Getting Schooled by the Germans

In Europe by Mallory14 Comments

My two days in Cologne turned into five after meeting a really fabulous group of Germans. Bjarne (who was an exchange student at my high school) and his roommates hosted me for three days, so I got to eat with the locals, hang with the locals, not pay for the metro like the locals, but mostly just look confused when everyone around me spoke German. In all seriousness, it was a nice change of pace and I even learned a few things that I wouldn’t have learned otherwise.

Making crepes for my hosts!

Making crepes for my hosts!

Lesson #1: How to Play Schlagball
Schlagball isn’t necessarily a German sport, but Bjarne and his friends play every Sunday and are gearing up for the German championship in a few weeks. I tagged along and they were nice enough to let me play. Translating the rules from German to English was not an easy task but I understood enough to know that I had to try to hit the ball and run to the “safety zone” on the opposite side of the field without getting hit by the ball. The language barrier played to their advantage during the game when the opposing team all decided to gang up on the American. Glad I could give them some extra practice [thumbs up].

Schlagball isn’t supposed to be a full contact sport, but the game ended after a serious collision and an ambulance ride to the hospital. The girl was okay aside from a purple egg on her cheek.

Celebrating a great Schlagball game at my favorite Lebanese restaurant

Celebrating a great Schlagball game at my favorite Lebanese restaurant

Lesson #2: How to Open a Beer Bottle without an Opener
It was “positively shameful” that I didn’t know how to open a beer bottle without an opener. My lame excuses “I don’t drink beer” and “aren’t most bottles twist top?” didn’t cut it with this group, so they set up a series of challenges. The first challenge was to open a beer with a soda bottle. It only took about 17 tries and a small crowd of cheering Germans to get the top off. Next challenge was to use the side of the table. This time only required 4 tries. I’m getting better. The last challenge was to open a beer with a piece of paper. Seriously? They insisted that it was possible. I folded the paper to get a little bit more leverage. 20 minutes later I was practically sweating and the bottle still wasn’t open. The bottle and paper were passed around the room for the others to show me how it’s done. No one had much luck opening the beer, but apparently that was because I broke the paper. A “classic American engineering mistake.” Regardless, I’m pretty proud of my progress. True German beer drinker right here, folks.

German ingenuity - opening a beer with a piece of paper

German ingenuity – opening a beer with a piece of paper

Lesson #3: Einbahnstrasse is Not a Street Name
Some lessons are fun, some lessons are painful. This one was just embarrassing. There’s a street sign near my hostel that read “Einbahnstrasse.” Thinking it was the name of my street, I confidently announced that I knew the direction home one night when I saw the same sign on a corner. Bjarne looked at me incredulously. “Are you serious?” Apparently Einbahnstrasse means “one way street.”

Bonus Vocab Lesson:
Abfahrt van der Vaart = let’s go (slang)
Ein kaffe mit milch bitte = one coffee with milk please
Tschuss = a cute way to say goodbye
Prost = cheers
Guten appetit = enjoy your meal
Danke schon = thank you
Ich nichte sprechen Deutsch = I don’t speak German
Einbahnstrasse = one way street
Nachte station = next station
Ausgang = exit
Schinkenzwiebelmettwurst = ham & onion mettwurst

Seriously... just try to pronounce that.

Seriously… just try to pronounce that.



  1. How fun is that! Glad you are having so much fun with your new friends. I love reading your blog posts. Thanks for keeping us updated on the culture and languarge skills you are acquiring.

    1. Author

      Of course! And it’s fun for me as well. πŸ™‚ Keeps me from going crazy on my looonnnggg bus rides.

  2. Glad that you’re allowing serendipity to give you experiences you would never have had otherwise. Living with a fairly competent German speaker, I always get a kick out of those mile-long words. We have friends who moved to Germany right after their wedding so she could finish the last year of her 2-yr. teaching contract in a US military base school. He really knew no German when he arrived and quickly decided that a smile, some facial or hand expressions, and the word “bitte” would go a long way in communicating. Bitte can mean several things – mainly “please,” but can also mean “thank you,” “here you go,” “pardon me,” or “may I help you?” That one word basically got him through the next year.

    1. Author

      Jackie, I noticed that too! I first I thought bitte just meant please and then I realized people say it ALL THE TIME. Just throw it out randomly in conversation and you sound like a true German.

    1. Author

      Unfortunately, no. πŸ™ After the game had been cleaned up, I realized we hadn’t gotten a picture and it was too late by then. Sad isn’t it?

  3. Thoroughly enjoyed your blog. The German is familiar to me, but is not an easy language to learn. I understand you are now in Belgium? You go girl!! Love you!

    1. Author

      Yes! Only for two days though, it has been surprisingly difficult to find affordable accommodation anywhere here! I think I will head to France for a few days. πŸ™‚

  4. Abfahrt van der vaart get ein kaffe mit milch bitte when you ausgang Europe! Tschuss!

  5. Hi Mallory!
    It was lovely chatting with you on our walking tour of Brussels today (you’ll be pleased to know I have my card safely back in my hands – shoulders have now relaxed from around my ears and returned to their normal position due to the release of stress!!)

    Here is the link to the article we were chatting about –

    Hope it is of use, safe travelling.


    1. Author

      Hi Andrea!! It was so great meeting you as well! Thanks for the article, I am currently sitting in a train station on the hunt for the nearest coffee shop with wifi, so this will come in handy. πŸ™‚

      Hope the rest of your trip is awesome – glad to know your card has safely been returned. Take care and enjoy your time with your daughter! πŸ™‚


  6. this is awesome! The best way to experience any country and culture is to live like the locals and do what they do….amazing!!! a year from now you will be a completely different person! Muy bien chica!!

  7. What a fun post! Glad to get caught up… love, love, love it!

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