Driving Lessons: Part One 

Stuck in the end of holiday traffic last week I was reminded of the gaps in my German driving education. I was spared from taking the German driver’s license written and practical exams by trading in my expired Ohio license. By not rigorously studying for these tests, I admit there are several road rules that prove a bit foggy to me. 

 I know, for a fact, that there is no “right on red” rule in Germany. It simply is not done. Neither is flipping the middle finger to another driver, which to me, is a far more valuable tool than a right on red. Ditto with shouting obscenities at anyone else. 

I refused to believe it until my husband left an article from one of his car magazines for me to read. The article provided a helpful matrix of offenses and their corresponding fines.

 Swearing at and calling another driver names ranged from 250 Euros to 2,500 Euros, depending upon the severity of the name calling. For example, “Bekloppter” (Loony) at 250 Euros is significantly cheaper than “Arschloch” (Asshole) at 1,000 Euros. “Schlampe” (Slut) is 1,900 Euros and “alte Sau” (old pig) is 2,500 Euros, clearly a high-end insult that only the wealthiest can afford.  

 Hand gestures have a separate category. Sticking out your tongue at another driver costs from 150 to 300 Euros and the showing the “Stinkefinger” (middle finger) could lead to a fine ranging from 600 to 4,000 Euros, with the more expensive option flipping off a police officer, so an average driver would cost significantly less and fit into a tighter budget. 
 Of course the offender would need a witness. If they had a passenger or more in the car, they had a case. If it was me against an individual, then they’d have a hard time proving it unless they took a photo, and they aren’t allowed to drive and use the cell phone.

 I’m such a fast draw with the bird they’d never have the chance to catch me on film anyway.

I Was Speaking German, Right?

I have to give my local Bavarians credit. They try to understand my German and maintain a polite expression when listening to me. Most of the time. Occasionally I receive a bewildered look with the impolite noise of “Hehhh?” meaning “Pardon me?” in proper speech.
The harshest critics of my German language skills are non-native German speakers, other foreigners attempting the German language.

In the pizzeria next to The Village’s cinema, my friend ordered for her family then I proceeded to order. In German. With an American accent. Because that’s how I talk.
The Italian young lady, with limited German skills, not a thirteen year veteran like myself, said, 
“I’m sorry. Could you please speak in German? I don’t speak anything else.”
I looked to my friend for confirmation that I didn’t have too much ear wax blocking the sounds.
She smiled and looked down, avoiding eye contact with me.
“Excuse me,” my friend said in slow, perfect, high German, betraying her Bavarian roots, “my friend would like a pasta carbonara, a salami pizza without cheese and a salad with chicken.”
“Allora,” said the young server repeated my order.
“Excuse me,” I began, annunciating carefully in German, “I’m confused. What language did you think I was speaking?”
My friend choked on her water.
The young lady looked at me. 
“English?” she asked.
“I did NOT order in English. That was German,” I stated. Loudly.
I looked to my friend, whose shoulders shook from suppressing her laughter.
“It was English,” the server stated.
“No. It wasn’t.”
I couldn’t let it go.
“Ok, whatever,” she said and walked away.
I turned to my friend, “I spoke German, right? Because I don’t remember speaking English just then.”
“You spoke German,” she laughed, “I think she was confused by your accent.”
It’s such a small incident. It doesn’t attack who I am as a person. It says more about the young woman’s lack of education and experience, if anything. But I wanted an apology. I wanted her to acknowledge that my German skills were better than hers.  
We are both foreigners. I should have been more patient with her faults instead of condescending. But I felt she didn’t try to understand me, she didn’t put enough effort in with the language, and she didn’t even give herself a chance.  
As a foreigner making a life in a new country, I feel one has to do better than that.  
Because I’m trying to win the best foreigner award.


Another Lent where I disappoint myself. Living in the predominantly Catholic Bavaria, many people give up something for Lent. Sugar, alcohol, smoking or swearing are the common vices selected from which to abstain. 

 As seen in the photo for this post, I gave up swearing and sweets. Wanting to shed the holiday kilos that I’m still carrying as saddlebags, I thought this would be the perfect motivation. I would set a stellar example for my children in my dedication and discipline. Also, the 5 Euro penalty (1 Euro for the children) per infraction should motivate too, as I hate losing money.  
Twenty-four hours into Lent the kids began bartering.  

 “What about Sprite? Does Sprite count?”

 “Yogurt with Smarties?”

 “Honey Loops?”

 “Sugar Smacks?”

 “But it’s cereal, Mama.”
This is what happens when intentions are not pure. I selfishly thought about my saddlebags and not my religion.  
My photo documents the adjustments to the fast. To my shame, no sweets for the children became 2 sweets per day only. Yes, I folded. I couldn’t hear the whining and begging anymore.    
Then came the loophole. Visiting my son’s former kindergarten to catch up with our favorite teachers from his formative years, a teacher explained the Catholic fasting rules from her church. Sundays are fasting free. Meaning, you can break your fast for 24 hours.

 I was skeptical until our local paper published an article written by a priest confirming that yes, you may break your fast on Sunday.

 Sunday at my house is now like Christmas, Easter and a birthday party in one with Xbox marathons, chocolate, Haribo, crepes and eating tablespoons of Nutella out of the jar (no double dipping though, you have to get a new spoon).

 It still doesn’t seem right to me. Can’t I/we hold out a measly 40 days?

 I owe the kitty 20 Euros and I still need to fess up to the frosting I consumed while making a birthday cake. The fasting is wreaking havoc on my conscience.  
Next year I’ll be smarter. I’ll give up lobster, Beluga caviar and 40 percent cacao chocolate.  I shouldn’t have too much of these anyway…

Fist Bump

Seeing that I speak English all day to children as well as non-native speakers where I need to speak slower and with a limited vocabulary, it’s no wonder I’ve lost a bit of my advanced, erudite English. Now I’m just showing off. I keep my vocabulary limited, nonsuperfluous. Actually, I never use words like superfluous. I tend to speak slower in English, except during my daily conversations with Mom and Sister, or with my native English speaking friends here.

What struck me lately is how I am no longer current with the latest American slang.

For example: “Drop the mic”. Continue reading “Fist Bump”

Perfectly Speaking

I accept that I may never fully understand the dative and accusative cases in German and will continue to mix up the der/die/das of nouns. I’m ok with this because it is not my native tongue. I’m envious of my children growing up bilingual German and English and how they switch effortlessly between the two. I even quiz them randomly to test if they know the der/die/das of certain nouns.

“Fledermaus?” I asked my seven year old.

Continue reading “Perfectly Speaking”

White Elephant 

The Hostess peered into the gift bag and carefully peeled away the tissue paper. She looked up at us, her guests, and giggled,
“A small bottle of champagne!” she held it up for us to see and reached back into the bag, extracting a tall, thin glass carafe with a cork top.

“Ohhh! What a lovely shape! What a nice size!” several crowed.

“You didn’t want this anymore?” one woman asked.

“No,” the regal, salt and pepper haired woman answered, “I just didn’t have space anymore and I realized what a shame to throw it away. It just sat there in my pantry collecting dust.”

Several nodded in agreement. Didn’t we all have items like that in our pantries?

Continue reading “White Elephant “