Hello once again, dear Readers! For this blog entry we will be taking an inside look at what it is like to actually live in Germany. Are the Germans really like the stereotype? Are they tall, cold and reserved, do they really feed only on copious amounts of beer and sausage, and simply drink water to surprise their liver? Can they only speak English with an enthusiastic 'Ja!' every three words? Read on.
So, I've been living in Germany for the past two months, and I think I've gotten at least a basic impression of the strange, yet alluring people known as 'Germans'. And the one thing that really hits me is that no two Germans are alike. Especially if they come from two different regions. For those who aren't German and reading this, Germany is made up of sixteen states, known as Bundesland. These states are actually more like little countries, so German sounds significantly different if its spoken by someone from Hannover, as compared to someone from the Bavarian region. The Hannover German is considered to be the 'high' or 'proper' German, whilst the Bavarian German - isn't really considered German.
This makes the language a little more difficult to learn. Apart from adding in lots of grammatical rules, with plenty of exceptions, it also has which have three genders. The Germans just like to add in extra rules, for fun. And we non-natives are left speechless (pun intended) even whilst attempting to form the simplest of sentences. As illustrated below.
Yes. German has its own style of doing things. It likes to be different, to stand out, to prance about in lederhosen whilst everyone else is still wearing skinny jeans.
On the other hand, German is remarkably creative. It has a way of wording things that allows for a greater capacity for expressing oneself, for greater understanding. Which I love. One of my favourite words is 'waldeinsamkeit', which has no translation in English. It refers to the feeling of being alone in the woods. Google Translate calls it 'forest solitude'. Which doesn't really quite sum it up. So at least, the 101 rules that come along with learning the language serve some kind of purpose.
Apart from their language, the Germans generally have laws for everything. You can't find or download original films or music online (unless you want to pay a hefty fine), it is illegal to tune pianos at midnight, and a pillow is actually classified as a 'passive weapon' and hitting someone with one can lead to charges of assault. There is even a law determining where you can walk, when you can walk. Like if you want to cross the road, and the little stick man on the pedestrians' traffic light is red, woe betide you if you cross the road. You may get a fine if a policeman sees you; otherwise you simply receive a few withering looks and comments about your mental state of mind. This goes for all times of the day; it is not uncommon to see people at 2am on the sidewalk of an empty road, waiting for the little stick man to turn green.
Apart from being adept at making the most finicky of laws, Germans tend to have other talents, such as having great taste in clothing. Both men and women tend to dress well, choosing colours and cuts to suit their own style. Although to be fair, that's significantly easier when you're tall and blonde.
Germans are also gifted in the time-management section. It is very rare that I meet a German who wastes time. Yes, they use Facebook and spend time socializing like everyone else, but almost everyone in their spare time either plays an instrument, does sports (usually badminton or table tennis), reads a good book– fixing cars or motorbikes seems to be somewhat of a favourite pastime amongst men. One of my German friends spends his leisure time making money by surfing Ebay for old crap, fixing it up a little, and reselling it.
No wonder the German economy is so strong.
Other things to note about Germans and Germany: the love of Wurst is not exaggerated in the stereotype. Germans really love their sausage. They even have butcheries dedicated solely to sausage; and in Berlin, the well-loved Currywurst (a fried pork sausage drowned with warm ketchup and liberally sprinkled with curry powder) even has its own museum ( see http://www.currywurstmuseum.de). On the other hand, they also have a thriving vegetarian community, and all restaurants have a vegetarian section on the menu with plenty of appealing options to choose from. However, be warned – 'Vegetarian' in German ususally means 'drowned in cheese'.
Germans seem to be generally suspicious of beverages that don't sparkle and you will generally have trouble finding still bottled water to buy. Which is odd since Germans also seem to be suspicious of drinking tap water.
Germans also seem to love foreign food (or rather the eingedeutscht version) and anywhere you go in Germany you will notice an abundance of thriving restaurants, particularly Kebap Häuser, where a typical dish is a doner kebab with a generous side of sauerkraut. The Germans have also borrowed the Italian concept of gelateria and turned it into what is known as an Eis-Cafe, where any kind of dessert with ice cream may be found, from waffles to strudel, to simply ice-cream cream on its own (also available in spaghetti form and known as Spaghetti Eis).
There is really so much to say about die Deutschen that I really could write an entire book about them and their culture! Actually,there is one: 'The Xenophobe's Guide to the Germans' (I borrowed it off my professor). They worship football, cars, David Hasselhof, and recycling; they don't know how to queue; and they hold a special place in their hearts for herbal remedies. And dogs; in fact, their dogs go with them everywhere, on buses, trams, and some Germans even have little buggies to attach to their bikes so that their dogs can come for the ride.
Anyways, that concludes this blog on the Germans, next week: A focus on the one city I haven't written about yet: my hometown!
An insider look at the special city of.... Gelsenkirchen.
Auf wiedersehen, meine Lesen!
(extra note: the above blog is dedicated to my avid reader, Katja Drope :D hope you like it, Kat!!)