Things I will never be able to do as well as the Germans

I actually thought of this post a while ago, but I was out and about with no possibility to write anything down, so I forgot. But I was reminded of it again last night in Aldi, while trying to pay and pack away my shopping at the same time. This time I had the sense to switch the computer on and get typing as soon as I get home, and this morning I felt inspired enough to complete the post. And thus, I present to you, Things that I will never be able to do as well as the Germans…

Pack my shopping away at the speed of light

I’m almost sure this ability is genetic… or at least drummed in to small German children before they can even walk. All Germans seem to have an in-built capability to lay all their groceries on the band in exactly the way it needs to be packed, run to the other end and pack everything away in their back pack/environmentally friendly canvas bag neatly and safely while the shop assistant is practically throwing the stuff at them and then have the money waiting in their hand before the cashier even has the chance to ask for it. Meanwhile, there’s me quickly shoving everything into my carrier bag (which I’ve just purchased because I forgot to bring one with me again) any old way, not caring how squished my bread gets, then having to stop half way through to fumble with my purse while the shop assistant glares impatiently, one hand out waiting to take my money. On the occasions that I’m doing a big shop and take a trolley, I’m even too slow at throwing my shopping in there… leading to the assistant picking up random bits of my shopping and putting them in the trolley for me so they have room to scan the rest. Unless I’m only buying about 2 items, every shopping trip ends up in a panicked rush! What’s your secret, Germans?

Open a beer bottle with absolutely anything

Admittedly this one might only be reserved for male Germans – I haven’t seen many women doing it. But give a German guy a beer, tell him you have no opener and he will use any means at his disposal to get into the bottle. In fact, some people insist on doing it their way even if there is a proper opening available! A lighter, another (closed) beer bottle, a fork… each of these works perfectly if a German is looking to get his beer open. And if no other implement is available, the edge of a table or even the crate the beer came in will do. I, on the other hand, sometimes have trouble opening my beer with a proper bottle opener…

This is as good as my scarf wrapping skills are ever going to get...
This is as good as my scarf tying skills are ever going to get…

Wrap a scarf so it looks good

Given a decent amount of time and a mirror, I will eventually manage to wrap a scarf around my neck in a way that looks half decent. German women need neither time nor mirrors. I’ve seen Germans stand up after a long night of drinkinh, pick up the scarf that they took off because it was so hot indoors, casually drape it around their neck, and BAM…. perfect first time! This is another ability that I suspect is genetic…

Drink a Maß of beer

That’s one litre, for those of you who don’t know. And believe me, one litre is a lot of beer. A Maß glass isn’t exactly small! Pathetic little British me needs two hands to even lift one. Unlike the famous Oktoberfest waitresses, who deliver up to eight of these things to a table at a time, four in each hand. I can never manage to get all the way to the bottom of my Maß of beer before it gets warm either! Germans can though… including the females. I think I’ll stick with my pathetic little half litre glasses and leave the big ones to the natives…

And there you have it: Four things that I don’t think I’ll learn to do as well as the Germans however long I live here.
Got any more? Feel free to add them in the comments. And if there’s something you think the natives of another country can do better than anyone else I’d love to hear about it!

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.