Stereotypes have to come from somewhere…

I spotted this in Karlsruhe train station on my way to work yesterday. I guess it’s true what they say about the Germans… when the sun comes out, so do the socks with sandals!

So very German...
So very German…

What’s in a name?

E
Photo credit: duncan

*No Friday letters today because I couldn’t actually think of a single one…*

Recently, Linda over at Expat Eye on Latvia was talking about some of mistakes her students make in English – both the amusing ones and those annoying ones that come up over and over, no matter how many times they’ve been corrected (you should really read her post by the way, some of the things her students come out with are hilarious!). This got me thinking about something that really annoys me when Germans speak English… their absolute insistence that we pronounce the letter “a” as if it were an “e”. The classic example was when somebody from the student residence I used to live in started telling me about “Nettley Portmen”. What? She is not covered in nettles. Her name is Natalie! No nettles involved, thank you! Also, it’s Portman. With an A!

Coincidentally, my friends and I were talking about something similar the other day… namely most Germans’ complete inability to cope with my name. This is an actual conversation that I’ve had more than once with native German speakers:

Me: Hi, I’m Bev.

German: Beth… like Elizabeth?

Me: No, Bev. Short for Beverley.

German: Aaah, Bethany! Pleased to meet you, Beth.

Me: No, it’s Beverley. Like Beverly Hills Cop.

German: Ohh, right! (Pause) But… isn’t he a man?

Me: *Stunned silence*

To be fair, I’ve only had the “but isn’t he a man” comment about twice. The rest happens almost every time I meet a German though. And don’t even get me started on the trouble that the e between the l and the y causes! (Yes, there really are three e’s in my name. No, that does not magically change the pronunciation… I’ve only had this name for 30 years, I do know what I’m talking about!). Ironically, all three of my siblings have names that would be perfectly normal in Germany (although my middle brother’s name would be pronounced differently here). My name is as English as they come, but I’m the only one who lives abroad…

Do you ever have trouble getting people to understand your name abroad? How do you deal with it?

My work here is done…

Here’s a screenshot of some of my search terms from over the past 30 days (apologies for blurriness):

termsAs you can see, somebody found my blog by searching for “germans are weird”.
Why yes, random searcher, they are!*

The truth has been revealed. Clearly, there is no further reason for me to blog now! 😀 😀

* Dear Germans. Please do not be offended by my remarks. I actually like Germany (and Germans) a lot. I wouldn’t have stayed here for over six years otherwise!

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: http://www.gasthaus-lentz-berlin.de/v/essen/Wurstsalat.jpg.html):
    Wurstsalat (Photo © copyright Gasthaus Lentz, Berlin)
    Wurstsalat (Photo © 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.

Friday letters

Friday! Friday! Friday! (Can you tell I’m excited that it’s the weekend?).

I’m going out soon, and I still need to change out of my work clothes, so just a quick Friday letters this week.

Long Distance Relationships
(Photo credit: valordictus)

Dear people who find my blog by searching for “things to do when your bored”. Might I suggest grammar lessons? Then you could learn the difference between your and you’re and I would no longer feel like tearing my eyeballs out very time I check my blog’s search terms!

Dear woman who closed her car door for me to pass. There was plenty of room between the door and the building next to your car, but I still appreciate your closing the door. And you apologised! My faith that Germans do know what manners are has been restored! (At least until next time I hold the door open for someone at Karstadt and they don’t even acknowledge me! Germans, didn’t your mothers ever tell you manners cost nothing?)

Dear boyfriend. Thank you for washing my dishes when you came in on Wednesday night. I planned to do them before work on Thursday, but it was a pleasant surprise to find them already done.

Berliner Pfannkuchen, a popular German pastry
Berliner (jammy dougnuts) (Photo: Wikipedia)

Dear student worker. Thank you for bringing in Berliner (similar to jammy doughnuts) for everyone at work this afternoon. An excellent way to sweeten up our Fridays and make the weekend feel that little bit closer 🙂

Dear Friday night. It seems like forever since I last spent you somewhere other than at home. Tonight, I am going for food with K then we’re going to have cocktails! I’m way to excited about this for someone who turns 30 this year.

Not enough Friday letters for you? Find more at: http://www.thesweetseasonblog.com/2013/01/fridays-letters_25.html

Happy Friday everyone!

Showing the Germans how it’s done

So, my Christmas dinner went well again. There was way too much food, of course. That’s the whole point in Christmas dinner, isn’t it? Actually, we seem to have ended up with more leftovers than usual, although I didn’t think I had made more food. Perhaps people weren’t as hungry this time?
Anyway, here’s what we ate:

Food, glorious food
Food, glorious food

For the starter, aubergine rounds and very garlicky tomato bruschetta (delicious!).
Then came the main course. You probably can’t tell what everything is from the photo, so here’s a list:

  • Turkey (obviously…)
  • Bread sauce (home made)
  • Spicy sausage meat stuffing
  • Bread stuffing with herbs (not pictured – it eventually went were the aubergines or on here – made by my friend K)
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Roast potatoes
  • Broccoli (yuck! That one was for the others…)
  • Carrots
  • Honey-roasted parsnips
  • Pigs in blankets – made with Bratwurst!
  • Cranberry sauce
  • Gravy
  • And home made lemonade to drink (plus some passion fruit flavoured sparkling wine that I picked up purely because the label had a picture of a multi-cultured lizard that I thought was cute)

Here’s a picture of just the turkey. It was perfectly cooked – even if I do say so myself, which I kind of have to since there’s nobody else here to say it for me. Not too dry, but not undercooked either (every year I am paranoid about poisoning everyone!).

I swear it's not the same turkey as in my last post...Turkey 2010

Desert was an apple and raisin crumble with Amaretto, again made by K. By this stage in the proceedings, I had forgotten all about cameras, so there are no photos of it. Never mind, I’m sure you all know what crumble looks like. And for the record, it was delicious!

I’m knackered now (didn’t get to bed til around midnight!), but it was worth it. And at least I don’t need to worry about what to cook for the rest of the week. Turkey with everything it is!! Here’s how I’m making tonight’s tea…

Leftovers

Must obey the red man…

One thing that absolutely fascinates me about Germans is their blind obedience to the little traffic light men.
You can be standing at a pedestrian crossing on a road that sees maybe five cars a day (unlikely in Karlsruhe, I admit) but if the red man is visible nobody will cross. Yes, I am aware that crossing the road while the light is red is technically illegal and, in theory, you can be fined for it, but has anybody ever really been fined? And if there are no police around then I’d imagine you’re fairly safe. Admittedly the glares you will inevitably get are pretty scary, but I promise looks can’t actually kill (although your fellow citizens probably wish they could) – I am living proof of that!

The other fascinating thing is that no German seems capable of pressing the button to call the green man, or at least nobody over the age of 30. Perhaps it’s a relatively new invention in Germany? There’s one particular road that I have to cross to get home from the shopping centre. I regularly see Germans waiting there. First the cars and the trams go, then the lights for vehicles turn red while the traffic on the cross road goes. At this point, pedestrians could cross too, but the little green man never appears and the Germans wait and wait (well, the older ones anyway. Some people my age will just cross). At some point, the other lights change again, the cars continue on their way, and the pedestrians carry on waiting, eyes fixed on the red man, never seeming to wonder why it hasn’t been their turn to cross yet. This is usually the point where I reach the road, press the button and hey presto, green man! By the looks the old ladies give me, you’d think I’d just performed a minor miracle!

Germans… I love them dearly, but they are a strange bunch at times!

(For more – much funnier – insights into weird German ways, check this out: http://venturevillage.eu/how-to-be-german-part-1 I promise you won’t regret it!)

Will this day ever end?

It’s currently ten o’clock at night. I’ve been up since 6 am, it’s been a long, stressful day at work, in which I didn’t even have time for a proper lunch break and all I want to do is go to bed and sleep… possibly until the end of the week. Unfortunately this is not possible. Tea is still in the oven refusing to do what it’s meant to do (stop being liquid mainly). On top of that, the kitchen is full of unwashed dishes from last night’s tea, which I am going to fail to wash once again, and I still haven’t taken out the food waste, despite the fact that I’ve been meaning to for about three days. My Grandma has just informed me that one of the stereotypes that Germans have about the British is that we’re messy… and she knows for a fact Jan thinks that about me. Thanks Grandma – at least now I know what you two talk about behind my back! And the worst of it is I can’t even deny it. After all, we all know I’m the world’s worst housewife (I’ve mentioned it often enough!). The best defense I could come up with was “he can talk”. Very original! I also managed to get on the wrong tram this morning, my train was delayed this evening and Jan is not home yet. This certainly hasn’t been what I would call one of the better days in my life. Here’s hoping tomorrow will be better… once I’ve had some sleep!

The perils of living alone

The observant among you may have noticed that it’s been a whole week since I last blogged. That’s because this is the first day since then that I’ve actually felt up to posting anything. You see, last Saturday, while tidying the flat, I gave myself concussion – which just goes to show housework is dangerous and should be avoided at all costs. There I was sweeping up underneath the boiler, went to stand up and *BANG* went my head against the boiler. Which is made of metal, as boilers tend to be. It hurt… a lot. Six hours later I still had a headache. And three hours after that. In fact, I had a headache until Thursday when I finally, finally started feeling almost normal again. The NHS direct website told me if it was just a headache and no other symptoms I should be fine, but the first night I should have someone wake me up every 2 hours and ask me simple question, like my name or address. Yeah… easier said than done when you live alone and your boyfriend is in LA. So I set my phone to wake me up every two hours, just to see if I would wake up. Not sure what I would have done if I hadn’t mind, but you have to remember I wasn’t thinking straight…. Anywaaay, by Monday I still had a headache and Jan was home, so I got him to make me a doctor’s appointment for after work, which is where I was told I probably had mild concussion and prescribed some painkillers which tasted awful (apparantly they contain raspberry and cream flavouring… I will never look at a raspberry the same way again!), but they worked. For the most part anyway. Sitting in front of a computer all day trying to translate did nothing for my poor head (which is why I didn’t really feel up to blogging either) but as the boss and his wife were off last week I couldn’t really take time off as my colleague would have been alone. But never mind, I am better now and today Jan took me to a furniture shop and I finally bought lights for my ceilings. Can you believe the Germans actually take the lights away with them when they move out of a place? Up to now I’ve been surviving with lamps!

Anyway, I am off to spend some quality time with the boyfriend. I promise to come and catch up on all your blogs tomorrow though. Don’t worry, the flat is tidy at the moment so I won’t be giving myself concussion again any time soon…

Stuff that has annoyed me over the past few days

1. Not being able to sleep. The most annoying thing is that I’m actually really tired – too tired even to read, but as soon as I switch out the light every trace of sleepiness goes away and I’m left lying there, tired but wide awake. Grrr. The boyfriend is coming over tonight though, perhaps that will make things better.

2. The announcement on my tram yesterday. “Crackle. Hiss. Passangers. Mumble, mumble. Fizzle. Karlsruhe. Mumble, mumble. Crackle. Thank you.” You’d think by now someone would have invented a tram announcement thingy that could actually be understood!

3. Shop assistants. Why is it that they only ever offer assistance when you’re perfectly fine on your own. No, I do not help to walk the six steps to the other side of the shop and pick up a roll of sellotape thank you very much. But when you do need help they all seem to magically become incredible busy or get kidnapped by aliens.

4. Finally finding the perfect present for one of my relatives only to discover that none of the shops in Karlsruhe has it. Not one! It has now been ordered from Amazon, meaning I have to pay extra because of postage. Again, grrr.

5. The fact that I forgot to put a book in my bag yesterday and had nothing to read all the way to work. And all the way back. That’s an hour’s worth of tram journey with no reading material. Dooom!

6. The presenter on the radio station we listen to during our lunch break at work. She’s just so goddamn cheerful!
And just to balance things out a bit, here are some things that have amused me today:

– When you type in “subject to German law” on Google UK, the second link to come up is about strip searching. (In case you’re wondering why I typed that into Google it was to do with a translation I was proofreading.)

– They played Teenage Dirtbag by Wheetus on the radio today. The word gun was blocked out but they left dick and ass in. That’s Germans for ya – bad language is fine but please don’t sing about weapons! I know, not that funny but it amused me. Simple minds and all that…