February 18, 2005


Good to go's jerk comment here made me think of something else. We do "depend upon [the government] for everything." The military is socialist system. Health care is free, housing is free, most services are free. And that's the worst part about being with the Army. Health care is free, so there are long lines at the doctor and forget about making a dental or eye appointment. Housing is free, so if you turn down the house they offer you, they take you off the list for 90 days. And services are free, so when we moved here, our flight was delayed for six hours and they put us on a plane with no overhead compartments that didn't have enough fuel to make it across the Atlantic. The movers also forgot to ship our belongings until after we arrived here (and the Army also forgot to pay us for two and a half months).

But all of this stuff is free, so you can't complain. Often the people who provide these services don't have much job pride or customer-oriented goals either, because what are you gonna do, take your business elsewhere? I live a socialist lifestyle, and it ain't pretty.

Posted by: Sarah at 12:19 PM | Comments (5) | Add Comment
Post contains 200 words, total size 1 kb.

February 17, 2005


I just noticed this comment by PAC tonight and I wanted to address it. It's a very normal point of view for a European to have, the same point of view I've found in most of my European friends. It is, I believe, the biggest dividing factor between Americans and Europeans and the source of our value differences.

It's also related to Bill Whittle's social vs. individual responsibility.

When I was a senior in high school, I was trying to decide whether I should go to a public or private school. I really wanted to attend this small private school I had chosen, so my dad decided it was time for a lesson in economics. He knew I wanted to be a teacher, so he made me figure out how much of an average teacher salary would go towards paying off $50,000 in student loans. He asked me if it would be worth going to this school to pay perhaps half of my monthly income towards loans. I agreed that it would not and decided to go to the public school. Only once I had started school did my father say that if I had believed that it would have been worth $50,000 of my own money, he would've helped me go to the private school. But since it wasn't worth my own money, it must not have been that important to me.

That's an awesome lesson that my father taught me, one that I personally think applies to my American worldview. You spend your own money far more frugally than you do your father's, and certainly far more frugally than you do the government's. People are simply more responsible when they have more responsibility to take care of themselves. We saw that with today's link about sharing: you end up with more Hershey Kisses if you're in charge of your own.

The biggest difference between Americans and Europeans is responsibility. In the US you're individually responsible for far more (and not nearly enough, in my opinion) than you are in Europe. I was responsible for paying for my own college, so I chose wisely and finished quickly. In many European countries, you can take as long as you want to get your degree; it's someone else's Hershey Kisses. I wish we were in charge of our own Social Security in the US, because I could do a much better job of managing it than the government can, to where I could pay for both medicine and travel. Me, myself, paying for it, not the government.

When my husband and I met with a financial advisor, he asked us how much money we wanted to set aside for our children's college funds. We slowly looked at each other, looked back at the advisor, and sheepishly asked if "nothing" was an acceptable answer. We both paid for our own college educations -- he through ROTC, I through academic scholarships -- and we expect our children to do the same. I don't plan to pay for my own child's college; there's no way I would want to pay taxes to make it free for everyone. I don't even like thinking about the tax dollars that fund the Pell grant.

PAC's opinion is completely understandable, given his background, but completely incomprehensible given mine. I can respect that he feels that way, but I certainly don't want my government emulating Europe in that manner.


Response to good to go above.

Posted by: Sarah at 05:46 PM | Comments (9) | Add Comment
Post contains 581 words, total size 3 kb.

February 13, 2005


Amritas mentions the French nickname for McDonald's: MacDo. Once when I was in France, my friends and I were walking to the McDonald's, laughing and talking to each other in the parking lot. A man pushing a baby stroller passed us and began yelling at us to speak French or go home. "This is France, we speak French here!" We were dumbfounded, and as he walked away, we noted how ironic it was that he had just walked out of the biggest symbol of American soft power -- where he had likely uttered the words un Big Mac et un Sprite s'il vous plait -- and he had the nerve to tell us not to speak English. Can you imagine that same scenario in the US: going to a Mexican restaurant and yelling at patrons not to speak Spanish?

Ahh, the French.

Posted by: Sarah at 04:30 AM | Comments (5) | Add Comment
Post contains 144 words, total size 1 kb.

February 12, 2005


Amritas pointed me towards John Ray's response to an article about how much better Europe is. Hud has an interesting post on Europe's stagnant economy. Both of them made me think about my friends' jobs.

Some jobs here on post are German contract jobs, and the only two Americans I know who have these jobs are my friends who work for the quartermaster here. When soldiers have TA-50 that needs to be laundered, they bring it to my friends. My friends sort it, tag it, and bag it for when the laundry trucks come. They don't actually launder anything; they are just the middle men for the operation. Some days they're quite busy, especially at the end of a deployment. Other days they see very few customers. If no one is coming in, they can do whatever they want: homework, quilting, knitting, watching DVDs, hanging out with Sarah.

Remember, they're employed by the Germans. For this job that a monkey could do, they get paid 10 Euros an hour (which is $13 right now). They work only 20 hours per week each but get six weeks of paid vacation plus Kindergeld (the child allowance the German government gives you just for having a child). They know that they have it good; if they did this same job in the States, no doubt it would be minimum wage ($5.15 per hour, not $13), and there would be no benefits since it's just a part-time job.

I'm glad that my friends have such a great job, but I simply can't understand it. How can the Germans afford to pay them so much for a sinecure? They make more than I did teaching English for the college! I think part of Europe's problem is that they pay way too much for jobs that require no skill. I don't know how they'll continue to give lavish benefits to the monkey jobs.

(No offense, girls: you know I'd love to get paid to knit.)

Posted by: Sarah at 04:19 AM | Comments (4) | Add Comment
Post contains 331 words, total size 2 kb.

January 22, 2005


This article seriously makes me want to puke.

Posted by: Sarah at 01:29 AM | No Comments | Add Comment
Post contains 10 words, total size 1 kb.

January 17, 2005


A quote from Toren, via Amritas:

.. [T]he fact is that if you speak any other language than English, and then learn English, you can go practically anywhere in the world and communicate since it is the second language of choice nearly worldwide. So the motivation value is high and the rewards substantial, plus, many countries teach it to children at an age when they can soak up an extra language with ease ...

It's just that if you're raised speaking English, one of the primary motivations for learning a second language is nullified.

Americans get a lot of crap from Europeans for not learning foreign languages. But seriously, which one should we learn? I spent ten years learning French and two years learning Swedish, and they do absolutely no good here in Germany. I still hear the joke all the time about how "a bilingual is someone who speaks two languages and a monolingual is someone who is American." Even if Americans worked hard to learn Spanish, the obvious choice in the US, they still would be looked down on everywhere but Spain. There's simply not an easy second-choice language for us, like English is for every other freaking country in the world.

If I had known when I was 15 that I would be living in Germany, I could have taken German in high school. But when you're in high school, German and French seem about equally as useful (read: not at all). And when we do come here to Germany, and we try to learn German (our beginner level German classes are always packed), Germans just roll their eyes at us and reply in English when we try to use it.

My husband came upon a poster in Iraq that was put up by the Honduran troops. He started translating the poster when one of his Hispanic soldiers said, "You can read that, sir?" My husband said that he had taken five years of Spanish and could muddle his way through the poster, but he could use some help. The Hispanic soldier looked my husband in the eye and said, "Don't look at me, I don't speak Spanish." The former-gangbanger from L.A. with the uber-Hispanic name doesn't speak a word of Spanish. I guess English works just fine for all of us.

Posted by: Sarah at 07:16 AM | Comments (10) | Add Comment
Post contains 389 words, total size 2 kb.

December 15, 2004


When I sat down at our office Christmas lunch, I immediately remembered that I don't like any of the people I work with. I ate with a bunch of looters. Two hours of conspiracy theories and "health care is a right" and all sorts of socialist nonsense from people who have chosen to remain in Germany as squatters, mooching off the Army. The table conversation would've been funny, I suppose, if it didn't make me want to throw up. One woman was complaining about health care in the US and about how much better it is in Germany. She said that German doctors weren't motivated by money like American doctors and that they earn the same salary as schoolteachers. "Then what's the incentive to become a doctor?" I asked. She got all flustered and condescending. "But that's thinking like an American! You can't think like that!" "But I am an American," I responded. "I'm an American to the bone." "But life isn't about money!" she whined. So here's where the fun began. "OK," I said, "then since we all work equally hard in our education center to help soldiers, why don't we pool our money and all get paid the same salary?" "Oh, but that's different because we work under the American system..." she trailed off. Different, really, how? Oh, because she makes $61,000 a year and I make $12,000. It's her pocketbook now, so it's different. "Germans aren't motivated by greed like everyone is in the US," she continued. Her mental gymnastics were simply stunning: this is the woman who gets an outrageous housing allowance from the American government, illegally rents part of her house out, and uses the profit to buy up property in Germany and re-sell it. I suppose she does all of that out of the goodness of her heart and not for profit or anything.


On the way home, I tried to convince myself that I had just had a lovely lunch with Bunker, Deskmerc, Amritas, Fad, and CavX.

A girl can dream, right?

Posted by: Sarah at 09:31 AM | Comments (8) | Add Comment
Post contains 342 words, total size 2 kb.

December 12, 2004


The husband finished Atlas Shrugged the other day; I still have a couple hundred pages left. But what I'm noticing as I'm reading is a sad parallel between what's happening in the book and what I've been reading on blogs lately. Take this gem for example: In Britain, if you want to replace a broken window or rewire the lighting in your house, you have to ask the government's permission. Bureaucrats have to come and make sure your home still meets Kyoto regulations. Of how 'bout this from the Netherlands: The government would pay artists with taxpayers' money to create art, which would be stored in a warehouse, just so that people could have a job.

So how do people react to a society of "each according to his need", of government control of everything, of forced multiculturalism? They want to leave:

"Van Gogh's death was a confirmation for them of what they already sensed was happening," he said. "They're accountants, teachers, nurses, businessmen and bricklayers, from all walks of life. They see things going on every day in this country that are quite unbelievable. They see no clear message from the government, and they are afraid it's becoming irreversible, that's why they are leaving."
Ellen, 43, a lawyer and banker who votes for the free-market Liberals, said the code of behaviour regulating daily life in the Netherlands was breaking down.

"People no longer know what to expect from each other. There are so many rules, but nobody sticks to them. They just do as they want. They just execute people on the streets, it's shocking when you see this for the first time," she said. "We've become so tolerant that everybody thinks they can fight their own wars here. Van Gogh is killed, and then people throw bombs at mosques and churches. It's escalating because the police and the state aren't doing anything about it.

"There's a feeling of injustice that if you do things right, if you work hard and pay your taxes, you're punished, and those who don't are rewarded. People can come and live here illegally and get payments. How is that possible?

"We didn't think about how we should integrate people, to make sure that we actually talk to each other and know each other, instead of living in ghettoes with different rules.

Is life imitating art, or did Ayn Rand predict all of this?

(But don't forget that our country isn't immune to ridiculous government spending...)

Posted by: Sarah at 04:13 AM | Comments (12) | Add Comment
Post contains 419 words, total size 3 kb.

October 17, 2004


I've talked to Europeans in the States who hate feeling rushed at American restaurants. I'm so deeply American that I can't really feel their pain, because I really don't like lounging around in restaurants all night. Even people here will applaud the slow pace at German restaurants and say that they enjoy not being rushed out the door right after dinner, but I still haven't gotten over the feeling of "wasting time" during a German meal.

I read, with intense envy, Varifrank's details of his weekend. I was beside myself as I imagined an evening of a Mexican restaurant, Barnes and Noble, Starbucks, and a grocery store. All after 1800 -- that's madness. But the timeline for his dinner struck me. They arrived at 1830 and got out of there at 2100, and because they had to wait so long, their dinner was free. Hoo boy. I go to dinner here every Friday night at about 1830, and we never get out of there before 2100. Usually there's only one or two other tables occupied there, and there's never a rush. Except for on my part: I usually get up and go get the menus myself.

Now before Oda Mae feels slighted, since she's one of the people I eat with every week, I must say that it's not that I don't mind the company. I enjoy talking with friends I only see once a week. But I always feel this feeling of stress about wasting time. I feel like we're waiting too long in between Necessary Dinner Actions.

Back in the States, I have on occasion paid the bill and sat there for a while longer. That's enjoyable, because you're done with all Dinner Actions, but you've decided you're not ready to leave yet. Here, as soon as we pay the bill, it's like I can't get out of the building fast enough, because we've already waited about 45 minutes to pay the bill. I feel like we wait an eternity to Get Menus, Place Orders, and Pay the Bill. I'm constantly trying to flag the waiter down so we can pay. It's not relaxing for me. I don't feel like we are in charge of our eating pace, the restaurant is, and so I feel enslaved to the waiter's time schedule. (The word "enslaved" sounds pretty intense, but I can't think of a better way to express the feeling of impatience and frustration I feel trying to get a German waiter to notice me.)

I know there are plenty of Americans who enjoy this type of eating experience, so take what I say with a grain of salt. But it drives me crazy. One night my mom suggested we go "grab a bite to eat" when she was visiting, and I cracked up. There's no such thing here, and I always feel stressed when we spend hours at the dinner table.

And don't even get me started on Varifrank's midnight trip to the grocery store...sigh.

Posted by: Sarah at 04:53 AM | Comments (7) | Add Comment
Post contains 501 words, total size 3 kb.

October 14, 2004


We often get soldiers from different countries around here because of the training area. Right now there are a bunch of Belgians here on our post. I was surprised to hear French in line behind me at the commissary, but I wasn't surprised at their purchase; they were stocking up on the two things you can't get in Belgium: peanut butter and barbecue sauce. Hilarious.

Posted by: Sarah at 05:04 AM | Comments (1) | Add Comment
Post contains 67 words, total size 1 kb.


Mr Kehoe said that work to uncover graves around Iraq, where about 300,000 people are thought to have been killed during Saddam Hussein's regime, was slow as experienced European investigators were not taking part.

The Europeans, he said, were staying away as the evidence might be used eventually to put Saddam Hussein to death.

"We're trying to meet international standards that have been accepted by courts throughout the world," he added.

These are the people we're supposed to worry don't support us? I would be ashamed if they did approve of us.

Toddlers clutching toys. We did the right thing.

Posted by: Sarah at 04:57 AM | Comments (6) | Add Comment
Post contains 104 words, total size 1 kb.

October 13, 2004


I've you've ever had a conversation with a European, you'll appreciate reading The Secret Weapon.

Posted by: Sarah at 06:11 AM | Comments (9) | Add Comment
Post contains 17 words, total size 1 kb.

October 02, 2004


I love when the bias is so ingrained that people can't even see it. My German co-worker said yesterday that the German media was reporting that Kerry had won the debate. I said that I hadn't seen the program, but that everything I had read had called it a draw. I said that people who like Bush generally gave him the edge, while people who like Kerry said that he had won. She said that Germany didn't really have a preference in the American presidential election, so they were just reporting objectively. I wanted to laugh my fool head off, but instead I casually mentioned the polls that show overwhelming German support for Kerry. And I printed this out for her. How can she not see the elephant in the room that is Europe's love for Kerry?

Posted by: Sarah at 02:33 AM | Comments (3) | Add Comment
Post contains 139 words, total size 1 kb.

September 30, 2004


I told you Italians are cool...

Posted by: Sarah at 02:42 AM | No Comments | Add Comment
Post contains 8 words, total size 1 kb.

September 26, 2004


I found common ground with a porcelain artist in Nove, Italy.

You all know that I love my identity as a military wife, but the worst feeling in the world is that split second right after you have to answer the "Why are you living in Germany?" question. You never know what to expect from your European questioner. Most often you get that "oh", that bit of surprise that you're not here to bum around Europe "finding yourself" by getting drunk with Australians. Sometimes you get that recoil, and you feel the mood of the conversation change. Sometimes you get the look of pity, like it must be so miserable living under the thumb of the New Hitler.

And sometimes you get the, "Sure, I know where you live. I used to train in Grafenwoehr when I was in the Italian military."

Mom and I had a wonderful talk with this porcelain artist, and we could find enough common ground to really try to understand each other. He confessed to full support of the war in Iraq -- he likes the flypaper concept -- but admitted that he doesn't always think President Bush is best for the world. He he thought that a president who would kiss France's butt a little would be better for other countries in the EU. I can see where he's coming from: As an American, I don't give a flying leap what France and Germany think, but I can now see better how the smaller EU countries do have to play the cooperation game, even though this Italian man rolled his eyes and agreed that it was farcical. Mom was extremely forthright and asked him many questions to which I feared the answers, but we learned a lot from him, and hopefully he from us.

So I didn't get to meet Serenade, but we met his kindred spirit.

Overall, I found Italy to be quite pleasant. All of the people we met seemed to be genuinely happy to meet us Americans, and one of them even went on and on about how much she loved Wisconsin. Really. I've never heard a foreigner speak of anywhere but NYC, LA, or Vegas. The loving way she spoke about Wisconsin was quite touching.

The Italians also seemed thrilled that I had spent a day teaching myself a bit of Italian. All I did was teach myself a bit of non parlo italiano and quanto questa, but I guess the effort went a long way. I found the language to be quite easy to pick up, albeit on a superficial level. I crutched on my French and guessed by saying the latin root with an Italian accent a couple of times and managed to get along quite well. I also had a not-ugly-American moment when we wanted to ask a shopkeeper a question and my Italian simply wouldn't do: we asked if he spoke any English, and he shrugged apologetically and said, "Non...Deutsch." Well then, I thought, and asked the question auf Deutsch. Heh. And I speak two other languages that didn't even enter into the picture, buddy. Now go tell your friends that there are Americans who aren't monolingual jerks.

The Italians loved pointing and whispering about my American-issued license plate, I ate the same pizza at the same restaurant three nights in a row, it was that good, and I burned a ton of gas driving up and down those mountains. What a week.

Posted by: Sarah at 05:38 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment
Post contains 583 words, total size 3 kb.


In a normal week, I drive perhaps 15 or 20 miles. This week I drove 1300. In a normal week, I do three things: work, knit, and blog. This week I didn't do any of those activities. It was a week of doing things that were out of the ordinary.

I painted my fingernails. That may not seem so exciting, but I realized that I hadn't made the time to do that small task in nearly a year. I read 500 pages of my book. I worked obsessively on this puzzle. I went to see this man. I bought a set of these. And when I walked out of our residenza, this is what I saw.


We went to a ski resort in September. There was no snow, there were no people, and there was nothing pressing to do. The resort owner seemed embarrassed and apologetic that we had come at such a boring time, but it was exactly what I wanted. For me, a true vacation is about doing nothing. I did a lot of nothing this week; it was wonderful.

Posted by: Sarah at 03:41 AM | Comments (4) | Add Comment
Post contains 184 words, total size 2 kb.

September 17, 2004


Amritas weighs in on subtitling Fahrencrap 9/11 into Farsi at the screening in Iran. I started emailing him but then decided to post my thoughts here too. When I lived in Angers, there was one movie theater that didn't dub movies, and that was the only one we ever went to. I saw some pretty interesting movies with French subtitles, and I can certainly say that there were numerous jokes that went right over their heads. Often they didn't even bother to try to translate stuff. Some movies just don't translate well: The Big Lebowski, Buffalo 66, and Smoke. The subtitling for these movies was pitiful; there's no way the European viewers got even half of what we got out of the movies. We would be cracking up, and they'd stare at us like we were nuts. And that's just the actual dialogue; the culltural references didn't make sense, even to the English-able Brits. There's one scene where these gangstas come by the store, and the Brits were laughing at them: "They don't look so tough; I bet I could take that guy," they said. An American friend dared them to come to her neighborhood in the States and roll up to a character like that!

On the Pulp Fiction soundtrack, there are snippets of dialogue from the movie. My French roommate in college borrowed the CD from me and was visibly shocked when she heard the diner dialogue, you know, the one with the "sewer rat may taste like pumpkin pie" bit. She made me play it over and over again, repeating the dialogue more slowly so she could understand, and she swore up and down that she had never heard that in the French version she saw. She claims that the exchange never even happened, not even something similar to it. I've always wondered what the French version of Pulp Fiction was like, but I've never seen it myself.

Maybe on the next trip over the border.

Posted by: Sarah at 07:01 AM | Comments (1) | Add Comment
Post contains 331 words, total size 2 kb.

September 09, 2004


Blackfive points to an op-ed called A European Conversation. I've certainly been there and had that conversation, and I sure wanted to bust their chops too. He also points to an article about how one in five Germans wants the Berlin Wall back. I know of at least two Germans who blame all their country's economic troubles on the former East. I can't say if they're representative, but they make no bones about how they feel towards the former East freeloaders.

Incidentally, I thought Europeans in general were against walls. I guess they're only against one of them.

Blackfive ends by pointing to a Kim du Toit post about how warmly he was received in Paris. Many of the commenters echoed his sentiments; I wish I had been as lucky as they were. I majored in French and studied it for 8 years before moving to Angers. I won all sorts of awards in high school and won French Student of the Year in my college. I placed into the top level of French study when I moved there to study abroad, and I found the French to be quite rude to Americans. They would pretend not to understand me, even with the simplest sentences. (How hard is it to figure out that I'm asking for stamps when I'm in the post office?) Our teachers would praise the Taiwanese and Japanese speakers and then cringe when the Americans spoke and say things like, "Oh, you really need to get rid of that horrible American accent." Some landlords even banned English in the home, even when three English speakers lived together. Once when four of us Americans were walking down the street, a French person started yelling at us for speaking English to each other, telling us to go home if we wanted to speak English.

My experience with my extended family is the only thing that redeems France for me. They have never been anything but kind and encouraging. I wish I had met them first instead of the awful people I met in Angers.

Posted by: Sarah at 03:18 AM | Comments (1) | Add Comment
Post contains 347 words, total size 2 kb.

September 08, 2004


When I was 18, my grandmother gave me an address for a distant relative in France and asked me to write to him. He and I corresponded for two years, and then when I lived in France, I went and met him and his brother. I returned a few months later with my mother and uncle, at which point they rolled out the red carpet in our ancestral village and we drank champagne with the mayor. After a disappointing year of study in France, I came home, changed my career goals and really felt bitter towards all things French, even my distant family. However, I wrote a month ago about how this kind man passed away recently and how I regretted letting politics get in the way of family. So Mom and I packed up and went.

First of all, I can't believe it takes five hours to drive across an entire country. My husband and I lived five hours apart while we were dating! Mom and I traversed all of Germany and crossed the border to find a freaking plethora of roundabouts. I had forgotten how much the French love their roundabouts. (Unfortunately, on the way there, Mom and I took three lefts off these roundabouts and ended back up in Germany!) We made it safe and sound back to see the family I had neglected for so long.

And the reunion was a wonderful one. My French was a little rusty, but one of my "cousins" had worked for a year in the US, so he helped with the translations. We ate, we chatted, we met even more extended family, we ate some more, we hugged, we laughed, and we ate again. They invited me for Christmas, and I just might consider it.

I swore I'd never set foot in France again, but I'm glad I went.

Posted by: Sarah at 04:19 AM | Comments (3) | Add Comment
Post contains 311 words, total size 2 kb.

August 21, 2004


Medienkritik defines multilateralism.

Posted by: Sarah at 09:16 AM | No Comments | Add Comment
Post contains 5 words, total size 1 kb.

<< Page 3 of 4 >>
140kb generated in CPU 0.0334, elapsed 0.0976 seconds.
62 queries taking 0.0735 seconds, 256 records returned.
Powered by Minx 1.1.6c-pink.