* In the US, at least the abuse of being one year closer to the standard life expectancy on one's birthday is cushioned by the fact that people do nice things for you on your birthday. Maybe some cutesy gift, maybe treated to lunch or drinks after work, or maybe someone in your department sneaks in a cake mid-afternoon. Unfortunately, German society strives only to make the blow of getting older even more painful by requiring the birthday person to bring their own cake in to work - and it's in really bad taste not to do it. Poor Damon planned to make his own cakes, but we were so busy doing what we darn Americans do - celebrating his birthday yesterday - that it didn't happen. I guess he must have bought one somewhere to take it. Lucky for him, he only has to take in 2 or 3 cakes because he shares his birthday with the Swedish dude in the lab. Otherwise he'd be on the hook for 4 or 5 cakes to feed all those greedy bastards. This tradition is very strange to me. Not only is it weird to put stress on the birthday person when traditionally in the US you bend over backwards for them (my personal idea is that one's birthday should be a paid holiday from work for everybody - you shouldn't have to do anything), but it's sort of tooting one's own horn a bit, in a way that we allow only a few people to do in the US. Like little kids. (They get to bring candy to school on their birthday. Fun for them, pain in the ass for the parents.) Oh yeah, and rich businessmen, and sports stars. But no one else can toot their own horn.
* I found out from my coworkers that we are encouraged to use our work email accounts for all our correspondence. They prefer this to having us access other accounts like yahoo via webmail while on the job. This is completely backwards from my former experience. In the US we are warned that our work email is not in any way shape or form private so we better watch what we are using it for. I would hand out my work address sparingly. Now I'm supposed to use it instead of my seven-year-old personal account? Hell no! I don't think after all the horror stories in the US that I could ever be convinced to use my work email for anything other than the most exceedingly work-relevant messages, no matter how they say they don't want me checking my webmail.
* Yesterday as we walked along the Neckar toward Karlstor, we were looking off toward the water when we heard a laugh. There wasn't anything particular about it that I could put my finger on, but I knew it was American. I looked over at the source, a woman with her husband, and saw he was wearing a golf shirt. Yup, American. After they passed, Damon said, "That was an American laugh." haha, I have no idea what it was about the laugh, but we both found it American right away.
* I just love the service at restaurants and bars here. They take your order, they bring your stuff, then they never. Bother. You. Again. They don't ask you if everything's ok. They don't ask you if you're doing fine. They don't ask you if you want anything else, over and over and over. They don't start pushing you out the door. They don't make passive-aggressive cranky faces if you are only ordering drinks, or only ordering dessert, or only ordering one drink. They don't shove appetizers and overpriced cocktails and dessert at you. They don't keep asking you if you want another drink until you get one that you aren't sure you want, just to shut them up. Sure, sometimes it takes a little longer than you might want to flag them down when you do want something, or want to pay, but man is it ever worth it.