Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Dining Differences between The USA and Germany

Dining out?  Here are some important differences between restaurant dining in Germany and restaurant dining in The United States.

In America, water is free and is refilled often.
(usually filtered tap water)
In Germany, water is not free and is refilled upon request only.
(usually sparkling mineral water)

In America, the food is expensive but many drinks are cheap.
(free water, free refills on most beverages)
In Germany, the food is cheap but many drinks are expensive.
(water, juice, coffee are not complimentary and do not come with free refills)

In America, your server will stop by often to check on you.
(to ensure that you are having an enjoyable experience)
In Germany, your server will not interrupt you unless you flag them.
(to ensure that you are having an enjoyable experience)

In America, it does not matter where you place your fork and knife while eating.
(your server will ask you if you are finished)
In Germany, positioning you fork and knife on the plate at 5 o'clock means you are finished.
(your sever will uses this as a signal to remove your plate without asking)

In America, the fork is held in the right hand and the knife is held/used when needed.
(Americans find this efficient)
In Germany, the fork is held in the left hand, the knife in the right and both are held continuously.
(Germans find this efficient) 

In America, you are politely encouraged to leave after your meal is completely finished.
(your bill will be placed on the table, the server will ask if you need anything else)
In Germany, it is expected that you will stay for a while.
(you will not be given a bill unless you request it, and even then it might take a while)

In America, your server will politely thank you for your business.
(to appreciate their customers)
In Germany, the owner, manager or server might offer a free round of schnapps after desert.
(to appreciate their customers)

In America, it is customary to give tips of 15% and higher depending on the quality of the service.
(usually an estimate of 15% and then rounded up to the nearest dollar)
In Germany, it is customary to round up the entire cost of the mean to an amount you feel comfortable with.
(tips are appreciated, but anything over 10% is perceived as being a bit outlandish / also, the servers are much better compensated by the restaurant)

An important side note:
Not all establishments in Germany have public washrooms.  If an establishment has a bathroom, it is usually for in house guests only.  If the bathroom has an attendant (which is often the case) you are expected to pay a small fee for it's use.  In return, the bathrooms are exceptionally clean compared to bathrooms in The USA  (always keep some spare change in your pocket in case of emergency)

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Chicago / Berlin Temperature Survival Guide

Although Chicago and Berlin have similar climates, the reaction of the citizens of these cities to the environment is vastly different:

From 90º  (32.2º) to 110º  (43.3º)
In Chicago: 
The City announces a State of Emergency.
There are mass power outages due to strain on the electrical grid from air conditioning.
The murder rate sky rockets.
Everyone complains about the weather, no one goes to work or school.
In Berlin:
The City takes proper precautions
The few people who own air conditioners, consider turning them on.
Concerned neighbors check on each other.
Despite Complaining about the weather, everyone goes to work and school.

From 70º  (21.1º) to 90º (43.3º)
In Chicago:
The City is alive and filled with art, markets, festivals and concerts.
The beaches are packed, sporting venues are full, neighbors are friendly and the crime rate is average.
People would rather enjoy the weather, than go to work or school.
In Berlin:
The City is alive and filled with art, markets, festivals and concerts.
The parks are packed, people are out playing sports, great weather for drinking beer in public.
Everyone goes to work and school.

From 40º  (4.4º) to 70º (21.1)
In Chicago:
The City is absolutely delightful.
People enjoy outdoor activities, dining out, theater and a lower crime rate.
Everyone goes to work and school, but no one is happy about that.
In Berlin:
The City begins to brace for Winter.
People are cautiously optimistic about the weather
Despite Complaining about the weather, everyone goes to work and school.

From 0º  (-17.7º) to 40º (4.4º)
In Chicago:
The City goes about business as usual.
People enjoy the colder nights and the crisp, clean air.
Everyone goes to work and school.
In Berlin:
The City becomes concerned about the brutally cold temperatures.
Multiple layers of clothing must be warn at all times
Despite Complaining about the weather, everyone goes to work and school.

From -30º  (-34.4º) to 0º (-17.7)
In Chicago: 
The City cautiously goes about business as usual
Extra precautions are taken for the sick and elderly
People start wearing Winter coats but still go out jogging in shorts by The Lake
Despite taking out the trash or shoveling snow in T-Shirts, it's too cold for work or school
In Berlin:
The City is quietly panicking.
The only thing preventing people from crying is the fear that their tears will freeze.
Going outside becomes a dangerous, life threatening event.
Despite a complete inability to survive the weather, everyone goes to work and school.

A MUST READ (to protect yourself)!

So, you're visiting Germany for the first time and enjoying the sights!  Thus far, the people have been friendly, the food has been delicious and the beer is plentiful.  Strolling along the canals you might discover little markets filled with all sorts of interesting goods, including plenty of chocolates.  You will notice, even enjoy plenty of the imbiss stands selling curry sausages along your journey.  But not to be worried about as all this walking is clearly burning off the calories.  As the day progresses, you start to feel like you might be falling in love with German living!  Life is good...   Everything is beautiful...  People are wonderful...   Food is plentiful and delicious...  and, just as this feeling of euphoria is about to reach it's climax... 

Suddenly, abruptly, without warning, you feel like you've been punched in the stomach by an angry Mike Tyson!  You are in trouble, and you know it!  Although the quality and freshness of the food here is exceptional, indulging in too much sausage, bread, butter, potatoes, chocolates and interesting vegetables and then washing it all down with carbonated water and carbonated beer has taken it's toll on your digestive system!  Simply put, you now dealing with a potentially explosive situation!

You take a deep breath and relax.  It's going to be alright, just look at how many people are out and about.  Clearly, there must be a bathrooms somewhere nearby.  While passing through the little markets and stands, it becomes obvious that none of them contain bathrooms.  But, you relax and try not to panic.  Panicking will only make things worse, right?  After a quick scan or the surrounding area, you become frighteningly aware that there are no bathrooms within sight.  Now, with a potentially explosive situation becoming progressively worse as a feeling of panic starts to set in, you decide to ask someone where the closest toilet is.

Asking a German where you can find a public toilet is a lot like asking your third cousin to describe his friend's latest Big Foot sighting.  "I may or may not have seen one, perhaps over here or perhaps over there, in an area somewhere behind or in front of something, or next to the woods, near the creek, but I'm not sure it's true, oh, you're just going to have to take my word for it..."   Public toilets are far more rare in Germany than they are in The States and I get the impression that the Germans who know where these toilets are, try to protect them from the amazingly destructive powers a typical over indulging tourist's digestive system! 

Now in a CODE RED situation with the panic and fear clearly visible in you eyes, someone will probably take pity on you and point you in the direction of the "closest" toilet.  Although it's not as close as you've hoped for, it will have to do...   You try to breathe and relax as you make your way to the nearest center, all the while repeating:  "I can do this, I will be alright, everything will be fine..."  over and over in your mind.  Each time you pass another imbiss stand, you start to curse the day you ever decided to visit to Germany!  Life is horrible...  The food is greasy and disgusting...  The people are cruel and have an odd sense of humor...  and, just as this explosive feeling and panic is about to reach it's climax...

You finally reach the public toilet only to realize that public toilets aren't free and the last of your change was spent on Currywurst!