My home on the web - featuring my real-life persona!

School’s out - German vs. US Universities

It has been awefully quiet around here but that’s what I get from taking two accelerated classes. Squeezing the content of a 14 week semester into a 7 week course, then trying to take two of those while working fulltime has not been my best idea. Thankfully, my university is not too demanding and I came out the other end with a 98% in Global Project Management and a 96% in Applied Math.

On one of my mailing lists, I heard someone comment that the universities in Germany are lacking compared to international universities. I so strongly disagree with that. It may be true if you compare a state university in Germany to Harvard or Yale, but if you compare it to an average 4 year accredited American university, the German Uni (or in my case the Fachhochschule Köln) is so much more demanding. I am smart, but in a German Uni or even a German High School, I was never “straight A” smart. To be honest, I don’t think I ever met anyone in Germany who was a straight A student. In the US, studying in a foreign language while working full time, I am holding a 4.0 GPA.

How do other countries compare? Has anyone else gone to college in the US and abroad? Or is anyone able to compare a German university to a French or Spanish university?

How I learned English :-)

A couple of days ago I caught a rerun of The Golden Girls - and I have to admit, I love the show. First, it is just really funny - Dorothy rocks! The other reason why I like it is because it taught me colloquial English (together with The Cosby Show). Growing up in Germany, almost everything on TV was dubbed, there was almost no way to hear anything in original language, and while I appreciate it for non-English languages, I would have loved to see more TV in English.

Luckily, Cologne was close enough to the Netherlands so we actually were able to receive a couple of Dutch channels. There was too much on that I cared for - I am pretty sure it was public television mostly showing news and Dutch TV shows, but they did air The Golden Girls and The Cosby Shows - and boy am I glad it was those shows. Not only are they fun, I also believe that both use relatively proper and well pronounced English. In addition, they had Dutch subtitles and while I don’t speak Dutch, it often helped to figure out something I didn’t understand.

I was an English major in high school, mostly because I wasn’t able to pick German as my first major but had to pick a foreign language or a science. I picked English because it is pretty much like German class but in a different language. And boy, did I NOT do well. I remember that my teacher Mrs. Hellmund while handing out the graded papers said “You start out nicely but after about a page you are really losing it” to which I replied that I’ll try to stick with one page the next time. My biggest issue was that I tried to construct my English sentences like my German sentences but then I got lost in the grammar. The first page was find because it was just the intro. Once I reached the interpretation part, my brain took off but my language skills did not follow.

Now, on a completely different note, in Germany there are always those people who tell you that you have to watch this movie or read that book in original language and I always think it’s bull. Yeah, if your English is very very good, you may be able to pick up on some nuances that may not have been translated well into German but to be honest, for the vast majority speaking high school English - they lose a lot more information due to the lack of vocabulary than they gain by hearing the original language.

And of course, the recommendation usually comes from someone who is convinced that “he can English very good”. Most of the time, I find this recommendation pompous and condescending and I would never recommend it to anyone who wants to watch a movie for entertainment. Now if someone wants to improve their English, it’s a great idea - worked for me, right?

Christmas Cups / Weihnachtstassen

Yeah, it’s old. Yeah, it’s German. Yeah, it’s lame. Yeah, I love them and it wouldn’t be Christmas if I wasn’t smiling at the cups. And year after year I am surprised that I still get a kick out of them. It is probably because I don’t have to watch them over and over.

Here we go:

The Christmas Pickle - a cherished German tradition

On Saturday, we had the yearly family cookie back-off. It is mostly about decorating cookies in all colors of the rainbow and is a tradition from back when my nieces and nephews were little. We still hold on to it because it is a nice get-together before the stressful Christmas days. Everyone brings some dough, we are usually responsible for gingerbread dough, and my sisters-in-law make sugar cookie dough and dough for rosettes. We mixed up the rosettes this year and instead of dipping them into a sugar/cinnamon mix, we had a sugar glaze which was actually much better and a lot easier to eat.

The Christmas Pickle

The Christmas Pickle

Anyway, seems like every year we get to talk about the Christmas Pickle and whether or not it is a German tradition. I usually explain that I don’t think it is a German tradition, while someone else says they know someone who knows someone who lived in Germany and had a Pickle in the tree. Apparently, I am not the only German dealing with this story - other people fight the good fight too, trying to explain that “No, we do not hang gherkins in a tree but thanks for asking”. Don’t get me wrong, I find it very interesting and I am not bothered at all, I am just flabbergasted that this seems to be such a widespread rumor.

My theory to this day is that somewhere in the Alps, a village idiot tried to participate in decorating the tree but got mixed up with the snacks and hung a Pickle in the tree. An American tourist or soldier saw that and thought to themselves “Oh my, what a fun tradition. They are hiding a Pickle in the tree; I must go home and tell my fellow Americans all about it!” - and thus, the myth of the Christmas Pickle was born.

Of course, when a friend of mine visited us a few years back, we went to Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland in Frankenmuth MI, which is the “World’s Largest Christmas Store” (and they are not kidding). Bronner’s had a whole section dedicated to the German Christmas Pickle, which made Markus and I both shake our heads. He had never heard of it either, which means that in Fulda (East Hessia), Stolp (Pomerania, now Poland), Kleeste (Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania) and the Cologne area (Rhineland) no one has ever heard of the Pickle. Unfortunately, it is hard to disprove it too, because just as Halloween has been imported to Germany - without a doubt people now have brought Christmas Pickles back to Germany, which would make it somewhat of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Either way, I hope everyone has a happy holiday season - pickled or not.

Kölle Alaaf - and I am #43

I am amazed how much traffic I am getting considering that the blog is only up for a couple of days.I guess I owe that to the fact that my fellow translators granted me a spot on their link lists - Thanks!

I admit, I am a stats junky and I have 3 stats plugins installed right now. So, since I already have bots crawling through my website, I did a quick search for Susanne Aldridge and the main page is at #43 (albeit with some old content as the blurb).

I am also at #10, but this is a deep link to a site that I have removed. I had started a couple of weeks ago to refresh my memory of CSS so I can revamp some stuff for work and as I learn best by doing, I experimented with some pages on here first. I assume those will drop off Google pretty soon, so it is the #43 I have to work on. I am not getting into SEO too much for now, but I will keep an eye on it.

Aside from that, today is November 11th, which is 11.11 and it’s a big day in Cologne, Germany. It is the beginning of Karneval.

The “Sitzungen” (shows) with their humorous orators and singers bridged the gap between the opening of the “Carnival Session” on “11.11″ to its climax on Rose Monday. That is still the same today, Now it is bands like the “Bläck Fööss”, “Höhner” and “Paveier” and humorists like “Rumpelstilzchen” or “Werbefachmann” who are the trade marks of Cologne’s “Fifth Season”. World-famous is the “Stippeföttchen-Tanz” of the Rote Funken, a parody on the soldiers’ strict life.

Unfortunately, the only crazy thing that I will do today is translate our website update at work and install SDL Synergy to see if the project management is useful for me.