Intern Q&A: Tijen Ataoğlu

This week, we are introducing one of our interns in the economics department at the German Embassy. Our Q&A with Tijen sheds light on her experience as a German in the US – and the Embassy!

Name: Tijen Ataoğlu

Where you’re from: I am from Cologne which is located in North Rhine-Westphalia.

What is one project or activity you enjoyed at the Embassy?

Since I worked for the economics department, I participated in many interesting projects and activities. Attending an event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies with the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker was my personal highlight. He came to Washington in order to negotiate trade tariffs with President Trump. Following their meeting he held a speech about the importance of the partnership between the European Union and the United States.

What do you think is one of Germany’s main foreign policy challenges and what should Germany do about it?

As an important member of the EU, Germany should represent and enforce European values in transatlantic issues. On the one hand, the relationship between the EU and the US should be strengthened. On the other hand, it is important to represent a counterpoint to the USA.

What are some cultural impressions you gained of the United States?

The diversity of cultures impressed me a lot. America is a nation of immigration and this is represented by its multicultural inhabitants. In my opinion, such diversity is a great asset to a society.

What has been your biggest surprise with regard to living in Washington?

As it was my first time in Washington and even in the US, I was very surprised how international Washington is. I did not really feel like I am living in the US. In D.C. there are people from all over the world with totally different backgrounds. The last language you hear in a restaurant or bar is English.

What do you miss about Germany?

Even if it sounds a bit pathetic: my family and friends. I think that one of the biggest challenges while working for the Federal Foreign Office is to live without your family.

What has been your biggest lesson learned during your internship?

The biggest lesson I learned during the last 3 months was to understand what diplomacy really means. It’s not just about participating in dinners and cocktails. Diplomacy means representing the foreign policy interests of your state in another country. This needs a lot of sensitivity and patience. It is important to strive for a constant dialogue at eye level.

What has been your biggest challenge living here?

My biggest challenge was definitely the weather. I have lived in D.C. for the whole summer from July until September. The climate is so humid. Sometimes I thought that I was living in the tropics.

Where and what are you studying?

I studied law in Cologne and Istanbul. After that, I completed a joint degree LL.M. in German and Turkish Economy Law at the University of Cologne and Istanbul Bilgi University (LL.M. Köln/Istanbul Bilgi). Since October 2016 I am clerking at the Higher Regional Court of Cologne. Last but not least, I am doing my PhD at Dresden University of Technology.

Where do you plan to go or what do you plan to do after your internship?

I am going back to Cologne to hopefully finish my clerkship with an oral exam. Afterwards I will continue my doctoral studies.

Who was Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben?

German-American Steuben Parade of New York is one of the largest observances of German heritage throughout all America and the world. With tens of thousands of German-Americans marching up Fifth Avenue every year in September, the Parade is also a showcase of the strong friendship between the two countries. © dpa / picture-alliance

The annual Steuben Parade is getting ready to kick off! On September 15, we will be participating in the parade along New York City’s Fifth Avenue. And it’s one we definitely can’t miss: the Steuben Parade is one of the largest gatherings of German- Americans in the world!

Thousands of participants and spectators attend the annual parade, and we can’t wait to be among them! Let’s take a look at who this large event is named after:

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Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben (1730-1794) has long been a symbol of German-American friendship. The Prussian-born military officer fought in two major wars, but is best known for his contributions on American soil. His experience gained during the Seven Years’ War equipped him with a wealth of military knowledge that helped the young man rise in the ranks. When he was in his thirties, he found himself in debt, and hoped to find employment in a foreign army to gather funds. In 1777, the young baron was introduced to General George Washington by means of a letter. Soon thereafter, he was on his way to the United States, where he offered to volunteer his services without pay. Arrangements were made so that Steuben would be paid for his services after the war, based on his contributions.

And he did not fail to impress: Von Steuben became inspector general and major general of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War, and he is often credited as being one of the founders of the Continental Army. In the final years of the war, the Prussian-born military officer even served as General Washington’s chief of staff. Finally, in 1784, he became an American citizen.

Today, there are celebrations throughout the US that are named after Von Steuben, including the German-American Steuben Parades in New York, Chicago and Philadelphia. There is also a Steuben Society, an educational and fraternal organization that was founded in 1919 to help organize the German-American community. We even have a statue of Von Steuben at the German Embassy in Washington!

As we celebrate German-American friendship, culture and heritage, Von Steuben is a name that we will always remember.

Word of the Week: Lebenskunst

Is your life as beautiful as a painting in an art gallery? Then you have mastered Lebenskunst!

Lebenskunst means “the art of living well”. It comes from the words leben (“to live”) and Kunst (“art). If your life is filled with fine wines, exotic travels, delicious food, strong friendships and many hobbies, you have probably mastered the art of living; in other words, your life itself is beautiful – like art.

You don’t have to be wealthy to be a Lebenskünstler (“artist of life”). You simply need to understand how to make the journey through life as joyful as possible. Every individual has a different idea of how to create an artful, magical life that gets you excited to wake up every morning. Some people may be struck by the magic of a beautiful sunrise, and need nothing more to experience joy. For others, drinking a $300 bottle of wine would
be an example of Lebenskunst.

But here’s one tip we can give you: if you see the beauty in every detail of life and use this beauty to create your own happiness, you’ll be on your way to becoming a Lebenskünstler. In very little time, examples of Lebenskunst will surround you.

The rising popularity of American Football in Germany

As school starts and the leaves gradually change in color, we turn our attention back to one of America’s favorite pastimes—football. Be it attending high school games in our home towns or driving into the city to see professionals take the field, football is both entertainment and a culture in and of itself. Even the least sporty of Americans is still known to be caught watching a full game once a year during the Super Bowl or throwing a ball around the backyard to pass time.

Though a poll by Gallop shows that football is America’s favorite sport, it hasn’t gained much traction in other places around the world and in fact, “football” refers to an entirely different sport in most other places. Germany is much more associated with the other football, Fußball, and has over 26,000 football clubs nationwide.

Despite their clear love of what we’d call soccer, young Germans—always on the search for a new way to stay active—have been dipping their toes into the world of American football.

First seen on TV

The prevalence of online media has allowed sports enthusiasts to easily transcend borders. More and more Germans are being exposed to football games via their social media feeds or by streaming games live. That access brings Germans as close to the big action as most Americans! The NFL averages 3000,000 viewers each Sunday from Germany. With the screaming crowds, big sponsors, and bright lights, the exposure to the sport has inspired some Germans to start local clubs at home.

Surge of Football clubs

Like with any sport, today’s stars started out on peewee teams and in rec leagues. It may surprise you, but there are already roughly 35,000 registered football players in Germany. The German Football League was founded in 1979 and consists of 16 teams with the same rules as the NCAA ranging from the Berlin Rebels to the Munich Cowboys. Its 2018 season is its 40th, with each team playing a total of 14 games. They play one another each year in the German Bowl but also compete against other European teams.

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As far as the highest-level international football, Germany and Austria take the lead outside of the United States.

Famous German players in America

With the rise of clubs, the first wave of German-recruited players are starting to make their way onto German rosters. Given the new growth of interest in the sport, many players only started playing as teens. Möritz Böhringer started playing American football after watching a YouTube video when was 17. He ended up becoming the first player to be drafted into the NFL (Minnesota Vikings) directly from the European league. Sebastian Vollmer, who started playing when he was 14 years old, was drafted by the New England Patriots in the second round of 2009 NFL draft. Defensive tackle Markus Kuhn also started at 14, playing eventually for the New York Giants and signing with the New England Patriots in 2016.

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So if you are a diehard football fan in Germany missing the comradery, look around—there’s a growing fan base around you!

By Claire MacFarlane, German Embassy

Word of the Week: Brotzeit

Let’s say you’re hiking on a Saturday afternoon. It’s 3 p.m. and your stomach is growling. It’s too late for lunch and too early for dinner, but you and your buddies have packed sandwiches that you’re about to eat. In Bavaria – Germany’s southernmost state – you would refer to this meal as Brotzeit.

Brotzeit is a sort of “meal-between-meals”. Directly translated, it means “bread time” – and although bread is often eaten at Brotzeit, that’s not always the case. In the US, it might be referred to as a snack. But it’s more than just a bag of chips or a granola bar: Brotzeit usually refers to something more substantive, like several slices of bread, cheese and meat. For the most part, Brotzeit is a cold meal – one that does not require much preparation and one that can easily be packed for the road.

Most commonly, Brotzeit is consumed between lunch and dinner. Hikers, skiers, athletes, travelers and other adventurers might take an afternoon break from their activities for Brotzeit. If you have kids who get hungry frequently, you might sit them down for Brotzeit in the afternoon.

The word is also used in Bavarian beer gardens, where Brotzeit might refer to both the meal and accompanying drinks.

But if you’re taking a Brotzeit break, make sure your portions are reasonable: after all, you’ll still want to save room for dinner!

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

The evolution of German-American culture in the United States

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The United States is a country built on immigration — and the largest group of immigrants actually came from Germany!

Based on the most recent US Census, more than 44 million Americans claim German ancestry. That’s a higher number than those who claimed English, Italian or Mexican ancestry.

At the turn of the last century, Germans were even the most predominant ethnic group in the US, with eight million people out of a population of 76 million. The world’s third-largest German-speaking population was in New York City, following only Berlin and Vienna. So what changed?

The perception of Germans in the US became less favorable during World War I. But this change in perception became even more pronounced when the US became involved in World War II. During and after the war, Germans were scrutinized and looked at with suspicion. Their loyalty was questioned and they were accused of being spies. As a result of these changing perceptions, German-Americans let go of their pride, customs and culture and instead began to assimilate. After the war, being German was no longer considered a good thing. German breweries changed their names, people changed their names, German language courses were discontinued in schools and people stopped speaking German publicly.

Germans get ready to travel to the United States in 1949. © dpa / picture-alliance

But as decades passed and people celebrated the fall of the Berlin Wall and German reunification, things began to change once again. In 2010, a German-American congressional caucus was created. German-style Oktoberfest celebrations take place all throughout the country – and Americans join in. Today, people are celebrating German heritage and culture in all 50 states.

It would be difficult to list all of the Oktoberfest celebrations in the US, simply because of the sheer volume of these events. But some of the largest of these festivals take place in cities where German ancestry is particularly noteworthy, such as Milwaukee (WI), Cincinnati (OH) and Fredericksburg (TX).

But there are countless others. One such festival is the Germanfest Picnic in Dayton, Ohio. This event celebrates the “German heritage that has given Dayton some of its cultural identity all while enjoying an import beer and a Schnitzel,” according to a Dayton Local article.

Another noteworthy event is the Steuben Parade (scheduled for Sept. 15), which takes place in New York, Philadelphia and Chicago. The New York parade is one of the biggest celebrations of German and German-American culture in the US – and it’s followed by a German-style Oktoberfest in Central Park!

So if you’re living in the US but miss the German culture, there’s plenty of events that may prompt you to throw on your Dirndl or Lederhosen. Cheers to that!

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Word of the Week: Peterwagen

In Germany, you might recognize a cop car by the large green or blue stripe that stretches around the vehicle. It might seem like a police car is called a Streifenwagen (“stripe-car”) because of this, but it’s a misleading term. Cars were called Streifenwagen even back when they had only a single color and no stripe. The German word Streife, in this context, means “patrol”. But in Hamburg, police cars go by a different name: Peterwagen, which means “Peter-car”.

But who is Peter?

After World War II, the city of Hamburg was under control of the British Forces Germany. In 1946, the British administration decided that Hamburg would be equipped with new radio patrol cars. These cars contained radios that allowed police officers to communicate with one another – a new type of technology for the police force. These cars were therefore called Radiowagen (“radio cars”).

As the story goes, the German word Peterwagen arose from an encounter between a German government worker and a British officer in 1946. The officer did not understand the word Radiowagen, so the German explained, “Radiowagen – it’s like a patrol car!” Due to the government worker’s German accent, the British officer did not understand him correctly, and asked him to spell out “patrol car.” The German man explained that it starts with “P – like Peter”, and the British officer wrote Peterwagen in his documents. Ever since, Hamburg residents have used the word Peterwagen to describe a Radiowagen.

Although many Germans might know what a Peterwagen is, this term is used primarily in Hamburg. In other places, a police car is usually referred to as a Funkstreifenwagen or Streifenwagen.

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

Explaining Germany’s “Pfandsystem”

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Many Germans are conscientious about recycling – and the German Pfandsystem makes it easy to do so.

Since 2003, Germany has had a system (the Pfandsystem or “deposit system”) that regulates the sale and return of plastic and glass bottles and aluminum cans. When someone buys a bottled beverage, they pay a deposit on that bottle (for example, 15 extra cents). If, however, they bring that empty bottle to a return station (often located in supermarkets), they get that money back. Imagine how much money you could get back if you return 50 empty bottles! This is why you sometimes see individuals voluntarily collecting used bottles in Germany.

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The bottles that are eligible for Pfand (the “deposit” cash) are usually multi-use, refillable bottles. Plastic bottles in Germany can be reused up to 25 times and glass bottles can be reused up to 50 times. It is much more environmentally friendly to sterilize recycled bottles than to produce new, single-use bottles. The Pfand is an incentive to have those bottles returned, rather than thrown in the garbage.

Most bottles in Germany are eligible for Pfand, but there are always exceptions. Single-use bottles occasionally find themselves onto grocery store shelves and these are usually not eligible. Imported bottles from other countries may also not be subject to German laws and thus not be eligible for a deposit.

But overall, the German Pfandsystem is quite effective; last year, British company Eunomia named Germany as the world’s best recycler. In Germany, 97.9 percent of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) were sold with a deposit on them and 93.5 were recycled in 2015, according to a report by the German Society for Packaging Market Research. Most PET bottles end up as new PET bottles, but some are recycled into other products (plastic sheets, textile fibers, etc.)

Many Americans who visit Germany (or other Europeans with similar systems) rave about the Pfandsystem. Because after all – it’s efficient and it works.

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By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

Word of the Week: Naschkatze

Do you crave ice cream, chocolate, cookies and anything with sugar? Do you have an overpowering sweet tooth that leaves you fantasizing about dessert? If so, Germans would call you a Naschkatze!

Directly translated, the word Naschkatze means “gnash cat” or “nibble cat” and it describes someone who just can’t get enough sweets, whether it’s candy or baked goods. Naschen describes the act of always nibbling on something; in this context – sweets. If you’re a Naschkatze, chances are that you eat candy throughout the day and always have dessert after dinner. The word choice is ironic, since cats do not consume sugar, and would much prefer a roasted chicken. But a “gnash cat”, however, will always reach for the sweets.

The word Naschkatze is often used to refer to kids, since they are often on the hunt for something sweet. And if you know a Naschkatze, bribery is easy: just bring chocolate into the picture.

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

In Germany, swimming in Flussschwimmbäder (“river swimming pools”) is part of the culture

When it’s hot outside, where do you go? Some of you may go to your local pool. If you’re lucky, you may even be near a beach.

But for Germans, the answer is often a nearby river – or a so-called Flussschwimmbad (“river swimming pool”).

There are plenty of clean rivers to swim in throughout the German countryside. But in recent years, German cities have made an effort to convert city rivers into swimming areas. For example, the Flussbad project in Berlin is an initiative to transform an unused part of the Spree River into a giant swimming pool that is equivalent to 17 Olympic pools. This “will provide a public urban recreation space adjacent to the UNESCO World Heritage site, the Museum Island, for both residents and visitors,” according to the foundation planning the project.

But for now, Berlin already has the so-called Badeschiff (“swimming ship”) – a pool that floats in the River Spree and allows visitors to feel as though they are in the river already.

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Some German cities, however, are already home to clean rivers for swimming. In Munich, for example, many residents choose to cool off in the Isar River in the hot summer months. Part of the Isar River is even used for surfing!

For those who want a well-manicured Liegewiese (“lounging field”) and changing rooms to add to their experience, they can visit a pool filled with river water, such as the Naturbad Maria Einsiedel in Munich.

A Naturbad (“nature pool”) that consists of river water is free of chlorine and is therefore a healthy alternative to conventional swimming pools.

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The German city of Lübeck also has a popular Flussschwimmbad. The so-called Marli-Freibad pool is a swimming area in a river. The water is supposedly clean enough to drink. With water slides and changing rooms, swimming in this section of the river can be fun for the whole family.

Although there are occasional rivers that may not be clean enough for swimming, the vast majority are: a recent study found that 98 percent of the rivers, lakes and coastal swimming areas in Germany met the water safety requirements set by the EU, according to the magazine Monumente. Of these, 91.4 percent were considered to have “excellent” water quality.

And swimming in rivers is an aspect of German culture that dates back hundreds of years. The first river bathing establishments were set up in the 1800s and usually including food vendors, changing rooms and sectioned-off areas for swimming (often separated between male and female swimming areas).

Some of these establishments were shut down in the early 1900s but are being reestablished today. Having access to a clean river for swimming is simply part of the German culture!