New York Reiseführer - | New York meets Germany | Basics 1/2

New York meets Germany

Basics 1/2

by Sascha Reinking

Remains of the Wall Rumors: No, it is NOT true that we Germans wear leather trousers all the time. Nor is it true that we eat sauerkraut 24/7. It IS true, however, that we like to drink good beer and have a nice sausage platter from time to time.

The Wall: For those who still don’t know, the Berlin wall has been gone since 1989.

Politics: Currently we have the first female president ever in the history of Germany. We call our “president” Kanzler and her name is Angela Merkel. Politics is only conditionally a good small talk topic. Germans really like Americans, their country and their way of life. However, most Germans are not crazy about the current American president and don’t agree with his decisions. So if you voted for Mr. Bush I might suggest a different small talk topic.

Currency: The currency of Germany (and of a lot other European states) is the EURO (€). The fraction of a Euro is called CENT. The exchange rate is changing daily but as a benchmark you can assume that you will get 77 German Cents for 1 American Dollar. So $100.00 will get you around €77.00. The smallest bill you get is a €5 bill. (Followed by €10, €20, €50, €100, etc.) Everything lower than €5 is paid in coins.

Time difference: Germany is 6 hours ahead of the east coast and 9 hours ahead of the west coast. 8am in Portland is 11am in New York and 5pm in Germany. Remember this when you try to call your loved onces in the middle of the night.

Date: Germans, other than Americans, write the date DAY/MONTH/YEAR. Means: 12.7.06 is the 12th of July 2006 and not the 7th of December 2006.

Beer: Germans consider beer a staple food. We don’t even make a secret out of it. In Germany you are allowed to drink and buy beer at any given time…at any given place. Having an open bottle of beer in the middle of the street is a privilege and not a crime. It takes 7 minutes to tap a perfect beer. So be patient when you order one. Good things take time. Also, don’t be afraid when the beer arrives and you have white foam on top of it. We call that BLUME (head) and a beer is supposed to have one. Furthermore, beer is not meant to be ice cold when you drink it. It should be served chilled but not frosted. On the other side, drinking warm beer is disgusting and should be left to the English.

Beer German beer purity law: In 1516 Wilhelm the IV. established the beer purity law. In this law it was regulated how to brew beer and which ingredients to use. According to this law only 3 ingredients are allowed in a beer such as water, barley and hops. Later they added wheat and yeast. You are not allowed to call it beer if you add any other ingredients. Therefore we don’t have flavored beers. No chocolate beer, no honey beer or other highly disgusting things like that.

In the original text from 1516 it says: "Furthermore, we wish to emphasize that in future in all cities, markets and in the country, the only ingredients used for the brewing of beer must be Barley, Hops and Water. Whosoever knowingly disregards or transgresses upon this ordinance, shall be punished by the Court authorities' confiscating such barrels of beer, without fail.”

Alster/Schmutz: Many years ago a beer mix became very popular and still is to this very day. This mix might sound awkward to Americans but is very refreshing and very tasty. Order this at a restaurant and taste for yourself:

ALSTER (named after the river in Hamburg): 2/3 beer, 1/3 Sprite
SCHMUTZ (translated: dirt): 2/3 beer, 1/3 Coke

Cell Phones: Believe it or not…the German word for cell phone is “HANDY”. You can use your cell phone in Europe only if it is a Tri-Band cell phone as the European market uses a different MHz frequency than the US. So make sure that your cell phone supports 900MHz and/or 1800MHz, the frequencies used in Europe. Also, call your service provider to make sure your plan is “unlocked” for international calls.

Calling the US: Cell phone or regular land line…if you want to give the loved once at home a call to tell them how much fun you are having in Germany, pick up a phone and dial 001 followed by the area code and number.

Emergency: For the police call 110, for the fire department 112 from every phone.

Electricity: This is important! Be reminded that the outlets in Germany have 220V and NOT “only” 110V. So if you (for example) bring a hair dryer to Germany make sure that you can switch it from 110V to 220V. Otherwise your hair dryer will act like a hurricane for 30 seconds before it blows up in your hand because of the extra power it gets.

However, that doesn’t mean you can’t bring your laptop, camera, PSP, Gameboy or anything else that needs power. Just make sure that your charger is suitable for 220V. Check the charger tag. When it says something like: AC in ~100V-240V you are fine. The only thing you still need is a…

AC Adapter: Because the outlets in Germany are different from the ones in the US you need an adapter to connect your item to the outlet. Every electronic store should have such an adapter. You can even get them at the airport. You don’t have to buy the very expensive ones. We bought several adapters at Times Square and never paid more than $2-$5. Also, all outlets in Europe are different. So make sure you get one specifically for Germany and you are good to go.

Credit Cards: Here is the catch. We Germans don’t believe in Credit Cards. Credit Cards are evil. (Not really) You will be surprised how little you can buy with a Credit Card in Germany. I know this is completely the opposite from the US but you are lucky if you find a supermarket where you can pay with your credit card. Germans use their debit cards (which we call EC-Cards) and cash. But don’t give up…gas stations usually except credit cards. So at least you can pay your gas with the “almighty” CC. And every once in a while you might find a store that takes your credit card. Just don’t count on it or you are lost.

ATMs: The good news…bring your debit card and you can get cash at any ATM machine in Germany. (You might have to pay a low fee which is usually around $2-$5.) Just look out for EC-Automaten (that’s how we call “our” ATMs.) The bad news…you will not find these ATMs at every corner like here in the US. McDonalds doesn’t have an ATM, neither has Burger King. You will find EC-Automaten in every bank and sometimes in malls and gas stations. Don’t panic if the machine “swallows” your card when you put it in. It will spit it out after the transaction.

© 2000-2018 by Marion Reichwein & Thomas Reichwein
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