Hallo Deutschland! Part I

February 06, 2013 / by / 0 Comment

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” – Henry Miller

I’ve always loved travelling, though I must admit, it is not an easy thing to do for a college student like me nowadays, what with the meagre sum of money I earn from tutoring and the readings that come in tonnes every week. But then every cloud has a silver lining – mine certainly had one this winter break – I finally got to visit Europe, for the very first time, on a trip to Germany and Poland organised by World University Service at HKU (at a discounted price).

I think I must have got lucky because this turned out to be one of the best travelling experiences I’ve ever had in my life (well, although I haven’t really done that much travelling, seeing that I had never ventured out of Asia before – but you get my drift), not only because I got to travel with great people and eat great food, but because, as Henry Miller put it, I found a new way of seeing things. As clichéd as this is, yes, indeed, it was a mind-blowing, eye-opening experience.

Prior to the trip, I scarcely knew anything about Germany beyond what had been said in my history textbooks. So you can imagine how it came as a surprise when I discovered the many other  facets of the country. My trip has also enabled me to see the cultural differences between Hong Kong and Germany, which has given me a novel understanding of the city we live in.

One of the greatest cultural differences I observed was related to food. I was surprised the first day I arrived in Munich because water – or at least the kind of water I was used to – could hardly be found anywhere. Apparently, sparkling water is extremely common there, and it’s something most people in Hong Kong rarely consume (we are more used to Watson’s or Bonaqua water maybe).

Another thing is how the Germans met drink beer on an almost everyday basis. Every meal is not complete without some kind of alcoholic beverage, and beer is most commonly sought after. Their beer is actually very tasty – especially the dark beer. The alcoholic content is not high enough to cause drunkenness, but it gives you a general euphoric feeling that makes it hard to wipe the smile off your face.

In Hong Kong, though, alcohol isn’t as common. Granted, some people might go to pubs and clubs in Lan Kwai Fong on a nightly basis, but the fact remains that one simply doesn’t go drinking five days of the week. In fact, some conservative people in Hong Kong might even label those who drink alcohol as “bad” in the sense of being a “bad” boy or girl. For the Germans though, drinks were simply part of their way of social interaction. They grab drinks with their friends sometimes simply for a chat to catch up with one another’s lives, just like what we do at Starbucks. I found it extremely interesting how two different cultures could have such divergent views on alcohol.

Of course, one’s visit to Germany wouldn’t be complete without trying their sausages. German sausages are simply scrumptious. They come in different sizes, different flavours, and different lengths…and they are usually served with fries, pickles and salad mixed with a sour sauce. I also happened to try a few spicy German dishes – for example, there’s this spicy, soup-like sauce that is served on bread.

One might assume that the Germans don’t eat rice like what most of the Hong Kong do, but that’s not true – they do have rice – congee, even – but they are very different from our idea of what rice or congee should taste like. I happened to try this dish where the rice was yellow but didn’t taste like anything, which was quite mysterious but nonetheless appealed to my taste buds in a very odd way (or maybe I was just hungry, who knows?).

There were many other German delicacies that I tried on my trip, but then there’s no way I could describe all of them here. Plus my trip wasn’t just about eating (though food did play a significant role). Next time I will talk about the more thought-provoking part of my trip – my visit to the Berlin Wall, the Auschwitz concentration camp, and other memorable places. So, stay tuned!