Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Driving in Germany

While living in The United States, I heard all sorts of rumors about driving in Germany!
* There's no speed limit on the autobahn!
* German's drive at speed exceeding 200mph!
* Germans are cautious, safe and orderly drivers!
* Germans obey every traffic law, sign and signal!
All of these rumors are completely and utterly false!  While there are some stretches of the autobahn in rural areas that don't have speed limits, much of it is actually speed regulated.  The German autobahn is not unlike the interstates and expressways of The United States.  The number of lanes, traffic, speed limits, road construction, driving conditions and mental stability of the other drivers depends on where you are, where you're going and what time of day it is.

Urban driving is just as crazy in Berlin as it is in Chicago.  While much of what I heard about Germany being a very orderly society is true, this concept get's tossed out the drivers side window once they're behind the wheel of a car!  To be fair, not all Germans are crazy drivers.  And, the drivers I've seen who have pulled absolutely crazy stunts are good enough to get away with it.  I've only seen one car accident in the past two months.

Here's what I've noticed about the road signals, signs and conditions while driving in Berlin, Germany. (If any of this information is incorrect, please contact me so that I can update it accordingly).  Many of the road signs are similar to the signs in The United States. The signal lights are also very similar.  Instead of three distinct lights, there are only two.  The top light alternates between the yellow and red colors and the bottom light is green.  There is always a yellow light warning you to prepare to stop, but there is also a yellow light given before the green to prepare you to go.

Some intersections have signal lights and these lights are to be acknowledged.  Some intersections have signs and the signs are to be acknowledged.  Some intersections have both signal lights and signs.  When and intersection has both, the signal lights are to be acknowledged unless they're not working or have been turned off for the night.  When the signal lights are off, then the signs are to be acknowledged.  To save energy costs, there are a number of intersections where signal lights are turned off for the night or when traffic is low.

STOP signs look exactly the same in Germany as they do in The United States, however they are much rarer.  When approaching many intersections, you'll notice either a Yellow Diamond or a Red and White Triangle.  A Yellow Diamond means that you have the right of way.  The Red and White Triangle means one should yield to oncoming traffic.  In either case, an intersection should be approached with caution as these signs are not always entirely respected.  If there are no signals or signs at the intersection, all of the cars to the right have the right of way before the cars on the left can proceed.  Many Germans respect this rule and the cars on the right are almost always given the right of way.   Thus, if four law abiding German drivers approach an intersection at the same time, each will look to the right and no one will move until one of the drivers dies of starvation or old age...  Then, the driver to the right of the deceased has the right of way!

Also important to note, gas prices in Germany are absolutely insane.  Germans pay double and sometimes even triple the price that Americans do for gas.  Every time an American complains about gas prices, a German laughs and cries at the same time!  If one can avoid driving here, especially if they are a student or not going on a long journey, it's usually cheaper to take public transportation or ride the bike.

Friday, December 26, 2014

German Holidays - Chriatmas

My First Christmas in Germany

There are many aspects to the Christmas Season, both religious and secular, within Germany!  Because of the diversity here, it would be very difficult to define or generalize exactly how Christmas is celebrated for everyone.  However, I will write of my personal experiences.  The Holiday Season began for my wife and I with the arrival of the Weihnachtsmäkte (Christmas Matkets).  Little, social gathering places where people can get together, enjoy currywurst and gluhwine and begin their Christmas shopping.  December marks the beginning of Advent which was celebrated by the lighting of one candle on the first Sunday.  December 6th is called Nikolaus (St. Nicolas Day) to honor St. Nicolas.  For adults, Nikolaus was celebrated by going out for dinner and the exchanging of gifts.  For children, Nikolaus is celebrated by cleaning their shoes and leaving them by the door the night before.  If they have been good, they might find coins, treats and toys near their shoes in the morning.  Nikolaus is a Christian Holiday and doesn't appear to be celebrated by everyone.  As Advent progresses, a new candle is lit each Sunday.  Advent reaths wreaths with either four candles or four lights were very common almost everywhere I went.  Also very popular here, were Advent calendars.  With the passing of each day, a little door can be opened to reveal a piece of chocolate.   Some Advent calendars were even more elaborate and contained not only chocolates, but other presents and little treats as well.  I noticed these calendars all over.  Christmas Dinner, the exchanging of gifts and the arrival of Weihnachtsmann (Santa Claus) all takes place on Christmas Eve and is treated very much like a secular event.  Many people from all religions celebrate this night with their family and close friends.  We had our Christmas Dinner in my wife's parents home.  There, we enjoyed amazing food, drink, company and the exchanging of presents.   (I am careful not to use the word "gift" because that word means poison in German).  The following morning, Christmas Day, is a much quieter day designated more for church, spiritual celebration and more meaningful family time.  In America, especially for the Christian patents of young children, deciding to stay home or go to church can be a difficult decision.  Because the religious and secular celebrations are split over two days, Santa Claus and Church don't have to compete for one's attention, everything can be enjoyed.  In addition to Christmas Day, the following day is also treated as a holiday.  The stores remain closed, the streets are very empty and the time is used to personally celebrate the birth of Christ or reflect upon the passing of another year.  Two days after Christmas, the stores once again open and Germans flock to them to return/exchange presents and begin stocking supplies for the next Holliday...  Silvester!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

German Christmas Markets

Since arriving in Berlin, my wife and I have been very busy meeting with friends at various Christmas Markets.  There are Christmas Markets everywhere here and I had a delightful time at everyone of them.  There were lots of little shops with a wide variety of goods and items.  Shops sold everything from Christmas decorations to extremely creative and expensive rarities.  One of my favorites shops sold lamps made out of actual musical instruments.  There were shops from professional retailers, but many of them appeared to be set up by local independent artists and business.   And of course, there is plenty of food!  The smell of sausages, fresh bread and roasted almonds filled the air almost everywhere we went!  There was chocolate absolutely everywhere!  And the German tradition of drinking Glühwien (a fruity red wine served warm) was available everywhere.  In addition to the shops and food the larger Markets even offered outdoor ice skating rinks and even a few amusement rides.  The Christmas Markets were the perfect place to meet with friends, grab a bite to eat, do some Christmas shopping and enjoy spending time outside during the beginning of Winter.   If traveling through Germany during November and December, I highly recommend visiting a few Christmas Markets (Weihnachtsmäkte)


Monday, December 22, 2014

What/Who do Germans Love?

Americans love life! Americans love their families, friends, dogs, cats and pets! They love beautiful houses, fast cars,  hotdogs and their favorite television shows!  Americans love watching football, playing baseball and eating apple pie.  According to the  McDonald's slogan, Americans even love that, crap too!  Germans feel the same way about their lives, too. However, they don't use the word love/liebe nearly as often.  This isn't because Germans don't share the same emotions as Americans, rather it's because they take the word love much more seriously. Thus, Germans "really like" many of the things that Americans "love!"  Love is a word reserved for the wife, husband, children and for things exceptionally dear.  I must admit, this is a difference in language that is taking me some time to get used to!  If I had a Euro for every time my wife has said:  "No, no Honey... You love me, you only like Döner!" I would be a very wealthy man!


Things You Won't find (very often) in Germany!

Here is a list of the conveniences that I took for granted while living in The United States:

AIR CONDITIONING - Although it doesn't get as hot here as it can in many parts of The United States, there are several days during the course of an average Summer when I really miss having an air conditioner.  It is possible to purchase one here, but the cost of electricity is high enough that having an air conditioned is not worth the trouble.

CLOTHES DRYERS - Also due to electrical costs, drying one's clothing is usually done on a drying rack rather than using a clothes dryer.  This is important to remember when your favorite shirt is dirty and you want to wear it on a particular day.  The complete clothes washing and drying process can as long as two or even three days depending on weather conditions, humidity and other factors.  Many Germans use both indoor and outdoor clothes drying racks to allow for the conditions.  But, I have witnessed people using drying racks outside on their balcony, even when it's below freezing outside. Good to note:  Germans are not so "hung up" about wearing the same outfit two, or even three days in a row.  As long as your clothing is clean and you don't smell, wearing something for a few days in a row is not a big deal like it is in The States.  A note to my German friends:  Don't worry, Americans aren't washing everything everyday, either.  They put clothing back on hangers a wear it a few more times before washing, items just aren't worn on consecutive days.

ELEVATORS - Many of the buildings that give Berlin and even Europe it's charm are much older than the buildings in America.  This is especially true of the apartment buildings.  While elevators are common in many of the newer office building here, the older buildings and apartment buildings often do not have one.  If you don not like climbing stairs, Germany is not for you...

PANDORA - the laws here (still trying to figure them out) are slightly different than U.S. laws regarding video, music and streaming over the internet.  Pandora is not permitted here, however iHeart Radio is available.  YouTube is available, some some of the videos (especially complete movies, music videos or professional production material produced outside of Germany) is limited depending on the copyright information. Netflix is a recent addition to Germany and even offers many of the same titles as it does in The United States (I only mention it so that Americans are aware that it now works). There are some video/music sharing programs that do not work, but there are many that do.  Also, the software to enable your computer to be able to view/listen to the programs that don't work, is readily available here.

CHEAP GAS PRICES - Every time an American complains about how expensive gas is, a German laughs hysterically!  While the price of gas did seem rather high to me while living in The States, I seriously took for granted how high gas prices are in Europe.  The current price of gas per gallon in U.S. Dollars is $5.57.  And this, after a sharp decline from $7.65 per gallon last Summer.  Gas prices here occasionally exceed $8.50 per gallon! Thus, the car is not a tool for making trips around the corner.


How Much Does Food Actually Cost?

Going to the grocery store, market or bakery in Germany is a part of daily the daily living (unless it's Sunday when everything is closed).  Don't worry, your eyes are not deceiving you! When purchasing your bread, water, potatoes, butter, toilet paper, etc., you'll notice that the total at the register is exactly the same as the price marked on the items you're purchasing.   There is still tax, but the tax (which is actually higher than U.S. tax) is included in the price unlike in the U.S. where tax is added additionally to the price that's marked.  Also notable, the price of food here (even with the higher tax) is exceptionally low.  Many items like milk, bread, bottled water and other essentials cost less than a U.S. Dollar in total.   The price of almost all food bought in the grocery store here is either comparable, or even much less than the cost of food purchased in the United States.  The little, local fast food places are also much cheaper.  However, the nicer restaurants are either comparable, or even costlier and it's good to be aware that water is not included for free with your meal.  But, occasionally a shot of liquor is offered complementary after your finished.

The rumor in America is true:  Depending on their brands, it is possible to find beer that's much cheaper than water!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Fast Food in Berlin

Although there is "American" fast food here (McDonald's, Pizza Hut, etc...), they're less frequent, less popular and nowhere close to as advertised.  But, Berlin still has plenty of fast food. Where we live in Neukölln, there is a Döner on almost every corner.   Döner is much like what we call a Gyro in Chicago.  Berlin also has plenty of Currywurst! (So much so, that there's even a Currywurt museum here).  Currywurst is the simple combination of bratwurst with curry ketchup, often served with bread or fries.  There are plenty of hamburger, chicken and sausage places.  Although small, many of these places have windows that allow folks to order right from the sidewalk. Usually, these places have an outdoor sitting or standing area. Unlike the giant American chain restaurants, the majority of the fast food stands here are independent, making for a different experience and flavor around every corner.  Also unlike American fast food restaurants, beer and alcohol is readily available with your meal.  There are plenty of little cafés here where one can sit and enjoy a coffee, beer or wine with slice of cake around friends.  There are also tons of bakeries and little sandwich places around, even.down in the subways or on top of train platforms. It would be impossible to try everything, but I have enjoyed just about everything I've had thus far.  Perhaps because of the independent, competitive nature of the fast food scene here, and definitely because Germans are much more "food aware" than the average American, ingredients are fresher and the food is better quality!  Seriously delicious!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Berlin Bicycle Culture

Over the past decade, Chicago, Illinois has become a much more bike friendly city.   New bike lanes, a bike sharing program, improved paths, more places to lock and store bikes, have all helped Chicago bike riders.  Personaly, I put in about six miles per day biking to and from work. However, it is still a relatively new culture for Chicago.   The Bicycle Culture in Berlin is much more established.  There are bike lanes everywhere, some are even built in as a part of the sidewalk.  There are light, signs and traffic signals just for bike riders.  There are bicycle repair shops all over my new neighborhood.  There might even be more places to lock bikes here, than there are parking places for cars.   Upon my arrival to Berlin, my father-in-law even gave me a bike.  My wife and I both enjoy riding.  It's cheaper, cleaner and often faster than public transportation.  And, it's fantastic exercise too!  While we were out enjoying only our second journey via cycle, I ended up (due to my own fault) flipping over the side and bouncing on the pavement.  I was probably more embarrassed than actually injured, but it's almost a month later and my knee still looks colorful.  

I have noticed that many Germans are very skilled cyclists!  Many times, I have witnessed riders at breakneck speeds cornering on a dime on cobblestone streets with baskets overflowing with groceries and bottles.  Germans not only use their bikes for basic transportation, but also for taking their children to school, shopping, delivering mail, and doing a variety of other services.  Bikes are very much a part of life here.

If traveling (locally) through Germany in cities like Berlin, I highly recommend traveling by bike.  But, there are some things you shoul know, do, be aware of before heading out.

1) ALWAYS wear a helmet! This is a no brainer anywhere, unless you're planning on not having a brain!
2) Make sure your bike is in excellent condition!  Check the breaks, chain, frame, make sure it's sturdy and adjusted properly for your height, weight.  Always have, and double check to ensure they're working, front and rear lights.
3) Bring at least one, even better two, bike locks with you!  Bikes, sometimes even pieces from bikes, tend to disappear if not properly locked.
4) Know your route!  Riding on cobblestone streets, through construction zones, near canals, over paths is common for Germans, but might take some time getting used to if you've not done it before.
5) Be aware of, and follow traffic laws!  Many of the same laws apply for both bikes and cars here, but there are also some differences.  It is important to know, read and follow the "bicycle specific" traffic signs, signals and laws as well as those for the autos you will be sharing the streets with.  It is possible to get a traffic violation for breaking the laws here, but more importantly, following them will keep you safe and ensure that cars are aware of you (provided that they too are playing by the rules)
6) While not riding the bike, locking the bike, standing near the bike, walking with the bike, etc... NEVER stand in a bike lane!  You will get yelled at and possibly even mowed over! Seriously! 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014


Quark!  It's not yogurt, cream cheese, cottage cheese or butter...  Honestly, I'm not sure what quark is!   But supposedly, it's low fat and healthy! (I should research that further).  It's also absolutely delicious and exceptionally versatile!  It is amazing with potatoes, fantastic on French fries, brilliant on bread and can be mixed with oil, onions, garlic, etc. to create wonderful dips and spreads.  Quark has become my guilty pleasure food since arriving here (perhaps even more so than chocolate).  I have enjoyed Quark with my breakfasts, lunches and dinners!  I feel about Quark much the same way I felt about Nutella over a decade ago while spending time in Stuttgart!  (Back when Nutella was still difficult to find in The States). Then, as with Quark now, I just can't seem to get enough!  I imagine many Germans must think I'm absolutely insane!  But for them, Quark is common...  It's still very new and exciting for me! While visiting The United States, my wife only found Quark once.  It cost over $6.00 for a small amount at a speciality health food store, and it wasn't even that good.  Here, it only costs about .60€ (about .70¢) and is available almost everywhere in the dairy section.  If I had to guess, I'd say much like Nutella, within the next ten years Quark will become cheaper and readily available in The States...  I'm not sure why it's not, already!?!?  Yum!   Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go find an excuse to put Quark on something...

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

German Toilet Paper!

At first glance, German toilet paper looks so light and fluffy.  It's ornately quilted with designs of cartoon ducks, whales, sea horses or other happy looking, friendly creatures.  But don't let that fool you, German toilet paper is only available in the following styles: 3ply, 4ply, Sandpaper and Brillo Pad.  Fortunately, if one runs out of toilet paper, a pick axe, chisel or an industrial drill are equally as comfortable.  To be fair, my wife (A German National) is disgusted by American toilet paper and can't imagine how used for anything other than blowing one's nose!  To prove her point, my wife demonstrated that after folding a sheet in half, it's almost impossible to puncture it.   After her demonstration, I wondered how many layers it would take to design light weight bullet proof vests? I'm pretty sure the only reason why no one has already though of this, is that a SWAT team would look rather silly wrapped up yellow ducklings.  German toilet paper is also deceptive in other ways. While a roll might look full, it is completely empty after using only five or six sheets.  Because every store that carries toilet paper is closed on a Sunday, it is extremely important to make sure you have at least four rolls on standby Saturday night.  But if you forget to double check on Saturday, there is always the pick axe, chisel or industrial drill...

Sunday and The Weekend

The German week begins with Monday (Montag) and ends with Sunday (Sonntag).  Thus, in Germany, the weeks are Monday through Sunday, not Sunday through Saturday as with The United States.  Calendars, Schedules and Weekly Planners will look slightly confusing for a while.  The days of the week, in Germany, are as follows:  MO - Montag, DI - Dienstag, MI - Mittwoch, DO - Donnerstag, FR - Freitag, SA - Samstag, SO - Sonntag.

Sunday (Sonntag) is the last day of the week because Germany honors this day as the seventh, and Biblical day of rest.  And in accordance with Sunday being the Biblical day of rest, many stores, shops, businesses and even pharmacies are closed.  There are a few exceptions like restaurants and public houses that remain open, but everything definitely moves at a slower pace.  Sunday is a day reserved for church, relaxation, reflection, family time and Tatort.

Because there's no shopping on Sunday, it is important to make a checklist of important items you might run out of before Monday: 1) Toilet Paper, 2) Carbonated Water, 3) Potatoes.  So, If you notice on Friday that you're starting to run a little low on something, make sure to to get it before the Saturday shopping rush or the stores closed on Sunday.

Tatort (Scene of The Crime) is a weekly crime drama that airs on German television.  Tatort might be the longest running crime drama on television.  The intro and theme music have been exactly the same for almost an entire half century, but each week features a new crime mystery in a new city with different detectives.  Some episodes are thinking mysteries, some episodes are nonstop action thrillers, keeping Tatort interesting, different new and exciting.  To say that many Germans are addicted to Tatort would be an understatement.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

German Television!

So far, I have seen German celebrities sliding down bobsled hills while riding on top of woks, fussball, dating shows featuring German farmers, fussball,  round table talk show discussions where half the hosts were completely intoxicated, fussball, competitions between adults and children (the children always winning), fussball and other various competition type shows where someone does something insane, daring or just outright silly.  Last night, I watched a blindfolded child identifying dogs by the way the dog licked liverwurst off of his hands!

Then, there is Tatort!  Tatort might be the longest running crime drama show anywhere in the world!  Each Sunday evening, the German world screeches to a halt as almost everyone in the country becomes glued to the television.  There are Tatort Parties and even Tatort Bars (I'm not sure yet, but I believe Fussball matches might even be scheduled around Tatort to avoid viewer conflict)

Meanwhile, for children, there is a show called DieMous.  The music sounds like something written by Herb Alpert and the anamation looks about 50 years old...  But, DieMous is exceptionally entertaining and explains things like:  How Touch Screen Computers Work, The Binary System, How Engines Work and Where Poop Comes From!

Now We're Cooking!

At first glance, many German kitchens look exactly the same (My wife disagrees, but because she has lived here her whole life, it's easier for her to spot the differences).  In almost all of the kitchens I've seen, the cabinets are bright white and very smooth.  The ovens are are usually electric and their burners are built into the counter top.   Refrigerators, dishwashers, and occasionally washing machines are either built-ins, or fit so perfectly that it blends right in with the rest of the environment.   Everything is bright white, smooth, uniform and in close proximity.   My first impression of the kitchens here, was that they look how I imagine a kitchen would look like if hospital rooms had kitchens.

But, now that I've been here for a while, the German kitchen design has really started to grow on me!  While they might not be exceptionally diverse, they are extremely efficient.  The white color makes dirt easier to discover, the smooth surfaces help make clean up simple and quick, the built in stove tops allow for lots of extra counter space while they're not being used and everything is really accessible while cooking or baking.   Now that I understand the German kitchen, it's very easy for me to appreciate it! (and even enjoy cooking). Just receintly, I cooked for the first time here!  My wife is still alive and not in any discomfort, I'd call that a success...

Friday, December 12, 2014

Which Floor Am I On?

So, you're visiting Germany for the first time and your friends ask you to visit their apartment.  They mention that they live on the second floor. Should be easy enough to find, right?  When you get to the apartment building, the first thing you might notice (after getting past the front door) is that there are no elevators!  There are more Canadians who hate ice hockey, than elevators in Germany!  Next, you might notice that there are mail boxes usually located somewhere between the front door and seeming endless flights of stairs!  But, chances are likely you won't find an apartment number next to the last names of your friends.  But, they did mention living on the second floor, so this shouldn't be too hard, right?   So, you walk up a floor....   No apartment numbers, Only names on the doorbells but their names are not here.  Just as you are pondering why the name on the doorbell is wrong, you hear a friendly voice...  "We're up here!"  So, you go up one more floor..  But wait, did they already go inside and close the door?  "Hello?" you say politely.  "Keep going, we're up one more floor!"  After one more hike up the stairs you finally find your friends.

"Sorry about that" you might proclaim, "I must have written down the wrong directions.  I thought you lived on the second floor?" Your German friends will scratch their heads, and with a puzzled look, announce: "But, this is the second floor!"

This has actually happened to me far too many times!  So, here is how you can avoid this situation!

First, never assume there will be an elevator! Your chances of spotting Bigfoot eating a currywurst at the Imbiss Stand around the corner are far more likely.

Second, most apartments use names, not numbers to identify where people live.  If the name on the doorbell doesn't match the name you're looking for, it is likely that you are in the wrong place or on the wrong floor. Unless you're interested in making new friends (or enemies, depending...), don't ring the bell unless the name is correct.

And finally, figuring out which floor you're on can be a bit challenging, but this might be helpful.  If any part of a floor is underground (even if it's only half of the floor) it's probably considered the basement. The floor above this, is called the ground floor (not the first floor). If only half of the basement is underground, it is possible that you might need to climb some stairs to reach the ground floor.  Now, here's where it gets interesting. The floor above the ground floor, is called the first floor (not the second floor) So, it is very likely that you may need to climb one and a half flights of stairs before reaching the first floor.  Depending on how tall the basement is, it may even be possible to climb two full flights of stairs before reaching the first floor!   From the outside of the building, you might notice six layers of windows.  Yet, the very top floor may only be considered the fourth floor.

Confused?  No worries, even some Germans get confused too.  Just remember to always check the names on the doors because they are probably accurate, bring your cell phone with you just in case you get lost, and always bring mountain climbing gear, extra food, a compus and leave an hour early if they mention living above the third floor...

Thursday, December 11, 2014

After The Mist

Before traveling to another country, it is probably a good idea to know a few basic phrases or expressions in their language.  Often, I have discovered that if you make an effort to ask something in their language (where is the bathroom, how much does this cost, etc...) the locals will respond in English.  Most of the people I have encountered in Germany have, at the very least, a reasonable understanding of the English language.  In the United States, it is possible to travel over 2,000 miles and everyone around you would still speak English.  In Europe, taking a trip that distance might mean encountering two or three different cultures and languages.  Because there are so many languages in such close proximity to each other, English is commonly taught in schools to help people communicate.  Where we live in Neukölln, there are large populations of Germans, Turkish and Spanish people.  It is very common to hear English used as these groups communicate with one another.  For Americans traveling through Europe, this makes things much easier. Just don't assume that everyone speaks English rather ask politely in their language if they do.  If you make a polite effort, most people are more than friendly and delighted to help.

But, there are some English words that I discovered that should be avoided.

In German, the word "after" means anus!  So, do not be surprised if you get dirty looks at the local store if you ask where to find the aftershave.  Also, no one will be interested in seeing your before and after pictures!  And, don't fire up the afterburners!  It's safe to say that any phrase using the word "after" should be avoided unless you want giggles or disappointed looks.

In German, the word "mist" mean shit!  Although it's not a commonly used English word, it can still create awkward situations if used.  For example, Mist is the brand name of a soda in The United States.  But, the last thing you'd want to do at a restaurant here is ask for a can of Mist!   The only thing worse than the giggles or disappointed looks you might get, would be someone taking you up on your request! 

In German, the word "latte" means wooden plank.  This might seem innocent enough, but when added to words Morgen or Morning, it takes on a whole new meaning.  So, be very careful how you order your coffee here!  It's rather easy to accidentally ask for extra foam with your morning erection!  Fortunately (or, unfortunately depending on how you look at it) Germans have a good sense of humor about this one. It's not uncommon to find a "morning latte" on the menu of your local coffee shop...  Just don't be surprised if your cup of joe has a rather graphic pictures scribbled on it.

Less Time on Facebook, More Time Outside!

Perhaps you might have noticed that I never mentioned my wife's name during the story of how we got married.  No, I haven't forgotten her name already, I didn't mention it on purpose.   One of the first things I noticed about Germans was that they are a lot more private than Americans are online.  I have noticed that many Germans don't have Facebook pages, and those that do, often don't use their real names.  This is in stark contrast to my friends in America that often have multiple Facebook pages, including pages for themselves, their pets and their various interests.  Also, the Germans that I know with Facebook don't post as often, comment as often, "like" things as much or update their statuses as frequently as Americans do.   But, while Germans live a much more private life online, they also live much more social life I public.  It seems to me that Germans would much rather be outside experiencing life, than sitting in front of a computer posting about it.  Even on days with subpar weather, the parks, playgrounds, outdoor cafés and other outdoor areas are packed full of people. Where we live in Neukölln (a trendy neighborhood in Berlin) there are people outside at all hours of the day and night. Tonight, it is 3:30am and raining, but I still hear people outside walking their dogs.