I’m nearing the end of my first six weeks in Germany, and I’ve really enjoyed it so far.
I feel like I should be better versed in German, but I’m quite satisfied with the simple ability to walk into a restaurant, order and pay in German (both in language and custom) and be able to understand most of what is said. I’m familiar with greetings, some common phrases, and know my numbers relatively well.
That’s the easy stuff, though. It’s predictable. It’s the same. And I’ve probably done it about sixty times in the past six weeks. Not to mention that the locals are fairly patient if you’re willing to make a fool out of yourself and speak a language you are only picking up in bits and pieces.
It’s those little things, though, that make life just a little bit easier when you’re in a foreign country and missing your usual support system. It’s the ability to interact with people, if only on a basic level, that makes each little bit of German I learn that much more enjoyable.
The weekends are also very enjoyable here. Sundays are a day of rest when most stores are closed and families take walks through the countryside and spend time together. I recently went walking around the town where I’m staying on a brisk (50°F) Sunday and masses of children on their bikes were congregating outside the ice cream shop, families were enjoying the sun, and it seemed as if everybody in the town was walking down main street and enjoying the day. I’ve spent my time here doing some fun side projects, venturing through the countryside to castles, and walking around aimlessly like everybody else.
I’m looking forward to being back home for a little, but I will definitely look forward to coming back to Germany. (And that has nothing to do with Black Hat Amsterdam when I get back…no really. ;))
A few interesting tips for eating out
- Tipping is not required, but acceptable and appreciated in moderation.
- It is common for the bill to be broken up among dinner guests. When you pay, regardless of whether you tip, you tell the server how much you want to pay, not how much change you want.
- You also have to ask for the bill when you’re ready. German etiquette is to let you sit and chat for as long as you like without interrupting you. While it can be a little frustrating for us impatient Americans, it is nice to be able to enjoy a three-hour lunch with drinks, cappuccino, good friends and good conversation.
- Many bathrooms in Germany have an entrance fee, particularly at tourist attractions, roadside stops, or in the evenings. Sometimes there is an automated machine, but more often there is an attendant sitting outside. €0,50 is the standard fee.
- The bathroom is most often located in the basement
One humorous story of how I’ve made a fool of myself before I leave to relax for my last evening here.
I was heading out to dinner with four friends and three of us entered the restaurant while the fourth parked. Thinking I would exercise my newfound counting skills, I looked up as the waitress came over and tried to indicate we would need four menus by saying “vier” while holding up four fingers. She replied in German, to which I replied with a resounding “ja” even though I had no idea what she said. Next thing I know, four beers showed up at the table. I really can’t complain, but I’ve since learned the word for menu…grin