And While in Hamburg?

Chaos. German Style.

My favorite thing about my job is that I get the chance to talk to Germans. More to the point, I get to listen to Germans talk. While my students are focusing on using the present continuous tense correctly, they are simultaneously letting me in on all their German national secrets.

Here is what I’ve discovered so far:

Germans don’t know why we have telephone poles in the United States. “Look around you,” one student said, pointing out the window. “Do you see wires hanging from big pieces of wood?”

Germans credit their country’s very low crime rate in large part to the fact that there are relatively few poor people here.

Germans don’t understand why anyone voted for Romney. I have never met a single German who has ever met a single German who supported Mitt.

There are about 37 political parties here and as far as I can tell, they are all various forms of democrats. In other words, get rid of the republican party and split the democratic party into 37 parts based on the small issues each group cares most about (social welfare, the environment, labor rights and unions, pacifism, digital liberalism). You’ll have a few left over who aren’t democrats at all, it turns out. For instance, there is a small faction of those who are ethnic nationalists (aka Nazis), and some who don’t like gay people or abortion, but these parties aren’t taken seriously.

Abortion is only legal in the first term if accompanied by counseling and a three-day waiting period. After the first tri-mester, abortions are only done when “medically necessary.”

Forty years old is too old to adopt. Those who are forty or older are not eligible to become adopted parents.

Germans don’t understand why we allow our gas to be so cheap. In Germany petrol is taxed at 50% or more.

Some people outside of the US would like people in the US to know that the world doesn’t begin with the west coast and end with the east coast (hint, hint, Sarah Palin). At least it might be recommended that we keep these people hidden from the rest of the world that they don’t seem to know exists. Apparently people around the world are still traumatized by John McCain’s first signs of dementia.

Here are some more fascinating tips in case you are planning a trip to Germany. You know what they say, while in Kissing, do as the Kissing do.


  • Sam Ligon Sam Ligon says:

    The German economic austerity push for other members of the EU — most notably Greece and Spain — feels very much like something Mitt would espouse. So I’m surprised no one supported him. Maybe the bankers would have liked him?

    Or not even them?

    • Shira Richman says:

      Maybe not even them.

      Germans seem to stand by their high taxes. Unlike in the US, the more one makes, the higher the percentage of his or her income a citizen pays in taxes. For instance, a single woman making €300,000 per year may find herself paying taxes at a rate of 45%. A person making €13,469 may only be taxed at a rate of 14%.

      This seems to be one important reason why Germans can’t behind a guy like Mitt. Also, some people said that they don’t understand his religion.

      Germans really pay for their lifestyle. This amazing health insurance we always hear about–people often pay hundreds of dollars per month for it.

  • Millie says:

    OH MY GOSH! That made my day! I even read the “facinating tips” blog and Stefan wondered why I was laughing out loud in the office:) Your observations are dead on and are shared by the students I have as well. I didn’t even feel like having above ground electric poles were so out-of-date. Shame on us. And Mitt Romney? He’s the Mormonen right?

    • Shira Richman says:

      Oh, I wonder what Stefan would think of the How to Be German in 20 Easy Steps link.

      I had no idea how strange our telephone poles were.

  • Cathie Smathie says:

    So good.
    The adoption one really made me pause for some reason, like, I stared at that sentence for quite a long time. Mainly wondering how that decision came to be made.
    Also, the big pieces of wood with wires?? Lol.

    • Shira Richman says:

      The adoption one is weird–especially since many people don’t find out they can’t have children until they’re nearing 40.

      In the verbal contract my honey and I made when we were 30, we agreed to adopt sometime in our 40’s. I guess that’s not happening here.

  • Diane Nash-McFeron says:

    I love the practicality of the Germans!

  • Dad says:

    Shira, this is the first I’ve heard of John McCain having dementia. Is this just a spurious unsubstantiated insult, or is there credible evidence for this? I can’t find credible sources that discuss this issue, but you can Google a lot of hits.

  • MelinaCR says:

    My coworker told me you have to be under 30 to adopt in Germany, but that sounded really hilariously wrong to me…
    Also, those tips on the link made my day. Thank you.

  • Ha! I thought only the British were obsessed with “house shoes,” although they call them “slippers.” Must tell the Limey hubby. ;-)

    As for the adoption, is this government sponsored adoption? In other words, can you be older for private adoption?

  • How amazing is that ad? “Chaos. German style.” First of all: for the chaos. Second of all: because it makes me think of “Oppan Gangnam style,” which we know I like.

    Please continue analyzing all around you and report back with stats and details.

  • Hi Shira, thanks very much for posting a link to my How to be German series (and for posting chaos german style, that really made me laugh). The series has now been turned into a dual language, 50 step book released by C.H.Beck Verlag. More info at –

    “Germans don’t understand why anyone voted for Romney. I have never met a single German who has ever met a single German who supported Mitt.” That’s so true ;)

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