Word of the Week: Schneidersitz

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When you’re sitting cross-legged, what do you call that position? In English, you might say you are “sitting Indian style”, but in German, that is the so-called Schneidersitz (“tailor’s sitting position”).

The Schneidersitz describes a very typical cross-legged position that you might use during meditation, classroom discussions or any other situation that requires you to sit comfortably on the ground.

This term originated several centuries ago, when tailors (Schneider) used to sew all clothing by hand. Back then, tailors often sat cross-legged on the table across from their sewing machine. This prevented any cloth or material from falling onto the ground. This position also made it easier to work with heavier material.

© DPA / picture-alliance

In workspaces that employed more than one tailor, the Schneidersitz was also a way to use up as little space as possible; a tailor’s assistant(s) were often found sitting cross-legged in the corner while they did their work.
Today, however, the Schneidersitz has little to do with tailors – especially since factories produce much of the world’s clothing.

Instead, the Schneidersitz simply refers to the cross-legged position that everyone uses at some point or another. So whether you’re sewing or meditating, now you have a name for your sitting position: the Schneidersitz!

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

© DPA / picture-alliance

 

German exchange student Joshua Kemper discovers a love for American football and culture

Joshua Kemper is participating in the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange (CBYX), a student exchange program jointly sponsored by the US Congress and the German Bundestag.

Name: Joshua Kemper
Grade: 10th
Hometown: Cologne, Germany
Current location: Alabama, Tuscaloosa

What motivated you to apply to the CBYX program?

Since I was a child I have been very interested in the US. CBYX gives students like me a chance to live in America for a whole year. Interacting with Americans and experiencing a new way of life has been a dream for me. The most important reason for me to apply was my desire to learn about the American culture and introduce Americans to German culture.

What was your first impression of your new American school?

My American school is way bigger than my German school and a little intimidating. I was sure I would get lost and have to ask for help. I actually did get lost and had to ask several people to find the right classrooms. My American school is very strict with rules on being late to class which was very surprising and new. All the students were very welcoming and approached me to introduce themselves. I was surrounded by friends from the start for which I was very grateful.

What was your first impression of the US?

My first impression was a very open-minded, friendly, and happy country. My first feelings were astounding. I felt immediately at home and welcomed. Another impression was that the people here are really interested in my home country and want to know more about our lifestyles. My new peers at school were very open about asking questions and listening to my answers. I experienced this during my International Education Week presentations as well. I was able to present about my county to over 500 students and teachers. It was an awesome experience to be able to share so much to so many people. After each presentation students would tell me how much they enjoyed my presentation and ask more questions.

In your opinion, what are some of the major differences between living in the US and living in Germany?

There are so many differences between living in the US and in Germany. The food is very different. The portions are way bigger here and most restaurants have unlimited refills on soda. Alabamians are known for eating large portions and lots of sugar whereas when I was able to travel to Washington this was not the case. It was also very different to see such school spirit and so much importance being placed on sports within school. I really enjoyed being part of my American high school’s football team and experience this first hand at pep rallies and games. Walking into a gym with the whole student body screaming and cheering is something I will never forget.

What has been your favorite moment living in the US?

Playing football has been part of my favorite moments living in the US. It was an amazing experience to see the stands full of people and students having so much fun. Playing for the school was great because the whole school and community supported you and embraced you!

What reaction did you receive from friends and family when you decided to join CBYX?

My family and friends were very supportive. My family was proud, happy, and a little bit upset at the same time. I am the baby of the family so leaving home while I am still in high school and going so far away was scary for them and for me.

What has been the biggest challenge about living in the US?

My biggest challenge was using the English language on a daily basis. It is one thing to know English, but a completely different thing to use it in everyday life and every class. It took time to get to use speaking English every day and to not speak German. My American school is big on writing essays and it has been a challenge to write essays in English in every class each semester. I am still improving my English skills as it is one of my main goals. I believe that you can never learn enough about another language. Being immersed in another language is incredibly challenging, but so rewarding!

How has CBYX helped you in your life?

CBYX helped to make me into the independent person I am today. I gained new friendships, knowledge and confidence in myself. I have improved so many different aspects of myself such as engaging others in conversations, being responsible and organization. CBYX is a great organization that gives students like myself a once in a lifetime experience. There are too many things to count that I have had the chance to see and do this year that without this opportunity I would never have experienced. Some of those experiences include visiting New Orleans, Louisiana; playing football; deep sea fishing; and visiting a variety of different churches. CBYX giving me this opportunity has definitely broadened my world view.

What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about applying to CBYX?

I would encourage them to take the opportunity and do it. From applying to coming to the US every step helps you grow as an individual. Try as hard as you can and try to make everyone proud, including yourself.

Word of the Week: Kaffeeklatsch

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You probably know that Germans love gathering for Kaffee und Kuchen (“coffee and cake”), traditionally in the afternoon between lunch and dinner. But did you know there’s a name for this type of social gathering? Germans call their afternoon coffee-and-cake sessions a Kaffeeklatsch (“coffee gossip”).

Like the name implies, a Kaffeeklatsch presents the opportunity for coffee (or tea) and conversation. It can be held in someone’s house, at the office or even at a cafe. Traditionally, however, a Kaffeeklatsch is held in someone’s home – often on Sundays. Many Germans use Kaffee und Kuchen as an opportunity to invite friends or family to catch up. And they’ll sometimes make quite an event out of it, bringing out a pretty tablecloth and their best tableware. In addition to coffee, Germans will usually serve some sort of pastry, whether it’s homemade cheesecake or something sweet from the bakery.

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Eggs and bunnies symbolize renewal and joy

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Something odd happens throughout Germany on Easter Sunday. Whether in apartments, houses or gardens, excited children run around, pushing the furniture aside, lifting the cushions and looking under trees and bushes outdoors.

Why? Easter is the time at which German children look in the most obscure corners for brightly colored Easter eggs that have been hidden the night before by the Easter Bunny.

But why is it a bunny that brings the eggs at this annual festival?

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German exchange student Alexander Willers describes living in the US as a CBYX student

Alexander Wills is participating in the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange (CBYX), a student exchange program jointly sponsored by the US Congress and the German Bundestag. Name: Alexander Willers

Grade: 12th in the United States, 10th in Germany

Hometown: Hamburg, Germany.

Current location: I am living with my host family in Flint, Michigan.

What motivated you to apply to the CBYX program?

The CBYX program is an amazing opportunity to learn more about the culture of the United States and to meet new friends. The program allowed me to not only understand the culture and way of life in the US but to get in touch with interesting people from politics. I truly feel that within the program I can contribute to the understanding between Americans and Germans.

What reaction did you receive from friends and family when you decided to join CBYX?

We were all happy and sad at the same time. I was very proud and happy that I could join the program but I also felt sad because I was going to leave my family and friends soon for a full year. My family and my friends were also proud to hear that I have been elected for the CBYX program. Everybody is excited to learn about my experiences once I am back in Germany.

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Word of the Week: Dreikäsehoch

What do you call a tiny little kid in German? A Dreikäsehoch! Literally translated, this colloquial German word means “three-cheeses-tall,” but has little to do with cheese and instead defines a child (usually a boy) that we would refer to in English as a “tiny tot.”

A Dreikäsehoch usually refers to a curious and intelligent child who is too small to do much, but tries to act like a “big shot.” If, for example, an ambitious five-year-old tells his parent that he wants to run in a marathon, the parent might respond, “but you are a Dreikäsehoch” – thereby indicating that the child is too little (only three cheeses tall!) to do so.

But why does this colloquial term refer to cheese, of all things?

Throughout history, cheese has always been an important resource. The Greeks considered it a delicacy, using it as a sacrifice for the Gods. The Romans considered it an important part of their diet, carrying slabs of cheese with them as they roamed through Europe. Cheese quickly gained popularity across Europe in the Middle Ages, and people soon knew what to expect when they obtained a wheel, which were usually about the same size and weight, according to WDR.

As a result, cheese become a standard measuring device in homes across Europe. In French, the word caisse refers to both boxes and cheese, and both were used as measuring devices. Similarly in Germany, large wheels of cheese were used as measuring units.

Thus, the word Dreikäsehoch originated in 18th century Northern Germany, referring to little boys no taller than three stacked wheels of cheese.

However, this mildly humorous reference was chosen as the third-most endangered beloved German word in 2007, and is slowly falling out of use in common language.

But perhaps you can help bring this 18th century word back into conversation. Next time you see a tiny tot trying to engage in activities he is too small for, you can remind him that’s he’s still only a little Dreikäsehoch.

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

 

Word of the Week: Bandsalat

If you’re a Baby Boomer, Generation X or (in some cases) a Millennial, you may still remember what life was like before the invention of CDs or DVDs. In those long-ago days, you had to listen to your favorite music on cassette tapes or watch movies on VHS. Which means you probably dealt with a Bandsalat at some point.

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Bandsalat translates to “tape salad”, and no – it’s not the type of salad you can eat. Bandsalat is the mess that forms when a cassette or video tape goes crazy and the tape comes out and gets tangled up in itself. This frequently happened to music tapes when you had to turn the cassette around to listen to the other half of it. Since the music or movie was stored on this tape, a Bandsalat had the potential to ruin it entirely. If the tape had a tear in it, you may not have been able to do much to fix it. But if it’s just tangled, you may have been able to detangle it and roll it back up with the help of a pinky finger and some patience.

Most 80s kids will remember their beloved cassette tapes and the anger they felt when they ended up with a Bandsalat.

If you grew up in the pre-CD era, we know you’ll relate to this word.

And if you didn’t, we hope you feel fortunate that you don’t have to do deal with “tape salads”.

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

12 German women who influenced the world

Let’s take a look at 12 influential German women whose names have gone down in history. Who would you add to this list? Let us know in the comments!

Hildegard von Bingen

1098-1179
Hildegard von Bingen (also known as Saint Hildegard) is the oldest person on our list. This influential German woman is largely considered the founder of scientific natural history in Germany. She was a Benedictine nun who was also an abbess, artist, author, composer, pharmacist, poet, preacher, mystic and theologian! It seems there is nothing that von Bingen couldn’t do! In 2012, she was named a Doctor of the Church, a rare title only given to saints who contributed heavily with their theological writings. Only three other women in history have received this title.

“Humanity, take a good look at yourself. Inside, you’ve got heaven and earth, and all of creation. You’re a world – everything is hidden in you.”

Empress Elisabeth of Bavaria („Sissi“)

1837-1898
Many of you may have watched or heard about a royal Austrian woman nicknamed “Sisi”. Elisabeth of Bavaria was born into a royal family in Munich, Germany, which was part of the Kingdom of Bavaria at the time. At the age of 16, she married Emperor Franz Joseph I and became the Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary. Her biggest achievement was helping to create the dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary in 1867. She was killed during an anarchist assassination while in Geneva in 1898.

Bertha Benz

1849-1944
Although the invention of the first practical automobile is credited to Karl Benz, his wife also had an enormous impact on the industry. Bertha Benz, a German woman from Pforzheim, was Karl’s business partner. She financed the manufacturing of his first horseless carriage with her dowry. In 1888, she took her two sons and drove the Patent Motorwagen Model III 120 miles from Mannheim to Pforzheim without telling her husband. This was the first time someone drove an automobile over a long distance, fixing all technological complications on the way. Bertha made history; her drive alleviated fears that people had about automobiles, bringing the Benz Patent-Motorwagen its first sales.

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Word of the Week: Erbsenzähler

Germans have a very specific word that describes someone who is nitpicky, obsessed with details and a control freak: an Erbsenzähler. In German, the word Erbsen means “peas” and Zähler means counter — as in, someone who is keeping a numerical record. Thus, an Erbsenzähler literally describes someone who counts peas — you know, the kind of peas you might find on your dinner plate.

So how did a “pea counter” become the term for a nitpicky individual?

According to a story that has been passed down for over a century, the term originated in the year 1847, when a German publisher was visiting the Milan Cathedral.

Spiral staircase

Karl Baedeker (1801-1859), founder of a tourism guidebook company called Baedeker, was known for being very precise, careful and calculated. When he was climbing the stairs of the Milan Cathedral one day, German Shakespearen scholar Gisbert von Vincke witnessed one of Baedeker’s most peculiar actions: after every twenty stairs, the book publisher would reach into his right trouser pocket, take out a dried pea and place it in his left trouser pocket. After reaching the top of the cathedral, Baedeker could determine the number of stairs he climbed by checking to see how many peas he had in his left pocket and multiplying them by 20.

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Word of the Week: Familienkutsche

If you have a large family, how do you transport everyone all at once? In the olden days, you would use a horse and buggy. Today, you might choose to buy a minivan for that purpose.

To take your whole family with you on a trip, you would probably need a Familienkutsche. This form of transportation usually has a large amount of horsepower. And no, we are not talking about the animals. We are talking about a vehicle with a lot of power and space – something like a camper van, SUV or minivan.

The term Familienkutsche comes from Familie (“family”) and Kutsche (“carriage”). In the olden days this may have referred to a horse-drawn carriage, but today, it refers to a large automobile filled with parents, children and all of their stuff. A Familienkutsche is great for road trips in the countryside, but it’s not something you want to try to find parking for in a city!