Ludicrous Speed!

I am amazingly, ridiculously fond of German television.

For one thing, you never know  what you’re going to find.  I was flipping channels the other night and I stumbled across an honest-to-goodness ‘you got served’ style multinational dance-off.  The Israeli dance crew’s name is- and I’m not making this up- Kosher Flava.    Also, break-dancing is back in style.  I’m not really sure when that happened; nobody sent me a memo.

A few weeks before that, I was flipping through the channels, and I stumbled across a form of soccer that was played with two small cars and a giant inflatable ball.  This was also supposedly multinational, with the competing nation’s flags painted on the roof of the car.  German television is always full of surprises.

Another thing I love about German television is how much of it is dubbed American television.  There are shows airing here for the first time that have already concluded on other networks-  the recent BBC shows Robin Hood and Merlin started here a few months ago.

There’s also a lot of the shows that I watch in English, also dubbed-  Community, Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother, the Mentalist, the Simpsons, Family Guy, at least four different CSI/NCIS style shows.  The Vampire Diaries.  It’s all on here, dubbed with German voices.

Some of the voices are very good.  The German dub actor for Neil Patrick Harris sounds just like the original.  For that matter, the entire How I Met Your Mother voice cast is pretty brilliant.

The night before last, I stumbled across a masterpiece of German television:  Traumschiff Surprise.

Traumschiff is a hodgepodge word-  a raumschiff is a spaceship and a traum is a dream.  And the movie is a hodgepodge as well-  a parody of Star Trek and Star Wars and several other genre movies, and most randomly, Cyrano de Bergerac. The movie is a healthy dose of camp and sillyness.  The three main Trek-styled characters are played as campy and gay.  Here they are:

I think that I must learn more fluent German, if only to truly understand this brilliant and breathtaking masterwork.    Here’s the trailer for Traumschiff Surprise- it really has to be seen.

amsterdam-6

Amsterdam

I took hundreds of photos in Amsterdam, because there’s just so much to see and do there. I already put up a few pictures of the locals celebrating the Euro 2012 championships, so I’ll leave those out here.   I’ve selected twenty-seven photos out of the hundreds that I took, and I’ll just talk about the individual photos in lieu of a “first we went here, then we went there” styled trip-report.

Ready? Go!

There are twenty-seven photographs after this More link.

Competitive Europeans, Part 2

After seeing how much the locals get into the Eurovision song competition, I thought I understood how the locals responded to competition. That was before the UEFA European Football Championship started.

UEFA, or the Union of European Football Associations, is an organization that coordinates the national football associations throughout Europe. Much like Eurovision, UEFA was founded in Switzerland in the 1950s.

A brief digression to translate for my American friends: Whenever I say football in this blog, I’m talking about the game that Americans know as soccer. If I’m talking about the big crashy game with the helmets and the pigskin, I’ll refer to that as “American Football,” or “Big Guys Running Into Each Other Really Fast In Between Beer Commercials.”   Here’s John Cleese to explain the differences further:

Just before Euro 2012 started, people began to decorate their cars, and in some cases, their homes with national colors.  Here’s two examples in Germany to give you a sense of this.   Even the lei hanging from the rear-view mirror is in German colors.

When your team wins, the celebrations are boisterous and jubilant.  Germany won their match the other night, and there was honking horns and celebrations for hours afterward throughout the city, much of it audible from my apartment.

The opening rounds of Euro 2012 started when I was in Amsterdam a few weekends ago. I was in Holland when their team was playing, and I was not prepared for just how invested people are into their national teams.    The Dutch fans went all out.   Buildings were decked out in the team colors, and some had giant inflatable balls:

People wore amazingly orange costumes throughout the city-  I saw full orange business suits, orange wigs, orange cowboy hats, orange wooden-clog-shaped shoes, and more.  I’m not even sure what to call this outfit:

The team spirit is so inclusive that even the furry folk get dressed up in their team colors:

Unfortunately for the Dutch fans, Holland has not done well this year.  I think that’s why this pup looks so sad!

We’re in the quarter-finals now, with Germany facing Greece tonight.  If Germany makes it into the semi-finals, then they’ll be playing either England or Italy next.  I’m hopeful they’ll make it into the finals, but all the remaining teams are very good so it should be an entertaining next few days.

As a temporary German, I feel obligated to show team spirit by wearing their colors on my lanyard at work.

Doc Holiday or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Urlaub*

By the end of July, I’ll have been to Prague, Barcelona, Amsterdam, London, and Edinburgh, all within a four month span.  In September I’m visiting Berlin again, and possibly Vienna.  I’m also planning on trying to spend two weeks back in the US much later in the year.

I was talking about my copious travel plans with a friend back in the US, and their next question was “How?  How do you have that much time off?”

The answer to that question is very simple- Europeans just have more vacation than Americans.  Whenever this topic comes up with friends and family, I say more or less the following:  Americans may talk a good game about having a proper work-life balance, but Europeans actually do it.

My benefits at Mr. Company** changed significantly when I moved to Germany.  I am officially “localized” here, which means that my US benefits ceased and I was brought into the same package of benefits that our European office uses.  This means that my 401k got a giant pause button, for example, and my health insurance switched over to a German health insurance plan.  It also means that my available vacation time increased quite a bit.

Germany mandates that employees have four working weeks off, minimum.  Plus public holidays. For a five day work week, that’s twenty days off plus the holidays, and some employers give more time off than the mandated minimum.  In other words, I have significantly more time away from the office here than I did in the US, despite working consistently longer hours.

I keep a list of things that will suck when I leave Germany to return to the US, and having my vacation time revert back to US levels is definitely on that list.

This weekend on Real Time, Bill Maher did a New Rule about this very topic- I’ve included part of the video below.  He mentions in the clip that 138 countries mandate the amount of vacation that employees receive.  The US is not one of them.  Study after study has shown that people who take their vacations come back more focused and more productive, with lower instances of burnout.

And you know what?  It’s all completely true.  I’ve taken the time off now, and I’m a believer.

Here’s Bill Maher to preach the gospel:

*Urlaub is the German word for vacation or holiday.

**Any reference to my employer on this blog will be said as “Mr. Company.”  The opinions expressed in this blog may or may not reflect the views of Mr. Company.  Probably they don’t, because Mr. Company is a multinational corporation and is not, strictly speaking, a sentient entity.