Day 61: Fun facts about Germany

So here are some fun facts about Germany thanks to some awesome blogs and youtube. I thought it would be nice to give you all a fun way to learn a little about where I have been living.

So first things first- Germans are notorious for misunderstanding things said in English. It happens all the time and often results in hilarious outcomes. This is definitely one of my favorites:

(thanks, youtube!)

Then there are these lists:

69 Fun Facts about Germany. I marked some of my favorites:

  1. Germans are the second largest beer consumers in the world, after the Irish (of course).
  2. Beer is officially considered a food in Bavaria.
  3. Michael Ballack does not like beer.
  4. Germany is Europe’s largest economy.
  5. The most popular German surname (Nachname) is Müller.
  6. Chancellor Angela Merkel has a Barbie doll made after her.
  7. Historically, Germany was known as the Holy Roman Empire, the Kingdom of Prussia, and the Weimar Republic.
  8. 31% of the country has been kept with forests and woodlands, with Hesse having the most.
  9. There are over 300 kinds of bread in Germany.
  10. There are also bread museums. (seriously, the bread here is that good!)
  11. There are 35 dialects of the German language. (and everyone has trouble understanding each other…)
  12. The Wittelsbachs ruled Bavaria for 738 years.
  13. Munich is further north than any major US city (excluding Alaska).
  14. German is the official language of 5 countries: Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Luxembourg and Liechtenstein. It is also spoken in Northern Italy and the French provinces of Alsace and Lorraine.
  15. Germany is the first country to adopt Daylight Saving Time (DST) in 1916.
  16. 2% of Germans do not own cell phones.
  17. Gummy bears were invented by a German.
  18. The balcony of the hotel Michael Jackson dangled his son over is in Berlin.
  19. While it is called Oktoberfest, it actually starts in Steptember.
  20. The first Oktoberfest was a wedding celebration for Prince Ludwig of Bavaria.
  21. 65% of the Autobahn (highway) has no speed limit.
  22. The Cologne Cathedral took 632 years to build. (Bill Bryson in Neither Here Nor There (p. 88) wrote: “It is absolutely immense, over 500 feet long and more than 200 feet wide…It can hold 40,000 people. You can understand why it took 700 years to build – and that was with German workers. In Britain they would still be digging the foundations.”)
  23. The first printed book was in German.
  24. German is the third most commonly taught language worldwide.
  25. When JFK visited Berlin, he infamously said “Ich bin ein Berliner,” which also translates to “I am a jelly donut.”
  26. Hugo Boss designed the official uniforms for the Nazi Party and Hitler Youth.
  27. To ask for a beer in a pub, you would use your thumb to indicate “one” rather than your index finger (watch Inglorious Basterds for improper examples of ordering beer)
  28. Til Schweiger, sometimes known as the “German Brad Pitt,” is born one day after Pitt.
  29. The longest word published in the German language is Donaudampfschifffahrtselektrizitätenhauptbetriebswerkbauunterbeamtengesellschaft (79 letters). Try saying that five times fast. 
  30. Famous Bavarians include Pope Benedict XVI, Richard Wagner, Richard Straus, Thomas Mann, Levi Strauss, and Rudolf Diesel.
  31. The Berlin Wall fell in 1989.
  32. The world’s tallest cathedral is in Ulm. (Guess who is going there in a week??)
  33. Berlin has the largest train station in Europe.
  34. Holocaust denial is a crime in Germany.
  35. German is spoken by more than 100 million people worldwide.
  36. There are over 150 castles in Germany. (so cool.)
  37. The Christmas tree (Tannenbaum) tradition came from Germany.
  38. Freiburg is the warmest German city.
  39. There are over 60 beer gardens in Munich.
  40. Germany has over 400 zoos, the most in the world.
  41. There are over 1,000 kinds of sausages in Germany.
  42. Germany borders 9 countries (Austria, France, Switzerland, Denmark, Belgium, Luxemburg, Holland, Czech Republic, and Poland).
  43. Berlin is nine times bigger than Paris. 
  44. Most taxis in Germany are Mercedes.
  45. In the 4th grade, German kids are placed into Hauptschule, Realschule or Gymnasium, which pretty much determines if you will go to university or straight to the work force (Gymnasium is the highest level).
  46. Albert Einstein, the most recognized scientist in the world, was German and born in Ulm.
  47. Einstein married his cousin.
  48. There is a rumour that Einstein failed his first University Entrance Exam (he didn’t).
  49. Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz created the first motor-driven vehicles
  50. Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, originally used for printing the Bible.
  51. Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen discovered the X-rays in 1895.
  52. The cuckoo clock is invented in Germany in the 17th century.
  53. Other notable German inventions include: the telephone, diesel engine, aspirin, fluorescent lamp, and the pregnancy test.
  54. There are 102 German Nobel laureates as of 2009.
  55. Adidas was founded by the Bavarian, Adolf “Adi”Dassler.
  56. His other brother, Rudolf Dassler founded Puma.
  57. Famous German composers include Beethoven, Schumann, Bach, Wagner, Strauss, and Handel.
  58. Famous philosophers include Nietzsche, Marx, Kant and Hegel.
  59. The Deutscher Fußball-Bund was found in 1900 in Leipzig.
  60. The Bayern Munich is the most successful team in the Bundesliga having won four times (1974, 1975, 1976, 2001)
  61. Nicknames for Bayern Munich include Der FCB, Die Bayern, Die Roten and FC Hollywood.
  62. 10% of Bayern’s shares are owned by Adidas.
  63. Franz Beckenbauer is nicknamed “Der Kaiser”
  64. The DFB won 3 times in 1954, 1974, 1990, and their wins are represented by the three stars on their logo.
  65. Rudi Voller told Michael Ballack to take his number 13.
  66. Ballack’s favourite cologne is “Romance” for men by Calvin Klein (Guys – take note).
  67. Mesut Ozil (of Turkish descent) recites verses of the Koran before kick-offs.
  68. Lukas Podolski paid a 5000 euro fine and admitted to being an “idiot” after slapping Ballack’s face during a qualifying win against Wales when Ballack shouted at him over a misplaced pass. (only in Germany would part of the punishment be admitting to idiocy) 
  69. There’s more soccer fan clubs in Germany than anywhere else in the world.

10 Things I Find Weird About Germany. These were written by a woman from South Africa living in Germany. I think this list is awesome for two reasons. 1) It gives a good picture of what it is like to live here and 2) it shows the culture shock I have been through. I marked my favorites again.

1. Fresh air coming in through a window or door is toxic

Many of us might welcome a breeze in a hot, non-airconditioned office, but no, here in Germany, a draught can lead to unhealth. You will hear “es zieht” (literally “it pulls”), which means all windows must be buttoned down and that dangerously fresh air must be kept where it belongs – outside. Fresh air is also lethal when combined with wetness! If, for instance, you are at the pool on a very hot day, it is essential to be completely dry – dry clothes, dry hair, dry body parts – before leaving for home. If you aren’t, you never know one of those terribly dangerous breezes might combine with your own wetness to track you down and if not actually kill you then knock you into your sick bed for days.

But really, people here hate a/c. Beth, our program coordinator, told us that when a group of students from Germany came to the States they were constantly complaining about getting sick from the a/c.

2. “Thanks” means “no”

Confusing, no? Let me tell you how! If you are at the bakery, and the person behind the counter asks you if you would like your bread sliced, make sure you say “Bitte” (please) or “Ja”. If you go the (perhaps overly) polite Anglo-American route of saying “thanks”, your bread will be handed to you, nicely wrapped, but whole.

3. Bare feet bad, shoes good

It may be 35 degrees and a heatwave outside but being barefoot leaves you open to a multitude of unnamed dangers. We moved back to Germany in the hot, hot summer of 2003 and one evening took our two little girls for a walk in their respective prams. It was about 37 in the shade and their feet were at no point going to touch the ground, but our friends looked upon us in shock, saying “What? No shoes?”. Also, in the winter, if you are home, it is essential to always have clad feet, despite a heated house. If you don’t, you welcoming in pneumonia, at best.

4. People of all ages suffer from bad circulation

“Kreislauf” or the failure thereof may not actually kill you, but it may force you to call in sick and spend a few days lurking on the sofa, watching DVDs. It is not something only old people get, but is a lovely umbrella term that covers all sorts of problems: need for a mental health day, a hangover, avoiding that work deadline. What in England would be called pulling a sickie, is here a medically acceptable self-diagnosis.

5. If you want to pull a sickie, have used Kreislauf once too often, turn to that great source of sick notes: your doctor

I discovered that, when my job was boring me to tears (often) I could go to my GP, mention tiredness, headache, perhaps mutter “Stress” and my GP would give me a sick note for three days. Fabulous! I injured my left wrist falling off my bike once (I am right-handed) and got two weeks off work. I spent that time on the sofa watching Wimbledon, nursing my debilitating sprain.

6. People say exactly what they think

This I have come to find refreshing, but it has taken a LOT of getting used to. No need for that Anglo-American overly polite white-lie telling that oils the social wheel, no, you will be asked if you are pregnant when you’re still not showing, you will be told that your children are not warmly dressed enough, the weeds in your garden will be mentioned, in the street you will be asked why one of your children screamed all night. Daisy’s first summer here was a difficult one for her: it was hot, she was nearly two, she wouldn’t sleep and she screamed a lot. One of my neighbours gave me a child-raising book (as if I didn’t have enough of them), saying it would help me work out what I could do to help Daisy (as if I wasn’t already trying).

Remember my teacher at the language school telling me my answer was unacceptable?? It takes some getting used to and some tough skin, but I really like this aspect of German culture.

7. Tats and tans are the summer accessory of choice (winter too)

I have mentioned these before, but still can’t come to terms with them. All I want to say is that the best way to accessorize your orange tan is with butt antlers: it’s apparently the only way to go.

8. The hot lunch rules

I’ve gone native on this one. It suits me to cook a hot meal for my kids at lunch, so that in the evening, when I’m devoid of energy, I can slap a yogurt or a bowl of cereal down in front of them. However, the weirdness comes in that the whole society is predicated on the home-cooked lunch (work canteens provide the same for the poor deprived souls who can’t get home for their meal), and in our town, most shops close down for the two-hour period in which lunch must be cooked, served and eaten. It’s one of those unwritten rules on which Germany is based, without which the fabric of society would be rent.

This is another thing that takes quite a bit of getting used to. It hasn’t been as much of an issue for me here because I cook my own meals, however when I stayed with a host family it was quite different. The first day of school, I went home for lunch. My host mother had cooked a huge meal. I wasn’t very hungry and so I didn’t eat much. It turned out to be a mistake because dinner consisted of bread, cheese, and cold cuts. Once I got used to it though, I like having a big meal in the middle of the day. You have more energy and fuel throughout the day, you aren’t super full before bed, and you don’t have to worry about cooking a big meal for dinner. I have found that I do this about half of my time here.

9. Rules are rules

Speaking of rules, there are lots here. It’s evidence of how “eingedeutscht” I have become that I no longer find any of these really strange: no washing cars or mowing lawns on Sundays; no playing at playgrounds between the hours of 1300 and 1500; no shopping on Sundays; no disturbing the neighbours after 2100; no barking dogs (dogs here are strangely silent) especially after 2100 or between 1300 and 1500 or before 0900. Friends of ours arrived here with three unruly barking South African dogs. They were soon getting letters, from the relevant town officials, asking them to keep their dogs silent during the quiet hours, and preferably always. They wrote back to say they had informed the dogs. Now they live in the country and their dogs bark when and how they please.

I think the rules are great. One of the other rules is punctuality. The trains are on time, the buses are on time, the people are on time. When a train is late, even by a few minutes, people get annoyed. These rules that she refers to mean that everything is always rather quiet and peaceful. Which is nice. I live in a student housing complex and it is still relatively quiet most of the time. Though it takes some getting used to, coming from America where being loud is the norm!

10. Work and play are separated

Another weirdness I’ve grown used to. Back in SA, you had to be best friends with someone and preferably had got drunk together the night before, before you could ask them to do something for you at work. Here the opposite is true: you barely even need to know their names, and you certainly don’t care about the health of their children or their elderly parents. When visitors are in town for work, it is always the ex-pats who make the effort to take them out and show them around; the Germans tend to melt into the shadows at 6pm. Work is work, play is play, and the twain should never meet.



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