How many Germans are international travelers?

Germans have a reputation as travelers. They even claim to be the Reiseweltmeister (world champions of travel). Indeed, many citizens of Germany do travel abroad and in Germany. If you visit US national parks, as I did this month, you could get the impression that Germany is almost empty, and that most of the country’s population is in the US this summer. You will often overhear German, French and other languages as you hike the trails of Bryce Canyon, Zion, Arches, Mesa Verde and the Grand Canyon.

But in 2009 (the latest year for which statistics are available), Germans represented just 5.8 percent of all foreign visitors to the United States, totaling 1,881,944, a bit fewer than in 2008. That means that in 2009, barely two percent of all 82 million Germans crossed the Atlantic to tour the USA. Not only that, Continue reading

An Adjusted Adventszeit

In the past week, I had to adjust to the fact that Christmas is OVER, a week earlier than I had become accustomed to. I was used to our southern German world being shut down not just from the week of Christmas to New Year’s but also through the first week of January thanks to Three Kings. (Note: During my time writing for the German Way blog, the most Wiki-ed or Google-ed things I’ve had to look up are Catholic holidays and food.) I missed my older daughter’s first gymnastics class last Wednesday. Back in Aalen, there wouldn’t have been Turnen or any Musik Schule or anything like that scheduled.

This year, I missed the Adventszeit and the tradition of celebrating Christmas time for the whole month of December. And although Christmas decorations start being sold at Target the minute Halloween goes on clearance, that is not the same. I feel that Christmas is largely for consumerism here. Adventszeit is more oriented towards baking Weihnachtsplätzchen together (though I’ll concede that an American Christmas cookie exchange is an efficient and smart thing. I admire my friend Moni and my husband’s Tante Liane for baking at least 10 different kinds of cookies for their cookie bags/tins each year.) The point of a Christkindelmarkt in every town is not just to sell as many tschotchke to as many suckers as possible, but rather to provide a cozy space for people to drink their Glühwein together, for children to pet some farm animals and ride some rides and of course for us to find some sweet, handmade, wooden ornaments to share with our poor, plastic-invaded relatives back home. Continue reading

Vacation versus Urlaub

I was recently reminded of how much vacation time Germans get. I sent an email to a gentleman at a German publishing house with whom I had been corresponding, only to get a reply from his secretary that read: “Danke für Ihr Mail an Herrn K. Hier nur ein Zwischenbescheid: Herr K ist zur Zeit im Urlaub.” (“Thanks for your email to Herr K. Here just an interim notice: Herr K is on vacation.”)

What was I thinking? Trying to contact a German business person in mid-July or August? The whole country goes on vacation in the summer. (That’s in addition to the week or two they spent in Greece, Spain or Turkey during the winter.) Northern Europeans live to see the sun in the summer that they never saw all winter! Germans can fly to the US for a four-week summer vacation, with all of that time being paid annual leave. Continue reading

Vacationing on the Cheap in Germany

Since our family is still affected by the dreaded Kurzarbeit (Germany’s solution to the recession provides an alternative to laying people off. They cut down on the amount of hours employees are supposed to be working and the Arbeitsamt makes up 2/3 of the difference in pay), we were not planning a vacation at all this year. I would have loved to go home for Pfingsten, which is two weeks this year, but flying six people to Detroit is not on the cards for now.

But after a couple of days of school holidays with four bored kids at home and a lot of rain, and a meeting with friends who had gotten a deal on a Ferienwohnung (vacation cottage) from a website called, we decided to see if we could find anything affordable last minute. Since there are a lot of us, it isn’t easy to find a hotel or any sort of all-inclusive cheapy vacation anymore. We’d been to Greece and Spain a couple of times, but never vacationed in Germany. I was always afraid that a Ferienwohnung would not include much relaxing for me, because we still needed to cook and clean and pick up after everyone. But since my husband learned to cook before Olivia was born 3 years ago, my opinions have changed slightly. I can say that it isn’t exactly relaxing, but at least we got outta Dodge and are not at home! Continue reading