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Month: March 2015

DIY Bread Slicer – Weird German Things #4

DIY Bread Slicer – Weird German Things #4

The Verlobter and I live very close to several grocery stores and have developed some criteria for determining which store to venture forth to when we need to restock our absurd supply of yogurt and processed meatstuffs.  Our most important consideration is whether or not the store is equipped with a bread slicer.

“Why not just buy pre-sliced bread?” you ask, “Is that something the Germans don’t believe in?”

They have pre-sliced, American-style sandwich bread – referred to just as “toast” despite not being toasted, sometimes with an American flag on the label.  But, why buy the sugary, soft, white stuff when you can have hearty, brown German bread fresh from the bakery section and sliced right before you use it for optimal freshness?

Because the slicer is freaking terrifying if you’ve never seen it before.

You do get used to it – I have used it on my own on occasion when picking up bread while the Verlobter was at work.  And fresh bread is nice and cheap.  I have no idea what the nutritional stats are, but it looks healthier than pre-sliced sandwich bread.

Image by me
Image by me

You could, theoretically, buy the bread yourself and slice it at home.  We’ve tried that before because we made the mistake of buying bread from one of the non-slicer stores.  I’m sure it keeps the bread fresher longer, but we need something to put our process meatstuffs on and we don’t want to work for it.

Bottle Deposits – Weird German Things #3

Bottle Deposits – Weird German Things #3

This won’t sound that weird to my parents or grandparents (sorry for making you sound old), but when you buy bottled drinks in Germany, you pay a little extra and get that money back when you return the bottle.   From what I understand, this was fairly common in America for glass bottles, which could be sterilized and reused, but here it is used to encourage recycling of plastic bottles (in addition to glass beer bottles).

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Bottles with this logo are called “Pfandflasche” – “Pfand” means deposit and “flasche” means bottle.  The Germans are ever practical when it comes to naming things.  When you buy these bottles, you pay an extra 25¢ above the listed price.  If you don’t like that or hate recycling, you can also search for bottles labeled “ohne Pfand” (without deposit).

Most grocery stores have machines for returning bottles at the front of the store, so it’s fairly easy to find somewhere to return the bottles.  The Verlobter and I just keep our bottles in an Ikea bag and then use that bag for our groceries once we’ve returned the bottles, because Germany is all about reusable bags as well and stores charge you when you need one.

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We drink a lot of bubbly water, but more about that some other time.

The machines generally have a top section for returning individual bottles, and a bottom sections for full cases of beer, because Germany.

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The machine looks for the Pfand logo and tallies up how many bottles you’ve returned.  When you’re finished you have  two options for your money:

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The “Pfand” option gives you a receipt which you give to the cashier when you buy your groceries and deducts the amount you returned from your purchase.  The “Spende” option donates the money.  As you can see, there is a little shield that makes it impossible to accidentally push the Spende button.  According to the Verlobter, that wasn’t always there.  Presumably, people who weren’t paying attention frequently ended up donating their money and got quite angry as a result.

I like the system well enough, if anything it reminds us to bring a bag big with us when we go shopping, because we need to return our bottles.  I wish the Pfand was included in the price like sales tax, though because I always forget about it.  Price tags do have the Pfand listed, but in such a small font that I often overlook I when I do my mental math.  Still better, though, than America’s system of listing prices without sales tax included which makes mental math impossible unless you’re a percentage savant.

Driver’s Licenses are Expensive

Driver’s Licenses are Expensive

Maybe it’s because there are much higher standards of safety here.  Or maybe it’s because it isn’t that hard to survive here without a car.  I never drive anymore.  The Verlobter has a car, but he needs it for work, so I make do with a bike and public transport.

I do have a German license, though.  I’m lucky that I come from Missouri (how many people have said that ever?).  Because I had a Missouri Driver’s License, I only needed to take the German theory test, which was available in English.  I was able to skip the most expensive part – driving school.  Like many Americans, I’ve never had formal driving lessons, so maybe it isn’t good that I got to skip them.

Starting from scratch, a German driver’s license can cost you around $2,500 – $3,000.  I got away with around $150.  This is more than I’ve paid in America for three learner’s permits, an adult license, a duplicate license, and a renewal.

The German test is a bit crazy as well.  Each question can have multiple right answers and you have to select all of them.  You have to analyze videos and pictures.  There is a complex point system and you have to score about 90%.

Do not enhance!
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I passed it on my first try.  😀  Which is good, because it costs 90€ a pop to take the stupid thing.

There is just one little problem, though.  Because I only had to take the theory test, I was able to slide through without learning to drive a stick.

If you aren’t familiar with driving in the USA, most people drive exclusively automatics.  In fact, I know more than one person who has a car with manual transmission because other people cannot drive it and it keeps people from trying to borrow it.  It also makes it harder to steal, no joke.

That doesn’t really work here, though.  Automatics are not commonly driven here and there is no way I’d be able to convince the Verlobter to coddle me and switch to one.   He’s tried to teach me (video evidence below), but I’ve been quite successful at avoiding driving altogether.  I suppose I’ll eventually have to learn, but today is not that day.

Awkward English #2

Awkward English #2

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Karneval costume accessories are über macho.

Also, I just now noticed the “love cuffs” in the background. :-/

Parades – Weird German Things #2

Parades – Weird German Things #2

I went to my first German parade a little over a month ago for Karneval/Fastnacht/Fasching (Mardi Gras).  It was definitely an experience.

I had been disappointed previously at Halloween and how half heartedly the Germans celebrated. I get really excited about costumes and face paint.  The Verlobter reassured me that Fastnacht would be better, and he definitely was right. I got the opportunity to dress up twice!

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The second look is what I wore to the parade near us.  My little litigious American brain was freaking out when it got started.

In general, streets are wider where I’m from.  During smaller, local parades, families were content to sit or stand (but usually sit) on the sidewalks, and the children would be allowed rush into the street to get candy only after everything motorized had passed.  Larger parades downtown had barriers keeping everyone a safe distance away.   A German parade on the other hand:

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There was a parade worker assigned to each vehicle who attempted to push back the crowd, but they were woefully ineffective.  There was a group of 10 – 11 year old boys who wormed their way in front of us, and my mother-in-law and sister-in-law kept pulling them back so their feet wouldn’t get run over.

Where was the Ordnung?

At one point, a young couple with their small child were directly in front of the Verlobter and me.  Any time candy was thrown, they’d scrambled to pick up as much as they could for their little germ factory.  The man apparently never learned that you should bend your damn knees when you reach for the ground and kept hitting me with his arsch.  The Verlobter and I switched spots to protect me from this indignity.  He ended up in front of me again.

At one point the whole section got squished together and I was jammed between butt-man and a bench.  Being a passive-aggressive American, I yelled,  “EXCUUUUUUUUSE ME.”  Then I remembered what country I was in and followed up with, “ENTSCHUUUUUUUULDIGUNG!”  Nothing, still stuck against the bench.  So, I shoved him a bit.  Finally he turned around with an apologetic look and gave me some personal space. And was back two minutes later with his butt in the air snatching 5¢ bonbons for his toddler.

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