Letter from Ulm: German customs and traditions

Guten Tag, it is Emily Bergemann with another letter from Ulm Germany. I am here as part of the Hans Joohs Cultural Exchange Program.

I have been able to experience several more wonderful things during my stay In Ulm, Germany. I am with my second host family and things are going very well. I continue to work at the Art Gallery Vanet Haus which I truly love my participation here.

Germany has a very impressive recycling system. Recycling is very specific. Often you pay a deposit on the items you purchased that are glass or plastic and when you bring items in for recycling your deposit is returned to you. People have an understanding that this adds to the cost to your items upfront, such as a bottle of water, however the extensive recycling keep Germany so clean and free of litter and debris. Recycle bins are convenient throughout Germany. There are separate bins for different colors of glass; colored vs clear, etc. There is a recycling symbol on the items regarding recycling. All of these efforts make it very easy to recycle. You will also find some people collecting recycling that was overlooked by others, in order to hand in the items for cash deposits and reward themselves with the money they get back which is approximately $0.24 per bottle.

I was able to experience Halloween in Germany. Halloween in Germany is not as big of an event as it is in the United States (Or State Street in New Ulm). As a matter of fact I did not see any young children dressed up, going door to door and out trick-or-treating. I was invited however, to a Halloween party. Young adults dressed up and went to a castle in a neighboring city. There was music and dancing. It was a great and fun experience and made me feel at home.

The weather reminds me of Minnesota. We have had a several days of rain in October. People dress in layers and often wear a scarf because there is a bit of a chill to the air. With the landscape and weather so similar to Minnesota, I can see now, why my ancestors settled in Minnesota from Germany.

Let’s dish about food! I grew up with my Grandma making German Potato Salad. In Germany the warm potato salad does not have meat in it, and it’s something served on holidays like Christmas. My Grandma must consider my visiting her is a special occasion because she makes me potato salad outside of Christmas and holidays. You will also find a cold potato salad similar to “American Potato Salad” made with mustard and mayo. You will find different styles of food depending on what area of Germany you are visiting or living in.

When I grew up, we have a tradition in our home, that we hide a pickle shaped Christmas ornament in the branches of the Christmas tree and the person or child who finds the pickle, gets to be the first one to open a gift. We believed in our home that this was a German tradition. However I am told by my host families and others I have asked, that the pickle tradition does not hold true as a practice in Germany.

Also in Germany New Year’s Eve is a well celebrated holiday. Unfortunately, I will miss this holiday celebration in Germany, because I will return home early December. I look forward to visiting another time, to perhaps bring in the new year in full German fashion.

I hope you enjoyed these little tidbits from my experience. I appreciate the experience so much and look forward to sharing with you again next month.

Tschüss (good bye), Emily


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