Last night I had the pleasure of being taken onto the U.S. Forces base near Ramstein for some bowling fun. Now THAT was different. And fun!
Before we could enter the parking lot for the lanes, I had to show my passport, and my companion had to show his I.D. card at the main gate to the area we wanted to enter. Then we were directed, with auto, to "Lane 2," where the trunk of the car had to be opened, and my photograph was taken. Interestingly, the staff at the checkpoint were all Germans, who are contracted by the Americans to perform this screening.
After that point, being "on base" felt like being anywhere else, except signage is all in English. In the parking lot, my friend noticed a double-parker -- just like back home or here in Germany when a Porsche driver thinks he needs two spaces. Inside the bowling alley, we heard the typical sounds of balls hitting pins, and in the middle of Germany, the atypical murmur of American English chatter.
Another noticeable point was the clothing, typical of my countrymen: ovesized t-shirts covering oversized abdomens and rear ends, sweat pants (though it was a Friday evening), brighter colors, and lots of tennis shoes.
Most striking is that all cash exchanged there is in dollars and cents, not euros. And of course, speaking German is not a necessity. The man at the bowling counter, who has worked there 23 years, gave us an over-50 discount of $1.50 off per game. (I was honestly hoping he wouldn't think me to be over 50.) Customers were buying food and drinks using their American debit cards and credit cards. Though German beer was on sale, it couldn't be paid for with my euro coins.
It is strange being an American in Germany, but it is even stranger going to little America in Germany. I've changed in my seven years here, in clothing, manner, and definitely speech. I felt like an outsider there on the base, though with a change of circumstances that could have been my first stop.