Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Temperature Guide: Fahrenheit/Celsius

To easily figure out the temperature in Fahrenheit from Celsius, one could use this equation: 
Degrees Fahrenheit - multiply by 9, divide by 5, add 32 = Degrees Celsius

For those of us who don't appreciate math, here's an easy chart for converting temperature:

The boiling point of water is: 212 / 100
Human Body Temperature is: 98.6 / 37
The freezing point of water is: 32 / 0

Earth Weather Temperature Fahrenheit to Celsius Quick Guide:

-40 / -40.0  Extremely Cold
-30 / -34.4  Extremely Cold
-20 / -28.8  Extremely Cold
-10 / -23.3  Extremely Cold
0 / -17.7  Very Cold
10 / -12.2  Very Cold
20 / -6.6  Cold
30 / -1.1  Cold
40 / 4.4  Cool
50 / 10.0  Mild
60 / 15.5  Comfortable
70 / 21.1  Comfortable
80 / 26.6  Warm
90 / 32.2  Hot
100 / 37.4  Extremely Hot
110 / 43.3  Extremely Hot

German By The Numbers / How to Count in German

Counting in German is much the same as counting in English, with one rather big exception.  Rather than just explaining this exception, I will write this segment in such a way as to help train your brain to properly count, speak and read German numbers.

First, Learn The Basic Counting Elements:

0 - zero / null
1 - one / eins
2 - two / zwei
3 - three / drei
4 - four / vier
5 - five  / funf
6 - six / sechs
7 - seven / sieben
8 - eight / acht
9 - nine / neun

10 - ten / zehn
11 - eleven / elf
12 - twelve / zwolf
13 - thirteen / dreizehn
14 - fourteen / vierzehn
15 - fifteen / funfzehn
16 - sixteen / sechzehn
17 - seventeen / siebzehn
18 - eighteen / achtzehn
19 - nineteen / neunzehn

20 - twenty / zwanzig
30 - thirty / dreissig
40 - forty / viersig
50 - fifty / funfzig
60 - sixty / sechzig
70 - seventy / siebzig
80 - eighty / achtzig
90 - ninety / neunzig
100 - (one)hundred / (ein)hundret
1000 - (one)thousand (ein)tausend

Alright, here comes the tricky part.   In German, when counting from twenty to thirty, thirty to forty, etc..  the smaller number is written/pronounced before the larger number.  Although I will continue to write the numbers in both English and German, to train your brain I will only write the numbers as they are arranged in German

Second, Practice and Learn The German Number Structure:

21 - one and twenty / einundzwanzig
22 - two and twenty / zweiundzwanzig
23 - three and twenty / dreiundzwanzig
24 - four and twenty / vierundzwanzig
25 - five and twenty / funfundzwanzig
26 - six and twenty / sechsundzwanzig
27 - seven and twenty / siebenundzwanzig
28 - eight and twenty / achtundzwanzig
29 - nine and twenty / neunundzwanzig
30 - thirty / dreissig

21 - one and twenty / einundzwanzig
32 - two and thirty / zweiunddreizig
43 - three and forty /dreiundvierzig
54 - four and fifty / vierundfunfzig
65 - five and sixty / funfundsechzig
76 - six and seventy / sechsundsiebzig
87 - seven and eighty / siebenundachtzig
98 - eight and ninety / achtundneunzig
357 - three hundred seven and fifty / dreihundretsiebenundfunfzig
3764 - three thousand seven hundred four and sixty / dreitausendsiebenhundretvierundsechzig

Monday, January 12, 2015

Die Hundescheiße

There are many social, occupational and bureaucratic issues facing someone who has recently moved to Berlin from another country.  Registering your residency, applying for a work permit, obtaining a tax identification number and opening a bank account...  There are many things to be considered, issues to be addressed and plenty of questions need to be asked.  But before you get started figuring out your new life in Berlin, the first question you will ponder is:  What is the deal with Die Hundescheiße?

Die Hundescheiße just might be the number one social issue effecting residents of Berlin, especially the Neukölln area.  Die Hundescheiße controls where you walk, where you go, what you wear, how you smell, who you visit , how you think and your disposition throughout the day!  Die Hundescheiße is both feared and respected!  What is Die Hundescheiße, you ask?  If you're not already aware, it's not a government agency or secret underground agency...  Die Hundescheiße literally means: The Dog Shit!

After spending any length of time walking around Neukölln, one can completely understand why Germans are obsessed with house shoes.  Die Hundescheiße comes in every size, shape and color imaginable...  It's location is splattered all over the sidewalks, bike paths and patches of Earth.  However, Die Hundescheiße is also discovered in strategic locations where one might least expect it.  Upon my arrival to Berlin in November, I thought residents passing one another refused to make eye contact with other people.   Later, I learned that they're not refusing to make eye contact, rather they are concentrating carefully on their environment.

If a error in judgement has been made and shoes have become contaminated, the worst thing you can do is panic!  Cobblestone streets and slippery conditions can make the situation worse, and panicking may result in a slip or fall where one is sure to discover additional loads with other body parts.

If You're Not Sure, Always Ask...

I am a social person, but I also enjoy being independent as well.  Moving to another country has forced me to rely on a lot of help from others.  Within the two months I've been here, I have learned enough German to get around.  But, overconfidence can occasionally get me into trouble.

While enjoying a delightful meal from a Middle Eastern Restaurant in Neukölln, I noticed something on my plate that I didn't recognize.  Earlier that day, my wife had been teasing me about smelling everything before I ate it.  So, rather than ask what it was, I decided to chance it and take a spoon full. No sooner than the spoon left my mouth, the look on my wife's face became priceless!  I assumed it wasn't poisionious, or it wouldn't have been on the plate to begin with...   The discovery I made, was that hot sauce sometimes comes in a paste and can look almost exactly like a side.   Fortunately, I am used to exceptionally spicy foods...  But even at that, I learned an important lesson!  Ask!

Lesson learned, right?  Less than a week later, I was opening an Advent Calendar filled all sorts of goodies!  The chocolates were amazing, but the calendar also contained other fun, luxurie items. There were little candles, candies and a strange little bag covered in hearts and strawberries.  Assuming it to be candy, I opened the bag (without asking, because I wanted to be independent) and gave it a try!  Fortunately, it didn't take long to realize that bath salts are not eatable!  This time, the "lesson" cost me an hour of my life hovering over a toilet...

As of right now, I'm back to smelling everything before I eat it and asking lots of questions.  As soon as I gain more confidence, I'll update this blog with other items that I have accidentally consumed!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

My Experience With Customs

Before moving to Germany, I contacted several International Moving Companies.   Their websites were sleek and informative, their salespeople were smooth and knowledgable...  But the reviews given by customers were absolutely horrible.  Only one company looked promising until I noticed that all of the positive reviews the company received came from residents of the same city as their headquarters. Thankfully, I'm just a little to savvy not to pick up on something like that.  And fortunately, I decided to sell or donate anything that was too large or not necessary to bring with me.  With time running out and with my list of reliable international moving companies narrowed down to zero, I decided that my best option was to send my belongings through the UPS.  Although on paper, I spent slightly more than was advertised b the moving companies, after reading the reviews it became clear that I would save money and aggravation in the long run!  Four days before my flight to Germany, I packed up my boxes and brought them to The UPS Store.  Twenty boxes were sent through UPS and actually arrived safely in Germany before I did.  Two additional boxes, both containing two guitars, were cheaper to send through the regular post. The German Customs Department only required a detailed list of the items from UPS before they were released to me a week after my arrival.   Fortunately, I numbered each box and had a list of their contents.  I highly recommend that you write a detailed list of contents before mailing anything internationally, but especially when sending items to Germany.   The other two boxes, however, were a little more interesting to obtain!

Two weeks after arriving, I received a letter notifying me that two packages had arrived and were waiting for me at the postal customs office.  To ensure that there would be no difficulties, I brought my, passport, proof of my new residence, marriage certificate (I'm married to a German National) and anything else I thought I might need!  My wife, a native and fluent German speaker, also went with me.  After our number was called (a process that takes forever... in Germany), we explained the move and received two boxes.   Each box only containing one guitar because the original boxes had been opened and checked by customs.  At the request of Customs, I opened the boxes to ensure that the contents were correct.  They even jokingly requested in English that I play a concert for them.   Despite aging 30 years in the waiting room, it was an enjoyable experience.

A week later, I received yet another letter notifying me that a package had arrived in customs.  Because the previous box had been repacked, I was keeping my fingers crossed that this box contained the remaining two guitars and I would finally have the move complete.  Because we both assumed that we knew what to expect, my wife and I packed our backpack full of survival essentials (food, water, reading materials, etc.) for the waiting room.  Once again, I was able to grow a full beard in the amount of time it took us to wait for our number to be called.  Once our number was called, my wife and I felt a sense or relief.  If both of the guitars were there, the move would be complete and there would be one less thing to worry about.  But upon arriving at the customs desk, we were informed that we needed a ton of paperwork including proof of my past residency in The United States, my 2014 tax returns (which are unobtainable until 2015) and other, seemingly impossible documents.  The further we humored their scavenger hut, the clearer it became that we were not going to win this battle.  Not wanting to pay the outlandish taxes they were being unjustly applied for the release of the final package, (by this time, I was able to note that the final two guitars were, indeed, located with the box) we decided to return a couple of days later with additional paperwork.

My wife and I gathered anything we assumed might be of any importance and loaded our backpack to the breaking point with everything including the kitchen sink and adult diapers for the waiting room.  This time, our number was called just moments after our arrival.  As we walked towards the customs desk, my wife whispered in my ear: "What are the odds we didn't need to bring any of this paperwork with us?"  We arrived at the customs desk, the customs officer noted that we were returning due to a lack of paperwork, we mentioned that we had brought it with us...  And, without bothering to check, he released the final package to us with a smile and welcoming me (in English) to Germany!

This has been my experience with other German Government Offices as well, the amount of  bureaucracy, red tape, paperwork and outright bull plops one must suffer through depends largely on who you talk with, what time of day it is, the direction the wind is blowing, the gravitational pull of the moon and the price of chocolate on the world market!  

Writing The Date, Reading Expiration Dates, Etc.

In Germany, the date is written Day/Month/Year.  The date is not written Month/Day/Year like it is in The States.   Thus, today being January 11, 2015  the date is written as follows 11/01/15 and not as 01/11/15.  Although this seems simple enough to remember, it can lead to accidentally voiding legal documents and misreading expiration dates on food products.

Also important to note, the first day of the week in German is Monday and the last day of the week is Sunday.  Calendars and Schedules always start with Monday so a quick glance without paying attention might lead to miscommunications about which day of the week something is on.

November 9th, 1989:
09/11/89  (in Germany)

September 11th, 1989:
09/11/89  (in The United States)

Montag - Dienstag - Mittwoch - Donnerstag - Freitag - Samstag - Sonntag

Sunday - Monday - Tuesday - Wednesday - Thursday - Friday - Saturday

Deutsch Hausschuhe / German House Shoes

Germans are absolutely obsessed with their house shoes.  House shoes are kept both in the entrance area and bedrooms.  Sometimes, there are even emergency pairs located in other strategic areas throughout the home.  Upon returning home from the outside, Germans assume that their clothing (specifically shoes) have become contaminated!  Shoes, boots, sandals, etc. worn outside are absolutely never permitted to proceed past the entrance. (Jeans and pants are also considered contaminated, but are given more household permissions)  House shoes are so important, that many Germans keep extra pairs in entrance areas for guests. And if house shoes are unavailable, thick wool socks are offered as a reasonable substitute.  In addition returning home, house shoes are also the first thing worn after a shower, before getting out of bed and before movement is required anywhere within the living space.  House shoes are also the last item of clothing removed at night.  After arriving in Germany, I questioned if there was a law not allowing Germans to touch the floor with their bare feet.  While officially there is no such law in place, I have yet to witness a German touching the floor with their bare feet...  I'll keep you posted, but it many be many years before this post gets updated.

Monday, January 5, 2015

German Drinking - What Do Germans Drink?

In addition to drinking the same beverages as Americans, Germans also has their own unique drinks.  Here is an alphabetical list of the beverages I've discovered thus far:


A very popular Austrian Brand or Carbonated, Herbal Apple Juice.

Carbonated Water and Apple Juice .

Beer. (There are hundreds of varieties here, many of them are excellent)

All Natural, Completely Organic, Fermented, Carbonated, Nonalcoholic Drinks.

Club Mate
A Carbonated, caffeinated mate-extract drink.

Coca Cola -
Coca Cola and other Coke Products, like Fanta.

A Beer and Cola Mix.

Orange Cola .

A popular German Brand of Carbonated Apple Juice.

Fritz Kola -  
German Cola Products.

Glühwein -
A warm spiced wine served during the Christmas Holiday.

Peppermint and Elderflower Cocktail.

A Very Strong German Digestif .


Mezzo Mix -
Mixture of Coke and Orange Fanta.

Carbonated Mineral Water, also called: Sprudel. 

A Beer and Lemonade Mix

Means: "Juice" in German.

The German term "Schnaps" refers to any kind of strong alcoholic drink.

Schorle - 
A mixture of carbonated water and fruit juice.  Juices include, but are not limited to: Apple, Orange, Peach, Mango, Cherry, Rhubarb, 

German Sparkling Wine.

Mixture of Coke and Orange Cola.

Carbonated Water.

Stilles Wasser
Non-Carbonated Water.

Means: "Water" in German


Tap Water - Many Germany prefer carbonated bottled over tap water even though Germany has some of the best quality tap water in the world.

Sierra Mist (also know as Mist) - The word "mist" in German means Shit! 

** Note:  There are probably a lot more drinks that I've neglected to mention, please contact me or comment below and I'll update this list, thanks!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Silvester - The German New Year's Celebration!

New Year's Eve in Germany starts out quiet enough!  One of the New Year's traditions here is watching "Dinner for One" A delightful short, black and white film in British English.  (But, language is not required to understand the humor)  Then, Germans spend their evenings with family and friends enjoying raclette, fondu, cake, cookies, conversation and drinks.  During the course of the entire day, there are fireworks in the streets, but nothing out of the ordinary form the average Fourth of July Celebration in The States.  After the sun goes down and the evening turns into night, Germans continue to celebrate with their friends and families or head out to one of the numerous parties and celebrations throughout their city!  At this time, however, you will notice that the amount of fireworks being set off in the streets has gone from an average celebration to what appears to be a frenzy of chaos!

As midnight approaches, Germans celebrate just as Americans do...  with one exception.  No matter how I explain this, no matter which adjectives, superlatives I use, there is no way to properly express in words what happens next.  The average, normally reserved, polite Germans turns into a crazed, insane pyromaniac, setting off (what look like military grade) explosives in the middle of the street!  And, just when you think things can't get any crazier, the countdown ends and the entire country goes absolutely berserk!  Just a few minutes after midnight, and the streets are so filled with smoke that one cannot see 10 meters in front of their face!  Rockets are streaking through the air at a rate far too numerous to count, the noise from their firecrackers (what we call M80s in The United States) becomes deafening, the streets and sidewalks are lit ablaze with numerous pyrotechnic displays and almost anything can become a target in need of destruction.   Mailboxes, trash containers, paint cans (full of paint, of course) street signs, trees are all strapped with explosives and ignited.   This frenzied chaos lasts forever...  Actually, things start calming down a coupe of hours after Midnight!  Again, and I can't stress this enough, there is nothing said that can prepare one for a German New Years Celebration until they have experienced it for themselves.  To be fair, my wife and I celebrated our New Years in Neukolln, which is supposedly one of the loudest areas in Berlin.  But even a celebration half as loud as what we experienced was many times crazier than anything in The States done on The Fourth of July.

The following morning, the streets are littered with spent fireworks, trash and a thin layer of red dust from literally raining sulphur, ash and the sticks from bottle rockets the night before!  Clean up is difficult in some areas and next to impossible in others as anything that even remotely resembled a garbage container has been destroyed!  There is even extra trash on the streets as not all the garbage containers were empty before they were obliterated. There are also delays with mail service as German postal employees must cautiously check mail boxes for undetonated munitions.  There may also be slight delays with transportation depending on how many street signs were targeted and successfully destroyed.  In some areas, the sidewalks are almost unusable from all the packages, cartons, boxes and bottles used to fire projectiles.  In some areas, broken glass bottles that exploded after their rockets failed to launch!

If you decide to celebrate New Years in Germany, especially in Berlin, I do have a few recommendations to help make your celebrations fun and memorable:

1) Before leaving the house/apartment/hotel remove everything from the balcony and close windows.
2) Do not wear anything flammable! (seriously)
3) Avoid autos, especially cabs, from 3 hours before to 2 hours after Midnight!
4) If you need a car or cab, keep the windows rolled up at all times!
5) Walk fast, be aware but don't stare at anyone!
6) Do not mail anything, or even go near mailboxes!
7) Do not trash anything, or even go near trash containers!
8) Never assume that anyone is actually sober enough to know where they're aiming!
9) Do not stand next to, under, or around trees, balconies, mailboxes and and sort of trash container!
10) If a German tells you he has some really good illegal fireworks, you can expect to see him atop an old unexploded WWII bomb smashing the nose with a sledgehammer!

NOTE:  While watching the news in Berlin the following morning,  it was reported that there were over a thousand fires, hundreds of injuries and three people killed...  Yet, it had been one of the mildest celebrations the city of Berlin had seen in years!  WOW!