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Monday, June 30, 2014

How to Decorate a German-American Apartment

Decorating a German-American apartment

Germany and the U.S. played each other on Thursday, June 26. Although Germany won 1-0, both the U.S. and Germany get to go on to the next round!

Since I am living with a German, I wanted to go all out when decorating the apartment for the game. I split up the living room into two sides.

German-American decorations

The German boyfriend and I actually did not own any flags (besides the Chicago flag), so we ordered both of the flags you see earlier that week on Amazon.

German decorations

I started off by hanging the German flag in the corner above the TV. We were given the German drum (to the left of the TV) and car accessories (taped to the sides of the TV) when walking around Lüneburg recently, and Marco got the German hat as a free gift when he bought his soccer jersey this year.

I wrapped German-colored ribbon around the two bottom cabinets, and if you look closely, you can also see the little German flag sticker stuck to the bottom of the TV frame.

America decorations

After hanging the American flag in the other corner, I went on a hunt through our apartment for anything that was red, white, or blue. The first thing I found was the Chicago flag, which I gave to Marco after he visited me for the first time. I laid this out on our dining table. 

I also set out a bowl (that I stuck an American flag on) and red and blue candle holders. To dress up our potted plants, and I cut strips of red and white paper and wrapped it around the pots. 

German veggie plate and American fruit plate

Since it was a World Cup party, I knew I needed to make some snacks as well. So, I decided to stick to this German-American theme by making a German veggie plate and an American fruit plate. The German veggie plate has black olives, red peppers, and yellow peppers, and the American fruit plate has strawberries and blueberries. Marco had the great idea of using whipped cream between the strawberries for the white strips, but that didn't end up happening...

Oh, and one last thing. Although this (unfortunately) was not delivered in time for the game, Marco and I are now proud owners of this flag:

German-America Flag

Marco calls it the flag of Germerica. Here is to hoping we can hang it from the balcony when the U.S. faces Germany in the World Cup finals (which will happen only in our wildest dreams, I know...)!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Our Summer Tour of Germany

Summer Tour of Germany | Courtney the Ami

My parents are flying from Chicago to Hamburg in exactly two weeks. Since I have not seen them for one year now, I am so excited to hang out with them in Germany.

Their trip also serves as the perfect excuse for the German boyfriend and me to make a little tour around Germany. Can you believe that despite spending nearly two years of my life in Germany I have still never visited Munich?! Well, I finally will be along with several other beautiful cities. To give you an idea of what we will be doing for those two weeks, here is our itinerary.

Tour of Germany

Day 1

Cities: Hamburg, Lüneburg

My parents arrive at 11:50 a.m. Marco and I will pick them up at the Hamburg Airport, then drive back to our apartment in Lüneburg. The rest of the day will be spent relaxing, cooking, and trying to keep my parents awake until 10 p.m. to prevent them from being jet lagged the entire trip.

Landing in Hamburg Airport
Touchdown Runway 23 HAM by daspaddy

Day 2

City: Lüneburg

I studied abroad in Lüneburg for one semester in 2011. I then moved back in July 2013 and have been living here ever since. So, I think it is high time for my parents to finally see the city that I live in. We will probably just hang out downtown, drink some local beer, eat at a couple restaurants, and check out the historic areas.

Places to visit:
Lüneburg City Hall
Impressionen aus Lüneburg by steffenvogel

Day 3

City: Hamburg

Just a 30-minute train ride north of Lüneburg is Germany's second largest city: Hamburg. Located right on the River Elbe, Hamburg is also the second largest port in Europe (and the tenth largest in the entire world!).

Some of the most popular things to see in Hamburg:
Hamburg by LuxTonnerre

Day 4

City: Lüneburg

After an action-packed day in Hamburg, we will return to Lüneburg for one more day. We will probably continue knocking things off of the list from Day 2. Since we have a train journey the next day, however, we will also have to spend a little bit of time at home to pack and prepare everything.

Day 5

Cities: Lüneburg, Würzburg

We are taking a Deutsche Bahn ICE (Inter-City Express) train directly from Lüneburg to Würzburg. The train leaves Lüneburg at 10:30 a.m. and arrives in Würzburg at 1:30 p.m. Since Marco's dad lives about 30 minutes outside of Würzburg, he will pick us all up and show us around the city.

Würzburg by Floris Oosterveld

Days 6-8

City: Munich

On the morning of day 6, we are going to make the 2 hour drive to Munich where we will stay for 3 days. Since there is going to be 6 of us, Marco's dad rented an Opel Vivaro, which I find kind of hilarious. We reserved rooms for two nights at a hotel, so the van can just stay in the hotel parking garage for the 3 days until we drive home. 

Now, I have never actually been to Munich before, so I am pretty excited for this little trip. Here just a few of the places we will be visiting while we are there:

Day 9

City: Bamberg

Bamberg is a quaint town of about 70,000 in Upper Franconia. It is just a short drive away from where Marco's dad lives with his girlfriend, so we will definitely be taking a day trip here.

Places to see in Bamberg:

Day 10

City: Nuremberg

The biggest city in Franconia is Nuremburg. I have actually already been to Nuremberg quite a few times, but it is definitely a great city for my parents to see while they are here.

Things to check out in the historic city of Nuremberg:
View from Nuremberg Castle
A photo of me at Nuremberg Castle in 2011

Day 11

Cities: Würzburg, Lüneburg

After a good week in the south, it is time to head back up north. Our Deutsche Bahn ICE train leaves Würzburg at 6:30 p.m. and arrives in Lüneburg at 9:30 p.m.

Deutsche Bahn ICE train
ICE Train by Gaku

Day 12

City: Lüneburg

After our little trip down south, we are back in the City of Salt. We will probably relax a little at the apartment, check out some more of the area, and visit some local beer gardens and breweries.

Day 13

Cities: Bremen 

After a relaxed day in Lüneburg, it is time for one last day trip to Bremen. This riverfront city-state is about a 1.5 hour drive from Lüneburg. It actually holds a special place in my heart as well, since it was one of the first little day trips Marco and I took together a couple weeks after we first met.

Bremen by Allie Caulfield

Day 14

Cities: Lüneburg

Back in Lüneburg again! My parents will probably decide what they are interested in seeing again around the city. Otherwise, we have to spend at least a little bit of this day packing since they leave the following morning.

Day 15

Cities: Lüneburg, Hamburg

After two full weeks, my parents will have to fly back to Chicago. Their flight leaves at 9 a.m., so we will all have to wake up bright and early to drive to the airport.

Flying out of Hamburg Airport
Takeoff HAM Runway 23 by daspaddy
So, that is our plan. Of course it would be amazing if my parents could see other big cities like Berlin and Dresden, but you can only fit so much into 2 weeks without it becoming overwhelming. Anyways, they will definitely be back to visit again :)

Which cities do you want to visit the most in Germany?

Monday, June 23, 2014

Germany's World Cup Fever

When I first came to Germany, I was always surprised by the blatant lack of national pride. At my first apartment here, my roommates actually used a German flag as a table cloth, and when I suggested they hang it on the wall, they just looked at me like I was insane. 

Ever since the World Cup started a few weeks ago, however, this has completely changed. When you go out on the street now, all you need is black, red, and gold. Heck, Germans even deck out their car in patriotic accessories (my German boyfriend included).

So, of course I am in on the action as well. Since I am not from Germany, however, the German boyfriend and I have been trying to split our patriotism a little bit. We each have a shirt representing each other's home country.

And, of course, you cannot live in Germany without having jerseys of the German national team. I have the jersey from the 2012 European Championship, and Marco has the current jersey for the 2014 World Cup.

Watching the opening match between Brazil and Croatia was the first time I think I have ever watched a game in the World Cup. Although I do not really enjoy watching most soccer games, I find that something about the World Cup just makes it inherently more exciting. 

For Germany's first game in this year's World Cup, we projected the game onto the wall of a meeting room at Marco's work. 

Since they won 4-0 against Portugal, we took to the streets afterwards to celebrate. Although my pictures make it looks like there was nobody outside, there were plenty of cars driving around town honking like crazy. Since it was a Monday at 9 p.m., however, most Germans were already in their homes.

Unfortunately, the U.S.'s first game aired at midnight that same day. Since I was a little pooped from celebrating Germany's win, I missed it. Thank goodness they won.

Germany's second game was on Saturday at 9 p.m. For this game, I went to downtown Hamburg with a large group of friends. Germany is really big on what they call "public viewings," which is when an event is shown on a large screen in a public space.

We didn't go to one of Hamburg's main public viewings, the largest of which attract nearly 50,000 people. Instead, we went to an outdoor bar called Central Park, which was nice and relaxed.

As you already know, Germany tied against Ghana 2-2, which was not the ideal result. Then, the very next day, the U.S. went on to tie against Portugal 2-2.

I still have my fingers crossed and Daumen gedrückt that both the U.S. and Germany will make it out of the group. They finally play against each other on Thursday, which will be quite an exciting game for the German boyfriend and me.

If you want to know who I will be rooting for in that game, make sure to check out my article "Home Country vs. Host Country: Expat Problems During the World Cup" on Expat Focus.

And here is to hoping that both the U.S. and Germany can make it out of the group!!!

Friday, June 20, 2014

ABCs of Summer in Germany

ABC's of Summer

Since this will be my first full summer in Germany, I figured it would be fun to make a little bucket list of all the things I want to do. I was inspired by Rhyme and Ribbons, an American expat living in the UK, to do this in ABC format. So, here they are, my ABC bucket list for summer in Germany:

Applications - I am still waiting to hear back from my Master's application...
Bike - I have a cool new (old) bike that I found in my German boyfriend's dad's garage, and I really need to start getting out and riding it more.
Charcoal - We have been grilling out quite often over the past two months, and I love it.
Delicious food - Sometimes Marco and I get stuck just making the same meals week after week. We should look up some new summer recipes.
Exercise - The German boyfriend probably will laugh when he reads this one, but I really should exercise more.
Festivals - I want to go to at least one this summer!
Geocaching - I have a travel bug that I took from a geocache in the U.S. years ago. I brought it with to Germany, and I need to finally go geocaching so I can get rid of it.
Hair - I have become way too comfortable lately with always throwing my hair into a bun. I want to start getting in the habit of doing my hair again at least a few times each week.

Ombre French Braid

Ice cream - Marco may not eat it, but that is no reason not to visit an ice cream parlor every now and then.
Joy - I struggled with something to find for this one, but I guess it is important to stay happy!
Knitting - My knitting needles are on the list of things I want my parents to bring with when they visit Germany in a couple weeks. I used to really enjoy knitting, and I want to get back into it.
Listen to good music - I have gotten way too complacent with listening to the annoying songs on the radio. I need to reconnect with my old favorite bands.
Marco - Also known on this blog as "the German boyfriend." I just want to spend as much time with him as possible.

Courtney and Marco

Newspaper - I have always been told that reading the newspaper in German is great language practice.
Outdoors - Whether it is a hike in the woods or just sitting out on the bacony, I need to get out more.
Parents - My parents are visiting for two weeks in July, and I am beyond excited.
Quiet - We got a note from our downstairs neighbors that we walk too loudly. I guess I need to learn to walk more quietly this summer ;)
Reading - Too many books are piling up on my nightstand. I need to get crackin'.
Save - I have been doing a pretty good job lately at saving money, and I need to keep it up.
Travel - We already have a trip to Southern Germany planned when my parents come, but it would be awesome to squeeze another weekend trip in this summer to a nearby city like Copenhagen or Amsterdam.
Unplug - I have been spending seriously too much time on the laptop lately.
Visa - It expires in September, so I need to start figuring things out towards the end of the summer. Hopefully my next one will be a student visa!
Walks in the woods - I live right next to quite a large forest, and I would love to start taking walks through the woods at least once per week.

Walking through the Woods

X-ray vision - It's about time I get the operation.
Yoga - Marco and I used to do a little yoga together each evening. We should start doing that again.
Zero sunburns - It's not going to happen this summer!

What are your goals for this summer?

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Are You Upset? | Mistranslation Monday

This week's Mistranslation Monday is an oldie but a goodie. It happened back when the German boyfriend visited me in the U.S. for the very first time, which was in May 2012.

As soon as he stepped off the plane, all he wanted to do was go shopping. Germans have this weird fascination with how cheap jeans are in the U.S. so he was ready to stock up. Since I was living in Chicago at the time, we went straight to Macy's downtown.

Marco picked out a pair of pants pretty quickly, and took them to the register. Now, if you have ever bought something from an American department store, then you have probably heard the phrase "Are you all set?" Since we were in downtown Chicago, however, the guy said it quite quickly and slightly slurred.

As soon as he asked that, Marco looked like a deer in headlights. He glanced to me, then back to the man and mumbled, "No..." Since he was, in fact, "all set" both the cashier and I were quite confused at this point.

"Yes he is," I told the cashier, and he began to cautiously began to ring up Marco's new pants.

As soon as Marco had paid and we walked away from the cash register, he turned to me and asked, "Why did the cashier ask me if I am upset?!'"

And all I could do was burst out laughing.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Grocery Store Check-Out | German Problems

When asked recently what my least favorite thing about living in Germany is, I had to think long and hard about my answer. While there are things that I think are better in the U.S. (restaurant prices and customer service, for example), there is nothing that stuck out to me that I really disliked about Germany. That is, until I went shopping at the grocery store that evening.

Get your food on that conveyor belt faster! FASTER!!!
(Photo by Wonderlane)
In Germany, there is no such thing as a bagger. This job simply does not exist. So, when you get to the register, you have to either bag all of your groceries as the cashier scans them, or (as most people do) just throw them in your cart as quickly as possible.

For anyone that has shopped at Aldi in the U.S., you probably understand this phenomenon to some extent. However, no cashier in the world can compete with the speed and efficiency of a German cashier.

But it is not just the cashiers that are the problem. Germans are among the most impatient people in the world, and they go nuts when they have to wait in a line at the check-out. So, it is totally normal for the person behind you to bump you with their cart or tell you to move if you leave more than an arm's length of space between you and the person in front of you. They also get annoyed if you do not tightly pack all of your items on the conveyor belt like you are playing tetris. Oh, and heaven forbid you do not set out a divider.

Checking out at German grocery stores is an incredibly stressful activity.

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