10 MORE Things About Germans You Always Wanted to Know but Were Afraid to Ask4:10 PM
Perhaps writing this from thousands of miles away is partially a defense mechanism but a year after my first blog about the cultural persuasions of our friends, the Germans, there are a few more observations to add to my former assessment of their kind. So, back by popular demand, 10 things you always wanted to know about Germans but were afraid to ask.
1. The House Shoe.
I decided to start the blog out with this rather startling creature because it admittedly is one of the very few things about German culture I can never quite come to terms with. Personally I associate homes in which you are required to take off your shoes upon entry with either those of the OCD persuasion which upon seeing the slightest speck of dust touch the ground, come screaming at said particle with warrior-like terror wielding vacuum in hand, or your atypical Japanese family (cue clanging gong.) However, in the vast majority of German houses in which neither of these types reside, it is considered incredibly rude to come dragging your dirty old street shoes through the house. When entering a German residence, one should quickly and quietly slip off the shoes upon which you will be rewarded with a "house sock" or "house shoe". Being a rather quirky person, I find house shoes the most infernally wretched creation this side of hell. The unknown numbers of feet that have entered into those shoes before you, be they socked or unsocked, rival only a pair of bowling shoes in their defilement. Beyond this, one feels a sense of entrapment quite the opposite of "Here's your hat, what's your hurry." My shoes have now disappeared and should this meeting go badly, I have absolutely no means of a quick escape. I can only suppose it is like the feeling of a sheared sheep, wandering morosely and nakedly back into the barn amongst its other fellows. "Sigh, it'll grow back soon I suppose."
2. On the theme of meat.
In my last blog, I mentioned that sausage is always an option, however, what I failed to describe was the true German feeling towards dead pigs. This I will now demonstrate by translating a few commonly used German phrases.
"Sau gut" - This quite literally means "Sow good" but the full force can best be understood "auf Deutsch." Sow good or perhaps, pig good, is only used in the most excellent of situations. I wouldn't quite say it would be a response to "How was your day?" but would fit better into a "How was your meal?" type of conversation. The Germans are nothing if not logical.
"Es ist mir Wurst" - "It's sausage to me." This phrase not only means "I don't care," the outcome of the matter is of so little importance that it's just like your everyday sausage. I firmly believe we should adopt this saying into English.
"Du hast Schwein gehabt" - "You have had a pig." This one is another of my favorites and is used quite often in the Franconian region in which I have been living. Its meaning being "You have extraordinarily good luck."
There are pig sayings without number but for the sake of time and family friendliness, I won't recite them all here.
3. The friendliness factor
One of the most common misconceptions which I did address in a former blog was that of German rudeness. This one always makes me a little sad because, quite frankly, I love my Germies! Germans are renowned for their impoliteness to strangers, the key word being strangers. Your atypical Germ does not like anyone, native or foreign that they do not know. This reflects in matters of personal space. Americans need the three foot invisible box around them whereas on a German street, people have no problem bumping into you as if YOU were the invisible one. All the Germans I know are incredibly kind and loving people so I could not quite reconcile this with their out of doors manners, shall we say. One day, while teaching an English class on the topic of small talk, I put it this way: "Imagine you are waiting in a train station. In this station, there is only one bench. On this bench sits one person. You sit down next to that person. In the English speaking world, if you remain entirely silent it is considered rather rude. You should remark upon the weather at the very least." to which a student in my class replied, "What? If you came up to me in the middle of a train station and started chatting I would think ""Doesn't she have any friends of her own that she has to talk to strangers?"" And that pretty much sums it up.
4. What they think of us
On the flip side of #3, Germans find our over-friendliness a bit alarming. I hadn't realized the bug had bitten me until today, two short weeks on the other side of the pond. Walking through Target, a Sales Associate approached me to give a friendly hello and to wish me a nice day. Oozing suspicion, I eyed the poor woman up and down before making a run for it as fast as my little cart wheels would take me! "Why is she talking to me? What does she want? I don't know her! BACK, BACK FOUL CREATURE!"
5. Entertainment Value
The pinch of Irish exaggeration in me longs to regale you with stories of polka playing townsfolk dancing merrily through the streets but the truth is Germans listen to the same music, watch the same T.V. and go to see the exact same movies as Americans, with the exception of their being dubbed in German. For the most part, the male dubbing is decent, but for some unknown reason, the female (I'm convinced there's only one) chosen to dub, is the proud possessor of the one of creepiest voices I have ever heard in my life. It haunts my dreams.
6. How's the food?
I must concede, I really like German food. Although not much of a swine-eater, there are some things in Germany you just can't get in the good ol' US of A. Take bread for example; on nearly every corner in Germany, you can find a fantastic bakery, with fresh, cheap bread and the best pastries you've ever tasted in your life! It's carbohydrate heaven. Even non bread eaters are quickly converted with one whiff of the inside these pieces of paradise. One of my favorite bakeries is on the prettiest bridge in Wuerzburg, The Old Main Bridge. Here, you can sit, take a coffee, look out on the city and perhaps even see an incoming ship on the water.
View from Bakery
View from Bakery
Franzi and I and "Granatsplitters"
7. Guten appetite!
You begin to think the Germans are predictable and you've got them all figured out and then comes summer. One of the most hilarious sights has to be a 6'5 German male, with giraffe-like build, partaking with child-like glee his first ice cream cone of the season. Add to that socks with sandals, and you've got a picture you'll never forget. German ice cream shops open sometimes as soon as late March and generally close in late October or early November, leaving the Germans with a difficult five months of no access to the national addiction.
8. 'Ze fashion
Another German saying goes "There's no bad weather only bad clothing." Germans have a love of nature that mainly manifests itself in two ways: house plants, and weather jackets. The house plant and I have no current argument. Rather like cat owners, I find the owners of house plants a somewhat baffling yet acceptable kind. Weather jackets, on the other hand, besides generally being of a hideous nature, swiftly bring this scene from "A Christmas Story" to mind.
9. Cultures within a culture
A friend of mine likes to say that if the Germans put a fence around Bavaria, they could have their own private Disneyland. Every Bundesland or state in Germany seems to have its own flavor. Whereas patriotism to Germany as a country has gone out of style, patriotism to your state is quite acceptable. This is often played out in the soccer field (If you want to see the true, passionate essence of a German, simply put them in a pub to watch a soccer game.) If you've studied any European history, you are probably aware that Germany as a country is a fairly recent phenomena as it was formerly a series of duchies. The German language itself has so many dialects that I'm told from one village to the next you might have difficulty keeping up the conversation! Another surprising factor is the rift that still lies between East and West. They say good fences make good neighbors but I would argue that good walls also make good enemies. It is often shown in the little things. Those who grew up in Eastern Germany mainly learned Russian as a second language; English wasn't really an option. In the German market at present this is an enormous disadvantage for those who didn't grow up in the West, speaking English. This may seem slight but I quickly noticed as an English teacher that there was a great deal of shame for those who were only just now "catching up." The wall coming down was a fabulous turn of events and truly God given but Germany is, in reality, a baby country, born a little over 20 years ago with its reunification.
10. The good stuff
I get asked nearly every day why I chose to move to Germany and why I'm so dead set on returning. The one word version is God. The long version is for another time and the short version is that these people are worth getting to know. I have only began to plumb the depths of who they are but so far I've liked what I've found. They are the truest friends you'd ever find and carry a loyalty I never knew existed. Their history may have broken much of the freedom to be who they are but I have caught glimpses of a sacrificing, generous, warrior race whose hearts when yielded to Jesus are a stunning example of humility and grace. They are hard workers, leaders, and people I hope to always call my friends. You could do worse than pay them a visit.