Being with Mueller as an international exchange employee is probably the best way to experience American culture. Mueller employees could be considered the nicest coworkers on earth. They are consistently taking me to fun events like this stunning concert by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, baseball games, wine tastings, or inviting me to their house and letting me “floor” their Chevy Corvette. They are also continuously inviting me to outstanding restaurants. It even turned into a competition taking me to the restaurant I like best. Dave is in the lead by having taken me to this awesome place in Geneva, IL called Wildwood Restaurant.
I have already mentioned before, one of my major concerns was gaining weight during my stay in the US. My friends back in Germany keep on asking me the question since I arrived and for good reason. I am already addicted to Coca Cola and besides those fancy restaurants, coworkers at Mueller are constantly taking me out to have deep dish pizza at Giordano’s or to have Italian beef and burgers at Portillos. I have also fallen in love with the lobster roll in Boston and the New York style pizza in New York. Luckily I have a gym at the place I am staying so my girlfriend won’t be too shocked when I am coming back to Germany.
Generally speaking, the food is pretty similar to Germany’s. We have a lot of diversity with Chinese, Indian, Mexican, Greek, burger restaurants and so forth as well in Germany. However, I have noticed the meal sizes are a lot bigger here. In Germany you wouldn’t have to tell the waiter to box up your food. What is also really weird to me is that Americans always drink their water with a lot of ice. In Germany we prefer our water warmer and also sparkling. When I eat out with coworkers they laugh at me every time I order my water with no ice.
Apart from the water the only other thing I really miss is good German beer; especially when you are forced to drink a Bud Light at a baseball game. However, I have to admit there are exceptions. I have learned Chicago is a hub for craft beer and that there are a lot of great microbreweries. Last week I went on a tour through the Two Brothers beer brewery in Warrenville at Mueller Financial Service’s Client Appreciation Event and I have to say their beer is awesome! I learned that one of the two brothers, a lawyer, spent some time in Europe where he fell in love with the beers from Belgium, Germany, England, Ireland, and France and decided to start his own brewery as soon as he arrived back in the US. This is the reason why you can find craft beer style Hefeweizen, Oktoberfestbeer, Stouts and Lager at Two Brothers.
Speaking of beer, a weird thing I also noticed is that Americans apparently picture Germans drinking their beer out of boot glasses while sitting next to their cuckoo clock and listening to David Hasselhoff… this is hilarious and so not true!
Another tremendous cultural difference between the US and Germany is sports. I painfully learned that soccer is not a big deal in the US. When my favorite team Borussia Dortmund played Bayern Munich in the finals (comparable with the NBA finals between the Cavs and the Warriors) there were no bars in Chicago showing the game (Dortmund lost in the penalty shootout, so maybe it was better for me not being able to watch it). Finding it is this difficult to follow soccer is pretty unfortunate having in mind the European Championship is taking place in France at the moment. Since I was asked multiple times if the EURO was something like the Premier League and how many German teams would participate in it I figured I could explain. The EURO is similar to the World Cup but with only European national teams. There are six groups including four teams each. After having played each team in their group the best two teams in each group plus the four best third placed teams overall move on to the playoffs. The group stage is already over and Germany is playing Italy in the quarter finals next Saturday. In Germany this tournament is a really big deal. Imagine what would happen in Chicago if the Cubs were playing in the World Series. That is what is happening in Germany right now.
On the other side, it is great to experience new and unknown sporting events here. Roy and Erin already took me to baseball games of both the Cubs and White Sox. From a German point of view baseball is probably the most boring sport there is in the world. Three to four hours of slow movement on the pitch and a number of hits that one can count on one hand. However, I have to admit that watching a game in the stadium is a lot of fun. It seems that all the fans are more occupied with drinking and eating and showing off some weird dance moves when the stadium camera is pointing at them. Especially Wrigley Field (Go Cubs!). Unfortunately, the Bulls did not make it into the playoffs and Chicago Blackhawks were eliminated before I arrived. But I am going to a preseason game of the Chicago Bears against the Denver Broncos in August so that I will have seen at least two of the major American sports.