Moin moin mein Liebling! (I’m in a phenomenally good mood so please excuse the over-familiar nature of this post’s greeting (Liebling- Darling))
I’ve always been a people-watcher. I’ve spent many a good hour sitting on a high stool in Starbucks in Guildford’s White Lion Walk observing people through the glass. The couple who are clearly fighting, the stressed out mum, the person who had something a bit stronger, shall we say, than orange juice for breakfast.
After a while you become pretty good at making up your subject’s life-story while you watch them, especially so in the doctor’s. Indeed, I’ve had some of my best people-watching episodes in the confines of Southlea Surgery‘s pea-green waiting room in Aldershot. Although I have to say that seeing someone you know at the surgery at university is only an uncomfortable experience, ‘Ooh, she’s got a nurses appointment, does she?’ that sort of thing.
Anyway, my penchant for observation has led me to create the following list: things I think I’ve learnt about Germans since I’ve been here. I’m sure you’ll agree with a couple, disagree with most and perhaps be enraged by the rest, but I’m sharing it with you anyway!
1. They like hats. Nay, they love them. I’m still not sure if some of my students even have fully-formed skulls. On the rare occasion that they don’t wear caps or beanies it’s actually quite disconcerting. I have to say though, to wear both a beanie and have your hood on your hoody up during a lesson looks ridiculous. There, I’ve said it.
2. Their verb usage is phenomenal. German is quite mouldable in some ways, especially when it comes to borrowing foreign verbs. My favourite example of this so far came in a discussion I heard between two teachers, when one said to the other that she had already ‘gefeedbackt’ ie, she had already given her feedback. It blew my mind.
3. One thing I’ve noticed is that sometimes when you see two people walking together and talking, one, if not both, will have earphones in and be listening to music. But…there’s an actual, you know, person next to you…can’t you just talk to them for a second? Your music isn’t going anywhere. I’ve also noticed some students with one earphone in during a lesson. Heads will roll if I see this again, be warned.
4. Perhaps further to the last point, Germans do not partake in small talk. This is great. Although sometimes I do actually want to talk about the weather, you know?
5. And further still: it’s perfectly ok to briefly acknowledge someone you know and then ignore them completely on the way to work/school in the morning.
6. Surprisingly, the older generation are very chatty indeed in the gym! I get the impression that my gym is one targeted towards the, err, more mature among us, but they’re incredibly welcoming and the use of the informal ‘du’ rather than ‘Sie’ is encouraged, which is lovely!
7. It’s perfectly socially acceptable to go back to school/college/university in your 20s/30s/40s/50s even. And thank goodness for that; I wouldn’t have a job otherwise!
8. Germans like a bit of hybridity. My example of this is using normal little shops and having them also serve as post depots. I did get a bit of a surprise back in September when I followed directions on my phone and found myself standing outside a war hammer/comic book store to pick up my new rug for which I’d missed the delivery. However…
9. Germans are not efficient. They are, in fact, just normal people, as much as it may surprise you to hear! Anyone who has ever travelled with Deutsche Bahn will be able to vouch for the lack of efficiency involved. Sorry to crush your preconceptions.
10. Queuing is not as much of an institution here as it is in Great Britain. Therefore any time a queue develops it is absolute carnage. I really miss a decent, orderly queue, tutting and all.
11. German TV is questionable. Stefan Raab, who is arguably Germany’s best-known TV personality, has a show which is on most evenings during the week, and one of the most memorable things I remember him saying is, ‘Protest ohne Titten will Niemand sehen.’ ‘No one wants to see a protest without boobs.’ Very profound. Take from that what you will.
12. They love bakeries, and they are EVERYWHERE. And I am so grateful, I really am.
13. They have this wonderful thing called a Schnitzelbroetchen. That’s right. SCHNITZEL IN A ROLL. It’ll change your life, I promise you.
14. They put us to shame in terms of language ability. It really is embarrassing when you see how gifted some are, remembering how much languages are neglected in the UK.
15. They love emoticons, and there seems to be nothing weird about sending a ‘wink’ face to someone. Have you ever accidentally pressed ; instead of : and sent a wink face rather than your standard platonic smiley? I have, and a part of me dies inside every time I do that, but it seems to be common practice here!
No, that’s weird. Sorry.
16. They make winter coats look good. Winter wear in general, actually. I, however, look more like this:
17. They make remarkably complimentary/amorous prisoners. There’s a huge prison in the middle of the city and when a group of us were trying to find the ice rink a few weeks ago we had to walk past it. Within a few seconds we were being shouted at by them, and they even went as far as to profess their love for us. Nice, that. Ellie, as the only blonde in the group, probably got the most attention as they started to shout, ‘Hey Barbie! I love you Barbie!’
So, that’s about all from me for now. Let me know if there’s anything you’ve noticed or would add to this list!