You know you’re turning German when…

German flag
German flag (Photo credit: fdecomite)

I’ve been in Germany for a while now, and gradually I’ve been noticing signs that I’m becoming assimilated. Pretty soon I’ll be eating Sauerkraut* at least once a day and wearing a Dirndl to work.** If you’re afraid you, too, might be turning German here are a few ways to tell:

  • You own both indoor and outdoor scarves. Back in England, it would never have occurred to me to wear a scarf while inside a building. In fact, I’m not sure I owned a scarf at all after the age of about 10! In Austria, a learned that when you live in a country where it snows all year round*** you need a scarf. Now I own scarves in all colours and thicknesses, including ones that would be pointless in a snowstorm but make pretty accessories for indoor use.
  • Speaking of scarves, you may be turning German if you put one on when you have a sore throat. Before Germany, I knew sore throats were caused by bacteria or viruses (or shouting too much) and needed to be soothed with Lemsip, Strepsils and a nice cup of tea. Now, I’ll put a scarf on thinking “letting the cold air get to it probably doesn’t help…“. I haven’t quite got to my boyfriend’s level yet – he’ll wear a scarf in bed if he has a cold!
  • You are no longer surprised when something with “salad” in the name turns out to consist of precisely one ingredient, plus sauce. Yes, this happens in Germany. For example, if you heard the words “sausage salad”, what would you expect? Sausage, of course, but perhaps some actual salad leaves as well? Maybe something like this Spiced sausage salad, containing chorizo sausage, but also potatoes, onions and *gasp* salad leaves! Not so in Germany. A Wurstsalat (which literally translates as “Sausage salad”) looks like this (I have no photo because I hate the stuff, so I pinched this from the Internet, specifically from here:
    Wurstsalat (Photo Β© copyright Gasthaus Lentz, Berlin)
    Wurstsalat (Photo Β© copyright Gasthaus Lentz, Berlin)

    Yes, that is basically a plate of meat with a few onions thrown in and some herbs for decoration. Schweizer Wurstsalat comes with an extra ingredient – cheese. So you essentially get a pile of sausage strips with grated cheese. Tasty! There is also Tomatensalat (chopped up tomatoes, maybe some onions if you’re lucky, and salad dressing) and – my “favourite” – Gurkensalat, Cucumber Salad. A bowl of sliced cucumbers with some salt, pepper and vinegar. I wish I was joking…

  • You bake a cake to take in for your colleagues when it’s your birthday. Before coming to Germany, it would never have occurred to me to bring goodies to work for my special day. Surely the birthday girl is supposed to be the recipient of nice things? Not in Germany…
  • You automatically take your shoes off when you enter someone’s house. I don’t make people take theirs off at my place though (unless it’s snowing). Neither do I keep extra pairs of indoor shoes (“Hausschuhe”) for guests.
  • You are no longer surprised when you see dogs in restaurants (and bars, and shopping centres…). And I don’t mean little handbag sized dogs… I’m talking Golden Retrievers here!
  • You’re invited to a barbecue and bring your own meat along. The host may provide salad (maybe even with more than one ingredient ;-)) and baguette, but when it comes to steaks and sausages if you don’t bring your own you ain’t getting any! Not that I would ever turn up anywhere empty handed, but I’ve never been to a barbecue in England where I was restricted to eating only the meat I brought along…
  • You know what the Alt Gr key on your keyboard is for and use it all the time.
    A detail of a computer keyboard showing the Al...
    AltGr, Windows, Menu & Ctrl. (Photo: Wikipedia)

    True story: when I first came to Germany, I had no idea how to get the @ symbol. I could see it on the keyboard, mocking me from its place on the Q key, but could not figure out how to get it to appear on my screen. I resorted to googling “at symbol” and pasting it from there so I could log in to Hotmail. A week later, someone finally showed me what to do.

Fellow Germany dwellers, have you started turning German yet? And do you have any more to add?

* I don’t know a single German who does this.
** Only Bavarians (and Austrians) wear Dirndls and I’m pretty sure even they don’t wear them for work… unless they work in a restaurant where “traditional dress” is the uniform.
*** It’s not strictly true that Austria has snow all year round. It did snow for almost the entire time I was there, but that was an extreme year.


45 thoughts on “You know you’re turning German when…

  1. Great list πŸ™‚ I have a lovely velvet indoor/ inside my coat scarf not to be confused with the outside the coat and taken off when indoors one πŸ™‚
    They do the cake thing in offices in uk too how odd! I always thought.

  2. Oh I just giggled all the way through this. My bf wore a scarf in bed when we were in Italy the other week, as part of his absurd “I’m starting to get sick” get-up. I tried hard not to laugh at him but it was a struggle.

    As for the Alt Gr thing, I had no idea what to do with that until YESTERDAY. I’ve had this German laptop since about Easter last year. Thankfully I can put the keyboard in English but sometimes I want to use the € symbol and couldn’t get the darn thing to work. And I’m terrified to push random buttons because at least once it’s stopped my entire keyboard from working!

    And I too, have an absurd amount of scarves now. In the US (at least when I left 4 years ago), that was considered very “Euro.” So you know, weird. πŸ™‚

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

      I just grinned at the “starting to get sick ritual”. You could have been talking about my boyfriend there!

      And I know what you mean about pressing random buttons… when I told my boyfriend the Alt-Gr story his response was “well why didn’t you just try every button on the keyboard?”. Errm because it wasn’t actually my computer and I didn’t want to break anything maybe?

    1. Really? Hmm, I’ve only ever worked at one place in England and the one person who knew it was my birthday gave me a giant cookie. I guess I got away with it πŸ˜‰

      Here, you’re expected to bring in cake even if you’re not here on your actual birthday! You just bring it when you get back.

  3. How about consuming sweets/tea that taste like fields? This one time I was sick and so bought some throat sweet and no lie, they tasted like a field. I gave them to my colleagues who always say “remember those sweets that tasted like fileds?” Also krauter tea. Omg. Can anything taste so bad? I think not.

    1. LOL, I seem to have managed to avoid the sweets that taste like grass so far. I get the Ricola Zitronenmelisse ones, which mostly taste like lemon, or those Eucalyptus-Menthol extra strong things (Rewe has them), which is a bit like having Vicks vapour rub in your actual mouth but clears your nose pretty much instantly.

      1. LOL, not all KrΓ€tertees are bad – it pretty much depends on what’s in them. I like the type that are basically flower petals, like Hibiscus (although… maybe that’s no longer KrΓ€utertee?)

    1. πŸ˜€ I’m glad you like it. Some things are quite normal to me now (and I actually like the scarf thing), but at first it was totally confusing – lots of “Why are you even doing that?!” moments!

  4. Ha ha, that’s a great post.
    I do love Wurstsalad and Schweitzer Wurstsalad too. With fresh bread it’s very yummy.
    And I do have a Dirndl but have never worn it to work.

    As for the scarf thing, that’s true. But that’s only because our mothers always told us to do that and somehow it sticks. My Dad is still doing it too. πŸ™‚

    1. I used to find the scarf thing ridiculous too… then I found some incredibly cute scarves that were WAY too thin to be worn outdoors and couldn’t resist purchasing them. I believe that was the start of my assimilation πŸ˜‰

  5. Haha I love this! I always wear scarves and I was so happy to see that an American keyboard already has a @ on it. πŸ™‚ I love Tomatensalad and Gurkensalad. I never realized that there is something weird about that. πŸ™‚ It always freaks me out that you never see any dogs in American stores. For me it is totally normal to bring your dog anywhere!

    1. I love dogs, but they are not people! There’s no need for them to be in supermarkets, shedding hair on my groceries. Or brushing up against the clothes in C&A. My mum is allergic to dogs and I’m sure she wouldn’t like to try on something that is covered in dog hair!

  6. Well, wearing a scarf does help when you are sick…keepig warm helps in general. πŸ˜›
    Very funny to read, though. I would not say all of it is always true for every part of Germany, but still pretty exact and not at all full of stereotypes like so many articles like that! well written πŸ™‚

    1. Thank you. I’m glad you like it πŸ™‚ Yes, I probably should have said I can only speak for the small area of Germany that I live in…

      I can actually kind of see the point in the scarf thing now, but when I first came to Germany it seemed soooo weird! I always knew scarfs as something to keep you warm outside in einter, not for wearing all year round and inddors πŸ™‚

  7. LOVE this post!!! So much of this applied to the Netherlands too … bringing cake to my colleagues on MY birthday? WHY??!
    And the ‘salads’ – uuugh the salads. My Dutch friends love this ‘curry chicken salad’ which is essentially pureed chicken with mayonnaise and it looks just revolting … shudder.

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