It is no secret that soccer (fußball) is THE sport in Germany and Europe for that matter. Luckily I have the opportunity to be here during the European championship. This is a contest in a similar format to the World Cup except (you guessed it) only European countries can qualify. For those of you unfamiliar with the format, it consists of a group-play round where the top teams of each group move onto a bracket format playoff for the championship. Of course like any good office would do, a pool has been set up for the employees to take part in. They were generous enough to extend an invitation to me. I also snuck our Managing Partner Dave Nissen into the pool too, side note he still owes me 10 Euro… Anyhow there is a very familiar feel to this tournament like March Madness for NCAA basketball. However where I have a decent amount of knowledge of basketball and NCAA teams, I have next to no knowledge of the sport of soccer let alone the 15 plus teams in Europe. After a weekend of grueling study consider myself an expert of the sport. I have actually, by accident, developed an understanding and appreciation for soccer. This being said, there are still moments when a strong “gust” seems to knock a player over as he tries to get a favorable call from a referee.
A difference I have noticed here is everyone is interested in every game played. When I say everyone I mean every single person you see on the street. There are no casual fans in Germany. Every person is a diehard soccer fan. I suppose that could be expected when soccer is the dominate sport for the entire continent of Europe, unlike the US where we have the Big Four of sports (football, basketball, baseball, and hockey) to divide our attention. I have also noticed how big of a deal it is when your home team plays here. Germany has played three games so far and each one has been like a mini Super Bowl Sunday. The local bars are packed and there are public viewings, which is when a street is closed down and a “jumbotron screen” is placed for everyone to watch. Keep in mind that these games can happen during the week, so it could be a Tuesday night and the street is packed with people cheering, eating, and drinking until all hours of the night. Not to say this wouldn’t be the case in the US if the Super Bowl was on a Wednesday, but it is still interesting to see the favor the average fan has for this German team. I may even be tempted to buy a jersey before I leave. For me, this is a nice thing to look forward to during the week to keep time moving, as opposed to summer sports in the US (though I am LOVING the Cubs domination right now) which can be slow during this time of year.
On another note to answer some common questions I have been asked by family, friends, and co-workers:
Q: How has the food been?
A: The food has been quite good. There is nothing too crazy about classic German food. In general it is a lot of potatoes in some form, and some sort of sausage or wurst. Although Wiener schnitzel is known as a German dish it actually comes from Austria (Vienna = Wien in German) but it is still delicious. Hamburg, being a port city, has a large selection of fresh seafood which has been very nice. However a significant difference from the American presentation of fish is when you order fish at a restaurant here it most likely comes with the head and tail still attached, which took some getting used to.
Q: Are you traveling?
A: Yes I am trying to go to as many places as possible. So far I have been to Berlin, Amsterdam, and Lübeck, a city on the Baltic Sea. This upcoming weekend I am going to Prague, and I plan to go to Munich, then London and Glasgow for a week. From Hamburg I can take a train almost anywhere and be there within six hours which is really convenient. I will of course fly to London. Another great part of the transportation here is if you plan well enough it is very cheap to get around. Even flying on an airline like Ryan Air can be only a little over 100 euro. One of the most interesting things is how different each of these cities are even though they are relatively close to each other. Even between the German cities there are substantial differences between the North and South cities.
Q: Are you homesick? Do you miss anything?
A: Of course I miss a lot in the US, family, friends, even some co-workers (cough). There also is some Chicago food I miss like deep dish, Italian beef, and US pop (the Europe version doesn’t quite cut it). That being said I am definitely not ready to go back to the US yet. There is just so much to see and do here in Europe, I might even have to ask to do this again next summer.
Q: So is the beer in Germany all it is cracked up to be?
A: Like most questions it depends. If you are a fan of the staple American beers Budweiser, Coors, Miller ect. I think you would find German beer to be far superior. However for the most part IPAs do not really exist in Europe so if that is more your style of beer, you may not find German beer to be the best. To dispel another rumor that European beer is served warm. That is not the case, now it definitely is not ice cold, but they do not serve it at room temperature either.
I think that should be fine for now. In my next post I will be sure to answer more burning questions you all have. Of course feel free to email me any specific questions (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I will answer them ASAP.