Culture Shock? or are the Germans just insane

Some of the Americans, Italians, and Portuguese have started playing volleyball regularly, at least as long as the weather is nice. We’re all quite awful, but it’s fun anyhow. We play at the university sport center that is next to one of the dorms. There is a grassy hill, sand volleyball courts and a track that we can access without being registered at the center. By far the highlight of our games though, is the “Fitnessleute,” as we call them. “Fitness people.” They are a group of about 40 people, many older men and women, but all ages, who meet at the other end of the track at the same time we play volleyball. The sheer joy of watching them is beyond words, but I’ll do my best to describe this phenomenon. They begin by running in a large circle, waving their arms and dancing. Then they run or jump in place and make similar gestures. They conclude an hour later by laying on the ground and waving their legs, bicycling and the like. This is all accompanied by music of some sort, usually loud, bad, techno, but sometimes Michael Jackson and other interesting choices. It’s really something you have to see to appreciate. On Friday I walked over there with my camera to try to capture the ridiculous display. Some of the pictures are decent but the video on my camera won’t zoom so none of that is any good unless you know exactly what you’re looking at. I’ll work on getting better pictures this week, because you all have to see this. In short, it’s hilarious.
The other students enrolled in the German course that live at my dorm are 4 American guys. My next door neighbor calls them my entourage of boys that show up at mealtimes to eat my food. Which is more or less true; often we do cook dinner together in my kitchen; it’s easier than 5 of us cooking individually. But through extensive dealings with Deutsche Telekom, we have learned this one important German principle: Germans don’t believe in customer service. This is apparent by looking at business hours of offices, stores and other businesses. But between 4 of us we have scheduled a grand total of 9 appointments this week to set up phone lines or internet connections. The technician failed to show up to 6 of those appointments. And these “Schplitter” things that are supposed to come in the mail for the DSL connections haven’t come at all, though T-Punkt claimed they would be here days ago.
We got yelled at by the cashier at the university cafeteria this week. The hot meals are really cheap and good enough, but when we checked out she practically shouted at us, “Ein Salat dazu!” Apparently salad is included with the meal, and this all fits with our theory that the Germans are trying to fatten us up and eventually serve us for lunch. Every day the Spätzle gets bigger and bigger and they cover more of your plate with it. So either they want us to eat more or this lady was determined to make us eat our veggies.

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