Day 2: The University and the City

The second day of the program started bright and early with some hotel breakfast, which included eggs, rolls, deli meats, and some fruit. We then took the street car to the University of Augsburg, where we met our German colleagues and were quickly thrown into work on a presentation to be given that same morning. In contrast to many American students, I found the German students to be very structured and organized in their approach to the presentation. They wanted to clearly delineate responsibility within the group and have a plan in place for preparing. I also found that they communicated quite well, and working with them was much easier and more productive than some of my past experiences with other American students. We gave our presentation at around noon, and despite the tight time table, everything went smoothly, and the group was satisfied with the outcome.

On campus at the University of Augsburg. Notice the bicycles, a common sight in German cities.

From there we headed to the Mensa, or cafeteria, for lunch. The other Americans and I were in awe at the variety of food and its quality, especially when compared to Pitt’s dining facilities. I decided to have some German cuisine, which included a delicious Rinderroulade and Spätzle. I also could not help but notice how the Germans ate everything on their plates. This is in stark contrast to most American students, who have no qualms throwing away food, and it is yet another subtle cultural difference. I know that it is seen as an insult to whoever made the food if one leaves some unfinished, but I am unsure if this is the reason that they clean their plates. There could be another reason that I do not know about.

Rinderroulade at the University Mensa

After lunch, the German graduate students took us on a brief campus tour, and then we went on a scavenger hunt around the city. As we traveled around the city, I noticed a lot of bicyclists. It seems to be quite a popular mode of transportation in Germany, which makes sense given the smaller distances. The streets are also much more biker-friendly than in the US, which probably contributes to the large number of bicyclists riding on the city streets. I wish that the US was this biker-friendly, but unfortunately the distances make bikes less practical, especially in the suburbs or more rural areas.

The fountain in front of the Rathaus, topped by a statue of Augustus and currently under maintenance or renovation

We ended the city tour at Riegele WirtsHaus, where we sampled some non-alcoholic beer and hung out until dinner. I only sampled the wheat beer, and I didn’t really care for it. The German green thumb continued to show up, with one of the urinals in the bathroom at the WirtsHaus attached to a tree trunk and an entire wall showing a picture of a forest. It was quite unique, although not unexpected given the German attitude towards the environment. From there we headed to dinner at the Pizzeria Dragone. I had a vegetable pizza, which was very good, but many of us were surprised to see that the pizza came uncut. By watching Sonja eat her pizza, we realized that Germans actually eat it with a fork and knife rather than with their fingers. This was a shock for us Americans, but I can see why they do so, since it cuts down on the mess.

During the day, I did a lot of people-watching to see what more I could observe about German culture and customs. What I found was that in general, Germans seem somewhat less friendly than Americans, but much more respectful and conscientious. You didn’t get any passing smiles or hellos on the streets, but people on the tram were quiet (as opposed to us loud Americans), the students finished their lunches instead of throwing food away, and the graduate students proactively cleaned up our trash at the WirtsHaus without any real obligation to do so. They also know and speak our language, which helps us out immensely, even though we would probably not do the same for them in America. I felt ashamed at times to be an American, but I suspect that this is just a part of interacting with and adjusting to another culture. Despite these slightly downbeat observations and reflections, I had a fun time at the University and in the city today, and I’m very excited to be visiting my assigned company, Hirschvogel, tomorrow.

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