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MIT student blogger Sam M. '07

I was out of bullets. by Sam M. '07

Living free or dying hard in Germany.

DID YOU KNOW? The gigantic Bayer sign in Leverkusen, Germany, where I worked last summer, is the largest corporate logo in the world.

So I’m here in Germany, meeting up with tons of MIT interns while staying at sketchy youth hostels and subsisting mostly on döner. I was planning to live a little more comfortably, but after seeing the rent on my apartment in Berkeley next year, I thought it might be better to be a little more frugal.

Just playin’. But seriously, maybe it’s because I only get to eat it in Germany, but döner is seriously the most delicious thing on earth. It’s like a gyro, except the meat of indeterminate origin is slow-roasted for tons of flavor, the bread is some kind of wonderful crispy toasted flatbread, and it comes topped with three tons of cabbage and tomatoes and cucumbers and yogurt sauce. There approximately two döner stands on every city block in Germany, and you will never pay more than three euros for one sandwich. What’s not to love?

I’ve already met with several MIT interns and gotten a couple great photo-ops and video interviews. One thing basically every American working in Germany has said is that Germans are way more blunt then Americans. Whereas an American might tell you in a business enviroment might tell you, “Well, this report is pretty good, but I have some issues with pages 5 and 7…” a German in the same situation might say, “Ach! What happened on pages 5 and 7? This is all wrong. This is not acceptable!” and then kick you in the shins.

Perhaps the most obvious example of this bluntness is on cigarette packaging. Somehow, even though you can’t smoke anywhere in the US and you can smoke everywhere in Europe, US cigarette packing uses such absolutely precise language in its suggestion of the correlation between smoking and death. A label might read something like,

The surgeon general has suggested within a 95% confidence interval (z = 1.9) the existence of some linkage between consumption of cigarettes and low fetal birth weight in pregnant women aged 18 – 40, as referenced by P. Gupta and T. Cupertino, Journal of Statistical Biochemistry,
Volume 18, Page 225, Published 1998.”


Compare this to Germany where a package just says,

Rauchen kann tödlich sein.


“Smoking can be deadly.” That’s a little less equivocal. And yet everyone in Europe still smokes! Heck, in Italy they’re even more direct. I saw a pack of cigarettes in a store last summer that just said, if memory serves me correctly,

Fumo tue.


Forgive me if the conjugation is a little off, but it basically just said, “Smoking kills.”

Speaking of things that can kill you in Germany, I was in Leverkusen the other day visiting my old roommate Kunal at Bayer, and we walked by a poster for this summer’s new Bruce Willis movie. Now, I pretty much already thought this movie had the greatest title of all time, primarily because I was in New Hampshire this month on a bike trip with my lab. The state motto there is “live free or die” which basically amounts to no taxes on beer and no mandatory seatbelt laws. It also led to conversations such as this one:

“Hey Andy, why aren’t you wearing a seatbelt?”
“I’m living free.”
“But you could die.”
“That’s within my rights. I’m in New Hampshire.”
“Live free or die.”
“Live free or die!”
“It sounds like an action movie. ‘This summer, Samuel L Jackson will live free, or die.”
“Ha, it could be the name of a Die Hard movie. Live Free or Die Hard.”
“Wait, actually, I think that is the name of the new Die Hard movie.”

So we decided that some movie producers were driving through New Hampshire one day, and they happened to see this license plate, and had this same conversation, and this is the only reason that there is a new Die Hard movie coming out this summer. But seriously, check out the advertisement in German.

Stirb Langsam 4.0. Which means Die Slowly 4.0.. And if Live Free or Die Hard isn’t the best possibletitle for a movie that involves Bruce Willis blowing up a helicopter with a police car, the only title that could possibly be better is Die Slowly 4.0.

Die Slowly 4.0. Oh those Germans. So blunt.

Also, check out the new MISTIblogs! I was going to hold off on linking to them until I understood them a little better and got them up and running, but maybe this will motivate me to generate a little more content pronto.

I will generate content or die hard.

26 responses to “I was out of bullets.”

  1. Cody Dean says:

    Nice. I hope you are having a great time! …I guess being blunt can be a good thing in some scenarios. -Cody D.

  2. Snively says:

    Ha, great post! Die Slowly 4.0, lol. Oh, and I looked up doner and am now going to look for a place here that sells them because they look amazing.

    One last thing, I find it amusing that people have STILL not figured out that there is a ton of lag time when posting comments. Patience people, it’ll post, don’t click the button 8 gazillion times.

  3. Jon '06 says:

    America misses you, Sam. Also, from the TMI Dept: My Lonely Planet guide still smells like döner after using it as a lap-guard too many times.

  4. milena '11 says:

    Die Slowly? That doesn’t sound as exciting as Die Hard. Is the movie good? And I agree with Snively, those doner things do look amazingly tasty. AND people shouldn’t click on the “post” button so much. Especially if they’re “first post”ing. It’s annoying. :D

  5. Jon '11 says:

    Samuel L Jackson will never Die Hard, though he may cause some airborn snakes to do so. And do you have any other suggestions about food in Europe, I’m going in a few days…

  6. Paul '11 says:

    I love Europe. I have already decided, I need to find a way to get back to Italy within the next four years. I miss that country. Meanwhile, I will content myself with living vicariously through Sam.

    By the way, anyone who hasn’t yet should definitely go read the MISTI blogs. They are possibly even more awesome than Sam’s regular posts.

  7. Sam says:

    It’s a good thing I’m a comment whore, or I’d be pretty angry right now.

  8. Aaron says:

    Yes when I was in Frankfurt I noticed that too. I read some that said “Smoking hurts those around you” and “Smokers die sooner” before promptly walking away to avoid the smokers next to me. Which btw are those really short people movers in the airport to speed people past smoking sections? Because I noticed that they appear each time there is a smoking section.

  9. May says:

    Whoa…I saw döner stands the other day (I’m in China right now).


    I was wondering what those rotating things were…

  10. Irmak says:

    A little advice from a döner-lover:

    When you come to Bursa/Turkey one day or when you find in Germany, you must try this if you really liked döner. It is my favorite food. But be careful you can be drunk from it’s taste:).When you are eating don’t forget to want run butter on it.That is the thing which doubles its taste…

    People still carry this cigarette packets with this “death messages” in my country too.That is very afflictive stuation. Maybe there must be like this warnings for addicts everywhere.

    Thank you for your nice post.

  11. lulu says:

    there’s a kid who quintuple-posted on my blog and I haven’t gotten rid of it yet LOLLL

  12. rune ('12?) says:

    “Stirb Langsam…”
    Ah, die lustige Deutsch!

    I’ve only been to Germany once, but I’d return in a heartbeat. Especially to Munich/München, which was one of the most beautiful cities I’ve seen. When enter college, I’ll probably travel to Europe a bit more, especially Iceland.

    Anyways, glad you had fun, and good luck at Berkeley next year. =)

    -Alex/the kid who has read the blog for about a year and a half now, yet never made comments

  13. rune ('12?) says:

    “Stirb Langsam…”
    Ah, die lustige Deutsch!

    I’ve only been to Germany once, but I’d return in a heartbeat. I’m definitely planning to travel to Europe again in the future, and I’m especially interested in Iceland.

    Anyways, glad you had fun, and good luck at Berkeley next year. =)

    -Alex/the kid who has read the blog for about a year and a half now, yet never made comments

  14. rune('12?) says:

    Gah, sorry about the double post.

  15. Ying Wei says:

    how many language did u learn? smile
    curious abt it

  16. Ying Wei says:

    how many languages have u learned? :o
    curious abt it

  17. Ying Wei says:

    how many languages have u learned? :o
    curious abt it

  18. Ruth '07 says:

    Seriously, God bless America.
    And next week: TRANSFORMERS!!!

    *beep beep boop boop boop*

  19. Wings '11 says:

    Oooh, tell us more about what you’re doing in Germany! Are you picking the language up quickly?

    I hope your shins feel better wink

  20. Eric says:

    Oh man…gyros. Come to Saint Louis and we’ll go to Olympia for the best Gyros on town. Tzatziki!

  21. Ling says:

    HAHAHA omg sam I laughed out loud when I read Stirb Langsam 4.0. Anyway, I just wanted to say doener… barf. I hated those things. Must be the mystery meat…