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.

Going native?

Jan bought me a recipe book for Christmas entitiled “German Cooking Today”. No, not a hint 😉 but I kept asking him about traditional German foods other than the ones from this region and he didn’t know any, hence the book.

I’ve never really done much real German cooking, despite living here for 6 years! The couple of times we’ve had homemade Spätzle Jan did the cooking and for Maultaschen we just buy ready made ones and heat them up. Jan made them once with some friends (before we were together) and apparantly it takes ages!

Since we had some baguette left over from the weekend, which had gone pretty stale, I decided it was the perfect opportunity to make Semmelknödel (bread dumplings) using the recipe in my book. I won’t post the recipe here for copyright reasons, but here is someone else’s: http://cookingweekends.blogspot.de/2011/04/semmel-knodel-german-bread-dumplings.html It’s similar to mine, but I had to beat the eggs before adding them to the rest of the mixture.

Semmelknödel floating in water while I telepathically beg them not to fall apart...
Semmelknödel floating in water while I telepathically beg them not to fall apart…

It took me forever to make the Knödel plus the side dish of pumpkin in a garlicky-tomato sauce (I suspect with practice it will be quicker), but they didn’t fall apart and ended up looking as they were supposed to. They’re pretty filling, and I couldn’t manage to finish all of mine, so Jan ate the last one. I’m taking that as a compliment 😀

The finished product.
The finished product.