First Days, Part II

In my first days here, I’ve made the most delightfully stupid mistakes. Besides the rather tame incident involving a desperate need for water (in which I happily approached a young man with pleading eyes and asked, “Wer ist der Wasser?”, when I later realized it meant ‘Who is the[masc, but should be neuter] water?’), I have also thought about steering clear of restaurants. This is because Germans have a most peculiar ritual when it comes to paying the bill.

Stemming from the frightful fact that credit cards are rarely used, the waitress will come to your table with the receipt and expect you to pay in cash. She has a small wallet with plenty of coins and bills to give you change. However, unlike most (civilized) countries, the waitress will tell you the price of the meal, and then the customer (me, in this case) is expected to respond with the price he/she wants to pay. This means that one must quickly add a bit of gratuity, tell the girl the new price, and she will give change for that amount.

Not knowing all this at the time, however, I blithely gave her several bills, received my change, and she walked away. I then had a dilemma. Do I leave the tip on the table? But the tables were outside, and there were some rather unwholesome gentlemen not far away. Do I go inside and hand it to her?When I finally came to understand the entire process, I ended up having to flag her down, and poor girl, having misunderstood my receipt, I over-tipped by about twice the amount. She told me so, but I shook my head and said, “It’s okay, it’s okay!” and quickly ran off.

First Days, Part I


Tuesday, and I have had quite a day. I ended up stealing the rest of a roll of toilet paper from the Mensa and borrowing a bottle of shampoo and a small towel from Michael, one of my future housemates. I met a ton of people, including a flock of French girls, and I feel as if all my senses were stimulated again with all the flutter of winds from other lands. My primary goal at the moment, however, is to get a bed for my room and move out of the dorms pronto. Homesick though, I cried myself to sleep.

Arrival in Germany

So after all the stress, the waiting, the worries, and the running around, I have finally made it to Saarbrücken.

It was an uneventful flight, but just as I started to feel as if everything would go smoothly and all would be well, I arrived on campus. As my flight arrived late and I had tooled around a bit in Frankfurt, I did not arrive until close to 6pm. I was not expecting to have to dive into the German language so abruptly, but as the organizers were insistent upon speaking it, all of the instructions and information for the courses and dorm rooms were thus communicated. It was a painfully long process.

Still, it wasn’t until I finally made it to my room that the whole horror hit me. There I was in my room with no sheets, no towel, no shampoo or soap or toilet paper, waiting for our resident assistant (an algerien who tended to speak a colorful mix of french and german) to show up and explain how to use the shower. He never did show and, horror of horrors, stores in Germany close at 8pm. This is, of course, an advancement in progress for the Saarlandish, as it was not more than two years before when stores closed at 5pm or 6.

In any case, hot, tired, and hungry, I finally managed to receive bed sheets and a pillow, and settled down into a troubled sleep in which I constantly bashed my knee into the radiator and dreamt longingly of home.