Christian Montoya

Lost in Translation

I have to admit that my worst experience in Frankfurt has been visiting the American Consulate to get my passport renewed. The process was slow, painful, and slightly condescending… just like home :)

Another intern from America by the name of Theodore explained to me that in German, his name is spelled "Theodor." When he sent e-mails to his contacts in Germany, however, he wrote his name as he would in America. Since the German pronounciation of "Theodore" is synonomous to the American "Theodora," the Germans naturally thought he was a woman.

You may have heard about the English fans who parked their car on "Einbahnstrasse." You can read the story at the World Cup Blog, and if that link is new to you then you really should keep up with my delicious links. Anyway, I can't blame those guys; I didn't understand the story myself until I read it in English. Hey, I live on Einbahnstrasse too :)

As far as I know, the radio in Frankfurt has a very popular station which plays every single hit song that was overplayed and overrated all over America. So far I've heard Paris Hilton's "Stars are Blind," Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On," and No Doubt's "Don't Speak," among many other cookie-cutter pop songs. It's not exactly a stroll down memory lane; more like torture and interrogation at the hands of VH1 (don't click that link unless you hate yourself). Aside from this there are some occasional german songs, one or two spanish hits, and a few oldies, like Elvis Presley's "All Shook Up." Ugh.

For the longest time I couldn't find milk with less than 1.5% fat here. I've been drinking American skim milk since I was a kid so I have come to expect milk to taste like that. I bought a carton of 1.5% milk here and the first time I had a glass with my breakfast I felt sick for the rest of they day. It was like crude oil was blocking my esophagus. I couldn't even breathe. The next day I tried making pseudo-skim-milk by combining this thick cream half and half with water in a glass. It didn't help. The following day I poured the glass to the top with water and added two drops of the 1.5% milk. It still was not as light as the skim milk of my youth, but I was able to drink it without wincing or choking. At that point I figured I would tough it out and condition myself with a glass of this "diet" 1.5% milk each day until the unthinkable happened: I found a brand that sells 0.3% milk in a store I was visiting for the first time. 0.3%! It may not be quite as delicious as skim milk, but I can actually drink the stuff without adding any water at all!

Here's my advice to any Americans looking to travel to another country: wherever you go, make sure you visit McDonald's. As much as I hate to support Ronald McDonald and his cronies, I always find visiting McDonald's in a new country to be an experience that offers much cultural self-reflection. This was true from the very first time in Budapest, Hungary. Upon having a hamburger there five years ago, I began to question the fast food establishment as a collective in my own country and the statements it makes about my society. Why does meat taste so much better at the McDonald's in Hungary? Why does it taste like (gasp!) real meat? Why do Americans accept such low quality meat? Why don't we value natural, high quality food the way Europeans do? Why doesn't Budapest have a Wendy's?

While I'm on the subject of fast food, I should mention that the KFC in Frankfurt doesn't serve potato wedges. They serve the same fries you would get at McDonald's. Those poor Germans are missing out.

If you didn't know it already, media and advertisers in Germany (and most of Europe) are allowed to show a lot more nudity than in the U.S. The local shopping mall has a billboard all over town with about 10 nude men showing off their rears, and the local "tabloid" had a random picture of a topless girl on the cover today. Obviously this lack of censorship has led to the same problems American is starting to face: gratuitous sexual advertising with no relevant context to the products being advertising and lame attempts by publishers to attract readers with cheap nudity. It doesn't matter if nudity itself is less of a "taboo" in Europe; this trash is lame.

And last but not least, why do Americans call it "Soccer?" The rest of the world says "Football," but the U.S.A. decided to use that name for a completely different and barely foot-related sport a long time ago. They should have called American Football "Padded Rugby" or "Sweatball" or just "Pigskin-tossin'." Then they could have followed what the rest of the world recognizes; that football is a game where you move the ball with your foot.

Thank you for reading • Published on June 21st, 2006 • Please take a moment to share this with your friends


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