Q&A Time, Part 3!

A short while back, I posted an ‘Ask Me Anything’ post.  Some folks used that as a chance to ask for advice in advance of their upcoming travels to the area, and I tried to answer what I could of those in regular e-mail.  Some of the remaining questions are really interesting, so I’ve decided to do a series of “You asked, I answer” posts.  Let’s get started!

Here’s a question from Rarasaur:  Is there any object (not food related, that’s too easy) that can make you homesick?

I thought about this one for a while, and my answer is no, not really.  I put very little personal investment into things.    Everything I own right now is either in a 5×10 storage unit in Florida, or in my 45 square meter apartment here, and neither one of those locations is anywhere near full.  People can make me homesick.  Flavors can make me homesick.  Sometimes even smells or songs or the  memory of what something feels like can make me homesick.

But an object?  No.  Just no.

Here’s another question from Rarasaur: Is there a habit or custom that you’ve picked up in Germany that you’d take home with you forever when you come back to the States?

There are a few, I think.

I suspect that my consumption of consumer goods and my handling of trash and waste will be forever altered by my time here.

I take my shoes off at the door of my apartment now.  That’s not specifically a German custom, but I didn’t do it before I moved here and I’ll probably keep doing that.

I carry canvas bags to the grocery store with me now because you pay for the plastic bags you need at the grocery here.  I’ll probably keep doing the canvas bag thing when I’m back in the states.  I also buy a lot less food here because I have to carry it all home with me on foot.

I’m sure there’s more, but that’s all I can think of off the top of my head.

Here’s yet another question from Rarasaur:  Have you learned about any particularly interesting German artist/cook/painter/writer/politician/whoever that Americans never really speak about, but all Germans know?  If so, pass on the knowledge, por favor. 🙂

Before living in Germany,I didn’t know about Karl May, the author of the Winnetou novels.  I didn’t know about “Dinner For One.”  I didn’t know about German media folks who are household names here like Michael “Bully” Herbig or Stefan Raab.

Beyond that, I’ve mostly just learned a great deal more about names that are not completely unknown to me as I travel to the places that were part of their lives, because I research the hell out of everything I see and everything I write about.  Living in Europe puts me in a fantastic position to learn about these names, because the signs and history are all around me.   Johannes Kepler lived here in Regensburg.  Napoleon was here for a time, after he was wounded in the Battle of Regensburg.  Albrecht Dürer lived in nearby Nürnberg.   I learned more about Falco when I went to Vienna, and somehow missed seeing his gravesite when I was walking around Vienna Zentralfriedhof.  (And I learned more about that Mozart guy, too.)

Do you have anything you’d like to ask?  The Ask Me Anything post is still open!

Q&A Time, Part 2!

A short while back, I posted an ‘Ask Me Anything’ post.  Some folks used that as a chance to ask for advice in advance of their upcoming travels to the area, and I tried to answer what I could of those in regular e-mail.  Some of the remaining questions are really interesting, so I’ve decided to do a series of “You asked, I answer” posts.  Let’s get started!

Here’s a question from Spring:  How long did the beard experiment last? What do you do for your hair? What sort of soap? I’m interested in these things because it wasn’t until I went to Saudi Arabia that my toiletries horizons expanded, starting with sandalwood bath gel.

The beard experiment* only lasted about two weeks-  that’s how long it took to both look more or less complete and itch so much that it bugged the living daylights out of me.  I am not a beardy person, and I prefer to be clean-shaven.

This leads nicely into the rest of your question though, because I started to use a slower and more traditional shaving system when I got here.  I had always wanted to try the old style of shaving with shaving soap and a brush for lather, as opposed to the chemical shaving creams that you can buy at any corner drug store.  In the US, I always found starter kits to be prohibitively expensive to try something I wasn’t sure I would like.  When I got to Germany, I found that both the shaving soap and a shaving brush were affordable, so I tried it.  It turns out that I like it quite a lot.  It gives me a close, smooth shave and the shaving soap lasts a hell of a lot longer than the shaving cream canisters I used to get.  Also, I can pack the disk of shaving soap in carry-on luggage on a plane because it’s solid, so the TSA doesn’t get all panicky.  I still use the disposable blade cartridges though, because I fear blood loss with the straight razor.

As for the soap and haircare, it’s not all that much different for me in Germany than it was in the US.   Some of the brands are even the same.   I’ve seen products from Head & Shoulders, Axe, Redken, and Nivea here.     My body wash and deoderant are both Nivea products.  My shampoos are brands that you can get in the US as well as here.  My conditioner is a Swiss brand, but you could easily get something just like it in the US under another brand name.

*”the beard experiment” that Spring referred to was a two week stretch where I tried to grow a beard.  It started with me being lazy and not wanting to shave, and then became “I wonder how this will look.”   I do this once every few years, because shaving can be a pain in the ass.

Here’s a question from Rarasaur:  Despite their exceptionally long vacations, do Germans still recognize the humor of the Monday Monkey?

While I do not claim to be an expert on Germans in general, my experience has been that German Monkeys also live for the weekend.  I’ve written about this before, but Germans are very fond of taking time off properly, and they’re very good at it.

Do you have anything you’d like to ask?  The Ask Me Anything post is still open!

Q&A Time!

A short while back, I posted an ‘Ask Me Anything’ post.  Some folks used that as a chance to ask for advice in advance of their upcoming travels to the area, and I tried to answer what I could of those in regular e-mail.  Some of the remaining questions are really interesting, so I’ve decided to do a series of “You asked, I answer” posts.  Let’s get started!

Here’s a question from Rarasaur:  What’s your favorite holiday, including minor or obscure ones?

My favorite holiday is actually New Year’s Eve.  While I’m not a religious person, I believe firmly in the concepts of circles closing, in things ending, and in getting a fresh start.  New beginnings are important.

My second favorite holiday is birthdays.  All birthdays.  Mine, yours, the birth of the Sony Walkman, and so forth.  Like I said a minute ago, beginnings are important.

As for the rest of the holidays-  I like Halloween and Fasching because I like to see people dressed up in nifty costumes.  I like Thanksgiving because I like to have tasty food with my family.  I like the Day of the Dead because it’s important to remember those who have passed beyond the rim.  I like May Day because giant poles with streamers and decorations!  I like Valentine’s Day because I’m a romantic at heart.  I like La Tomatina because pelting people with tomatoes is fun and more than a little strange.  I like Diwali, despite only learning about it this past year, because it’s a festival of lights, involves family, and is utterly fascinating to me. I also like invented holidays, such as Talk Like A Pirate Day, Towel Day, and yes, even Steak and a BJ Day.

I tend to like the holidays that are about people and introspection more, and the holidays that are about giving and receiving gifts less.

Here’s a related question from Jenny: What has been your favorite German event/celebration so far?

I quite liked Palmator, the Starkbierfest that turns up on Palm Sunday each year, when Prösslbräu Brewery in Adlersberg serves up their signature bock beer for the first time.

I also enjoyed the Jazz festival that turned up here one weekend, and Mai Dult, which had all the things you would expect from a festival here-  beer tents, bands, lots of interesting food, and carnival-style rides.

I haven’t made it to Oktoberfest yet, but I’m hoping to make it this year.

Do you have anything you’d like to ask?  The Ask Me Anything post is still open!