What is Foreign Exchange to Me?

"A year of of my life. My life in a year."

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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Normal Week…? Not Even Possible

Take a look at these words and tell me what they make you think of:
  • Schatz
  • Süße/Süßer
  • Hasilein
  • Zuckerschmäuschen
  • Kaninchenzipfelchen
P6240399Now assuming you don’t speak German, you may take these words to be insults, or horribly infectious diseases, but no, quite the contrary actually. These five (well six if you count the feminine/masculine form) words are examples of German pet names. I don’t think anyone wonders why German isn’t considered the “language of love.”
Sunday I switched host-families and am now living with my fourth (and hopefully final!) host-family in Fischbeck, a village on the outskirts of Hameln. I almost went through culture shock P6240407all over again simply because I went from a family with essentially no host-siblings, to have three little brothers ages eight and (the twins are) five. Not to mention my host-mom is from Canada and therefore speaks French with the children. Before I moved here I would have said my French is about as good as my Chinese (a.k.a. non-existent in the slightest), but considering how much my host-mom has to repeat herself when speaking to the boys, I have learned some useful French phrases such as, “Be quiet,” “Sit down,” and “Watch your manners!” Of course, I cannot pronounce any of these phrases (they are in French after all!), but at least I can understand them. I also now bike a whopping 7.4 km (so about 4.6 miles) to and from school everyday and therefore have been eating huge portions during meal time (my second and third host-moms would be so proud! They’re both convinced I never eat). The distance doesn’t bother me at all… however, I generally come home soaking wet from the rain.
Speaking of the distance, my host-dad and I made a € 10 bet against my host-mom/brother (from my third host-family) that my fourth family lived further away from my Gymnasium (high school) than my second family. My mom and brother were so convinced Fischbeck was farther, while my dad and I were absolutely certain Groß Berkel was farther, it was a very intense bet, all until we checked “Google Maps” and found out they are both EXACTLY 7.4 km from the school. Talk about an anti-climatic outcome!
Thursday evening I played Poker with my P6210380best German friend’s family (and Jasper!). I didn’t do very well… but every time I beat my best friend’s step dad, I simply felt overly victorious because always picks fun at me. It might have something to do with the fact that I have a teddy bear with the same name as him… but that was just a coincidence!
The Germans have this… thing they do with their eye when someone is lying. For example, “Where’s Konnie?” “Oh he’s sick. *weird thing with eye*” The first time I saw it, I thought maybe he had pink eye or something and the eye thing wSnapshot_20120627_1as a strange form of sign language. Just another thing I learned this year, though I must admit, I always find it funny when my host-mom does it.
I really must me off, I’m trying to register for classes for university and the server is being a complete and total pain, but until then, have a great week and remember:

Friday, June 22, 2012

Goodbyes Are Never Easy

“Schreiben ist küssen mit dem kopf.”- Gut Gegen Nordwind
If I were to write a list of the things I will miss about Germany, I think I would title it, “The Never-ending List.” The people, the scenery, the way Germans spread a minimum of 2 centimeters of butter (or Nutella, or cheese…) on every piece of bread before eating it… I’ll even miss the things I don’t like about Germany, like how seemingly nobody has tried burritos before, or how Germans seem to drive faster than the speed of light. Germany has become home, and watching my exchange student friends go home one by one… reading on Facebook that they’re home safe, and thinking they’re no longer a train ride away, has been one of the hardest parts of exchange. When I left California, I had no idea who or what was waiting for me in Germany and I knew I would return to California’s presence in a year so it was ‘no biggie’ to leave, I was ready to experience the world. But I don’t know if I’m ready to remembrance California again. But that’s too bad for me because I don’t have choice.
Saturday was the district conference in Göttingen so all the exchange students still in Germany went down to the south of Lower Saxony where we all got together one last time as group. We sung two German songs at the conference for the Rotarians, gave speeches about our exchanges, and had one last night together. It’s weird to think how crazy we all are… but it’s a bP6160367ond we have. We all individually decided to take a year away from ‘our’ lives and go to a country we’ve never been to, with people we’ve never met, and a language we didn’t speak, but it was still the best decision of all of our lives.
Sunday night I went out with my Rotary Club President (dankeschoen!!) and hisP6170371 lovely wife to dinner and to see the hilarious well-written play “Gut Gegen Nordwind” (“Love Virtually” in English). After seeing the play, I read the reviews about the English version, but I’m really curious as to how they could have been so outstanding because the play was based basically on German wordplays. If nothing else, it will be something to read when I get back.
This week was actually rather exciting, P6130037Tuesday was the ‘Sportfest’ at school (where of course my camera was acting up so I didn’t get any pictures out of it), and I got ice cream with an old friend on Wedneday and went rock climbing. Of course there are more details from these events, however; I should be getting back to packing my suitcase. I move to my fourth and final (surprise!) host-family on Sunday (no worries, I’m still on great terms with my 3rd family!), but before I do, I simply have to add, GERMANY IS UNDEFEATED IN THE EUROPEAN SOCCER CUP SO FAR AND PLAYS TONIGHT AGAINST GREECE! If the caps there don’t show it enough, I am beyond excited… not to mention I love how patriotic everyone in Germany has become since the start of the tournament!
“Writing is kissing with the mind.”- Love Virtually

Thursday, June 21, 2012

15 Different Things About Germany

It doesn’t matter how long I live in Germany, I’ve been here for ten(+) months and I could live here the rest of my life(and who knows, I just might!), but there are still some things I will never understand about the way of the country and the people. Don’t get me wrong, Germany is the place I’ve come to call home, but some things I still find a little too different to be considered ‘comparable.’

1) The bathrooms in German houses always have the light switch to the bathroom in the hallway. This means you can’t turn the light on from inside the bathroom. Not only is that simply strange to begin with, but I always imagine an angry older sibling locking his younger sibling in the bathroom (because the doors are designed so that they can be locked from the inside and the outside) and turning the light off, leaving the small child locked alone in a dark bathroom. That just doesn’t sound very pleasant, now does it?

2) It doesn’t matter what temperature it is outside, generally speaking Germans are ALWAYS in the mood for ice-cream. I mentioned that to my host-dad and he made a very good point in saying if they waited for the weather to be good, they would never eat ice-cream. 

3) German street names are absolute horrors. As a general rule, they all have a minimum 27 letters and sound roughly the same. This tends to mean that maps are absolutely covered in text, and getting a feel for road shape and direction should require a degree.


4) The German school system (consisting of ”Grundschule,” “Hauptschule," “Realschule” and “Gymnasium”) is so incredibly unlike the U.S. school system that it is honestly pointless to even begin describing the differences. If anything it would make more since to describe the similarities, the conversation would be much shorter, if not non-existent.

5) Dogs do exactly as they please. They come on the buses, into the grocery stores, and they sit on chairs in cafes. They even do their business on the ‘pedestrian part’ of the sidewalk. Watch your step!

6) Stay out of bike side of the sidewalk when walking. If not, the bikers will murder you without a second thought. (Especially in Berlin where the biking paths are known as ‘the second death strip.’)


7) Generally speaking, at pools and beaches people will stare females down more intently when they are wearing board shorts over their bathing suits then if they were naked. Trust me, I’ve learned from experience. Men and woman also go into saunas naked together. Totally normal.

8) Particularly bloody cuts and wounds are generally described as “not tasty” (nicht lecker). 

9) German toilets are just… well… weird. I’m sorry, everything in Germany is “different,” not weird… except for the toilets. Yes, the toilets are weird.

10) If you don’t want to see nipples, don’t turn on the TV. I’m serious. I know I have frequently written throughout the year that in Germany ‘soft porn’ is normal on the television and the newspapers, but I honestly could not emphasize that enough.  Especially the program of the private stations at night can be a series of phone sex commercials.

11) So you say your hungry? Cool, do you want a Dönner Kebab, or bread from the bakery? It’s your choice, bread for your already parched mouth, or yummy yummy (and I really do mean delicious) grease. Several streets are consisted of kebab shops on a rotated basis.

12) Germans can legally buy alcohol at the age of 16, and can’t get their full drivers license until they’re 18. While this has become totally normal to me, whenever I mention it to my Californian friends for the first time, they’re usually speechless.

13) On the Autobahn, no speed limit sign actually means no speed limit. And people wonder why I ride my bike EVERYWHERE no matter the weather, I’m still terrified of how fast the Germans drive.

14) Germans are obsessed with privacy, yet they answer the phone with their last name rather than with “Hallo.” Oh, and “Kock” is a common German last name. Winking smile

15) Tissues are ‘man’s best friend.’ Not dogs. Tissues.

Yeah, so it’s a little different, but Germany is my one true love. Red heart

(Oh, and Happy Birthday and belated Father’s Day Dad!)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Just Believe (Yes, that’s Cheesy. I’m Aware)

After looking through random old “Notes” P6080263I have saved on my iPod, it’s funny to try and remember a time when I didn’t speak German. It’s actually hard to tune-out and not understand German now. If anything I have to focus more when people speak to me in English. If anything, thinking about flying back to California is scary because I have to switch languages again.. it’s not even that I have two totally and completely different lives on different continents, but I have two totally and completely different lives in different languages.
German Friend: “Angie! I learned a new English song today!”
Me: “Really? What song?”
German Friend: “Row Row Row Your Balls!”

After things like this, I can’t help but laugh, and my friends almost never understand why. I feel like they sometimes think I’m crazy because I understand all the indescribable English connotations and can’t help but laugh at them.
This past weekend was the last Rotex P6080255weekend so all the exchange students (or all the ones still in Germany anyway) got together for our last weekend together. It’s weird to think how I’ll never see a lot of these people ever again but I know no matter what continent I travel too, I’ll always have a roof over my head because exchange students simply have a bond and always look out fP6090289or other exchange students. Friday we went night swimming in a freezing cold pool, and Saturday we went kayaking on the Elbe River. Though our kayaking trip was only around 6.5 miles, it got really tiring, so the only thing my friend Jordan and I could do to keep paddling was sing annoying ‘repeat after me’ songs loudly. We may have annoyed everyone on the river, but at least we had a P6090294good time. Saturday night we had a “Public Viewing” and all watched the first German game in the “Europameisterschaft”  which was Germany vs. Portugal(where of course GERMANY WON!). I don’t know what it is about seeing the words ‘public viewing’ on signs and banners everywhere… but they just make me think back to times when everyone would gather together to watch someone be stoned or hanged to death.
*Correcting mistakes in English Class*
Me: “They said ‘much’ instead of ‘many’ and ‘against’ instead of ‘…anstatt.’ What’s ‘anstatt’ in English?
Julie: “…instead of.”

I felt so stupid. Not only could I remember the German word and not the English word in front of my English class, but I had already used the same word twice in the sentence. Just goes to show how German has been eating away at my brain.
Because the Rotex weekend was so far away, I stayed Sunday night in Genthin P6110341with my friend Eli. After signing each other’s flags (similar to the American custom of everybody signing yearbooks, the exchange students all exchange and sign flags from the host-country), I realized how many memories I have of Eli from this year despite living literally on opposites sides of the country (which in Germany doesn’t really mean too much, but still). Eli was the first person I talked to on the international flight, the person whose iPod I found and had sitting iP6110347n my room for three months, the exchange student whose always been there to Skype when I just needed someone who spoke fluent English. I’m really glad I got the extra day with just him. He’s from Illinois and I’m from California… so if nothing else at least we’re from the same country…
People frequently ask me, “How long have you been in Germany” and it’s so weird that I can truthfully reply “over 10 months” now. I’m not sure if it feels longer or shorter… but it doesn’t feel like 10 months. What’s even weirder is I don’t really remember having a life in California where everything is done in English… I feel like I was born here in Germany and magically acquired the ability of speaking perfect fluent English…

Tonight Germany plays against the Netherlands! GO GERMANY!
Maybe The Game Will Be Something Like This xD

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Waaaaaaaay to Fast

Today Is

I don’t care what your calendar says;oh anne it’s not June. Because you see, not only have I not seen sun since the 31st of May, but if it were June then I could truthfully say, “I fly back to California next month.” and that thought makes me want to do nothing other than cry (which if you know me at all, you know that means a lot). I may have had the hardest, strangest, most challenging year of my life, but it’s also been the most interesting year… the most rewarding year… the best year. I don’t even say, “I’m flying home next month.” but rather, “I’m flying back/to California.” because Germany has become my home.

triple aYesterday was the day that flying back soon really hit me because I went to my first goodbye party. I went to see my best Finnish friend Akseli because he leaves June 12th.I ended up traveling about seven hours throughout the day just to see Akseli for three hours, but it was totally and completely worth it. Anne and I went together and we reunited “Triple A” (Angie, Anne and Akseli, the left-handed akseli party 2American/Canadian/Finn) one last time before our unofficial road trip across the U.S. that will hopefully take place sometime before we all die. Anne wrote a contract on my German flag in permanent marker and we all (unknowingly) signed it, so I guess it simply has to happen now. akselis party

Random Person: “Where are you from?”

Me: “California.”

Random Person: “Woah! You have such great German!”

I’ll never understand why I “have such great German” after telling someone my name and where I’m from. I mean honestly, I’ve lived here for ten months… I would hope to have learned AT LEAST that much.

FotoLast Sunday my extended family (this time from my host-mom’s side) was in town and we all biked about 40 miles to the “Frühlingsfest” (“The festival of Spring”). A lot of the major roads were closed for the bikers and the day is supposed to celebrate biking and the good weather… while we did see lots of bikers, good weather was rather nonexistent. It rained harder and longer P6030233than I’ve ever seen before, but of course, we were troopers and toughed it out! By the time we got back, I was so soaked that it looked like I decided to take a bath fully clothed. But we still had fun and enjoyed the concert.

I think the only thing I won’t miss about Germany is the German opinion of Americans. I have learned (and strangely enough, I also heard this from a friend’s grandparents before leaving for Germany) when I say, “I’m from California,” I’m just about the coolest thing since sliced bread. Everyone excitedly asks me about the weather and San Francisco (which I live about 45 minutes from), but if I say, “I’m from the U.S.A.” I often get death stares. I’ve even been told I couldn’t possibly be American because 1) I don’t have a strong foreign accent, 2) I’m too intelligent, and 3) I’m not fat. People look through pictures of my friends and say, “Wow, did you Photoshop these photos? None of your friends are fat!!” I cannot begin to describe how much that (for lack of better wording) completely pisses me off! I’m sorry to disappoint, but not EVERYBODY in the U.S.A. is overweight. There are even people who are underweight (shocker there!), myself being the perfect example.

  Really American woman? Come on, lets change how people see us!

On the note of German stereotypes/prejudices, this guy has an interesting opinion.

P5150195This past weekend my friend Mathis was in town so we all got together Friday and Saturday evening, whether it was to play foosball, or darts, or watch a random live Acoustic artist… whatever it was we did it was fun. Not to mention somehow or another, before my Europe tour Mathis and I randomly decided we would get married… which is funny because not only does he have a girlfriend, but of all my GermP6020199an friends he’s the one I see the least because he goes to university somewhat far away. Nevertheless, every time I failed miserably at darts (so… pretty much every time) Mathis would say, “Come on I have faith in you! My future wife can do anything!” and of course, whenever I wanted something to drink, he would get it. ^^

I once read:

  1. The United States of America, commonly called by its last name America, is the most powerful and influential country in the world. Therefore, it is also the most hated.
  2. Most ancestors of Americans are immigrants with more than half from Europe. Europeans seem to forget this part and just think that Americans have no ethnicities in order to make them as distantly related from them as possible.
  3. America has a porn empire. But unlike Germany's, it's not going to make you vomit.

I have to admit, the third comment made me laugh. Germany seems to be known for having soft porn on the normal television channels and in the newspapers/magazines and unexpectedly seeing it always activates my gag reflex. It probably has something to do with growing up in a different culture.

P.S. I don’t remember if I mentioned how sunburned I became on the Europe tour, but just to give a visual aid, this picture was taken after I had had the burn for three days.


P.P.S. My little brother is 13 today! Happy Birthday Nickie! Red heart

nicke and i

Days in Germany