Getting personal with Vince Ebert, German science comedian in New York

Though well-known in Germany, where he hosts a prime-time TV show about science and pens a column “Überm Teich” for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper, Americans are usually perplexed when they hear that Vince Ebert is a “German science comedian.” Is there really such a thing?! Yes, there is, and as living proof Vince is currently spending a year in the Big Apple, testing his material in the land of “limitless possibilities” and some of his comedic heroes, such as Dave Chappelle. As he enjoys the American Way of Life, Vince is also gathering inspiration for a forthcoming book and new comedy show to launch in Germany in fall 2020. Until then, catch Vince in one of his U.S. shows and tell your friends it’s true: the German science comedian DOES exist—and, empirically speaking, he’s a hoot!

Why did you choose to spend your non-midlife-crisis in America?

In Germany I’ve been on stage for over 20 years now. After such a long time, even the most exciting profession becomes a kind of routine. So I said to my wife: “Let’s move to New York for one year. I need a new challenge!” And being funny in a foreign language is definitely a huge challenge. Fortunately, my wife was enthusiastic about my plan because she loves New York as much as I do.

What is it like being a German in New York City? Do you have some favorite “German haunts” there?

We actually try to avoid the typical German meeting places because we both want to dive more into the “real” New York life. Of course, we are not able to hide our heritage. As soon as New Yorkers realize the German accent, they are thrilled. And then they are all telling a story about their brother-in-law who knows a colleague who is married to a woman who has a roommate who is in a relationship with a guy from Düsseldorf.

Have you had the chance to travel around the country outside NYC? Any memorable experiences?

I can highly recommend the Catskills! Recently we spent a few days in Phoenicia to enjoy the foliage. At a hiking tour we even ran into a black bear. When we enthusiastically told our host lady about our encounter, she replied somewhat bored: “Yay…I´m so glad you got to see one. But to tell you the truth they are as exciting around here as squirrels in Washington Square Park.”

What is the comedy scene like in New York? How does it compare to Germany?

The number of comedians in NYC is incredible. And of course, this is reflected in the high level of quality. Since many comedians usually play short sets of about 10 or 15 minutes, their material is very dense. Every 20 seconds there’s a joke. At first this was very unusual for me because German comedians are performing longer sets of about 90 minutes plus. Longer stories, fewer jokes. Sometimes even no jokes at all.

Which U.S.-American comics do you admire? Why?

I’m a big fan of Dave Chappelle. He’s super funny without being shallow. Under the surface there’s an utterly humanitarian political message and at the same token he has the courage to be completely politically incorrect.

If you are adding humor to science, is there a science to humor? Does your process for developing material follow a disciplined regimen, or does the humor “find you” at unexpected moments?

For a German science guy American engineering is quite a challenge. To flush my toilet, you need the sensitivity of a watchmaker and my shower has two default settings: heat stroke and frost bite. Recently I asked my landlord: Don’t you have a regulator to adjust the room temperature? And he said: “Of course. We call it window.” And by the way: what is so great about inches, feet, miles, ounces and pounds? How did they get to the moon with such a mess?

What inspiration have you found in the U.S. that you will take back to Germany?

American comedians are not afraid to tell personal stories. For me this is a great inspiration. So far, my German shows were more like funny TED Talks. But the next show will be definitely more personal.

Interview by Jacob Comenetz, German Embassy

Did you know these everyday objects were invented in Germany?

Inventors from around the world are converging on Nürnberg from Oct. 31 to Nov. 1 to present their inventions at Germany‘s annual trade fair for ideas and inventions (the Ideen-Erfindungen-Neuheiten-Austellung, also known as iENA). The fair is the largest of its kind; since it was first held in 1948, more than 300,000 inventions were presented to the public – including inline skates, wheeled suitcases and folding bicycles. Inventors from all over the world are expected to display over 800 inventions.

In light of this fair, let’s take a look at some inventions that you may not have known are German!

©dpa / picture alliance

Aspirin

Many of us depend on aspirin to cure us of our pains. But few may know that aspirin was invented by a German chemist, Felix Hoffman. The Swabian-born chemist initially developed the drug for his aligning father, but got a patent for it in 1899.

©dpa / picture alliance

Contact Lenses

German ophthalmologist Dr. Adolf Gaston Eugen Fick invented the first contact lens in 1887, which he created from heavy brown glass. And no – the first contact lenses were not comfortable to wear, and they could only be worn for a few short hours at a time!

©dpa / picture alliance

Coffee filter

The coffee filter was invented by a housewife from Dresden named Melitta Bentz. Using blotting paper from her children’s school books, she removed coffee grounds from her brew, making it less bitter and smoother. She was granted a patent in 1908 and sold 1,200 coffee filters at the 1909 Leipzig Fair.

©dpa / picture alliance

Jeans

German-American businessman Levi Strauss and his partner Jacob Davis patented the first pair of blue jeans in 1873. Back then, they were considered workwear and worn primarily cowboys and miners. Today, they are quite the fashion statement!

Other popular German inventions are mayonnaise, x-ray machines, the printing press, the accordion, hole punchers, ring binders and the petri dish. Let’s see what new inventions Germans have at this weekend’s iENA fair in Nürnberg!

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

Frankenstein Castle: One of Germany’s spookiest places

With Halloween just around the corner, let’s take a look at one of Germany’s creepiest places: Frankenstein Castle.

Frankenstein Castle sits on a hilltop overlooking the city of Darmstadt. It was constructed sometime before the year 1250 by Lord Conrad II Reiz of Breuberg, who founded the free imperial Barony of Frankenstein. Over the coming centuries, the castle was home to various different families and witnessed several territorial conflicts. In 1673, Johann Conrad Dippel – who later became an alchemist – was born in the castle. The structure fell into ruins in the 18th century and was restored in the mid-19th century.

The most famous story is, of course, that of the alchemist who worked in the castle in the 17th century. He was known to experiment with strange potions. He supposedly created an animal oil (which he named “Dippel’s Oil”) that was a so-called “elixir of life”. There are also rumors that the man studied anatomy and conducted experiements on cadavers, some of which he dug up himself from graves. There is no evidence that proves that any of this happened, but local people believe the legends are true.

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These 6 celebrities speak German! (Video evidence)

If you’ve ever mentioned to a friend that you’re trying to learn ein bisschen Deutsch, you’ll immediately be confronted with platitudes about how difficult the long words are, or how tough it is to remember all the grammar. In the worst case scenario, they’ll put on a harsh accent and yell out “Schmetterling!” (“butterfly!”).

But learning German can be something for everyone. With enough practice, anyone can become at least a little conversational. As inspiration, here’s a list of celebrities that can speak German, some more fluently than others, of course.

Because the skill-level is so variable, we thought it would be fun to go from least to most fluent. No judgements here! We realize short clips might not be the best demonstration of one’s language abilities.

#5 Chris Pratt

Pratt, star of Parks and Rec and Guardians of the Galaxy, learned some German in high school. In this clip he appears to struggle with anything beyond the most basic questions. However, he is able to engage in a basic conversation in a noisy environment, something a lot of people aspire to. Take a look:

#4 Gene Simmons

Gene, lead singer of Kiss, claims to speak a bit of German, Hebrew, and Japanese. In this clip he demonstrates an impressive ability to understand what the interviewer is asking of him, even if he fails to respond in a grammatically correct way. Still, a little broken German is German nonetheless. You be the judge:

#3 Christopher Lee

Christopher, Saruman in Lord of the Rings and Count Dooku in Star Wars, sang some in German, as well as did some filming. Though he seems a bit annoyed by the German interviewer in this clip, he does seem fully capable of understanding what’s being asked, and of responding to the questions, even if only briefly. Check it out:

#2 Leonardo DiCaprio

Leo needs no introduction. As he explains in this clip, his grandmother was from Germany and taught his some important phrases. Though quite halting, there’s certainly a little skill!

#1 Sandra Bullock

Holy cow! Golden Globe Winner Sandra Bullock speaks German at an incredible level. Her singing coach was German, as well as one of her grandfathers. No need to explain too much as her abilities are made abundantly clear by listening to her speak. In this clip, watch her literally forget her award acceptance speech at a ceremony, but then recover by giving the speech without notes:

So that’s the list…But wait, there’s one more!

Honorable Mention: Tina Fey

It’s not totally clear if Fey, known for SNL and 30 Rock, actually speaks German, or if she simply learned enough in school to pronounce it properly. What we can say is that anytime a German phrase leaves her mouth, it’s absolutely hilarious. Enjoy!

30 Rock: Liz’s high school level German

Tina Fey German Study Abroad

30 Rock Liz Lemon Singing German Luftballons

30 Rock- Liz Lemon Yelling in German


By William Fox, German Embassy

These maps show the most popular German dog breeds in all 50 states

“You ain’t nothing but a hound dog” sang Elvis. For any German listening, it was slightly redundant. That’s because the word “hound” has its origin in the German word “Hund”, which means “dog”.

So…

“You ain’t nothing but a hound dog”
sounds a lot like,

“You ain’t nothing but a dog dog”

But shared German-American dog culture goes far deeper than redundancy in Elvis lyrics! There are nearly 90 million dogs in the United States, and a good number of them have German origins. The Boxer, the Pomeranian, the German Shepherd, the Dachshund, and many more breeds come across the Atlantic from Deutschland.

The American Kennel Club publishes a yearly list of the most popular dog breeds nation-wide, and Labrador and Golden Retrievers (neither a German breed) always top that list. 

In 2018, the faithful German Shepherd ranked as the second most popular dog breed in the whole country! Not bad!

However, these data points from the AKC don’t provide us with breed popularity in each state, and don’t provide rankings for us to make a lovely map.

So which German breeds are the most popular in each state in the nation?

To find out, we took Google Trends data from the last 12 months. The percentage of search traffic for German breeds was then accounted for on a state-by-state basis. Then, we made several maps!

* It’s important to note that the drawback of these maps is that they account for search traffic and not ownership.They represent interest in a breed, not the number of dogs in a state. *

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A German surprise: First Graders look forward to their Schultüten

A girl carries her Schultüte in the year 1905. ©dpa / picture alliance

For many Americans and their families, it’s back-to-school season! For some parents, this means back-to-school shopping for supplies, clothes and other needs for their children. In Germany, however, First Graders get a special treat on their first day of school: a Schultüte (“school cone”)!

A Schultüte is colorful and elaborately decorated cone that is given to German students on their first day of first grade. A typical “school cone” is prepared by a students’ parents and filled to the brim with goodies such as small school supplies (like pens, pencil cases, erasers, etc.) , toys and candy. These bundles of gifts evoke excitement in students during one of the most important days of their childhood – the day that school begins. As kids make their way to their new classrooms, they proudly carry their Schultüten with them. Receiving a Schultüte is often a highlight of a First Grader’s childhood. Many Germans eagerly reflect back on their first day of first grade, picturing their “school cones” and remembering the excitement that these gifts brought them.

This German tradition originated in the early 1800s in the cities of Jena, Dresden and Leipzig. Back then, parents brought the Schultüten directly to the schools, where they were hung on a so-called Schultütenbaum (“school cone tree”) in the classroom. When the tree was “ripe” with school cones, it meant that students were ready to begin first grade. On the first day of school, students were instructed to pick the cone with their name on it. To their surprise, the cones were usually filled with edible treats such as pretzels and candy.

Naturally, the tradition spread and evolved over time. Today, students often receive their Schultüten before they leave their homes to go to school – and their cones are often filled with school supplies, rather than candy. Even Austria and the Czech Republic have adopted this fun back-to-school tradition. So while American kids are often busy back-to-school shopping with their parents, German kids will receive a lot of these items in their cones!

©dpa / picture alliance

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

11 German avocado words and phrases you need to make guacamole

Avocado consumption is on the rise worldwide! Though Germans aren’t known for their rabid avocado appetite, avocados can be found in supermarkets from Berlin to Bavaria. Germans consumed 57 million kilos of avocados in 2017, doubling the numbers from 2013! The average German citizen ate about 5 avocados last year.

One hypothesis on why more avocados are being sold in Deutschland recently is that a university education in Germany is effectively free, and therefore millennial Germans don’t have to feel pitiful for spending extra on 4-12 avocados during their weekly shop.

That isn’t a real theory. We just mashed it up. Well, except for the part about effectively free university tuition in Germany. If that planted a seed in your head, read more about studying in Germany here.

In any event, avocados are heart-healthy, delicious and squishy- and Germans are buying them more and more!

Ok. Let’s get to the more fruitful part of this article:

If you’re in Germany and you’ve bought an avocado at the supermarket, you might need to talk about it with your roommate or significant other. Maybe you want to impress your ‘very interested’ coworker in the break room about how you made delicious guacamole last night. Or possibly you want to write an article for a blog about 11 German words and phrases relating to avocados.

In any of the above examples, this vocab and phrase list will help you. Enjoy!

  1. Der Avocadokern – The avocado pit
  2. Das Avocadofruchtfleisch – The avocado ‘meat’ or ‘fruit’
  3. Die Avocado zerdücken – To mash the avocado
  4. Der Avocado ist braun geworden! – The avocado is brown!
  5. Die Avocado ist reif – The avocado is ripe!

Guacamole Seasoning

  1. Der Koriander – Cilantro
  2. Die Limette – Lime
  3. Das Salz – Salt
  4. Der Pfeffer – Pepper
  5. Der Kreuzkümmel – Cumin

Bonus!

  1. Drei Euro für eine Avocado!? Sie haben keine Tassen im Schrank!
    “Three euros for one avocado!? Have you lost your mind!?”

By William Fox, German Embassy

6 unique summer traditions in Germany

Germans love to spend time outside in the summer. While many Germans enjoy traveling abroad, others choose to explore their own country. From beaches in the north to picturesque mountains in the south, Germany has it all! If you want to act like a local, this is how you can spend your time when the temperatures begin to soar.

Head to an Eiscafe… and order a Spaghettieis!

If you’ve ever been to Germany in the summertime, you might have noticed the many different Eisdiele (ice cream parlos) or Eiscafes. Germans love to get together over a refreshing bowl of ice cream when it’s hot outside. In fact, there are over 3,300 ice cream shops in Germany! While gelato might hit the spot, a more unique option is a cool bowl of Spaghettieis – a German style of ice cream that literally looks like a bowl of spaghetti. We promise you, it still tastes like ice cream!

©dpa / picture alliance

Beat the heat and go Wasserwandern

Wasserwandern translates to “water hiking”. This means leaving behind solid ground to go explore Germany’s many waterways by canoe or kayak. Wasserwandern is particularly popular in the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, which is known as the “land of a thousand lakes”. Formed tens of thousands of years ago during the Ice Age, these lakes are home to a number of endangered species and make the perfect summertime getaway for nature enthusiasts. So pack a waterproof bag and explore Germany’s many rivers and lakes on boat!

©dpa / picture alliance

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Wagner fans flock to Germany for the “Bayreuth Festspiele”

One of Germany’s most famous composers is Richard Wagner (1813-1883), who is especially famous for his operas. In fact, Wagner even built his very own opera house, called the Bayreuth Festspielhaus, which was dedicated to his own works .

And to this day, we celebrate the life and works of Wagner with an annual music festival held in Bayreuth, Germany. Wagner fans from all over the world travel to the Festspielhaus to attend the annual event – including Chancellor Angela Merkel.

©dpa / picture alliance

This week, the Chancellor and Bavarian CSU Leader Markus Söder attended the music festival, despite sweltering hot temperatures in Germany. Merkel is a long-time Wagner fan, and has attended the annual event several times.

Since its launch in 1876, the Bayreuth Festival has been a socio-cultural phenomenon, with notable guests including Kaiser Wilhelm, Dom Pedro II of Brazil, King Ludwig, Friedrich Nietzsche and countless other fans of Wagner’s compositions. The Bayreuter Festspiele kicked off on July 25 and will continue until August 28.

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

6 easy steps to survive elevator small talk in Germany

If you’re learning German, you probably plan ahead for important conversations. You look up vocabulary before calling your doctor, asking for help in a supermarket, or going to the mechanic.

But what about those unplanned moments you can’t prepare for? What about the moment you step into a near-empty elevator, make eye contact with the only other person inside, and awkwardly reach past them to hit your floor’s button? You’re in the box with this person for 60 seconds. Are you really going to say nothing?

Feeling anxious yet? Fear not! In this guide, we’re going to plan for the unplanned. We’re going to learn some basic phrases and questions to survive the seeming eternity of an elevator ride with a stranger in Germany. We’ve broken it down into 6 easy steps

Step 1. Why are we even talking?

First, we should ask an important question: is small talk really that important in Germany? Though the stereotype of Germans is that they NEVER make small talk, that’s not true. While small talk is not essential, and many opt not to chit-chat in public, plenty of people in Germany have mundane conversations every day in buses, hallways, office kitchens, and yes, elevators. Even if most Germans think small talk is a waste of time, it turns out that breaking the awkward silence is a universal pressure.

That said, you don’t have to do it. And if someone doesn’t seem open to it, let them be!

Another important point is that being too friendly or excited can come across as disingenuous. If you are going to take a swing at elevator small talk, we recommend trying to sound relaxed, and to avoid using superlatives like ‘amazing’ and ‘absolutely crazy’ to describe your day. A genuine, honest interaction can get you far in Germany. Be yourself!

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