Cultural Experience | Ohio

This Is Not Football

The 10 most stunning everyday differences observed by a German girl studying in the US

1. Can I catch a ride with you?

This has become one of my most used phrases. The US is a car crazy nation. When I tell people here that I can count my German friends who own a car on one hand they blink at me in lack of understanding. Generally speaking public transport in the US is something that only works in bigger cities. In Ohio my experience has been a little different from what I am used to in Europe where bus coverage is decent even in rural areas. Once I had to rely on public transportation to get to the Columbus airport for a 6 a.m. flight. I ended up having to take the bus the night before my flight and I slept in the airport. Along with several others who I assume were in the same situation. Or possibly homeless. Or who simply liked sleeping in public places. I’ve also on several occasions been asked if my car had broken down as I was just casually walking somewhere.

The American view car driving

The American view

2. Hey. How are you doing today? – I’m doing great, thanks. How are you?

It took me a while to realize that this exchange is mostly just a long winded way of saying hello. Before someone explained it to me, I thought it was a bit odd for perfect strangers to ask me about my well-being. And I would answer honestly. Which sometimes resulted into a bit of an awkward situation, especially on the less than great days. I wonder why it never occurred to me that the Walmart cashier did not actually want to hear about my lack of sleep and dissatisfaction with crappy weather. 

3. Sincerely honored Prof. Dr. Dr. Bigshot Smartypants, I am writing to you on behalf of …

This is how we address most of our university teachers in Germany, even when writing a simple e-mail. Faculty there are very attached to their titles. I find it very refreshing how here almost all teachers are perfectly happy with a Dear Lisa, here’s the dealio … or you know, something of that nature. What’s more is that teachers in the US genuinely seem to enjoy teaching and care about their students. In Germany, I often felt trated like a necessary evil that stands between the professor and their precious research.

4. The right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

First I was confused as to why anyone would want the arms of a bear but then I realized – oh, this is about guns. I had the pleasure to stop by a gun shop on a recent trip while making a quick stop in West Virginia. What I saw made my jaw drop to the floor a little. For me it was actually the first time I had seen a gun in person (apart from armed police). Gun culture is scary man. Real scary.

gun shop library rifles bullets gun culture

The room behind these shelves was called a gun library. I don’t think the concept of a library is entirely clear to the owners of the shop. I suggest calling it I don’t know … an armory?!

5. It’s business time!

Sure, Germany has a capitalist economy but the Amercans invented capitalism. Everything seems to be a business. Universities charge insane amounts of tuition and have a t-shirt you can buy for every occasion. Hospitals, medical procedures and drugs are not regulated in price and cost a fortune. At Ohio University there is Mom’s Weekend and Dad’s Weekend and Bring Your Dog Weekend to boost the local economy. I took a class in entrepreneurial journalism which is unheard of in Germany where we foolishly pretend journalism and the market are not connected. It’s a double edged sword but sometimes I like not having to look at a price tag everywhere.

6. That’s what Germans do, right?

Being a foreigner in a country always turns you into an accidental embassador of your nation. The anniversary of D-Day just passed and the director of the news station I intern at asked if I could give the German perspective on that. Never mind that not even my grandparents were alive back then. On the other hand I do feel like a betrayer of all Germans everytime I’m late to something. Again. And then there was that one time some of my American friends thought it would be hilarious to take me to the Hofbräuhaus in Pittsburgh. First I was pretty stunned and somewhat annoyed as I explained that no, Bavarian culture is not a good representation of Germany as a whole. Then we stuffed our faces with beers and Pretzels, watched some soccer and had a jolly good time.

german bier hefeweizen hofbrauhaus

Okay yes, I do enjoy a decent brew of appropriate size.

7. Dearest Brot, I miss you so

Speaking of food. I really really really miss German bread. Visions of delicious sourdough, whole grain and rye loaves whisper to me in the hours between dreaming and waking. Seriously, I fantasize about bread. The employees of the first bakery I walk in once I’m back home will think I’ve gone mad because I might weep at the sight of some delicious fresh Vollkornbrot. I have also spent a fortune on American bread that has more fiber and taste than average cardboard. It’s a struggle.

8. Is it hot out? Let’s turn the inside of all buildings into the set of Frozen!

I always carry a sweater with me here, even though it’s the middle of summer and boiling outside. Just because there is air conditioning everywhere and it seems to only have two settings: freezing and off. In the summer I want t-shirt weather wherever I go. Embrace the sweat. Let it flow, let it flooow!

9. Hydration Nation

Speaking of flowing things, I love the fact that water in restaurants is free. I might apply for a green card just because of that. In German restaurants have you pay for every beverage you order, including water. Staying hydrated, as Americans have rightly figured out, should be a human right.

10. Football

The FIFA World Cup is happening in Brazil right now and my American friends keep telling me the enthusiasm for the sport has never been this big in the US as it is this time around. What has long been the favorite ball game of the rest of the world is slowly swaying sports fans in the States. It’s about time friends. But let me just tell you, young new fans, you’re calling it the wrong thing. It’s football, not soccer. And before you start to argue, the game you’ve been calling football is rarely played with the foot anyways. Plus, the thing you play it with is not even ball-shaped. I suggest renaming “American football” and calling it hand egg instead. Anyways, I’m really looking forward to the Germany vs. US football game next week. May the better team win.


american football sports hand egg

Let’s go watch the hand egg game! Has a ring to it, doesn’t it?

Julia Rabe

Universität Leipzig | 9 stories

Julia is an American Studies major at Leipzig University in Germany. Currently she is studying abroad at Ohio University. This summer she will be traveling through the United States and Canada before returning home to Germany in the fall. In addition to travel, Julia is passionate about video-making, her internet addiction and trying not to fall off her pennyboard.

2 responses to “This Is Not Football”

  1. Carlo Becker says:

    Nice article, there’s a lotta truth in this! About Americans and their cars – have you noticed how relaxed they are about cars as property? We Germans (generalizing here) LOOOVVEEEE our cars, and it’s the end of the world if you find a scratch on the hood or something. Some of my friends have shitty cars (no Tüv here, it’s awesome) with cracks in their windshields, and the interior is full of stuff. And you ask them to pay for a shorter ride, they have no idea what you are talking about! Beautiful. Oh, and about #6 – try being a German who is not interested in the World Cup! People almost don’t believe you 😉 #9 – Yes, the free water is a great thing. Beyond that, Cedar Falls has bars with free salted popcorn!!! I call that progress.

  2. Taylor says:

    #8) That surprises me. I don’t know if it’s because I’m an American and just used to it, but one thing I like on a hot summer day is being able to go into just about any building and just cool off thanks to the air condition.

    #4) This is the amazing thing about different cultures. I find lack of gun rights or “gun culture” to be rather scary. To think that a criminal could be walking among you with a gun, but you don’t have one yourself to protect yourself or your family members, and the only thing you can do is run and hide. I guess it has a lot to do with the fact that it’s really easy to obtain a gun illegally here in the states that people that follow the law want to have some sort of defense. All the areas in America with the strictest gun control laws also tend to have the highest gun related crimes.

    #3) That sounds rather awkward…. Maybe that’s why non-Americans, on average, tend to be better educated than Americans.

    #2) The worse is when someone says, “How are you doing today” and you reply “Good, and yourself”, and they reply with, “I’m doing great and you?”….uhh… didn’t I just answer that?

    #1) Yeah, not having a car can suck if you don’t live in a major city. Especially if you’re looking for a job. If the employer decides to ask if you own a car and you say that you don’t they may not hire you on that alone because they don’t know if they can trust if you will be able to arrive to work on time every day. They won’t tell you that is the reason you’re not hired, but it can play a factor in their decision.

    I know this is long, but bare with me.

    #10)When it comes to “football”, you would have to understand the origin. The very first “American Football” game in the United States was much closer to soccer than what it is now. It consisted of 25 players on each side (yes, you read the correctly, 50 players on the field at once) kicking a round ball around. The first one to score 6 goals would be the winner. No time limit, just the first to 6 goals. Rutgers beat College of New Jersey (now known as Princeton University) by a score of 6-4. Later, Harvard played McGill University (a university in Canada). First game at Harvard and the second game at McGill. At Harvard it was played with a round ball that you kicked. When going to McGill, the game was played by their rules. Their rules were similar to Rugby. An oblong shape ball that you would carry around with your hands. A lot like Rugby. At this time, any sport that involved a ball that was played on foot was called football. Certain sports were unique enough that it never got the name football. Such as Baseball. The name soccer comes from the official name of the sport that you love. Association Football. The term “soccer” was coined in England by upper class citizens by shortening Association –> Assoc –> Assoccer –> soccer. If you want to get technical, the sport should be pronounced “so-sher” not “sock-er”..

    Back to Harvard, they enjoyed playing that Rugby style game and the game of American football started to evolve, but it never got a name change. The game has evolved so much that it looks nothing like the very first intercollegiate American football game. So, even though there has been a huge change, the one thing that didn’t change was the name of the sport. After-all, it is played with a ball that is played on foot. I don’t understand how you say that it’s not “ball-shape” when the definition of a ball is: “a solid or hollow sphere or ovoid, especially one that is kicked, thrown, or hit in a game” – By definition, it is a ball. Soccer was called football in America back then as well, until the English came over and started calling the sport “soccer” and Americans adopted that name. That termed ended up dying out in England and almost the rest of Europe while it stayed alive in the States, Canada, Ireland, Australia, and several other countries. So, at the end of the day, if you want to blame anyone for why Americans call “association football” soccer and “American football” football, then you should blame the Canadians for introducing Americans to a Rugby style game where you run with the ball instead of kicking it, and blame the English for inventing the word “soccer”. 🙂 Oddly, enough… the reason the English (and the rest of Britain as well) stopped calling it soccer was out of spite since the sport started to gain popularity in America in the 70’s and the British wanted to be different from Americans so instead of calling it soccer, they started to only call it football. Up until 1974, the governing body of association football in the U.S. was called “United States Soccer Football Federation. Which makes sense since “soccer” is a nickname for association, and calling it soccer football was basically the same thing as calling it association football. Then America decided to just get rid of the word “football” since “American football” was far more popular and to avoid confusion the less popular sport decided to go with just the nickname. This was around the time that the Brits decided to stop calling it soccer altogether. Some Brits never called it soccer, some always called it soccer and some used both soccer and football. That is, until the late 1970’s and 1980’s so they could be different from America.

    I do have a suggestion. While in America, I would refrain from calling it “hand-egg”, but so as to not confuse yourself with which football sport you’re talking about . .. just call it “gridiron” instead of “football”. The field is painted like a gridiron, and it is a common phrase in America to say, “leave it on the gridiron” when they are referring to the playing area. Gridiron is what the Australians call American football since football in Australia refers to their style of football, and association football in Australia is called soccer… It seems the most popular sport in each country tends to be called football while all the other sports that aren’t as popular in that country get a different name or called by a nickname such as soccer.

    Even though I ended on a long rant about football, this was an interesting read! Nice to see what foreigners experiences are like in America and to find out, through their “mistakes”, what life is like in their own country

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