Thursday, October 06, 2005

German Reality Shows

As many people are aware, I watched WAY too much reality television in the US. You name it: Survivor, the Amazing Race, Princes of Malibu, The Osbournes, Newlyweds... I think I saw everything at least once.

I hoped I would break my terrible habit in Germany. Germany has lots of public television with documentaries and variety shows with lederhosen-wearing singers, right? Well yes, this is true. But Germany is also not lacking in the reality programming department.

Big Brother still seems to be popular here. There is also a German version of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.

But hands down, my favorite reality show so far in Die Hausmeister. A Hausmeister is the person who maintains and manages your apartment building. Actually I don't like the term Hausmeister (a literal translation would be "house master.") It sounds a little creepy and sinister. But the show is a RIOT and portrays Hausmeisters in a very positive light!

The program follows three or four hausmeisters as they keep their buildings free of fire, vermin, hoodlums and other dangers. My favorite hausmeister last week was Frank, who is in charge of a student dorm in Dortmund. During the episode he explained to students why they could not repaint their bedroom walls with kitchen mops and why live-in girlfriends have to register with the proper authorities (Germans are big on registering!) He also went door-to-door to find out whose underwire bra broke the communal washing machine. And he gave one poor misguided student a cooking lesson, when he found the student trying to boil water with a trivet over the burner. Meanwhile, 2 hausmeisters were busying investigating a "mouse" that turned out to be a faulty smoke detector. And another Hausmeister sprang into action, breaking down the door of an apartment that had cigarette ashes smoldering in a trash can. I cannot really see my 65 year old hausmeister Mrs. Blinde breaking my door down! I better not burn anything this year!

So there you have it, a small recap of Die Hausmeister. What will they do next week? Stay tuned...

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

The Frau Is Back!

Yesterday marked my first official day of work! I will be spending the next three months at the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, a political think-tank that is affiliated with the conservative party in Germany.

My initial impressions of the office are very positive. Within the Europe/Foreign Relations department, there are 2 secretaries and 4 other colleagues each of whom responsible for a theme and/or region. I will be working with the man responsible for the Middle East and Muslim countries. At the moment I am one of 3 or 4 interns and I share an office with 2 of them.

I arrived punctually at 9am, but only one of the other interns was in the office. By 9:30 most everyone else had arrived. People introduced themselves to me throughout the day. The introductions were more formal and less friendly than perhaps an American greeting, but no different than at the embassy. As the title of this entry implies, I am back to being "Frau Taylor." I still giggle (on the inside) as much today as I did the first time someone called me that in Washington three years ago!

My boss/mentor is actually on vacation this week, so there was a bit of confusion as to what I am supposed to do this week, who I report to, WHAT IS THE PLAN!? People knew I was coming in, but I guess it is a bit strange that this new person is in the office and has no real responsibilities for the first week. I also threw my new colleagues because they were unaware that I speak some German. I had written the initial emails to my mentor in English. This was actually a good surprise, because no one had any expectations regarding the level of my speaking capabilities:-)

Most of the first day was spent orienting myself with the internal computer system, looking at materials that have been written by the foundation in the last few months, and looking for articles about Karen Hughes' recent trip to the Middle East. I did get two small projects, translating and editing letters and conference programs into English. It was great to have people ask me to do stuff, though I hope I will do more than translating for the next few months.

All in all it was a great day! I did not anticipate having the raging headache that I did by the end of the day, but I guess that is what the first day of work can do sometimes:-)

Tuesday, October 04, 2005


Yesterday was October 3, the Day of German Unification. Well actually, the Wall fell on November 9, but as that is also the Night of Broken Glass, German reunification is celebrated on the 3rd.

Having grown up celebrating the 4th of July in Leland, Michigan, a town that oozes with patriotism and could very well be straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting, I was unsure of what to expect in terms of national celebration in Germany.

So I headed to the Brandenburg Gate (wearing my understated German-American pin and EU socks) to see how Berliners celebrated Oct. 3. A brief survey revealed that I was one of the only people wearing a flag. While I understand why this was the case, I was still a little surprised. Even the decorations, while red, black and yellow in color did not feature the official German flag. But the mood was very festive nonetheless! There were two bandstands, one at either end of the party area. Food stands (from Haribo to wurst to cocktails) lined the street, as well as antique cars and t-shirt vendors. Just a note, the official Oct. 3 celebration rotates from state to state this year and this year the party was in Brandenburg. The mood may or may not have been different there.

I was most fascinated to see a new motto on display at the festivities: "Fanclub Deutschland: Das Land der Ideen." Though I don't think this needs a translation, it is, "Fan club Germany: the land of ideas." I love this slogan! My very first thought was that this is a far better slogan than say, "Krauts No More." But more than that, I think it somehow balances a dislike of overt nationalism with a right to be proud of the accomplishments of one's country.

My thoughts about German nationalism continued later in the evening, when I caught a documentary on television about the German national anthem. The learning of the national anthem is not a part of the lesson plan in school until 5th grade. The adults interviewed for the documentary seemed split on the need for an anthem and when and where it should be sung.

I wonder how people celebrated the 4th of July in 1777, or in 1941 when the day officially became a holiday? Will Germans ever parade through the streets singing "God Bless Germany?" Probably not! But do they need to? Should they? I will ponder those important questions as I eat a falafel sandwich for dinner tonight:-)