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

This map shows you every single German island we could find. What did we miss?

When you think of Germany, you probably think of the typical stuff like beer, lederhosen, the Berlin Wall, trains, etc. But after looking at this map, you should also think of ocean islands!

It’s weird, isn’t it? We usually associate a smattering of near-coast islands with nations like Greece, Italy, or Japan. But Germany has its fair share as well! Have a look:

  1. Borkum
  2. Kachelotplate
  3. Memmert
  4. Juist
  5. Norderney
  6. Baltrum
  7. Langeoog
  8. Spiekeroog
  9. Insel Lütje Hörn
  10. Wangerooge
  11. Langlütjen II
  12. Minsener Oog
  13. Mellum
  14. Heligoland & Helgoland-Düne
  15. Nigerhörn
  16. Neuwerk
  17. Trischen
  18. Südfall
  19. Nordstrandischmoor
  20. Hooge
  21. Gröde
  22. Oland
  23. Föhr
  24. Sylt
  25. Norddorf
  26. Nordmarsch-Langeneß
  27. Japsand (sand)
  28. Norderoogsand (sand)
  29. Hallig Süderoog
  30. Pellworm 
  31. Fehmarn
  32. Walfisch
  33. Insel Poel
  34. Insel Langenwerder
  35. Ummanz
  36. Großer Werder
  37. Bock
  38. Hiddensee
  39. Greifswalder Oie
  40. Ruden
  41. Usedom (Eastern half is Poland)
  42. Insel Vilm
  43. Rügen

Continue reading “This map shows you every single German island we could find. What did we miss?”

Wildlife in Germany: Here’s what you might see, from the Baltic to the Alps!

While Germany is known for its mountainous landscapes, quaint villages and picturesque castles, not many people travel to the region to see the country’s wildlife. While Germany may not have as much wildlife as, say, Ecuador, the country is still home to a number of species worth seeing (if you’re lucky, that is)!

Alpine Ibex

If you’re hiking at a high elevation in the Alps, you might stumble across an Alpine ibex (commonly referred to as a Steinbock in German). This is a species of wild goat that is an excellent climber and lives in rough terrain near the snow line. So in order to spot one, you have to be pretty high up!

©dpa / picture alliance

Red Fox

One of Germany’s most famous inhabitants is the red fox – and if you spend a lot of time in nature, you have a good chance of seeing one! Red foxes are common throughout Europe, and you’ll be able to spot one easily due to its red-orange fur. According to one study, there are about 600,000 red foxes living in Germany. So bring your telephoto lenses and start looking!

©dpa / picture alliance

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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!

Continue reading “6 easy steps to survive elevator small talk in Germany”

Celebrating women in Germany

This week, we celebrated the successes of a number of influential women in Germany – women who have risen the ranks and strive for the betterment of Europe.

On Wednesday we celebrated the 65th birthday of Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has served as Chancellor since 2005 and is listed by Forbes as the “most powerful woman in the world.”

At the same time, Ursula Von der Leyen was elected 383 to 327 to become president of the European Commission, making her the first woman in history to hold the position. The EU Commission is the executive branch of the European Union, and the president is tasked to lead the EU’s executive body and provide political guidance. The Commission proposes new laws, manages the EU budget and enforces EU law, making Von der Leyen’s role an important one for the future of Europe.

©dpa / picture alliance

“In her speech, she called for a united and strong EU on which we now want to work together,” said Foreign Minister Heiko Maas in a statement congratulating Von der Leyen. “It was important that she made a clear commitment today to the rule of law and to a social and sovereign Europe based on the principle of solidarity. This is the right agenda for the EU, and it will be judged on that. The world will not wait for Europe. It is therefore essential that we look to the future and further develop the new Commission’s program swiftly.”

Replacing Von der Leyen as the Defense Minister is Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, leader of the German Christian Democrats. This will be Kramp-Karrenbauer’s first job in the federal government – and one that is no small task! She will oversee 250,000 soldiers and civilians in a challenging and high-profile position at a time when the Defense Ministry is undergoing extensive reforms.

These women have – and will continue to have – important roles that help form the future of Germany and the European Union. And alongside that, they also symbolize the power and influence that women have in Germany today, demonstrating that women can – and will – continue to play an important role in politics. Not only in Germany, but on a global scale.

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

Here’s a map with all 26 Berlins we could find in the USA

“Ich bin ein Berliner!” (“I am a Berliner!”) said John F. Kennedy during his visit to Berlin in 1963. As it turns out, he’s not the only American that can make this claim.

According to the German-American Heritage Museum, German speakers began arriving in North America in the 1600’s. Today, around 15% of Americans have German ancestry, according to the Census Bureau. That’s roughly 45 million people! Their ancestors made it to every corner of the continent, bringing with them their hopes, dreams, food, culture, language, and yes, names!

Though French and Spanish names are more common, several cities and towns in America have German names. From Anaheim, California to New Braunfels, Texas and Schaumburg, Illinois, German immigrants were eager to stamp their new home with a bit of German pizazz.

However, not all founders were so creative (see: Germantown, Tennessee). Maybe that’s why there are so many Berlins in the USA! Type “Berlin” into Google Maps, and you might find Berlin, Georgia before Berlin, Germany. In fact, there are approximately 26 Berlins spread across the 50 states! Here’s a map with all of them we could find.

There are concentrations of Berlins in the Northeast and Midwest, and a few scattered to the South, like Berlin, Texas, and the West, like Berlin, Nevada. It must be because of the large number of German immigrants that went those directions over hundreds of years.

It’s important to note that some of these lovely Berlins are unincorporated or extinct towns. Berlin, Nevada is actually a ghost town! But several Berlins are thriving! For example, Berlin, Connecticut has 20,000 people. Not bad!

Do you live in one of these Berlins? Ever visited? If you do, tweet us @GermanyinUSA! We can’t wait to see what you find!

By William Fox, German Embassy

Work hard, play hard.

School’s out, the sun is shining and summer has arrived! That means many German families are preparing their long-awaited vacations.

For those of you who have worked in Germany, you may know that Germans strive to have a good work life balance – and that means taking well deserved vacations. In Germany, each worker is entitled to a minimum of 20 vacation days per year, but 25 to 30 days is common practice.

According to an OECD study, Germans worked 1,363 hours per year, which is overall less than most other countries. However, German productivity was higher than in many countries. The average GDP per head, divided by the hours worked, was valued at $105.70 in Germany, which is $4 more than in the US. Meanwhile, Americans worked 400 hours more than Germans each year, according to the same study.

So what does this mean? Maybe it’s time to pack your bags and spend a few days in the sunshine so you can come back more creative and more productive.

Work hard, play hard.