Making a small contribution – refugees in Berlin

One of the biggest grass-roots organizations set up to help refugees in Germany

One of the biggest grass-roots organizations set up to help refugees in Germany

The situation is all over the news, it’s what people are earnestly discussing over dinner, it has moved the country on a national scale – I’m talking about Europe’s migrant crisis and the role Germany is playing.

This is not the time nor place to be political. All I’ll aim to do here is offer a few fleeting observations as an expat in the Hauptstadt (capital) and give a few tips on what you can do to help if you’re so inclined.  Continue reading

Soccer Fever!

Japan Wins the 2011 World Cup – photo picked up via Google from Thomas Lachetta’s Blog

Talk about a nail-biter! Did you see that game last night? It was amazing! The stadium was packed, the fans were at turns euphoric and devastated, and in the end, it all came down to a few penalty kicks. For the world championship of soccer. Women’s soccer. You missed it? I hardly believe it. I’m pretty sure that no female sport has ever had as much attention as that game did yesterday… or perhaps I’m just biased. It was, after all, a World Cup tournament in this soccer-crazed country and my team was in the final. I even knew people in the stands (who I looked for every time the camera panned the crowd).

It’s a shame that Germany didn’t progress to the final as they had planned, but it lessened their pain when the team who kicked them out ended up winning the tournament. Japan was certainly the underdog going into the game, and despite my nationality I was secretly pulling for them. Continue reading

The Voices in the TV

One of the things that I absolutely was not prepared for when I moved here was the television. I knew that Germany had a lot of American shows on the television; I knew that they were definitely not in English, but I didn’t realize what that meant. I’m going to chalk that up to that blissful pre-move state we all get into: we know we’re doing something awesome and huge, but aren’t thinking about the little things, like how to get a job in a land that speaks another language, where we’ll go grocery shopping, etc.

You know, the small but actually really important things. The ones that help you survive and/or feel comfortable.

About 11 months ago, I thought I’d never get used to the voices. The Americans in Germany know what I mean: the voice actors. I didn’t realize what a huge deal voice acting was over here… I also didn’t realize what a hold American TV has on the international market. I imagined before moving that I’d get addicted to some random German TV shows that would be obscure to my American friends.

Wrong. I get to watch the same shows over here that I did over there (although sometimes a season later, because of the voice-acting). I have tried, really hard to enjoy actual German television and I haven’t found anything that I like yet, although I have to say I really enjoy the German non-biased reporting style for the news and documentaries. Continue reading

Movie Ratings — Watch Out!

I had planned to go see the movie “Valentine’s Day” with my eldest daughter this past week in English, but the few times it was being shown just didn’t work for us. On Friday we finally decided to go to see it in German in the local theater, and because it was “ab 6“, the German equivalent of PG, we thought that it would be okay to take her sister, who is ten. Let me preface this whole thing by saying that I am by no means a prude, and have no real issues with the openness and nudity, etc. that goes on here in Germany every day. But my version of PG and the German version of PG are two very different things.

Now this movie was rated PG-13 on American screens, but I didn’t check that before we went. I should have known. This has happened before. Claire and Emma went to a movie last year called “Sommer”. I think it was also rated “ab 6“, so I figured it was okay. When they came home, Claire said she thought Emma hadn’t understood everything, which in the end was probably better. When I saw the trailer for the movie a couple of weeks later, I was shocked. It was about a couple of teenagers and their “first time”! So much for “ab 6“! Continue reading

“On Se Won Händ”

Ripped from the headlines in Germany, YouTube has shamed and ridiculed yet another public figure, this time former Baden-Württemberg’s Minister President and now Germany’s European Union Commissioner, Günther Oettinger.

The widely circulated video is of Oettinger painfully stumbling through a speech clearly neither drafted nor rehearsed by him. The point of the speech, recently held in Berlin at a Columbia University hosted event, and Mr Oettinger’s main message as the new EU Energy Commissioner are unfortunately lost, overshadowed instead by Mr Oettinger’s inability to pronounce many of the more “challenging” words such as “justifiable,” “interference,” and “initiative” and making other words such as “does” and “otherwise” unrecognizable. Already known for his rather distinctive way of speaking in German (read here: he has a very heavy Swabian accent), Oettinger managed to “swabianize” English. The well-known Baden-Württemberg tagline, “we can do everything except speak high German” has been refashioned by commentators to, “wir können alles außer Hochdeutsch – und Englisch!” along with the terms “schwänglisch” and “Spätzle-Englisch.” What made this all the more humiliating perhaps is that the YouTube video included footage of Mr Oettinger emphasizing how all Germans, regardless of their profession, must be able to speak and understand English.

Continue reading

The Decline of Journalism

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).

Continue reading

D.O.N.A.L.D. – Donald Duck in German

He looks pretty good for a 75-year-old duck. The German Donald Duck lives in the town of Entenhausen (Duckburg) with his nephews Tick, Trick and Track (Huey, Dewey and Louie). His wealthy uncle Dagobert Duck (Scrooge McDuck) and the inventor Daniel Düsentrieb (Gyro Gearloose) also live there – in a fantasy world invented by…

If you wanted to say Walt Disney, you’d be wrong. The man who actually invented Duckburg and many of its inhabitants was named Carl Barks (1901-2000). Barks was a Disney Studio illustrator and comic book creator, who went to work for Disney in 1935. It was Barks who invented most of Donald Duck’s world. (Donald was created originally by Disney in 1934, as a minor character and foil for Mickey Mouse.)

In Germany, Donald and the duck tales are no Micky Maus operation. Continue reading