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.
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.
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.
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.
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.