Word of the Week: Gartenzwerg

If you’ve walked around Germany’s residential neighborhoods, you’ve probably seen them peeking at you from behind the bushes: garden gnomes. The German word for these creatures of the garden is Gartenzwerg, and you’ll find over 25 million of them in Germany.

The word Garten means “garden” and Zwerg means “dwarf.” In English, you’d refer to these “garden dwarfs” as “garden gnomes.” Although you might find them all over the world these days, Gartenzwerge originated in Germany and are still a common sight there. And if you see a garden gnome in your neighborhood in the US, there’s a good chance that the family living there is German!

A Gartenzwerg is a small human-like figurine usually wearing a pointy red hat and colorful clothing. These figurines are commonly found in gardens, flower beds and front porches. Although human-like figurines were placed in gardens all throughout Europe during the Renaissance, the garden gnomes we recognize today originated in 19th century Germany.

According to mythology, “garden dwarfs” were creatures who lived underground and had magical powers. If they encountered daylight, then they would be turned to stone by the sun – which explains the figurines in the gardens. Mythology also claims that the gnome statues come back to life at night, providing their help in the garden and making sure the plants grow.

The legend of the Gartenzwerg quickly became popular in Germany, which led Sculptor Phillip Griebel to mass-produce garden gnome statues in Thuringia in the mid-1800s. Today, Gartenzwerge are not only popular in Germany, but across the world; following the legend of the gnomes, gardening enthusiasts often place the dwarf-like creatures on their plots.

But even if you don’t believe in the legend of the gnome, they still make a cute addition to any front yard. And who knows – maybe your lawn will end up greener!

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

Intern Q&A: Lena Schneider

Name: Lena Schneider

Where you’re from:  I live in a place called Regensburg, one of the most beautiful towns in Bavaria (if I do say so myself)! The city is both old and new: its history goes all the way back to the 9th century and it was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2006 for its uniquely well-preserved medieval Old Town. At the same time, the universities make it feel very young! It’s a great place to have grown up.

Where and what you’re studying: I am in the final stages of gaining my Bachelor’s degree in political science and British Studies, having studied in Regensburg and Hong Kong.

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

Being an intern in the economics department at the embassy, the tariffs on steel and aluminium introduced by the United States during my time in DC had a great impact on my work: it was fascinating watching the political process at such proximity! I also really appreciated the department itself because it covers such a wide range of topics. For example, I was able to gain insights into farming and agricultural exports, the implications of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the US, but also the challenges of migration and developmental work by visiting various events around the city and aiding colleagues in their research.

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

I can only echo what my fellow interns have mentioned in this section: finding and preserving unity – both domestically and within the EU –, strengthening the transatlantic relationship and tackling the rise of populism around the world are issues that must be taken seriously. Likewise, making sure the art of diplomacy and skilled conversation is not lost in a world where a Tweet travels faster than actions.

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

I love how open and communicative people are in the US compared to Germany. Every conversation here starts with a “How are you?” – be it a random person on the street or your Uber driver. If you ask cashiers in Germany about their well-being I can guarantee all you will get are strange looks.

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

I have never been to a place that is more political than DC! This city lives and breathes politics, be it all the government agencies and organizations that are based here, the think tanks and the events they host, or everyday life in general. When you meet somebody here, chances are they work on the Hill, for the World Bank or an NGO. As a student of political science, the atmosphere in this place is a dream!

What do you miss about Germany?

Apart from my family, friends and my dog I’d have to say living in a small country! It’s a weird thing to miss, I know. One of the joys of living in Europe is having so many different cultures, languages and traditions in such proximity. A four-hour drive is not considered a quick excursion as it is in the US! One thing I definitely don’t miss, however, is not being able to do your shopping on a Sunday or after 8 pm. That’s one convenience I have come to appreciate a lot and that will be sorely missed when it’s time for me to return home.

What has been your biggest lesson learnt during your internship?

Be prepared for lots and lots of small talk! DC is the capital of networking. I have lost count of the amount of business cards people have given me during the two short months I have been here. Having a few easy topics of conversation on-hand makes life a lot easier!

What has been your biggest challenge living here?

Dealing with all the single-use plastic. It is nearly impossible to avoid when doing the weekly shop and often it is utterly superfluous! It should not be possible to buy individually plastic-wrapped potatoes or pre-peeled eggs and oranges in plastic containers, yet these things are readily available at my local grocery store. I am glad, however, that DC has introduced a 5-cent plastic bag fee; it’s definitely a step in the right direction.

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

Sadly, even the most fun internships must end someday… I will be returning home to Regensburg and will be greeted by an exam and term papers before finally finishing by Bachelor’s thesis. After that, who knows where life will take me!


Word of the Week: Abseitsfalle

The World Cup games are underway! Who will take home the gold this year? With soccer tournaments this big, some teams are willing to do anything to win. Let’s take a look at one type of soccer tactic that might prevent someone from scoring – the so-called Abseitsfalle.

In German, the word Abseits means “offside” and Falle means “trap.” Abseitsfalle therefore means “offside trap”, and refers to a tactic used primarily by a team’s defense to maneuver an opposing player into an offside position.

For those of you unfamiliar with soccer, an attacking player is in an offside position when he is closer to the opposing goal than the opposing defenders, as well as the soccer ball. If the attacker receives the ball while in an offside position, the opposing team is awarded a free kick – a good way to get the ball back to the other side of the field.

In some cases, defenders work together to push an opposing player into the offside, therefore winning a free kick for themselves. But as you can imagine, this is a risky maneuver. In order to successfully push an attacker into an Abseitsfalle, defenders must move forward at the same time while the attacker is about to receive the ball. If one defender stays back or moves too slowly, the attacker may obtain the ball – without being offside – and attempt to score while the goal is unguarded by its defense.

In the World Cup, a successful Abseitsfalle has the potential to prevent a goal. But of course, having a strong and deeper defense is always a safer way to play. A well-executed Abseitsfalle, however, can make a game much more interesting to watch – especially in the World Cup. Let’s see how many Abseitsfallen we can spot during the games!

By Nicole Glass, Editor of The Week in Germany

Intern Q&A: Lukas Behrenbeck

Name: Lukas Behrenbeck

Where you’re from: Köln/Cologne

Where and what you’re studying:  I’m studying International Administration and Global Governance in Gothenburg, Sweden.

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

There is no doubt that Chancellor Merkel’s visit was a highlight. Sitting up close during her press conference with President Trump in the White House felt surreal, since clearly every word they uttered and every move they made mattered a whole lot politically. But I was also glad to have been involved in the surrounding logistics of her visit.

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

Although Germany’s new international role has started to materialize since as early as the 1990s, the process of adjusting its foreign policy vis-à-vis its international commitments and expectations is far from over. The questions about German history which my non-German friends ask me shows not only that it still matters, but also that German foreign policy must remain inherently multilateral. At the same time, I am convinced that foreign policy is a fluid process which needs outreach and steady engagement with society. Thus, managing domestic and international expectations is a major foreign policy challenge I believe.

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

Many cultural aspects are often portrayed as “typically American”, something unique and at times bizarre to non-Americans. Short-term visitors may feel vindicated, but a closer look reveals that the US still is such a diverse country. Anything that seems strange has a more familiar counterpart. Maybe that’s simply because of the big population, but maybe that’s also a result of the powerful narrative as a land of the free.

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

I lived in Columbia Heights, which has many faces but its Latino influence really struck me. I absolutely loved that.

What do you miss about Germany?

More convenient public transportation.

What has been your biggest lesson learned during your internship?

From afar, diplomacy sometimes seems like a perfected discipline performed by high-flyers. However, diplomacy is in fact a fragile network that hinges on the commitment of every involved individual. And yes, just as in real life, small acts of friendship and gratitude can make a big difference. In practice, this means that you can approach basically anyone if you are open-minded and affable.

What has been your biggest challenge living here?

Staying healthy. Lots of interesting evening events curtail your time for cooking, and nutritious products are rare in supermarkets as are supermarkets themselves. You can go running, but there are only two calisthenics parks in town.

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

For any Kölsche (someone from Cologne), moving out of sight of the cathedral is a painful step. However, international relations and especially the Middle East are big fascinations of mine, which draws me back to that region. Ultimately, I’ll do what I’ve planned on since high school and apply for the Foreign Service.

Sauerkraut: Germany’s cuisine for colder months

It might not be difficult to guess that Sauerkraut is a popular dish in Germany; after all, it is a German word. But this well-known German dish – which directly translates to “sour cabbage” – is also widespread in the United States, and has been used in American English since 1776.

Sauerkraut is a form of chopped cabbage that has been salted, fermented and often flavored with additional spices and ingredients such as juniper berries. In Germany, it is often served with pork, sausage or potatoes. Traditionally it is also consumed on New Year’s Eve to bring good luck and wealth during the new year.

The origins of Sauerkraut, however, can be traced back to 200 B.C., when Chinese cooks were pickling cabbage in wine. When Genghis Khan invaded China, he allegedly took the recipe for fermented cabbage and modified it, using salt instead of wine. When the Tatars (Mongolian tribes) arrived in Europe not long thereafter, they brought Sauerkraut with them, and the dish became popular in Eastern Europe and Germanic regions.

Sauerkraut was particularly valuable in northern climates because it could be preserved and consumed all throughout the winter. By allowing the dried cabbage to ferment, sugars are turned into lactic acid, which function as a preservative and allow for the long-term storage of the dish. The fermented cabbage also retains many of its nutrients and is a good source of dietary fiber, folate, iron, potassium, copper and manganese. In fact, Europeans have long used Sauerkraut to treat stomach ulcers and soothe the digestive tract.

Although Sauerkraut was not invented in Germany, it became a part of German cuisine and culture, and when German immigrants came to the US, they brought Sauerkraut with them. The dish was particularly useful for long voyages across the Atlantic, since it could be so easily preserved. The Pennsylvania Dutch, which settled in Lancaster County, made Sauerkraut one of their specialties, and continue to serve it on New Year’s Eve as a symbol of good fortune.

World War I led to the development of anti-German sentiment in the US. For the duration of the war, Sauerkraut was referred to as “liberty cabbage.” Today, however, the dish continues to be known by its German name, Sauerkraut.

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

Travel Tuesday: The Pig Museum

Countless plush pigs are presented in the pig museum in Stuttgart, Germany. The Stuttgart pig museum displays more than 50,000 lucky pigs, piggy banks and plush pigs. © dpa / picture-alliance

Are your kids tired of spending hours in “boring” museums?

Take them to the Pig Museum in Stuttgart, Germany!

This museum features 25 themed rooms with more than 50,000 different pigs, ranging from piggy banks to stuffed animal pigs. Visitors can learn about the evolution of different species of pigs, as well as myths and legends about pigs from around the world.

This museum is less than ordinary – and its history is unusual, too. The concept began when Erika Wilhelmer, the owner of the museum and an avid pig paraphernalia collector, decided to convert a slaughterhouse into a museum in 1988. Over the years, her collection grew – and in 1992 the Guinness Book of World Records declared it the world’s largest pig museum. Once the museum had reached 40,000 pig items, it was relocated to its current location in Stuttgart.

Whether you find pigs adorable or you have an appetite for them, the Pig Museum in Stuttgart is sure to teach you something new about these intelligent farm animals! And when you’re finished exploring the history and culture surrounding pigs, you can relax in the beer garden and order some delicious Swabian delicacies.

A tram decorated as a pig stands in front of the pig museum in Stuttgart, Germany. © dpa / picture-alliance
Countless piggy banks are presented in the pig museum in Stuttgart. © dpa / picture-alliance

The World Cup and its influence on German history

The German National Team before their final game in the 1954 World Cup. © dpa / picture-alliance

The 2018 World Cup has begun! With the games currently underway in Russia, let’s take a look back at some of Germany’s most important matches – and the meaning these games had for the German people.

During the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland, West Germany took home the gold, beating Hungary 3-2. At the time, Europe was still recovering from World War II, and Germany was struggling to rebuild itself and its reputation in the global community. The World Cup victory gave Germany a newfound sense of pride and happiness. Some historians even consider this victory a turning point for post-war Germany.

“It was a kind of liberation for the Germans from all the things that weighed down upon them after the Second World War,” wrote German historian Joachim Fest. “July 4, 1954 is in certain aspects the founding day of the German Republic.”

Twenty years later, West Germany became the host of the 1974 World Cup, which reinforced Germany’s sense of community on the world stage. The West German team also won the championship that year. But one of the most memorable moments in German soccer was when West Germany experienced its only loss of the tournament in a game against East Germany, thanks to a goal scored by Jürgen Sparwasser.

The fall of the wall marked another turning point in German soccer: the 1990 World Cup was once again won by the West German team, but it was clear that this would be the last time Germany competed with two teams. The victory was celebrated by both German teams, and a few months later, they were united. At the time, German soccer player Franz Beckenbauer was convinced that the united team would become unbeatable in the years to come.

Germany beats Argentina in the 1990 World Cup. © dpa / picture-alliance

And of course, most of us remember Germany’s most recent World Cup victory from 2014, which was also Germany’s first champion title since the 1990 championship.

Since the establishment of the World Cup in 1930, Germany has claimed four World Cup victories and hosted the games twice. Germany’s first World Cup game of 2018 took place on Sunday against Mexico and the second match will be held this coming Saturday against Sweden. Who will you be rooting for? We want to see photos from your soccer watch parties on social media! Be sure to tag us @germanyinusa – we will be reposting fun photos in which we see your German pride!

Word of the Week: Fanmeile

© dpa / picture-alliance

During big televised sporting events – like the World Cup – thousands of Germans gather in the streets to watch the games together on large screens throughout the city. They will usually be waving flags, cheering and sporting their favorite team’s colors. In German, this sort of area is called a Fanmeile (“fan mile”) – a public space that is transformed during significant sporting events.

With the 2018 World Cup about to begin, Fanmeilen will be popping up all over Germany. This summer in Berlin, the street between the Brandenburg Gate and the Victory Column will be transformed into a massive Fanmeile (the largest in Germany!), complete with food and drink stands. Television screens will air the games while up to 100,000 people gather on the street to watch.

Germans sometimes refer to a Fanmeile as a “public viewing”, which they use to describe places that air sports games. But while a public viewing can also take place in a smaller locale such as a bar, restaurant, school or church, Fanmeilen are large-scale outdoor regions that typically accommodate thousands of people.

© dpa / picture-alliance

Fanmeilen originated in Germany during the 2006 World Cup, which means they are still relatively new. In 2006, Germany hosted the World Cup – but not everyone could get tickets. FIFA-sponsored Fanmeilen were therefore set up for people without tickets to watch the games. The concept was a huge success, and the screenings became events in themselves – especially the screening of the Germany vs. Argentina game in the 2006 World Cup quarter-finale. The longest Fanmeile was located in Berlin and brought together 900,000 soccer enthusiasts.

Consequentially, the word Fanmeile was selected by the Gesellschaft für Deutsche Sprache as the 2006 Word of the Year.

Berlin’s Fanmeile is still the largest World Cup viewing area in Germany – and the number of fans will surely increase if Germany makes it into the finals this summer. Additionally, Fanmeilen have popped up all over Europe – including countries like Austria and Switzerland.

Whether or not you’re a soccer fan, make sure to check out a Fanmeile if you’re in Germany. It’s the experience that counts!

By Nicole Glass, Editor of The Week in Germany

Intern Q&A: Marvin Nowak

Name: Marvin Nowak

Where you’re from: Pretty much my entire (30-people-strong) family lives in a small village called Ofden, which is close to the historically not insignificant city of Aachen. I’ve always envied people who get to visit relatives all over Germany, but meeting half your family while walking the dog certainly has some upsides. I feel fortunate to have grown up there.

Where and what you’re studying: I’m currently finishing my master’s in North American Studies at the University of Bonn – so getting to intern in DC was a much appreciated opportunity.

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

Having worked closely with the protocol department to organize and help carry out pretty much every event at the Ambassador’s Residence over the last three months has provided me with a close-up look of diplomacy at work. To see how international relations are eventually translated into relationships between individual people was inspiring and has helped to put things into perspective. Being here for the visits of Chancellor Merkel and Foreign Minister Maas definitely felt like a privilege. I’ll never forget anxiously waiting for the Chancellor’s motorcade at the Residence while receiving arrival updates from Secret Service.

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

You’ve probably read several passionate pleas for a unified Europe in this section. But yes, we’ll have to continue working hard to convince people of the added value of a strong European Union that gets to speak with one voice on the world stage. Excuse the political jargon – I’ve spent too much time in DC!

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

I first arrived in the States as a 16-year-old exchange student. Having been back several times, I’ve come to appreciate the general positive vibe and the optimistic outlook of the American people. All stereotypical superficiality aside, Germans would do good to take in some of that “it’ll work out in the end” mindset.

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

I didn’t expect DC to be so colorful – and I don’t just say that because I arrived in the midst of the Cherry Blossom Festival. Washingtonians can be rightfully proud of the richness of the many diverse neighborhoods that expand beyond the mall. Strolling through the streets of Dupont & Logan Circle, Georgetown or Adams Morgan was a refreshing escape from the political bubble.

What do you miss about Germany?

Good coffee. Sorry, America.

What has been your biggest lesson learnt during your internship?

To prioritize, organize – and most importantly, to remain calm while you reprint that misspelled place card at the very last minute. Working for the Ambassador’s Social Secretaries and his Chief of Staff has been an intense experience I wouldn’t want to have missed.

What has been your biggest challenge living here?

Dealing with the unpredictability of the D6 – the bus line that takes me to the Embassy.

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

After another brief internship with a member of Bundestag, I’ll have to sit down and write my Master’s thesis. Then it’s on to looking for a real job – preferably in a transatlantic and/or parliamentary environment.

Pretzels: A medieval German delicacy

If you’ve ever been to a German bakery, you might have noticed the fresh-baked pretzels every morning behind the glass. Pretzels have long been a part of German food culture – but they have also made their way to the United States.

There are several unconfirmed stories about the invention of the pretzel, but the earliest recorded evidence of pretzels is their appearance in the crest of German bakers’ guilds in the year 1111. A pretzel was also depicted in an 1185 painting of a banquet for the Persian King Ahaseurus, which was published in the Hortus Deliciarum, a medieval manuscript that was compiled in Alsace (which at that time was claimed by the German Empire). A prayer book from 1140 also shows St. Bartholomew surrounded by pretzels. Later images show pretzels hung around childrens’ necks on New Year’s Day for good luck, on Christmas trees in Austria and as part of Easter egg hunts in Germany. During the 16th century, pretzels were consumed on Good Friday, and some Catholics considered them an important part of Lent.

© dpa / picture alliance

Pretzels were deeply integrated in both religion and German culture. As a result, German immigrants brought pretzels with them when they came to the US in the 1700s, and pretzels quickly became a staple food of the Pennsylvania Dutch. In 1861, a man named Julius Sturgis founded the first pretzel bakery in the US, calling it the Sturgis Pretzel House. The bakery, which is located in Lititz, Pennsylvania, continues to produce pretzels and is also a tourist attraction, run by Sturgis’ descendents. To this day, Pennsylvania remains a hot spot for pretzel production, producing about 80 percent of all pretzels in the US.

In Germany, pretzels also grew in popularity and can now be found at food carts, fairs and festivals and childrens’ lunch boxes. From Germany’s Oktoberfest to the pretzel stand at a US shopping mall, this medieval European delicacy has made its way around the world.

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy