It is natural to feel less informed about your country of origin when you’ve been gone for a few years. Such is the case with me.
I still have access to most of the same news sources. My hometown newspapers are online, major news channels are available here in English (CNN, CNBC and so on) and of course there are the blogs. Yet I still feel out of touch with what is really going on back in the old country (by which I mean the US).
For Americans that grew up during the Cold War (like me) or are interested in modern history, coming to Germany can be an eye-opening experience. I’m not talking about the events of the Cold War itself, but the fact that so many threats that we were told about as children are now so much closer.
Russian tanks? Less than one day from my house. Rogue nuclear nations? Half the distance from me as from the shores of the US. Wars in the Middle East and Central Asia? Why… those can be just a car ride away!
The national elections have passed. It is big, though not exciting news. The Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Free Democratic Party (FDP) have enough votes to form a coalition government. The American press is representing this as evidence of a trend of European politics moving to the Center-Right portion of the political spectrum, I am not so convinced.
Like most Americans, my first exposure to German beer was to one of those mass produced brews designed for good shelf life and consistency… not necessarily for flavor or quality. Being lucky enough to have been living in San Francisco at the time, I was exposed to a variety of better beers than that.
Microbreweries were (and still are) everywhere. A world of bocks, porters and stouts was where I lived predominantly. From time to time, however, I ventured into the lighter side of things… pilsners.
I’ve been living in Germany for about two years now. I knew things would be different here, but how things would be different was a big question mark. Although I had visited Germany a few times before, living here is a whole different ball game… as we Americans like to say. Continue reading →
I’m a little late with this post because I was on the road this week. I spent a few days in Osnabrück near Hannover. This region is quite unlike the agricultural region where I live. Osnabrück and the surrounding cities are much more modern and integrated into the international economy. As such, they have people from all over the world… if you count North Americans and British people as “all over the world.”
The big day had come. We were nervous. My wife was busy cleaning. The house was spotless, which is certainly not normal for us. Cleaning was something that we both hate doing. We had all the windows open to air out the place, even though it was only about 60 degrees (Fahrenheit) outside.
Frau X was sitting at our kitchen table. She was wearing a black sweater and faux pearl necklace to go along with her black rimmed glasses. Her perfume wafted through the kitchen. A big folder of papers sat in front of her, not unlike that big book that often sits in front of a preacher during a sermon. Our file was in that stack somewhere.
She was about 5’6, of slight build, dark hair, black plastic rimmed glasses. She spoke English pretty well but spoke German to me as a matter of principle. The only visible clue about her visit to our home were the papers she was clutching. Otherwise she could have been any visitor. We’ll call her Frau X.