Every Wednesday morning, I walk out of the apartment on my way to the station, to be greeted by the bright orange rubbish truck that slowly rumbles its way along the street. It’s fun to watch the routine of the brigade of orange-clad men as they hang off the back of the truck, hopping off in unison and dispersing to various houses.
Although I try to avoid walking past the truck (nothing like the waft of rubbish to kill any sense of a fresh morning) it is often the case that two of said trucks are making their rounds on both potential routes out of my street, making the pass-by unavoidable. Each time I walk past the orange brigade (with my breath held of course), I receive the most cheery ‘Guten Morgen!’ from all of them (such a greeting you would gladly welcome at the city’s local authorities office i.e. das Kreisverwaltungsreferat). I’m proud to say that I’ve put aside my cold Sydney ways and return the greeting with a smile and the pleasant reminder of unfamiliar friendliness. This is what I like about the Germans – they love to greet.
This scene took me back to my post I wrote in October last year where I made quite a few sweeping statements about Germans – their culture, behaviour and interests. With time, these ‘Germanisms’ have become more apparent and I have even managed to pick up a few more along the way. Here are some additions:
1. Germans like to answer the phone stating their surname first
Rather than beginning with a friendly, ‘Hello, Schmitt here’ – many Germans adopt the Bond approach, answering the phone with ‘Schmitt’ – followed by either a ‘hello’ or often a simple ‘Ja’ (not my favourite). Answering the phone with a ‘Ja’ is also not uncommon, but lets not get into my dislike for this one.
2. Germans have a habit of cleaning the shower after every use
Walk into most German bathrooms and you’ll find a glass cleaning tool lying somewhere near the shower. It didn’t take long to convince me of this one – a quick 1 minute scrape-down of the shower walls leaves the shower looking half respectable while easily halving the drying time. It also means less, or no build up of chalk on the tiles, making the thorough shower clean even easier. German efficiency need not be questioned.
3. Germans go a little crazy over seasonal produce
I’ve said this before but this is just inescapable. During certain times of the year, supermarkets, restaurant menus and kitchen pantries are consumed by the ‘in-season’ item. Sadly Germany does not boast a broad agricultural base, meaning that a lot of ‘exotic’ produce is sourced from neighbouring or international regions. But when they do grow something, they not only do it well but ensure it is not hard to miss – berries (amazing!) , white and green asparagus, pfifferlinge (chanterelle mushrooms), apples, wild garlic, plums…
I only find this fascinating because growing up in Australia, a variety of locally grown produce was available in abundance all year round; seasonal produce is rather trans-seasonal. Given the good agricultural climate, most produce is available all year round. This means not having to wait until autumn to make pumpkin soup. I’m a lover of locally-grown produce and find that nothing tastes better than using fresh, seasonal produce – something my friend Luisa also shares a passion for in her blog, Munich Minutes.
On a side note – if you’re living in Germany and curious about what produce is in season – here’s a useful website.
4. Germans find the British royal family annoying, yet are up-to-date with the latest gossip
Without getting into politics let’s just describe the relationship between the Germans and Brits as special. When it comes to hearing about the family behind the Buckingham gates and the Germans really aren’t interested. However, when Kate and Will pop over to Australia for a whirlwind tour, not only are photos of what Kate wore splattered all over magazine but the topic of mid-morning coffee breaks.
Is this just mere social curiosity or is there something more to it?
5. Germans like to germanise English words and throw in English to emphasise a sentence.
As I’ve previously mentioned, German’s take utmost pride in ensuring that the german language stays the reigning national language. Interestingly however, I am increasingly hearing english words and phrases slip in to conversations. There are the simple germanised english words (i.e. eingedeutscht) such as gecancelt (cancelled), gegooglt (to have googled) and gescannt (scanned) and the entertaining ones – chillen (to chill i.e. hang out), gepimpt (pimped), simsen (to sms)…
Then there are the english words that randomly appear mid-sentence, usually for emphasise – such as ‘deliverables’,
And then there are the phrases, translated from german into english – which, for an english speaker make little sense – ‘Public viewing’ (i.e. not of the deceased but rather watching sport matches in a public space outside the sport grounds), ‘learning by doing’ (e.g. learning on the job) and ‘english for runaways’ (this supposedly relates to someone with advanced english skills).
And yes, I acknowledge that many languages adopt words of other languages into their vocabulary – as a native English speaker I just find it interesting to see how my mother tongue is interwoven into German.
6. They dub all foreign tv series and movies into German.
I struggle with this one. Here it’s not a question of comprehension but rather enjoyment. I’ve noticed that the German pool of language dubbers for tv/film is quite limited – meaning that George Clooney’s dubbed german voice sounds too similar to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s. Stop for a moment and imagine it. Not entertaining. While they do a good job at synchronising the mouth with the voice, there are just some things that don’t need to be dubbed. And if you don’t believe me – try and sit through an episode of The Big Bang Theory or Sex & the City
I am thankful that Munich provides a handful of cinemas that offer films in their original versions, leaving my visits to german cinemas for native films.
7. Germans enjoy imitating the regional accents of their own geographical neighbours
I was once a little naive in believing common stereotypes (and my parents) that all German accents sounded like this. Now having an ‘ear’ for the language, I am able to not only understand the multiple-word compound words (e.g.Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz) as well as differentiate a mere handful of the many dialects floating around.
Complementing the natural geographic rivalry that exists between the german states is the German’s love to imitate the accent of their local neighbour. When telling a story about someone from another state, germans will gladly take the lead role in throwing in a heavy tongue roll of the bavarians, adding the Swabian ‘le’ to the end of nouns (e.g. Mädchen becomes Mädle) or the nasal english sounding Plattdeutsch. To me its their way of expressing that anything but ‘Hoch Deutsch’ (i.e. formal german) is a little less civilised and hence a little more entertaining.
p.s. – Aussies have a habit of doing this.
8. Germans like to respond to a brief moment of frustration with a hearty ‘Mannnn’
In response to bad traffic conditions, a crashed computer program, a football goal scored by the opponents or a few annoying mosquitoes hovering around their summer legs, and the Germans will bellow a hearty ‘Mannnnnnn’ – letting everyone in their vicinity know that they are frustrated. With the regular addition of ‘ayyyyyy’ to the end for emphasis, the bellow is universally applied – making it often a little difficult to determine how ‘drastic’ the moment of frustration may be.
9. Germans enjoy drinking milky coffee
Whether you order a Milchkaffee or the popular Latte Macchiato – just remember, you’ve been warned. Don’t expect anything less than a weak attempt at a coffee with just as much milk a newborn needs over a day.
And for a little entertainment – the amusing German Quiz plays around with a few germanisms – take the quiz to see how German you are.
Would love to hear your germanisms!