i’m brilliant, shhhh!

Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I generally think of myself as a pretty smart individual. You know… Sharp. Clever. Intelligent.

However, I have also always been a little bit of an airhead. I have plenty of common sense… but sometimes I really choose to ignore it. Like, REALLY. Once, while on vacation with my family, I put dish soap in the dishwasher, which promptly caused the whole kitchen to be filled with soap bubbles. Pretty sure that story will eventually be told at my wedding… but now it’s on the Internet of my own accord, so I win!

Anyways, yeah… kind of a ditz. This has only been amplified in Germany, where I have promptly shed the “smart” mantle. I’m operating in my second language here, people! It takes away any ounce of intelligence you might appear to possess. Allow me to demonstrate with the following anecdotes from my stay here in Freiburg.

The first time I used the bathroom in my dorm, I locked the door but turned the lock too hard and it got stuck. I was locked in the bathroom for a good 7 minutes and started to fear for my life. At one point I think I was banging on the door hoping that one of my nice hallmates would come let me out. Eventually I was able to get the lock open. A few weeks later, once I had learned to trust the bathroom door lock again, I decided to see what had gone wrong that first time. It turns out, when I was trying to unlock the door, I was trying to turn the lock the wrong way! For 7 whole minutes!

One weekend, a group of my friend’s friends were getting together to watch the Champions League Final at my friend Leonie’s apartment. Leonie called me to invite me. Here’s the thing about phone calls in a foreign language: they are harder than face to face conversations. You can’t pick up on nonverbal cues or body language and it’s a lot harder to ask them to repeat anything. Long story short, Leonie told me to be at her apartment at 7:45. For some reason I thought she said 17:45, or 5:45 in American terms, so I showed up an hour and a half early… How awkward. It wasn’t as bad as it might have been… I just had dinner with Leonie, who was kind enough to take pity on me and my non-native-speaker self.

I couldn’t figure out how to work the light on my bike for about the first two weeks I owned it, and the first time I tried in earnest to turn it on I ended up completely snapping it off. Luckily my friend Hanna was able to salvage it. But the next time I needed to use it, instead of risking it on my own (because I hadn’t been 100% paying attention when Hanna had done it the last time), I just dragged my friend Konstantin over to do it for me. (Sidenote: my German friends have the coolest names ever.)

Yesterday, the Katholische Hochschulgemeinde celebrated St. John the Baptist’s feast day in conjunction with the KHG from across town and also the Evangelische Studierengemeinde (Protestant Student Community). The celebration was to be held at the other KHG (aka the one I had never been to before today), which is, as I found out, pretty far away, so some people were meeting at our KHG to bike-caravan over there, as my trusty friend Leonie told me.

However, that morning, Leonie e-mailed me to say that she wouldn’t be able to meet at the KHG anymore, but she would be at UB1, the library, in time to meet me so she could show me where the building was. So I packed up my stuff and got over to the library in time to meet her… only to find out that the library I’ve always gone to is UB2, not UB1. The two libraries are about 20 minutes apart. And at this point it had begun to rain. So I looked up directions to the KHG online and started pedaling as fast as I could to make it there on time. But the whole area is under construction, so I was detoured a couple different times and had no idea where I was. And it was pouring rain.

At this point the service had started, but I still had to keep calling Leonie every 5 minutes or so so she could give me further instructions. I finally found my destination street, and I heard someone call my name… it turns out Leonie had left the service to come look for me because I was taking so long. We slunk into the service, me soaking wet and with grease on my legs which I guess came from my bike… a good showing, I’d say.

But hey. These are things I can get away with because I’m foreign. If a normal person were to pull some of these stunts, they would be written off as stupid and a waste of time. Me? I’m just an airhead with a funny accent. Much more attractive.

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humility on tap

So, I don’t really drink beer. I just turned 20, and it’s just not a taste I’ve cared to acquire as of yet. But before I left the US, my dad insisted on starting me on a beer-drinking regimen in order to prepare to enjoy the Best Beer in the World in Germany. The strictly-scheduled routine my dad initially envisioned didn’t really happen, but I did share a Yuengling with him every once in a while to get used to the taste.

Then, once we got to Europe, my mom and I would order a beer at the bar in our hotel, for instance. We went to a microbrewery our first night in Freiburg, and the food and beer were delicious. I was beginning to get used to the taste and maybe actually enjoy it, though there are certain types that I know I definitely do not prefer.

One night, on my way back to my dorm, I passed this cute little touristy restaurant and I was pretty hungry, not having eaten dinner, so I decided to stop, even though I was by myself. So I ordered some Spätzle and a salad… and a beer. Just because I could. A Radler. It sounded pretty legit to me. And I really liked it! There was just something different about it. I felt really cool, because there I was… a mature adult eating mature, adult food and drinking mature, adult drinks, by myself, of course, because that’s just what mature adults do.

On Monday I went to a concert with my friend Sascha, and we went to order drinks. I saw that I could order another Radler, so I did. We got our drinks and took our seats, and Sascha asked what I had ordered. So I told him. He turned to me and went, “Do you know what that is?” Of course, at this point, I was really worried that I’d been drinking some funky or potentially-lethal beer. So I answered cautiously.

Me: Uhhh… I don’t know, I mean I had one last week, it’s pretty good I guess…

Him: Well… it’s just beer mixed with Sprite. Like, half and half.

Me: Hmm. Oh. Well. I guess that’s why I like it so much.

Him: And do you know why they call it a Radler?

Me: Uh. Yeah. No.

Him: Well, in Germany they joke that if you’re driving, you should just drink water. And if you’re riding a bike [ein Rad] then you can drink beer, but it has to be mixed with something else. And you can drink regular beer if you’re just walking.

Me: Um. Yes. Well thanks for informing me. Too bad I still don’t have a bike.

So yes. Apparently I only really like beer if it is watered down by lemon-lime soda. This brought me back down to size, for sure… I’m just glad I found out what I’ve actually been drinking so I don’t form an unrealistic opinion about my ability to hold alcohol. Because that could potentially be bad.

For now, I definitely need to keep working on my taste acquisition, I guess.  But when I do eventually get a bike, at least I’ll know which drinks are culturally acceptable.