. You’re either rich or dirt poor. There is nothing in between.

  24. We were in Thessaloniki and they shut down on Sunday. Dublin opens at noon. But enjoy your time over there

  25. Ehm you do know that Germany as a nation-state did not exist before 1871? Before that there were separate empires, kingdoms and states.

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