Cigarette Vending Machines – Weird German Things #6

One of the things that you will notice in Germany is that there are cigarette vending machines everywhere. They’re on street corners and outside train stations, and they are always beat up and graffitied. I don’t know who owns them and gets the money from them, but I’m sure they make a lot of money. I’m not sure the stereotype is true that Europeans smoke more, but there are fewer gas stations and convenience stores here, so I imagine that even if there are the same number of smokers here, the vending machines do plenty of business to make up the difference.

wpid-wp-1430434100887.jpegThis is one outside a train station. I believe the graffiti is actually a style choice and is part of the panel. I’ve seen the same pattern elsewhere.  But I’ve also seen plane ones that say “Tabakwaren” or Tabacco.  There are some old stickers on it, but I didn’t examine them too closely, because I was already the crazy person taking pictures of a cigarette machine.

In order to buy cigarettes, you have to scan a ID carde to prove that you’re of age. I don’t know what you do if you’re foreign – I suppose you just have to go to a store.  This seems incredibly insecure to me, though. There is no way to check to make sure that the ID actually matches the person buying the cigarettes. I’d imagine it’d be easy to swipe or borrow an older person’s ID.

I see now that there is an advertisement for some sort of heavy metal barbecue on there.
I see now that there is an advertisement for some sort of heavy metal barbecue on there.

The machine accepts card and cash and advertises that it will give you your change back.  I suppose there are some that don’t?

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On the left side of the picture is the ID scanner and at the top are the various receptacles for payment.  I suppose while it’s not particularly secure, it is efficient.

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May 2nd – 5 Photos that Tell Your Story

It’s day two of Blog Everyday in May, and I’m much more timely today.  The prompt: “5 Photos that Tell Your Story”

I figured this prompt would be quite easy, but it was trickier than I thought.  I ended up pulling more than five pictures and had to figure out which story I wanted to tell (the leftover pictures will probably be useful later though!)

So let’s start at the beginning.

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Stole this off my mom’s Facebook page. Thanks, Mom, for sharing my baby pictures with social media! 😛

Look at what a cute baby I was.  This was probably the only time laundry baskets gave me joy.

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Photo credit to my dad. He’s pretty good with the camera.

Here we have skipped ahead about 21 years to me getting my Bachelor of Arts.  The majority of those years (and pretty much all of the ones I remember) involved school of some sort, so I think a graduation picture was fitting.  I wasn’t done with school when this was taken – I still had a year and a half of grad school left, but I wasn’t able to attend the graduation ceremony for the other degree, though.  No regrets, because I was in Bavaria finishing my student teaching!

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When I had arrived in Germany last June, the Verlobter’s family had formed a welcome party and greeted me with this banner.  I was so happy knowing that I was arriving to a different country with an entire family waiting for me.  I’m so lucky because his family is so helpful and loving.  They have definitely been a major part of helping me settle in to my new home.

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No makeup selfie in the airport!  Now that my family spands two continents, I’ve got to become a pro at air travel.  Airports are the easier part – if you have a long enough layover!

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And a full of makeup selfie! I was quite excited for Fastnacht, because I got to dress up and do crazy makeup.  If I were not blogging about my life here in Germany, I would probably try to start a makeup blog.  I feel like my collection is severely lacking (the Verlobter would tell you the opposite), but everyone has to start somewhere!  I also really enjoy writing about being here and learning more about myself and my  new home.

I’m not really seeing much of a cohesive story, but I think that’s the way life works.  Right now I’m in the middle of it, so it’s a bit difficult to draw a clear narrative through the points.

May 1st – Introduction

So, it’s only the first day of Blog Everyday in May, and I’m already a bit late with posting – probably because I’m terrible with introductions.  BUT IT’S NOT MIDNIGHT YET!

I was trying to decide whether to add a picture where I looked normal or goofy - and then I remembered that I hadn't shown off my new sunglasses yet!
I was trying to decide whether to add a picture where I looked normal or goofy – and then I remembered that I hadn’t shown off my new sunglasses yet!

I suppose I can start with the basics.  I’m almost 25 (my birthday is on Monday!) and I’ve been living in Germany since this past June.  Before I moved here permanently, I had spent a semester student teaching on a military base in Bavaria.  While I was doing that, I met the Verlobter, who convinced me to relocate here permanently.

I did spend a year teaching in the United States between my student teaching and moving here – partially to convince my parents that I wasn’t crazy and partially to save up a bit of money before I moved. That was actually the craziest part of my plan – saving up money on a public school teacher’s salary while paying off student loans.  Thankfully the school I worked at was in the middle of nowhere (the nearest Walmart was a 45 minute drive away), so there wasn’t much to spend money on.  Also, the 12 month payment plan meant that I was still getting paid after I had moved.

Since we are going in a sort of reverse chronological order, I guess I’ll talk about where I went to school – or “university” as I say now, and feel really pretentious every time I do.  I went to Truman State University, which is located in northern Missouri – the town it is in contained the previously mentioned Walmart.  I got a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Master of Arts in Education for Secondary English Education – which makes me sound really fancy when I apply for teaching jobs here, but didn’t give me that much of a background in teaching English to non-native speakers.

I grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, which is a completely different place from where I went to “university” and where I ended up teaching for a year.  Missouri has a bit of an identity crisis when it comes to rural/suburban/urban areas.  I met people in northern Missouri who were terrified of living in “the city” and my parents were terrified of me living alone in “the country”.

And now I live in Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany, which is different from rural Missouri, urban/suburban Missouri, AND Bavaria.  The weather is fairly similar to St. Louis, though, which can be comforting – and annoying when it goes from cold, to warm, to cool, to hot, and then back to cold again.  The main purpose of my blog, I feel, is to document my adjustment living here – pointing out the things that are completely strange to me still (Weird German Things), and the things that are familiar, but not really (Awkward English and Flags Everywhere) – along with anything else that comes up along the way.

I’m really excited for Blog Everything in May, as it will give me a chance to be a little bit personal as well as finding new ways to share my journey here.  Don’t worry, though, I’m still taking pictures of the things I find while I’m out and about, so my other sections will keep going throughout the month!

Leben in Deutschland Questions

In order to apply for permanent residency and/or citizenship here in Germany, you have to take the “Life in Germany” test.  For residency, I believe you need to answer 15 out of 33 questions correctly, and for citizenship you need to answers 17 questions correctly.  Assuming you have a fair knowledge of German and you’ve reviewed the information, it’s pretty easy.

30 questions are pulled from a 300 question catalog over German politics, history, and culture.  The last 3 questions are pulled from a 10 question list that relate specifically to the state the tester lives in.  All of the questions are available here for practice purposes – though going through the whole list numbs your brain.

I found the political questions the most difficult, as I had a tendency to jumble up the different offices a bit.  The German government follows a three branch system as the United States does, so I at least had something I already knew about to compare to.  I found the history section fairly easy, as it focused on 1933 to now, and American history classes loooove World War II and the Cold War.  I had learned most of what was covered already.  The culture section focused mostly on day to day life and laws, which seemed pretty intuitive to me, but might have been more tricky if I came from a culture that was completely different.

Some of the questions were pretty easy – and some were comical.  I went back through my giant printout of question and pulled them out and translated them for your enjoyment. Others who come from a different background might not find these as funny as I do, but I feel that a lot of people who read this will find some amusement from it.

8. What is not stated in the constitution of Germany?
a. Human dignity is inviolable.
b. Everyone should have the same amount of money.
c. Everyone can speak their minds.
d. All are equal before the law.

Unfortunately the answer is B.  The government does not ensure that everyone has the same amount of money.  This could be considered a good thing or a bad thing depending on how much money you already have.

137. Which court in Germany is responsible for conflicts in the work-world?
a. The family court
b. The criminal court
c. The work court
d. The district court

It almost feels like a trick.  It would be too simple if the work court was responsible for work conflicts. Thankfully the Germans are very straightforward and c is correct.

226. Which is the flag of the European Union?

Flag_of_the_United_States.svg

Flag_of_Europe.svg

Flag_of_the_United_Nations.svg

652px-Flag_of_CEFTA.svg

The US wishes the first was the answer! (or not… probably not)  I actually had to take a picture of the last flag from my test paper and reverse google image search it to figure out what it is even for.  It is the flag of the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) – thanks Google!

245. Who can not live together as a couple in Germany?

a. Hans (20 years old) and Marie (19 years old)
b. Tom (20 years old) and Klaus (45 years old)
c. Sofie (35 years old) and Lisa (40 years old)
d. Anne (13 years old) and Tim (25 years old)

Oh my lord, Tim is so creepy.

251. If someone beats a child in Germany…
a. that’s no one’s business.
b. that is only the family’s business.
c. they can not be punished for it.
d. they can be punished for it.

This is one of the ones that I’m sure will have different opinions based on cultural differences.  For me, I find all of the answers besides d completely absurd, but I suppose it isn’t like that everywhere.

267. A young woman in Germany, 22 years old, lives together with her boyfriend. The woman’s parents disapprove, because they do not like her boyfriend. What can the parents do?
a. They must respect the decision of their adult daughter.
b. They have the right to take their daughter back to their house.
c. They can go to the police and show them the daughter.
d. They look for another man for the daughter.

Another cultural one.  The parents could do a few of those things, but they would run into some problems with b and d – and get laughed at by the Polizei for c.

276. What should you do if you are mistreated by your contact person in a German office?
a. I can do nothing.
b. I have to put up with the treatment.
c. I threaten the person.
d. I can complain to the office supervisor.

I think this one is here just so that immigrants know that they don’t have to put up with being mistreated when they jump through all their bureaucratic hoops.  This one is funny to me because I didn’t actually know the German word for threaten at the time (drohen), so I had a bit of a shock when I looked it up.

If you are preparing for this test, don’t be too scared!  While I haven’t actually received my results yet, I found it way easier than the language test, and I passed that one!

Maimarkt

Today I went to the Mannheim Maimarkt with the Verlobter and his mom and aunt.  I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.  There were booth on booths on booths of stuff – that’s really the only way to describe it.  You could buy food, a vacuum-cleaner, hot tubs, clothing, jewelry, cars, flowers – everything!  It was quite crowded, being Sunday, but I thought it was really cool.  I took a ton of pictures, so I decided to try out the gallery feature to show them off.

Gaze upon and enjoy the varied wonders of the Maimarkt!

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New Yorker – Flags Everywhere #7 and Awkward English #5

If you want to be entertained, just find a New Yorker store.  This store, presumably targeted to young people, has the most ridiculous clothing.  I can only assume that at their headquarters there is a design board covered entirely with printouts of tumblr posts.

Of course I have photo evidence so you can see what I mean.

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Have you been searching for a super-long, short sleeved hoodie covered in donuts and a cheeky saying? Look no further.  Found one for you.

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Confederate flag smiley face? Got you covered.  You can add it to your Confederate flag apparel collection that already contains this gem from their summer stock.

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There definitely is a irony to selling Confederacy merchandise in a store named “New Yorker,” but I wouldn’t put it past Americans to sell Lederhosen in a store called “Berliner” or DDR merchandise in a store called “Munich.”

Warning, adult language coming.  Hide yo’ kids.

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I love this shirt.  And Germans care way less about cursing than Americans, so this shirt was actually in the front window display as well.

Bahn Etiquette – Public Transportation #2

As I’m using public transportation more and more in Germany, I’ve decided to trying to write more about it.  Hopefully these sections are fairly practical for any readers hoping to use this wonderful service (when they aren’t striking…)

Today I wanted to tackle public transportation etiquette – or at least three tips that I can think of right now.

1. Be prepared before you arrive.   Like I said in my previous post about public transportation, if you are late, there will be someone who doesn’t know what they are doing using the ticket machine in front of you.  The converse of this is that, if you are at the ticket machine with no idea what to do, there will be someone late waiting on you.

The best way to combat this is to know exactly what you need before you arrive.  You can plan your route on Deutsche Bahn’s website and it will tell you the name of the ticket you need and how much it costs.  This will speed along the process. There will still be a bit of a learning curve with the machine itself, but if you give yourself a bit of extra time everything should be fine.

Also someone who looks like they know what they’re looking for is much less annoying than someone staring blankly at the screen.  And English is available – just look for the British flag.

2. Find a proper seat.

Most of the regional trains (my specialty) have most of their seats set up in groups of four.

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It is totally fine to sit here alone. Single travelers will grab these sections and then as the train fills, other single travelers or couples will then sit in the row across from them. When two single travellers share one of these sections they generally sit diagonal from each other – as it allows for maximum leg space. Your bag can go onto the seat next to you to deter creepers ignoring the sit across rule, but you should move it to your lap or to the overhead rack if seating becomes scarce.

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Seats with two spots follow a similar pattern. Sit near the window if alone and don’t sit next to someone if there are other seats available.

There is also commonly a section with fold down seats.

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These seats suck, so they usually fill up last. They are meant for travellers with bikes, strollers, or wheelchairs (under the seats are some straps that can be used to secure things, but I have yet to see someone use them). If someone with one of those three things comes toward those seats, make room for them.

On crowded trains, you may need to stand. That’s life. If you cannot stand for whatever reason, there should be seats near the door indicated for this purpose. If people are seated there, ask politely if you can sit. If they don’t need the spot, they are supposed to give it up.

3. Don’t block the doors

This is a should, but not always a reality. If you do this, you will be making the world a better place.

Let people off the train first. The train cannot leave if the doors are open. You will not get anywhere faster by pushing past people trying to get off.

If the train is crowded and you are standing in the doorway and cannot move back to allow others off and on get off the train. Again, it will not leave while the doors are open. Get off with the people leaving and get back on with the people boarding. Easy peasy.

For the most part, the train experience runs fairly smoothly (when the trains and run – looking at you, Bahnstreik). Just be polite and self-aware, and things are better for everyone.