Sunday, September 13, 2009

Kulturelle Unterschiede

Cultural differences.

Bonn is in the Rheinland, a picture which brings lots of thoughts to mind. It's the area of German wine, beautiful landscape, tree-ed little mountains, castles everywhere, and has been fought over between France and Germany forever. Everyone wants it because it's so productive and so beautiful. Being in the heart of German wineries, we went to a vineyard/winery on Friday for a 'Weinprobe', or a wine tasting. They fed us a typical meal of buttered bread, cheeses, sliced meats, and potato salad. And then we had the wines. Six of them. What were they thinking? And Asians who didn't want their wine. So they gave it all to us. Once again, what was the international office thinking? We had to split up into our countries, decide on a song from our country and sing it as a group for everyone. It was SO funny to see everyone chanting and doing cute little actions to accompany their song, we were all laughing and getting out of our chairs to see, etc. At the end of the wine tasting, we were making such a ruckus that they ushered us out of there quickly and somewhat forcefully. By forcefully I mean that the leader of the program was giving many stern faces and threatening us with the prospect of being sent home if we drank the wine on the bus that we had bought from the winery.

So, despite how much I wanted to prove the stereotype of drunken Americans wrong, neither I nor the other Americans succeeded. What a mess.

Cultural differences that I've noticed thus far:
1. Germans drink without getting drunk. Often.
2. Chinese teenagers don't date unless they plan on marrying that person.
3. Germans often wear the same outfit for two or so days in a row.
4. Everything is smaller. Ovens, refrigerators, bathrooms, products from the grocery store, streets, coffees, etc. I have the feeling they're less concerned with accumulating stuff. The apartments here are much smaller (I've been riding my bike around at night, looking in...yes, very creepy of me, but enlightening as well), so they have less room for stuff. I have to go to the market or grocery store EVERY day. My fruit goes bad and containers get empty so quickly.
5. Don't smile at people on the street, they will think you're weird..or American.
6. Don't apologize for getting in someone's way, just get out of it.
7. They are very serious about their recycling and about not using plastic bags.
8. Black is the color to wear.
9. They party soooo much longer into the night than we do at home. The clubs/bars are open until 5am or later.
10. Groceries are SO cheap.
11. No matter what time of day it is, you will always be able to see people sitting at cafes, drinking coffee.
12. No matter what time of day it is, you will nearly always be able to see someone eating DELICIOUS ice cream. But no one is fat! They're always eating sweets, but really, no one is overweight.
13. To an American, Germans seem pretty confrontational. It's not nearly as big of a difference as it would be comparing an Italian and an American, but the gap is definitely there.
14. There is much less variety in...well, nearly everything. I wanted to buy a cleaner for the shower...and had something like 3 choices. In America, there's a whole aisle committed to different types of cleaners.
15. I MISS TARGET. A lot.

So, keeping my American mind and adapting to life in Germany is as hard as I thought it would be. I have to keep reminding myself that I'm not on vacation, that this is my life now. I can't wait to start real classes at the University and I love love love hearing and speaking German all day.

I miss you all,