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April 23, 2007: Hi

Hi! My name is Jenny and I am an exchange student from the United States. I go to the University of South Dakota and am originally from Minnesota. Since I am still fairly new here, it’s been requested that I blog sometimes to share my thoughts on what’s new or different to me here.

Since school just started, I’d thought I’d talk about that. And I’m sure every German out there is now yelling at the computer “It’s a university! Not school!” Most of the German people I know have a problem whenever I call it “school,” but to me, it’s the same thing. You get up, go to class, go back home and do homework. From Kindergarten to the university, it’s the same thing. Anyway, the German university is quite a bit different than the ones in America.

First of all, the campus itself seems really…dirty. I can’t think of another way to describe it. I mean, there isn’t litter all over the place or anything, but it’s not the well-manicured landscape that I’m used to with American businesses. At this university, the grass isn’t mowed, there are weeds everywhere and half of university just has dirt, no grass. It just seems strange. Part of the university looks so run-down and scary that I’m almost afraid to go over there. American universities usually have very friendly-looking buildings, with a full lawn and gardens around them. The lawns are mowed at least once a week and probably have both pesticides and herbicides on them so that the only thing that will grow there is grass. It’s not that the university here is worse or anything; it’s just that the different perspectives are interesting.

Another thing that is different is that the students actually participate in class. If the professor asks a question, the students here answer right away. In America, or at least at the university I go to, no one answers. There is always an awkward silence after the professor asks a question. It’s considered “not cool” to answer questions, but I hate that silence and try to answer sometimes. I can’t always answer or I look like a suck-up. But here, I don’t have to worry about that because people actually do answer. It’s funny that in America, we pay for classes and then don’t participate and in Germany, where classes aren’t paid for, people take them much more seriously.

April 25, 2007: Some Sterotypes

Yesterday was another day of discovery, as is almost every day here, but since lately my days had become a little monotonous, it was nice to do something different. And by “different,” I mean something that would be completely normal for a German.

A friend of mine brought me along with him when he went shopping, but he didn’t shop in a normal store. We went to a wholesale store. There are wholesale stores in the States too, but not as many businesses use them. They’re mostly just for people who want to buy a lot of stuff. I was told that businesses here use these wholesale stores quite a bit. In the States, most businesses order what they need and then everything is shipped directly to them. But the wholesale store itself was interesting. I hadn’t seen a place yet where one needs to pay to use a shopping cart. And the check-out system was different also. There was a cashier who scans the items, but then we had to go to a completely different register to pay. It seems like it could be more efficient, but they’re also putting a lot of trust in the customer, which I haven’t seen very often in American stores. How do they know, once all of the customer’s items have been scanned and put back in the shopping cart, that the customer won’t run out the door with all of the groceries and without going to the second register to pay? You’d think the customer would try to be a little more subtle about stealing, but I’m sure people would still try the other way.

Continuing in my day of discovery, I also got to try absinth. In the States, absinth is illegal and I’ve heard stories of how it’s a hallucinogen and dangerous and only hard-core druggies ever drink it. I don’t understand why it’s illegal; it couldn’t be because of the strength of the alcohol, because we have drinks that are much stronger than that. Anyway, I tried it and it tastes like black licorice, so I don’t really like it. I didn’t start seeing weird things and I didn’t become a drug addict afterwards, so I’d have to say the experience wasn’t all that bad. It did make me think, though, of all the things I was told about Europe, Germany and Germans while I was in the States that turned out to be not true. I even made up a list, so here it is:

Things I Learned in the States About Germany and the Germans That I Now Know is a Bunch of Crap

1. Germans don’t chew gum. (I’m pretty sure that my German professor just made this up to try to get people to stop chewing gum in class)

2. Germans don’t rest their hands in their jeans pockets

3. Germans don’t drink milk.

4. There is no peanut butter in Germany

5. The tap water is bad for you in Germany.

6. Germans hold their alcohol better than Americans

7. Germans aren’t friendly. (They are a little more reserved, I have noticed that, but everyone so far has been pretty nice to me)

8. Germans will not understand you if you cannot speak perfect German.

9. Germany is so crowded that people are moving to the US to have more space.

I'm sure there's more, but that's all I could think of last night. Probably the absinth blocked my memory.

--Jennifer Rogers 13:50, 25 April 2007 (CEST)

"The tap water is bad for you in Germany." Oh my God! That is incredible! That is just the vice versa thing. All water Americans get out of their tabs is chlorined. Well that is bearable underneath the shower - we are used to that from our public swimming pools (there are not that many in the US, I learned - I took my shower and felt like in a public place). Yet if you want to drink your cup of tea or glas of water in the morning, that is not quite the smell you'ld like to smell. I began to wonder: what will Americans think if they get tap water without that smell? Will they have an ugly sensation - the absent smell of non-purified water?
What really killed me: after my lecture at Rutgers I was invited to dine in a really fancy restaurant in New Brunswik, NJ. The waiter came and placed glasses on the table and poured water into them out of a pitcher in which he had such water with ice. A peculiar odor soon hovered over the waters of our four glasses and over our table: chlorine. The Americans order the finest wine and drink it with that smell of chlorine - it really killed me. I have become a fan of your blog --Olaf Simons 15:27, 25 April 2007 (CEST)

April 26, 2007: On Food

I have to decide yet again what I want to eat. I had enough trouble deciding what I should eat when I lived in the States, but the decision is even harder now that I’ve tried German food. My cooking abilities are limited to noodles and maybe heating something up in the oven, so cooking is out of the question. Usually in the evenings, because I haven’t bought anything beforehand, I go wander around in a grocery store until I get so hungry that I just grab a chocolate bar to stop my stomach from complaining. Then I’m full, so I don’t really need to buy anything else. Sounds healthy, right? Healthy for Milka business, maybe.

The chocolate bars are just so good here. I’ve had to ban myself from buying them on a regular basis, just like I’ve banned myself from buying Oreos or chocolate milk in large quantities. If I buy them, they disappear too quickly for them to be worth how much I spent on them. Plus, I should try other German foods as long as I’m here.

Some of the German food I’ve liked right away and some I can’t believe people actually eat here. For instance, the Mensa food. I’ve always thought that school food is the typical food of the region, but if it is, I feel sorry for the people who live around here. A popular food around here seems to be French fries. I always find it amusing when I see a long line at a French fry stand downtown. In America, you can get French fries with pretty much every meal, so they aren’t so exciting anymore when you have them all the time. Then the Germans put mayonnaise on them. That’s just disgusting. Fries are already fried in fat, why would you put more on them? Why not just put a load of butter on them instead? I don’t think I’ll ever understand it.

I have noticed, in the adventures of eating German food, that most German dishes use more vegetables and less meat than American dishes do. In an American dish, one will probably receive a side salad, and for the main meal, some sort of pasta and a chunk of meat. Here, I’ve rarely seen a place where one will get just a chunk of meat for their meal, unless it’s bratwurst and I don’t consider that meat so much as random animal parts. The times I’ve ordered something with meat in it at a restaurant here in Germany, the meat is usually mixed with vegetables or with a sauce of some sort. And there are the same vegetables in every dish – cucumbers and tomatoes. I never really liked cucumbers, but I have no choice but to eat them here, unless I pick apart every sandwich or dish. I’m beginning to get used to them though.

Like a true American, I visited the fast food places almost as soon as I got here. They’re a little bit different from the American ones. McDonald’s doesn’t have as many kinds of burgers here, but they have a McCafe. In the States, Subway doesn’t serve cream cheese, salt or pepper, or as many sauces as the Subway here does. There are more kinds of cut cheeses though, in the Subways in the States. That surprised me a little, considering how many different kinds of cheeses there are here. In America, there are maybe 5 or 6 regular kinds (cheddar, mozzarella, colby jack, pepper jack, grated parmesan and American) and a few that are considered “gourmet” (feta and gouda)(yes, gouda).

There are a couple other things that don’t exist in the States but I absolutely love here. Schorle is one. I always wondered why no one tried carbonating juice and I thought I’d be rich if I invented it. Coming to Germany, though, ruined all my plans of becoming a millionaire. There is no banana nectar either and I always wondered why. They have strawberry-banana drinks, but absolutely no plain banana drinks in the States. I was amazed that such a thing could be made when I came over here. Then there is the milk here. I am completely and utterly in love with it. In the States, you can only get skim, 1% or 2% milk. Here, you can get 3.5%! That’s like cream! And I don’t have to feel guilty about drinking it, since there is more fat in it, because there’s only one other kind! It’s like heaven.

One last thought: eggs are supposed to be refrigerated. I was blown away around Easter when I looked for eggs and saw them just standing on a shelf, un-refrigerated. I’ve grown up knowing that if you leave eggs out of the refrigerator for more than two hours or so, they go bad or start growing bacteria. Either way, you don’t want to eat them after that. But here, nobody refrigerates eggs. That’s just disgusting! Why hasn’t everyone gotten sick yet? No one may get sick from un-refrigerated eggs, but I still don’t trust them.