Saturday, August 31, 2013

Sausage really ready to go in Berlin

Berlin takes to-go food to new heights with these sausage bearing men. I saw several of them; they wore these mobile sausage cooking and vending get ups. Isn't this crazy? I think the sausages were about 1,50 on a bun.

A group of us went out to eat at the ubiquitous currywurst stand. Currywurst doesn't sound interesting to me, but I tried a bite, just so I can report on it; after all, it's a fast food staple in Berlin. Think of a cut up hot dog with a ketchup-y sauce with some mild chili or curry power sprinkled on it. My dining partners didn't like this particular currywurst that much; we stopped by a little hut near the Tiergarten and the Reichstag. The Brötchen (bread roll; literally, "little bread") served with it was disappointing, too; it wasn't the normal type that is crisp on the outside and soft in the inside.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Look at them pipes! In Berlin

In the beginning of August, I was in Berlin for an awesome class.

When I was walking around the city, I saw all these strange above-ground pipes on the road. I was very curious about these. Were they for utilities?

Later in the week my questions were answered during an architectural tour: the pipes are used to pump groundwater away from construction or repair sites. Berlin has a high water table so this is a necessity.

Since my visit in 2011, more construction has sprung up. In fact, almost all of the lovely Unter den Linden, the famous boulevard of linden trees, was torn up.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Taking a dance lesson at a German dance studio

I love my life here; it's almost as random as it was when I was living in the US, and I have high hopes that some more offbeat opportunities will present themselves.

On Monday, my friend D called me several times as I was on my way to German class. Since he didn't leave a message, I assumed it was nothing life-threatening so I called him back after class ended.

He didn't even say hello; he asked me if I could go to a dance lesson with him the following night. I actually thought this was kind of funny because I personally don't like small talk if there's something you need to ask/tell a person. He wanted to take the dance lesson because he's hosting a themed party and wants to do some dances from that era.

I wondered why I was factoring into this. D needed some moral support; the lesson was also cheaper if he brought a dancing partner. I warned him that I was the worst possible person to ask. When I saw that I'm clumsy and not a good dancer, I mean it. I say what I mean and mean what I say. However, I was super curious about the lesson and willing to help a friend out so I told him if he had no other options I would go with him, but I was owed major friend points for doing so.

We stopped by a Tanzstudio, or dance studio, in town. A class was finishing up and I was disappointed to see that some of them were hanging out after class. I was hoping that we weren't going to have an audience for our embarrassment. They didn't stay too long; they probably couldn't take watching us flail around that long...or they had other commitments.

Anyway, the dance teacher was professional and patient. I think that internally she was thinking, "OMG, this is awful" but she kept a pleasant demeanor. It was an hour of ridiculousness. We first learned the dance steps individually. Then, D tried dancing with me. He was having a hard time catching the first beat of the music so without thinking, I got us started. Well, even in these enlightened times, the woman isn't supposed to lead. I knew that, but oops, I thought it was just trying to help out, not lead. 

At the end of the lesson, I personally wasn't much farther than where I had started, though to no fault of the instructor. I have two left feet; what can I say? I have to say that it wasn't a bad time, though. I mean, if I can embarrass myself in front of a ton of Germans (crap, I do this any time I try to speak German; who am I kidding) and live to talk about it, there must be many other things that are possible in life, no?

D and I asked the instructor if she thought we were the worst students she ever had. She paused. I said, "please be honest." Without pausing, she said yes. D and I laughed so hard. I told another American that the instructor said that and the American was surprised she would admit it. We asked the instructor to be honest and she was. That's what's so refreshing about Germany: people are honest here! One just needs to be prepared for an honest response and not take it personally.

On the way home, D and I high fived each other for being #1 at Being the Worst Dancers ever. I'm so glad that I agreed to a panicked call to the friend helpline and had this goofy experience.

(The funny thing is that the title from yesterday's entry could've been used on this one!)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Denial, asthma, and frustration

Today was a frustrating day.

I only completed one task today at work. The rest of the time, I was trying to update some things and that required running reports. Well, I was having so many problems just getting the software started, and then each report was taking forever. I had to then export the data and that took eons, too. Instead of working on something different, I was a stubborn ninny and instead fought all day with the computer. I was so frustrated that it was ridiculous and I put aside reason because I was going to make that computer do my bidding, darn it! I think the computer had the last laugh.

Even worse, I've been feeling rotten all day: super tired, with an occasional, piercing headache, and shortness of breath. When I went on the bike ride this weekend, I really flagged behind my friend on the bike, panting like crazy. Since then, even walking around leaves me short of breath. I've been like, what the heck? How can I be that out of shape? This is ridiculous; while I haven't been to the gym lately, I walk around town and I'm not a total couch potato.

It then dawned on me: I do have asthma and that's what my problem is right now. This isn't being out of shape; I did two other long bike rides this month and they were nothing like this current shortness of breath. I seem to push it to the back of my mind that I have asthma; I'm "lucky" in that it's not very serious and it's related to allergies. It usually doesn't bother me until I get a sinus infection and I've been ill for some time and it settles into my lungs. The headache makes sense, too; whatever's floating around in the air must be contributing to a sinus headache.

I've been rather bad about the asthma; it's a more recent thing, as my allergies have worsened. When I was first diagnosed with it, I won't lie: I held a pity party for myself. After all, I wanted to bike, hike, horseback ride, and at that time, run (can't do that any more, for other reasons). I felt very mopey that those things would be unavailable. Then I snapped out of it; my asthma isn't very bad and I should be thankful that it only bothers me a couple of times a year. Plus, a family member has asthma and he managed to play varsity soccer and tennis in high school so physical activity is not out of the question.

I just need to use my inhaler, rest, and give myself a kick in the pants to have a good attitude. Here's hoping that I can finish what I was working on when I go into work tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Sembacher Kerwe, August 2013

I recently read an interesting article on Germany Ja! about the Kerwe, a festival that German towns host to celebrate the past year they've had and to look forward to the upcoming year. That's rather sweet, isn't it?

Luckily enough for me, I was able to attend one in person since the Sembacher Kerwe happened this past weekend. My friend accompanied me and we rode our bikes. Reading the Germany Ja! article is almost a necessary; the Kerwe would not have really made much sense without the background information. I mean, we would have had a good time regardless, but the giant fluffy pole and the guy reading rhyming verse from a notebook made more sense thanks to the article. Go on; go read the article, and then come back to our adventures here and it'll all make more sense :)

On our bikes, we huffed and puffed and moaned and groaned all the way to Sembach, up and down hills. Okay, I have to be honest: I was the only one huffing and puffing. My friend made the ride look easy. That makes me realize I need to train more, for sure! This weekend warrior thing just isn't cutting it for me.

The Sembach Kerwe was small but a good time. When we got there, a band was playing in the community center so we ducked in for a drink and to listen. Not too many people were around, but later it seemed that the whole town came out!

Quenching our thirst before the parade started, we then went out on an adventure around town, which of course included looking for roadside candy machines. After that, it was soon time for the parade. It was super cute! It was about 2 blocks long and I swear, almost the whole town came out. The parade took maybe about 5 minutes and local groups and politicians walked or drove through.

We also saw the Kerwestrauß, or the Kerwe bouquet, accompanied by two bored teenagers who were probably the "king and queen" of the Kerwe or something along those lines.

A brass band came along and following that a group of ladies dressed up like bowling pins walked by. I would love to know the story behind that!

My favorite were women who were dressed like cooks. They were giving out kitchen sponges, and boy did I ever covet one. I mean, who gets a kitchen sponge at a parade? That's so much more useful than candy is. It didn't work on the first walk through but as the parade looped back to the community center, I stepped into the path of one of the ladies who was handing them out and said "bitte" (please). Success! Well, it was mostly a success; it wasn't a sponge, but a pan scrubber.

I also noticed that in their little wagon full of kitchen utensil props, their pot didn't just have kitchen stuff in it; they also placed many bottles of wine in there! I saw some of them drinking wine as they went. Too funny!

My second favorite (well, maybe tied for first place) was a tractor-pulled wagon decorated with tree branches (? not sure why) and filled with older gentlemen who first started handing out shots of liquor (and sampling some for themselves) and then later started playing horns.

I've been to several parades now and it seems that drinking by the participants is rather common. However, it's still a very family-friendly event. I think this is the first parade where I've seen parade marchers giving adults in the crowd liquor, though!

We followed the parade procession back to the community hall, which filled with the festival goers. Local ladies were selling cake so we each bought a piece and listened to a guy read rhyming verses from a notebook, accompanied by music. This must be the part where he talks about things that happened in town over the year. I really didn't catch much of it at all, nor did my friend, so after enjoying our cake, we departed. It was a fun trip and a great way to see a town-wide party that is very local and special.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Roadside Candy Machines: Sembach

A friend and I stopped in Sembach for the Kerwe, and of course I had to take pictures of all the roadside candy machines. It was rather surprising to see so many candy machines in a town that only has about 1,200 residents and isn't a tourist place, either. I wonder how the market is? Are the sales high on the candy machines?

Next to Portofino Restaurant: Hauptstraße 36

Front view

Details. Boy, did this machine disappoint me!
I have never before bought anything from one of the roadside candy (toy) machines in Germany. This toy machine seemed promising; I thought that there were some pretty rad toys in this one. I was hoping for the mini Swiss Army knife or the car. Imagine my surprise and unhappiness when I got a white piece of rope that at first glance looked like a noose! I was all like, what the heck! Then I realized that it looked like a bracelet, but with something hanging off it. I put it on and that's when I realized it was sort of a rosary; there are knots tied into it and the end trailing off was a cross. To say the least, I was super disappointed and felt that the machine was doing some false advertising when instead it seems to sell religious items. Maybe it's a conspiracy and I can get Dan Brown to write about a secret society that lures kids (ahem, unsuspecting adults, too!) in with super cool toys on the display and instead gives rosary ropes.

Here's a big one! Down the road, on Hauptstrasse too.

Even more options!

You too can own a plastic animal with a prolapsed hind end (Squeeze-Animal, as the machine calls them).

I don't know if I'll ever buy another toy from one of these machines again but now I'm super curious about them; I especially want to know if the actual contents of the machines are nothing like what's actually inside.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Two manly men walk into the Barbie Dreamhouse...

The Dreamhouse. It is a bit creepy!

No, seriously, this isn't the beginning of some silly joke. During the Berlin trip, I was sightseeing with two guys from class. One was a Marine and the other was someone who works for another organization. We were somewhat lost; well, I knew where we were, but we weren't in the right spot. I guess that would still be lost. Anyway, I was absolutely delighted when I spotted the Barbie Dreamhouse.

I had read about it; it's a temporary installation where kids can go experience the plastic world of Barbie, try on her clothes, and continue to foster an unrealistic expectation of feminine beauty, all for 15 euros for kids or 19 euros for adults. That's insanely expensive in my book, but then again, I'm not a pre-pubescent girl wild about a plastic doll so maybe I'm not being fair.

The article I had read about the Dreamhouse was about feminist protestors who burned Barbie dolls in front of the Dreamhouse because they feel that Barbie is part of "sexist propaganda," according to the protesters. While I agree that Barbie is an unrealistic portrayal of femininity, I'm not against the doll that much. I mean, she looks freakish, but if little girls want to play with the doll, have at it, I say. I'm not above telling my nieces that their doll, if she were a real human, wouldn't be able to stand/walk because of her odd proportions, and then steer them to some science experiments, volunteering, or something a bit more affirming.

After mulling over all the implications of the Barbie Dreamhouse, I decided that we absolutely must enter, let's say as a mole. I didn't want to pay, but there was a cafe that open to anyone who wanted to stop in. The guys wanted nothing to do with it. It is my goal in life to make men (especially super manly men like the ones I was touring with!) do things that they don't want to do, all in the interest of expanding their horizons, of course! I was able to cajole them into entering the cafe and even buy a cupcake.

I bought a cupcake, too, in order to express my solidarity. It was soooo creepy; it was peach flavored and there was nothing natural about it. The frosting almost crackled; it was so full of sugar. Don't get me wrong; it didn't taste bad by any means but it definitely tasted laden with chemicals. It would not be realistic to think that a plastic doll, the epitome of falseness, would serve organic cupcakes.

This isn't really what the guys look like, but it's close enough. The chair thing is an inside joke.
The guys whined about the experience like you wouldn't believe, but I think that they secretly enjoyed themselves. I was totally amused to hear grown men whine; I won't lie. I'm glad that we were all able to expand our horizons, but I too was ready to leave. The giant Barbie doll head painted on the wall was staring at us and it was creepy!

CREEEEEEPY! I did not like having her look over my shoulder.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Amazing Knoblauch at the KL farmers' market

I am having some friends over for dinner this week so I thought I should stop by the Kaiserslautern farmers' market for some fresh produce. I haven't been home much at all this summer and have been missing locals events, like the market.

At the market, I picked up some garlic, or Knoblauch. It seemed a bit expensive at about two euros for a head of garlic, but I wasn't in the mood to stop at the grocery store so I ponied up the money and was on my merry way.

I'm glad that I did! I used some for lunch and it was great. I've never bought such fresh garlic before; I usually buy it at the supermarket and who knows how long it's been sitting there? This garlic was so fresh that the peels were still supple and not yet papery.

Well played, farmers' market; well played.

You know you've been away for quite some time when...

During my study trip to Berlin, I was surrounded by Americans yet again (that seems to be a theme here). However, many of them have been out of the US for years at this point. It creates a situation where one isn't quite totally enfolded in the new country, but one isn't totally up to date with American culture either.

For example, we were teasing one classmate (there was a lot of teasing on this trip) and told her that she was Tebowing it. I got in on this session of teasing late so I wasn't sure what she did that prompted this. She had no idea what people were talking about. Tebowing is based on the actions of Tim Tebow, an American football player, who would get down on his knees and pray at odd times. It was a reasonably well-known meme; I had even heard of it and I avoid American football like it's the plague.

There were some other instances where people in class didn't get the references to US culture because they've been gone so long. I don't think that is bad in any way; it's just interesting to me, and it's not as if the US is the height of culture anyway. I think that expats don't always get the full effect of their new host culture, especially if there is a language divide. It seems to create this third place, so to speak, of existence.

Friday, August 23, 2013

A Visit to the Käthe Kollwitz Museum in Berlin

Some artists present an idealized view of reality; others show the truth, as harsh as it is. The visit to the Käthe Kollwitz museum led me into a world of the stark reality of Germany in the early 20th century, as seen through her art.
Kollwitz’s subjects include the poor, the revolutionaries, the starving, the dead, mothers and children, and sometimes, even happiness. Her images are stark and monochromatic. However, they are anything but boring in the singular color; they overflow with compelling imagery, feeling, and strife.
For example, her poster, “Deutschlands Kinder hunger!” (Germany’s Children are Starving!), of children holding up bowls for food pulls the viewer into the desperate world of hungry children with huge, imploring eyes. The poster reminds viewers of the tough times Germans were facing following war and massive inflation as food was scarce.
Other subjects include mothers holding their children tight. Some seem to be sheltering their children from the unkind world of poverty; others seem to be refusing to let their children go. 
The museum also includes many self-portraits of Kollwitz. She gazes out at the viewer with a hooded expression that doesn’t seem to change as the years go on. The only thing that does change is the slight differences associated with ages. She lost her beloved son, Peter, in World War I after she gave him permission to enlist as a minor. With this background knowledge, it helps one to understand her expression of a person hanging on, but with sadness in her heart.
Sculptures by Kollwitz are just as moving as her prints are. Often, a small sculpture is just of a person covering her face in anguish. It’s amazing how something small can depict such feeling and pain. Other sculptures show mothers protecting their children, or, in the case of Mother and Her Dead Son, a mother cradling her departed son, brooding over her loss.
With her subjects of the poor and the trials they faced in an explosive early 20th century Germany, Käthe Kollwitz used her art as both a way to record history and to call for helping the poor and suffering. The museum trip left me feeling pensive, trapped in the haunting faces of children, mothers, and revolutionaries.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

A visit to the Alte Nationalgalerie in Berlin

The Alte Nationalgalerie is located on Museum Island in Berlin. Our class made a visit and I enjoyed it very much. It was an excellent opportunity to see in person the works of the Romantic painters we had discussed in class. The audio guide that I picked up was extremely helpful to gain further insight into the works.

For example, I learned that Caspar David Friedrich, a landscape painter, never actually visited the Alps, even though he painted them. Instead, he studied paintings of other artists as source material. It makes sense that it would be difficult to travel great distances at the time, but it’s also very strange to imagine someone painting nature without actually seeing it in person, especially when nature was so prevalent in Romantic paintings. In his painting “Abbey Among Oak Trees,” the trees remind me of the Asian style of painting trees; I was curious if he was influenced by some of the Orientalist painting styles that had occurred in the 19th century.

Fritz von Uhde - Das Tischgebet - Google Art Project
Fritz von Uhde [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
In class, we had viewed a photo of “Come Lord Jesus” by Fritz von Ulde, which shows Jesus arriving to the dinner table at a poor family’s home. We were curious about the background of this photo. The audio guide from the museum was very illuminating; it notes that the painting references the prayer das Tischgebet, or saying grace. In class some students had speculated that the painting references the idea of setting an extra place at the table in case Jesus showed up for dinner. This painting is basically the same idea, except that Jesus did actually show up in person, instead of being present in spirit. When this painting was unveiled, conservative Christians were very offended because it showed Jesus, returning from the dead, visiting peasants in an impoverished environment. Such a viewpoint is incredibly ironic, given that Biblical literature indicates that Jesus was always ministering and spending time with the poor and outcasts of society. Based on Biblical information, it’s hard to imagine Jesus coming back and only wanting to hang out with the bourgeois.

There were many other fine works by the Neoclassicists, Biedermeiers, and Romantics in the museum. It was an excellent visit and I viewed as much art as was possible.  I found the work of Friedrich and von Ulde especially striking; the audio guide really helped to illuminate the historical backgrounds of the pieces and make sense of what is not easily understood by modern eyes.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

ATW: not to be trusted without supervision

This is why I shouldn't be left to my own devices: I bought a dirndl and a Russian stacking doll egg timer while I was exploring Berlin on my own.

Those Nieder Bikers!

Yeah, the adjective doesn't exactly work, but whatevs.

When I was returning from Berlin, I ended up being routed on a totally different train than had been originally planned. The route took us through the German state of Niedersachsen, which English speakers would call Lower Saxony. This also borders the Netherlands (Niederlande).

It was striking how flat the land was around there. I guess calling it "lower Saxony" in German makes sense; even though this is a northern state, the land is low.

I was mulling this flat scenery over as I was huffing and puffing while biking in my German home state, Rhineland Pfalz, which is a forested German state with lots of hills (as well as some mountains). The bike ride was difficult for me since I've been rather physically inactive because of class and being sick (as a result of allergies, not from being in air conditioning!).

I was thinking about how it's such a part of culture in the northern areas of Europe for people to bike. Then I envisioned the topography of the Nieder-regions (har har) and realized why: it's flat there! They cheat! Of course it's easy to bike if there are very few hills ;)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

My German is at a weird place

It's also called a frustrating place! I'm learning about all sorts of confusing things, like the article in the accusative form, all while I still have a limited vocabulary. I've also been absolutely horrible and haven't studied at all on my own since my class ended this spring. I've pursued other classes; the bonus is that I can speak about the long and short term impact of the French Revolution on Germany; the difference between Kollwitz's and the Romantic's art; etc.

The downside is that my German learning is in a weird place because I have startling bursts of clarity when I can read signs but can't understand announcers on the radio unless it's the traffic report. Or, when I stumbled across an article written in Dutch and read bits of it without realizing it was in Dutch, I only realized when I stumbled on the words that have a lot of "oo"s in them that it's not actually German I was reading. Believe me, it was a mind trip last month when I was in Ghent and could read some of the Dutch signs! It's neat how that works, since there are some similarities between the languages.

Then, I try to deal with Kabel Deutschland and get shot down. I'll have to write about that in more depth in the future. Basically, in store service around here = friendly people who try their best to help even while being flustered about speaking English. Calling KD for stuff the in store people can't do = an exercise in futility. They basically tell me to take a long walk off a short pier if I won't speak German on the phone. Yes, I can understand; it's Germany and I should speak German. However, I have a feeling that the company might not be allowing their call center people to speak English on the phone even if they know it.

Monday, August 19, 2013

ATW is around home again, only to bike away

I spent last week in Berlin for a field study class. It was absolutely wonderful! I'll have some entries to post from it, for sure. However, it may take a bit of time because I came home from that trip with a couple class assignments, one day off, and my new university class has already started and I'll probably be taking another local German class starting soon (in addition to the current, more basic one I'm already taking). In other words, it's a bit busy around here juggling all of this with work and travel, but it'll all get sorted out eventually.

On Sunday, since my internet was dead at home (thanks to a naughty Moo), a friend accompanied me on a trial bike ride to work. I would really enjoy the fitness and environmental benefits of ditching my car. I don't live super close to work but I also don't live super far, either. Ever since the 20 mile ride I biked a couple weeks ago, I feel emboldened and feel it's possible to bike to work. It's a wonderful feeling!

My friend D. went with me. He's very physically active and bikes to work himself. However, he has a much shorter ride than I would have, and I reminded him constantly about that. He reminded me constantly that he also goes to the gym for an hour a day in addition to the biking. Touché.

I really appreciated his company; he's really upbeat and a bit goofy. However, we were tackling some nasty hills, I was huffing and puffing like I'd blow someone's house down, and I didn't like the drill Sargent and Rocky motivation he was trying to give so I told him I'd punch him if he didn't cut it out. He told me if I caught up I could punch him. I almost fell off the bike laughing (when I could gasp enough air). Plus, I don't really know how to punch anyway. 

I was very pleased that besides a stiff neck that was probably unrelated, I wasn't feeling pain today. In fact, I felt quite good! Either way, biking to work is very possible and I'm considering it once I make some adjustments on my bike, get some more safety gear, and find some clothes that work better.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Adult sized footie pajamas

I have a deep, dark secret: I own (and have worn) adult sized footie pajamas.

I have NOT worn it in public, though; I have only worn it at home, to sleep in.

I thought it would be a good idea. I often get cold (well, when it's cold) and such pajamas seem to keep children warm so I thought I'd give an adult sized one a try.

I bought mine at Meijer in Michigan (a grocery and everything store).

At first they were great; I was nice and warm.

Then I freaked out because I was too warm. I feel like the Incredible Hulk when I get too warm; I just want to rip off the layers and cool down.

It is not easy to extract oneself from footie pajamas quickly. I haven't worn them since.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The educational system in Germany: pros and cons

An Open Letter to those considering using this blog entry as a reference source.

In other words, DO NOT USE THIS AS A REFERENCE SOURCE. It is not appropriate for that use. Get a real book or a journal article, published in something that's been peer reviewed.

Also, for goodness' sake, don't be lame and plagiarize from this, either.

This is what I wrote for my final exam about the German educational system, based on the lecture that our instructor gave us.

Moo did not help write this.

This belongs to me. Do not reproduce this in any way please. It is not to be used as a reference source, especially not for academic work.


The German educational system has its roots in the Prussian era. Now it has evolved and includes the following three tracks/outcomes for students: apprenticeship (Berufschule) that leads to blue collar employment; Realschule that leads to white collar/salaried employment; and Gymnasium, which is followed by university study and then professional employment.

In general, the German education system is set up to offer a highly trained and qualified workforce for its graduates. Everyone, no matter their financial ability, has the ability to attend college at no cost to the individual, if he qualifies based on academic merit.

For the Berufschule student, the benefit is that he receives a very practical, hands-on education where he is trained by master craftsmen in his field. Students who struggle with academics but have skills in other areas, such as mechanical pursuits, can find their place in education and in society by learning a trade. If the student does well, he is able to pursue additional schooling and eventually become a master craftsman himself.

The Realschule student is on the track for white collar/salaried employment, which is now commonly IT staff, as well as the “Kaufman und Kauffrau.” These students benefit from academic studies as well as, with successful completion of the 10th year, the opportunity to study further, work in public service at the secretarial or executive level, or be trained while working for a company. This track is good for students who don’t qualify for Gymnasium but still maintain an acceptable level of academics. They receive training in their chosen field and are ready to enter the workforce after graduation.

Gymnasium offers a professional track for its students, who go on to become doctors, teachers, dentists, etc. It is the most academically rigorous and concludes with the Abitur test and the option of attending University. A major benefit of this track is that passing the Abitur will allow the student the right to apply to any university and attend, tuition-free. They will have access to professions with higher salaries and prestige.

Some of the advantages to society as a result of this system include school graduates who are well trained and educated. The students will be ready, after completing their studies, to either immediately enter the workforce, or to continue their education to finish learning the relevant skills.

An advantage to the individual student is that he will be schooled in a level that matches his ability and not waste his time in studies that are not relevant. For example, a student who is not strong in academics but who possesses mechanical abilities would have the opportunity to learn a trade.

Another major advantage to the individual student is that no matter his financial situation, if he has the aptitude, he will be able to attend university because tuition is included as a benefit to society. Therefore, academically talented students from disadvantaged backgrounds can still attend university.

However, the German education system does have some disadvantages, as well. For society in general, the system might not produce a nimble enough workforce if the training can’t keep up with technological advances and there might be a glut of workers who don’t have marketable skills and need retraining. The job market is changing so much more than it has in the past, especially with ever-evolving technology. The German educational system can be slow to react to these changes and might not stay relevant.

For the individual, these effects can be especially devastating. If his job becomes obsolete, a craftsman, for example, may have few other options, especially if he hasn’t had education in other areas. It is decided very early in a person’s education which direction the education will take.

Another disadvantage is that if a student wants to change tracks, it can be difficult, especially if he wants to pursue university later on and hasn’t had the correct foundation; there is not much flexibility for the undecided. Additionally, even though there is no tuition for university, which in theory levels the playing field for all students to have the opportunity to attend, it is usually the students from the middle and upper classes who go to university.

The German education system has prepared strong and well-educated young people in the past; it can continue to do so in the future if it will stay flexible and be ready to change when needed.