20 Minute Observation

Authored By:

Jacob B.

I found myself sitting outside Loui’s Burgers on the first night.  The realization finally set in that I was in Europe for the first time since 9th grade.  I was sitting outside the restaurant with five other friends from the STEM program and we had just begun the process of looking at the menus.  I felt like an outsider as I tried to analyze the German text.  My mouth was really dry because I had just woken up from a long nap that day.  I ordered a coke and immediately noticed the lemon in my drink.  This is something I’ve realized is quite common in Germany, but I was definitely confused at first.  

Due to my dry mouth, I quickly drank the majority of the coke.  When the waiter returned I asked for a refill and quickly realized refills are not free in Germany based off of the waiter’s confused expression.  I was forced to ration out the small amount of coke over the rest of my meal.  That was the first inclination that I had about portion sizes in Europe. Everything is bigger in America when it comes to portion sizes.  (This was really noticeable when the “large” fries/drinks we had at McDonald’s today were equivalent to a small or medium in America).  

We were sitting outside during the meal so we could have easily observed the people around us.  Since we are from the States we didn’t take on that opportunity.  From a young age, I had always been taught not to stare.  However, the pedestrians passing by took full advantage of the opportunity to observe us. This was our first lesson in German etiquette.  They had no problem staring as we passed, and it was not considered rude or impolite in this new culture I found myself in.  I also noticed that people in Germany are generally quieter.  When large groups walked by the table they were not very loud as I typically expect in America.

When the food arrived, and I tasted my French fries I was again made aware of a cultural difference.  Use of salt was not as prevalent on fried foods in Germany (I at first thought this may just be Loui’s style, but I’ve since noticed it at multiple places.). That being said the food was quite good and the burgers had a Non-American twist.  It was a safe meal to get me started in German cuisine on the first day.  

When it came time to pay I had my final realizations of the meal. Credit cards are not going to be accepted in many places and tips are not as big in Germany.  We did research and found out up until a few years ago only about 1/3 of Germans even had credit cards.  My first experience of public German culture was definitely new, but I’m excited about the new experiences to come.