typically german; – Anja Spohr, Belinda Villbrandt und Gastautoren

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Artikel der Kategorie ‘Living in Germany’

Coffee-Culture in Germany

June 14, 2012 Von: Anja Spohr Kategorie: Living in Germany Noch keine Kommentare →

Statistically 86% of German adults drink coffee on a daily or weekly basis. Approx. 150 l of coffee on average is being consumed by every German. That means, Germany drink more coffee than water or beer. This is remarkable. Although Germans really seem to appreciate coffee as a beverage, it is even more amazing, that they are reluctant to try something new when it comes to coffee variations and that quantity still beats quality. Most preferred coffee in Germany is still drip coffee, which is so nicely sour and smells mostly like filter paper. Drip coffee has been invented in 1908 already, when Melitta Benz, a housewife from Dresden, tried to get rid of the coffee grounds by successfully filtering the freshly brewed coffee through a  piece of blotting paper. Today “Melitta” is a successful company, producing – what a surprise – filter paper. So there is a long tradition of drip coffee in Germany.

Cappuccino with milk or cream?

In some Cafés in Germany the answer on your question „do you prepare the Cappuccino with cream?“  will be „of course we do!“ . So it is advisable to ask this question if you know how an Cappuccino should originally be prepared.

„Auf der Terrasse nur Kännchen…. „ (in the patio we only serve pots of coffee…)

It is also quite common to serve only pots of coffee on the terrace, nobody really understands, why.

You don’t need to choose highly sophisticated coffee variations as they are offered by several coffee- house-chains or buy an expensive Espresso machine to enjoy really good coffee. For some years already there is a yearly coffee event taking place in Germany which called “Day of Coffee”. This year it is about to take place on September 28th and will be arranged by the Germany Coffee Association e.V.. Lot of information about coffee will be given. You’ll find more on http://www.tag-des-kaffees.de/index.html

If you don’t want to wait anymore, you might appreciate this recipe for a nice ice cold coffee:

„Eiskaffee Alaska“
You will need
1/2 liter of cold coffee, 1/2 liter of whole milk, 4 table spoons of sugar, 1 package of vanilla ice cream
Preparation: Stir the milk in the cold coffee. Add the vanilla ice cream and put it into the fridge for 15 minutes. Fill it into big glasses  and serve ice cold.

Currencies: “DM“ – the Deutschmark

April 24, 2012 Von: Anja Spohr Kategorie: Living in Germany Noch keine Kommentare →

Euro bail-out fund and stabilization of markets are key words at the moment. About 10 years ago, when the Euro replaced the Deutschmark in Germany, the majority of the Germans would rather have sticked to their good old currency. These were more romantic than fiscally related reasons. To be honest: we all loved our Deutschmark. For more senior citizens the Deutschmark was a symbol of the „Wirtschaftswunder“ (German economic miracle) and for younger generations it was simply wonderful to go tot he exchange booth to get foreign currency for Deutschmark.

For the so called East Germans (also known as „Ossis“) the Deutschmark meant a lot of privileges over more than one decade. The so called West Germans (also known as “Wessis”) have been very proud of their currency, their „DM“. Especially in foreign countries the Deutschmarks symbolizes German workmanship.

 Just a currency or tool of identification?

Of course the Euro serves the same purpose as the Deutschmark. But the intensity of identification is completely different. We fondly called our 5-DM coins “Heiermann”  (there  are different possible  reasons for this name) and 1-Pfennig-coins were collected over a couple of years to  be crushed into paper and taken to the first own bank account. The old currency still exists in lots of households, nobody really knows how much there is left. Coins and bills are stored like sanctuaries and honored as souvenirs.

What, if…?

Would we miss the Euro as much as the Deutschmark if the unlikely event would happen that we would return to our old currency?

Would we stealthily maintain the 10- and 20-Eurocent-Coins, which we still cannot keep apart in our wallets? Probably we would again compare the DM and Euro values for years and we would be very shocked about the amounts we would have to pay for the same things. But this is not about to happen.

Germany – Car Drivers paradise?

April 05, 2012 Von: Anja Spohr Kategorie: Living in Germany Noch keine Kommentare →

At the first glance Germany appears to be THE country for car admirers: Volkswagen, BMW, Porsche, Audi – everybody’s eyes start sparkeling with joy. So it is more than obvious that especially in Germany the road network is expected to work very well. German roads are considered to be best in class. What is unique in Germany: there is still no general speed limit: on many sections of the German Autobahn you can test the power of you car uninhibited.

High traffic volume causes stress

No freedom without consequence…. Statistically every second German citizen – children included – owns a car. Traffic jams are more than normal every day. No relief in sight. So trying to drive fast on the Autobahn sometimes becomes more frustration than anything else. Moreover, driving with high speed also means danger. If you come to Germany i.e from the Netherlands or France you will quickly recocnize more hectic and pushing on the streets. You always have to be careful, so driving fast does not necessarily mean more fun.

Whom you can meet on the road

There are some typical stereotypes to be mentioned: the family man driving a station wagon and having a “Baby-on bord” sign on his car as well as the car-loving mechanic kind of guy, driving a car with a lowered CG and sounds of Techno coming from the inside. These drivers are often “hunted” by Mercedes or big Audis. Those types o drivers tend to use their headlight flashers (prohibited!) and normally they don’t understand how young drivers can dare to use “his” track on the Autobahn. Last but not least there are also beginners, often driving an older  Japanese Car. Those still need a lot of courage to start overtaking the truck in front of them.There is happening a lot on Germanys roads every day. Paradise may look a little different.

 

Thank you for travelling with Deutsche Bahn

February 23, 2012 Von: Anja Spohr Kategorie: Living in Germany Noch keine Kommentare →

For quite some time, the “Deutsche Bahn” (DB) already exists and on a extensive roadway system you can travel by Regional trains, InterCity trains (IC) and the fast InterCityExpress (ICE) to even very rural areas in Germany. Lots of commuters use the train on a daily basis to go to work. There is positive and negative feedback for the DB, mostly related to services and service orientation. In the past couple of years, DB had some headlines regarding not being able to stick to the time-table, planned flotation, air conditioning not working during hot summer days or malfunctioning brakes in the ICE trains.

Always worth a try – the journey is the reward

To start with the end in mind: DB has improved in many ways. The trains are on time in most of the cases and if not, it is a significant delay. It may happen, that in three of three cases you will experience a completely different journey than you expected. The first one might last two hours longer than planned, because the delay of one of the trains you used and the connecting train, as a result, is already gone once you arrived at the connection train station. The second trip might end in another train station due to a broken-down switch tower on the planned route. And the third one might be diverted as there was an accident on the track. Of course, there are many factors, which the company “DB” cannot influence. Seasons for example. There is a saying in Germany: the four enemies of the Deutsche Bahn are spring, summer, fall and winter. Every season has something to offer (i.e. leaves on the rail tracks) and it normally comes as a surprise (like Christmas).

Communicatiom – make the most out of it

Anyway, after having travelled with DB you always have a new story to tell and you normally get acquainted to nice and patient fellow passengers. Once I heard about a trip from Hamburg to Hannover, which normally takes 1,5 hours. This trip took place on Christmas Eve. All travelers had some nice food in their bags (or Cookies and a nice bottle of wine) which should be part of the Christmas presents. Suddenly some ice rain occurred and destroyed the power supplies. This caused a delay of 9 hours. Travelers became involuntarily a party community and I heard it was a funny evening. As a “reimbursement” for the missed Christmas celebration, everybody received a voucher for the next trip with Deutsche Bahn. Interesting idea. At the end of this journey travelers heard, as usual, the loudspeaker voice say “Thank you for travelling with Deutsche Bahn”.

A train steward once told me, that if you are travelling with Deutsche Bahn you should always be prepared to experience the unexpected. Since then I exercise myself in sereneness. As I already mentioned, Deutsche Bahn has improved a lot already. And there is definitely one big advantage, especially for people who are new to Germany: with the unexpected additional time on your journey you have the opportunity to enjoy the landscape and make new friends.

Here you’ll find a little translation help for Deutsche Bahn vocabulary (unfortunately in German only): http://www.bahndeutsch.de

http://www.bahn.de/i/view/GBR/en/index.shtml

Politics in Germany – German Constitution and more

January 25, 2012 Von: Anja Spohr Kategorie: Living in Germany Noch keine Kommentare →

Political Parties as opinion former and stakeholder

Germany`s political form of government is obviously a Democracy. The German Constitution (Grundgesetz) is leading the democratic principals in Germany. Besides the basic laws it describes, how democratic Germany works, i.e. process of democratic and free elections or which role includes which competencies. Political parties play another important role within the political system in Germany. They support forming of political opinions within the general population and there is a pooling of interests through political parties as well. Active political party members are ready to exercise power and take over political roles to enforce interests of members and voters. Nevertheless it sometimes happens, that political parties focus more on being reelected for the next legislative period than standing for own identity and conviction.

Currently you find the following political parties represented in the German parliament (Bundestag):

 

 

Voting rights are often not appreciated

In the past couple of years, Germans sometimes tended to not use their voting rights. Political parties have to face a decreasing number of members. Apparently in Germany more and more people are getting tired of political discussions or getting less interested in taking over political roles. Dissatisfaction of the voters with decisions which have been taken by politicians are being answered by not participating in elections. On the other hand, regional political initiatives get more and more popular.

Everybody is responsible

And even more: international importance of political engagement of politicians grows significantly. Finding solutions for national crises, banks going bankrupt and preparations for changes of power are not really in the area of influence of Managers – to be realistic. This huge task is part of the “job descriptions” of our politicians. Besides others this is one reason why most of the Germans respect and admire the German Chancellor Angela Merkel. She seems to be omnipresent at the moment. How nice would it be if some of her amazing engagement would motivate those who are not even participating in elections and show them a little more, that political responsibility is everybodys’ task. Especially if you are living in a Democracy.

 

Basic laws strengthen the freedom of the individual

Let’s go back to the basic laws in Germany. These are described in article 1 – 19 of the German Constitution. They mainly say, that in Germany:

  • Human dignity is inviolable
  • Everybody has  the right of being free in his/her personality as long as he/she does not harm other people’s rights or violate the law
  • All humans are equal, men and women are having equal rights
  • Nobody must be discriminated against due to gender, race, language, religion, sexual orientation, political opinion
  • Nobody must be discriminated against due to disability

This content originates from the first 3 articles of the German Constitution.  The following 16 articles focus on freedom of assembly and privacy of correspondence, free occupational choice and inviolability of the home. Although we Germans have a little problem with being proud: we are proud of our German Constitution which exists since 1949!

http://www.bundestag.de/dokumente/rechtsgrundlagen/grundgesetz/index.html

New Year’s Eve or “Dinner for One”

December 27, 2011 Von: Anja Spohr Kategorie: Living in Germany Noch keine Kommentare →

Partytime on New Year’s Eve

Not only in Germany. But New Year’s Eve, the evening of December 31st of every year, is the night of celebrations in Germany as well. Some arrange a gorgeous festivity; others go and have a party in their so called “Partykeller”, a party room in the basement of the house, and some meet their friends to have a cooking event. Or they have a gaming night with the entire family.

Regardless which kind of event will take place on this special evening, there is one thing that cannot be missed:

Dinner for One or The 90th Birthday

This sketch was first produced by the NDR (Norddeutscher Rundfunk, a big TV- and Radio station in Germany) in 1963, but it was invented in the UK.

Miss Sophie’s (May Warden) 90th birthday is celebrated with her old buddys .  However, their chairs remain empty as the gentlemen all passed away years ago. Very real and very agile is Butler James (Freddie Frinton), who acts in multiple roles: as a waiter, as “speaker” of the imaginary guests and after the party also in another, not really defined role – very british.

This appeals to the Germans, whereas in the UK this sketch did not attain this high level of popularity.

After almost 50 years and after the sketch has been broadcasted more than  230 times, Butler James and Miss Sophie became family members and kind of  a „institution“ in Germany’s living rooms, where New Year’s Eve is celebrated.

Almost nobody, who cannot cite at least little text passages. This, as a consequence, leads us to a very German characteristic: the cultivation of traditions. According to this, cultivation of traditions not only applies to VERY German topics, but is also able to expand.

Same procedure as every year, James!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NDqD0Dz_J-M                                                                                     

All the best for a healthy and happy New Year 2012! Hope to see you here next year again.

Advent season

November 21, 2011 Von: Anja Spohr Kategorie: Living in Germany Noch keine Kommentare →

Advent season

„Advent“ is Latin and means „to arrive“ (= advenire). From a cookie point of view we arrived in the most pleasant of alle seasons already end of September. Since then we are anticipating how wonderful it will be to have a bite of  delicious richly spiced ginger biscuits , ginger bread and spice nuts. Of course nobody does so before „1. Advent“

Advent calendar

There are many nice customs around Advent season. Also as a grownup I love to get an Advent calendar every year. Advent calendars are available in countless configurations. You can buy it or you can create it yourself: a coloured ribbon with 24 small parcels hanging above the fireplace in your living room – the handcrafted version. Or you buy a simple chocolate filled calendar. In any case it helps to increase happy anticipation of Christmas time.

Advent wreath

Another wonderful tradition is to light up an additional massive red candle every Sunday after Nov 26th (fist of four Sundays after this calendar date is the so called 1. Advent, leading up to Christmas) on the feast fully decorated Advent wreath. Some people get together to have coffee and tea together with home baked cookies. Also this is joining in and enlighting the days which are getting darker and darker until Christmas Eve.

Be careful with lighting up candles in your office, some places do not allow this for safety reasons. As an alternative you can use less romantic LED fairy lights.

Also very lovely to see: the so called „Rentertreppen“ (direct translation would be something like „pensioneers stairways), colourful electronic candlestick which decorate seasonal windows http://www.erzgebirge-palace.com/Erzgebirgische-Schwibbogen-und-Schwibboegen-im-Erzgebirge-Palast:_:3005.html

„Wichteln“

Some people call it „Julklapp“. This is a Scandinavian tradition which made it down to more southern Europe: a nicely wrapped little parcel is presented anonymously to you and often you find also a poem in it.  Sometimes it is really hard to guess who it was…..  „Bad-Taste-Wichteln“ is a varied form: things you will find in these kinds of parcels are quite often very ugly and those who wrapped it might better stay incognito.

Christmas Markets

Real highlighs at this time are the „Christmas Markets“. In larger cities it is not unusual that Christmas Markets open mid of November and close at the end of the year. Hot wine punch, Bratwurst and a kind of apple fritters are very common specialities you will find in the little booths. There are lots of different sorts of Christmas Markets: artisanal, medieval or modern ones, everybody can find the right „version“. If there is an interesting one for you close to your current hometown you can find out here:

Link: http://www.weihnachtsmarkt-deutschland.de 

Enjoy Advent season!

German beer

November 15, 2011 Von: Anja Spohr Kategorie: Living in Germany Noch keine Kommentare →

Names like Jever, Veltins, Krombacher, Bitburger, Weihenstephan sound very familiar and nice. People have different preferences when it comes to German beer and fortunately there is a really big variety: lager – we call it “Pils” – dark beer or stout, Kölsch, Alt or Wheat beer and many other different types of beer. It is the typical German beverage and as a consequence it is needless to say that high standard of quality is guaranteed. Germans brew beer based on the so called “Reinheitsgebot” since 1516, this is unique!

Countless different types of beer are brewed in big and small breweries all over the country. You can buy beer in casks, bottles, cans or in a glass in the next pub. Beer is being praised in any kind of literature, part of German songs and we even have beer museums. Actually there is an initiative to list the “Reinheitsgebot” as world cultural heritage.

Even it is getting more and more common to drink beer from bottles: it’s not a feast for your eyes. Better: a well drafted beer in an appealing glass, that’s the real thing! But the best way to enjoy your glass of beer is to go to your favorite pub and have a beer with your friends or those who will become friends at the end of the evening. It is also worth trying a kind of a beer tasting at home!

A perfect glass of beer

Take your beer from the fridge. Rinse the beer glass with cold water. Open the bottle and carefully pour the beer into the glass by holding the bottle angular to the glass. Let the whitecap grow up to the glass top and after some minutes pour the rest of the beer into the glass.

Prosit (Cheers)

It’s an old custom: while you clink glasses, look into each other’s eyes. In Middle Ages all drinking mates strongly clonk glasses, so beer spilled over into the other one’s glass. So everybody could be sure not to be poisoned. Distrust is gone, the custom is still alive. Prosit!

Should you forced  to make a pledge, her is an example:

Es tut mir sehr im Herzen weh, wenn ich vom Glas den Boden seh’ (hard to translate, just try to pronounce it…)

Germany and its public holidays

October 25, 2011 Von: Belinda Villbrandt Kategorie: Living in Germany Noch keine Kommentare →

 

Pleasure and pain go hand in hand

Germany has a large number of public holidays, on which the majority of the population does not work and students do not have to go to school. The holidays are on the one hand regulated by the state, and on  the other hand regulated by the 16 states, the so-called „Bundesländer“. Talking to a person from northern Germany you often hear that he or she is clearly underpriviledged compared to the folks in Southern Germany. In fact, the Bundesländer in the far North of the Country, Schleswig-Holstein, Hamburg, Bremen and Lower Saxony have less binding holidays then the rest of the Republic. Thus the theme of the holiday schemes is a recurring debate in public. The employer’s associations criticize the variance of public holidays inside Germany. But the workers on the other side moan if a day off falls on a weekend day, where they normally would not have to work anyway. Compared to other countries, be it Europe or the rest of the world, in Germany moving holidays, which fall on a Saturday or Sunday, will not be caught up the Monday after. If this is the case: that’s bad luck!

 

Tradition and modern trends

Coming from a country where the number of annual holiday normally is about two or three weeks on average, you may be wondering about the extent of public holidays in Germany. This is part of the traditions of the country which was shaped by the Christian faith and also by the intense political debates in the past.  Previously holidays were dominated by faith and rituals, but today family and leisure determine more often what people do on these days. Often so-called “Brückentage” (Brücke = bridge; Tage= days) are established into the planned vacations over the year. Using a “Brückentag” may provide the opportunity to extend a “normal” weekend to four free days in row.

Germany and its public holidays

Regulated by federal Uniform

(1.1.) New Year’s Day, Good Friday (Easter Sunday – 2 days), Easter Monday (Easter Sunday + 1 day), May Day (1.5.), Ascension Day (Easter Sunday + 39 days), Whit Monday (Easter Sunday + 50 days), German Unification Day (3.10.), 1st Christmas Day (25.12.), 2nd Christmas Day (26.12.)

Regional variations

Epiphany (6.1.) Corpus Christi (Easter Sunday + 60 days), Assumption (15.8.) Reformation Day (31.10.), All Saints (1.11.) Repentance Day

Details at http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feiertage_in_Deutschland

Why Germany?

October 18, 2011 Von: Anja Spohr Kategorie: Living in Germany Noch keine Kommentare →

Great! I am looking outside, the sun is shining, the grass is green. I am surrounded by nice colleagues, who are open and honest with me….. I am covered by a social security system. From the place where I live it is only a short distance to nice mountain areas and the Ocean. What else can I wish for?

Nevertheless I read in the newspapers again and again, that qualified Managers and Professionals from abroad are not very much in favor for Germany as the country of residence. Germany obviously is not the place to be if it comes to the decision where to start or to continue a professional careers. I am confused… Although I have to admit I am not objective. So I try to list very fact based those things, which make Germany attractive as a country to live and work.

As already mentioned, there exists a decent social security system in Germany. If you fall sick, you get payed by your employer for 6 weeks. After this time you will get approx. 70% of your normal monthly salary, payed by your health insurance. Lost your job, have been employed for the past 12 months and citizen of the EU: for max. 24 months you will get payed 60% of your latest monthly salary, payed by the unemployment insurance.

German labor law is very employee-friendly. After the general probation period of 6 months, your contract can only be terminated with real good reasons (i.e. business results related).

Each and every employee is eligible for at least 24 vacation days per calendar year. Many companies even guarantee more than 24 days per year. Salary is continued to be payed even if you are on vacation.

Germany is a leading country i.e. in many areas of Technology. Engineers who are interested to work for the Automotive, the Chemical or the Engineering Industry in general may not find a better place to be.

So far so good. Now we have a look to the REALLY important things in life. Nuri Sahin, a professional soccer player with Turkish roots, who used to play for Borussia Dortmund (Germany Soccer Champion 2011) and now went to Real Madrid, just answered to the question, what he would miss most about Germany: “…. many typically German things: wide roads, everything is neat and tidy and of course the people.”

Wide roads! I may be right that he for sure also meant the nice (German) cars which you can drive without speed limits on the German Autobahn. Where else do you have such level of freedom?

High level of freedom is normally not what comes into your mind first when you think about Germany, right? In Germany there are lots of rules and the strict structure is always visible. We are used to this and it helps us to orientate. Maybe because of that we think we are reliable and dutiful. Commitments and promises of course will be kept.

There was a very nice quote from Angela Merkel, German chancellor, a couple of weeks ago, trying to capture „immigration of international professionals“: „We have to be attractive as a country as well. It is clear, that this has not always been the case in the past and that the world is not waiting to join us and work and live in Germany. We have to be inviting, too.“ I think, in short term there will be clear rules and structures how to achieve this. Maybe we should invent another 8-pages form with a 10 pages “how-to-fill-in-this-form-form”………

But seriously: Germany reliability and adherence to agreements makes it quite easy to cooperate with the Germans. Additionally, Germans are quite open and frank. Feedback will be given a little more direct than you may be used to. If we think, something is wrong with what you said, we will tell you in a quite articulate way. We tend to say what we mean and mean what we say. This saves a lot of time!

And time is needed for some other very important things, such as German „Gemütlichkeit“. Which is of course a synonym for the well known folk festivals, i.e. the „Oktoberfest“. But this one has developed into the very contrary. So what is „gemütlich“? One possible English translation sounds like „atmosphere of comfort, peace and acceptance“. If you have a look into the “Duden”, THE German dictionary, you will find numerous other synonyms like Behaglichkeit (comfort), Heimeligkeit (haimish), Traulichkeit (coziness), Lauschigkeit (snug). To experience the real “Gemütlichkeit” you need fine food and a good German beer, but most important: most enjoyable with some really good friends from all over the world.