Friday, December 14, 2012

Germans Wonder Why Americans Think of Bavaria When They Think of Germany


One baffling thing about Germans is that 90% of them honestly wonder why Americans immediately think of Bavaria as soon as Germany is mentioned. The remaining 10% are all Bavarian.

Germans, try this experiment with me: Picture a stereotypical Bavarian. OK, done? Let me guess, you thought of either a girl wearing a
dirndl or some dude with a huge mustache wearing lederhosen. Now think of a stereotypical German from Hessen. You can’t and neither can we.

Americans are not the least bit ashamed to ignore the rest of Germany, because Bavaria is exactly what we are looking for. We come to Europe to see old stuff. In Munich we can see buildings that are nearly 60 years old. We read the same fairy tales as you growing up (ok, well our fairy tales edit out all the really creepy stuff you’ve got) and we want see a real castle that makes us think those fairy tales could have really happened. Neuschwanstein gives us that hope.

But most importantly, we don’t have the time to learn the culture and pick up on subtleties, because we only get two weeks of vacation per year. We want stuff that is big and obvious, and Bavaria is pretty much the only place that delivers for us. Americans love big stuff and that’s what Bavaria gives us, beer in one liter mugs, huge pretzels,
haxn, and the Alps.

In my opinion, we love Bavaria, because its Germany’s version of Texas: They’re big. They’re mostly rural. Despite being rural, they’re hotbeds for industry and high tech companies. They’re way down south. People talk with a funny accent there. They remember when they were their own countries and wish they would become their own country again. The rest of the country doesn’t really like them, and the people there don’t really like the rest of the country.

And the best part is that in both Texas and Bavaria, the locals still play dress up in outdated clothing now and then.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Germans have MacGyver-like Abilities in Opening Beer Bottles

Germans hate convenience. Although Germany is generally a cash based society as opposed to America, where we use credit and debit cards for every transaction upwards of $0.49, Germany has no ATMs that you can drive through. In fact the only drive-throughs in all of Germany are called McDrive, yup, McDonald's.

You will also encounter the German hatred of convenience while grocery shopping as you watch the cashier throwing all of your groceries into a big pile, which you have to then bag yourself, while simultaneously trying to pay for them, while a big line of impatient customers are tapping their feet behind you.

The most obvious indication that Germans hate convenience is the fact that they do not have twist-off caps on bottles of beer, like we have had for the last 47 years. Instead Germans must develop new talents in opening their beer, as a bottle opener is not always available.

Here is a partial list of ways Germans can open their bottles:  

The Klassiker: Since 87% of Germans smoke, you have well over a 98% chance in a group of three or more that a cigarette lighter will be available. Using the available cigarette lighter, Germans put a firm grip around the bottleneck with one hand, and use the butt-end of the lighter to pry open the lid with the other hand, using a lever-action, which is intuitive to all Germans, because they are all gear-heads.

Before returning to the States, you should learn this technique, because it will amaze your friends, and it works with twist-offs as well. You can learn to either make the cap fly off into the air for amusement, or just gently pop off to avoid injury.

The Tischler: Never let a German do this on your table or counter-top, but most Germans have the ability to set the lip of cap against a hard 90 degree angled surface with one hand, and bang the bottle with the other to remove the cap. This works only 30% of the time, so you have a 70% chance of a hand injury and/or scratched surface.

The Doppeldeckler: This is a limited use technique, because it requires two bottles. Once they are down to the last beer, Germans have to resort to another strategy. This technique is to flip one bottle into the opposing direction of the other and use one cap to pry the other one off. Despite its limitations this is a stylish, impressive feat.

The Zahnarzt: Young Germans males find a way to open bottles with their teeth. We don’t know how or why, but we recommend you avoid this.
Some smaller German breweries, such as Flensburger, make a very stylish cap that requires you to only push against the cap, and the mechanical mechanism allows the cap to pop out of the bottle, requiring you to neither use the techniques explained above, nor hurt your delicate hands on a twist-off cap; however, since Germans hate convenience, these bottles are very unpopular. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Don’t Learn German

Living in Germany is great, and I would recommend it to anyone. Speaking German, on the other hand, is terrible and it should be avoided at all costs. In fact, Mark Twain warned us way back in 1880 in his essay
The Awful German Language not to bother with this language. There are countless reasons not to learn German, so let’s discuss a few:

The German language is, in fact, impossible to learn
unless you begin learning it as a baby. Starting to learn this language is impossible if you start later, because your brain will lack the capacity to learn so many senseless details, such as the different forms of the word "the".
  • You probably know in German there are three different genders der, die, and das. So for every single noun out there, you need to memorize a gender as well (the are some rules for determining gender, but for every rule there are just as many exceptions as examples that fit, so you still have to memorize every single one individually). But you also need to change the article, based on the case that you are using the noun in. Let’s see what this looks like in German:
  • Do you really want to learn a language that has 16 ways to say the word "the"? And it doesn’t stop there, you need to learn 16 ways to say "a" (in English 2), and 32 ways to change adjective endings (in English we have 0). And you want to try to do this in real-time in your head while trying to carry one a conversation… forget about it. 
  • In English, when something is plural we just add "s" to the end. In German you add an "s", an "e", a couple of dots somewhere in the middle, an "er", an "en", or just do nothing at all and the word becomes plural. Also be careful what case you are talking in, because that changes the plural form again, should you use the dative case.
  • For every verb you learn, you must learn to conjugate it for I, you, You, they, he, she, it, and ya’ll. You’ll also need to learn them in present tense, past tense, perfect past tense, and subjunctive. Oh, and having one subjunctive case isn’t good enough for Germans. Germans need two subjunctive cases, because they deem it necessary to designate hearsay grammatically.You will never learn all this, so don’t bother trying.

No matter how good your German gets, most Germans will speak English much better than you can speak German
Let them do the work in learning your language, since they have to do it anyway to talk with the rest of the world. The British have figured out you can live in Germany with no problems without speaking a word of German, so just follow their lead.

Use your lack of German speaking abilities to your advantage in the workforce

For every professional job in Germany, English is a required skill. So by default, any professional working in Germany who doesn’t speak English fluently either lied to get the job and/or is incompetent. Forcing these people to speak in English gives you an unfair edge in order to dominate negotiations. Try negotiating in German and you have the exact opposite situation… don’t set yourself up for a weaker position by learning enough German to get you into trouble.

It makes business meetings more entertaining, because when you show up to the meeting and say you can’t speak German, the meeting has to be conducted in English to accommodate you

This will slow down the pace of the meeting considerably, because you are forcing the majority of the people to speak a foreign language, but Germans love to discuss things so much, that they will take up all the allotted time for the meeting either way. You might as well do this to make it more fun, because it’s really entertaining to watch people who agree with each other fight each other. Since the Germans in the meeting will be so busy trying to figure out how to say what they want to say next in English, they won’t have any chance to pay attention to what the other person is saying, so a heated argument will always ensue, even when the participants completely agree with each other. Sit back, drink some excellent European coffee, eat some Keks and enjoy, cause you wouldn’t be going home soon anyway.

You will never learn how to say / pronounce ö or ü

Germans will change their spelling system as soon as you learn it

By the time you learn the difference between das and daß, daß doesn’t exist anymore, and in its place you have words like Schifffffahrt.

Tokio Hotel records English versions of their songs, so you have that angle covered as well

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Mixed Messages on the Motorway

Ah, the world-renown Autobahn. Driving at speeds over 150 mph right next to semis driving 50 mph is quite a rush, and should be on anyone’s to do list when visiting Germany. It’s just a shame the Dutch don’t learn to speed up or get out of the way.

But the lack of a speed limit doesn’t really fit to the German mentality for two reasons.
  • It is quite dangerous. Germans love insurance against unfortunate things from happening to them. Physics says going at an unlimited speed may turn out bad.
  • It is a waste of gas. As you go faster your wind-resistance gets much higher and you waste fuel. Germans are generally very ecologically minded, so you would think that a country that makes you pay a deposit for just about any container that could possibly be recycled
and makes you sort your trash three ways would set speed limits on the Autobahn.  

So what does Germany do instead? They spend money to put up signs to tell you there is no speed limit like this:
[No Limit]

 So you can now drive as fast as you want, but you may soon start noticing signs like this:
That’s the sign telling you that you sure as hell better slow down because if you don't they'll take your photo and you will receive a ticket delivered to your home mailing address for maybe 120 €. If you are feeling like a nice person in this rented car of yours, you will follow that suggestion for the safety of the rest of people on the road and to do your small part for the environment and wallet. But then the weirdest thing Germany does is put up advertising on giant billboards to tell you just how uncool you are if you drive fast.

The worst part of this whole thing aside from being a complete waste of money is having to constantly explain to American colleagues traveling in Germany that the sign is not about what they think it is about.
I guess Daimler, Porsche, VW, BMW, Bosch, and Conti are happy just the way things are.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Germans Eat 1.7 Times Faster Than Americans

Germans are the kings of efficiency and this extends into the realm of eating lunch. If you work at a big company in Germany, you will almost certainly have a cafeteria to eat in which serves up great subsidized meals. Because Germans want to spend as little time as possible at work, they limit their lunch breaks to exactly 45 minutes. That means you have 45 minutes to walk from the office to the cafeteria, get served up a nice meal and a tiny drink with no ice (and no free refills), talk about the latest episode of the emigration reality show, a soccer match, or what would have happened if some battle in a war 95 years ago would have turned out differently. After that you need to return your dishes and take a 10 minute walk the long way back to the office.

When you subtract the walking times and time needed to buy your lunch, you actually only have about 10 minutes to eat your meal while discussing 1 reality show, 1 soccer match, and 1 alternative outcome to a historic event. You as an American cannot pull it off. Do not attempt to participate in the conversation, focus solely on eating as fast as you can. The cards are stacked against you in this for the following 2 reasons:  
  • You likely haven’t mastered the super-efficient German style of eating, whereby you scoop everything onto your fork in your left hand with your knife that’s in your right hand. Maybe you are becoming adept at using the fork with your left hand and are gaining speed, but it won’t be enough.
  • You must constantly try to remember the gender of every noun you want to say, then figure out whether the prepositions you want to use require the accusative, dative, or genitive case. Then you have to match the gender with the case to figure out the needed definite article in a table in your head you learned in German class, and you are almost there. Now you just have to figure out the adjective ending based on the definite article and you have part of the sentence you want to say completed. Now figure out where the verbs go in the sentence, conjugate and you are ready to add your mustard to the conversation. Unfortunately by the time you have your witty sentence about the reality show constructed in your head, the topic has already moved on to the Bundesliga.  

Not only did you not get to say a single word about the first topic, you wasted your first 3 minutes of valuable eating time. You are still working on your soup, while your German colleagues have already finished their Maultaschen and are getting ready to dig into dessert.

Once again its going to be one of those days where the only thing you said all lunch long was
genau one time, and your colleagues are still going to have to wait for the slow American to finish lunch.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Perpetual Handshaking and Timely Greetings

If you are going to work in Germany, get ready to shake the hand of every colleague you have every day. In America, we generally shake hands when first meeting someone, or if we haven’t seen each other in a very long time. Germans on the other hand want to shake hands one time per day.

Sometimes you will forget with which colleagues you have already shaken hands, and you may try to reshake and your colleague will begin to extend his or her hand until the moment of realization that that would be two shakes in one day, and one or both of you must jerk your hand away and exclaim "wir hatten schon!," because shaking hands twice in one day is just as unacceptable as eating two warm meals in one day. 

Oh, if the Germans I work with only knew. Man, I probably have some sort of disease from how many hands I've shaken!

On occasion the German you greet may be unable to offer you his hand because he has them both full, has dirty hands, or is sick (you can tell because they will wear a scarf around their neck, without exception), at which point you will be offered a wrist or an elbow, which you are obliged to awkwardly shake.

If one arrives a little late and it would cause an interruption to make way through the room shaking with each individual, it will suffice to knock on a table. It is understood that you have in this way greeted everyone in the room. You will get bonus points as a German insider if you yell out, "Es gilt", so that everyone knows they have been greeted.

On the subject of greetings, you must always check your watch before offering a greeting, because the standard greeting changes throughout out the day. Of course in the morning you say guten Morgen, but at about 11 a.m. Germans switch it over to mahlzeit or literally translated "meal time". This can extend well into the afternoon until it becomes a more natural guten Tag.

Telling people it is meal time for like 3 hours at midday weird. It should be stopped.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Germans Think They Speak Better English Than They Do

First of all, this is certainly a case of throwing stones in glass houses here, but all Germans make the same mistakes when they speak English, and maybe that's the difference between them learning British English rather than American English but come on... They watch nearly only American programing! Learning these common mistakes will help you communicate though.
First, the most annoying, Germans think Handy means cell phone. Telling them that the word Handy is not English for cell phone will make you endure a horrendous joke about how a Schwäbian guy actually came up with the term. Do not tell them its not called a Handy in English under any circumstance, just know that they are talking about a mobile or cell phone and move on.

Beamer is not a BMW, it is a projector. I see that it's beaming the image onto the wall, but the first time I heard it I was so confused.

Eggzill is a spreadsheet program from Microsoft. *A warning from first hand experience here is in order.* After hearing your German colleagues talk about using Microzoft Vord, Eggzill, and Axis, do not call the other program Microsoft Proyekt, like you think your German colleagues would pronounce it. They will make fun of you for being stupid, if you do.

Actual does not mean actual to a German. To a German actual means current, or up-to-date. For some reason they think aktuell = actual, which gets super annoying, since every German will always make this mistake till they die, no matter how many times you tell them.

Fitness Studio is a gym. Sounds like you’re going to get filmed while you work out, but no worries, it’s just a gym. 
Der Smoking is a tuxedo.

Mobbing gives you the image of an angry mob of 50 people ready to kill you, but in German it is any form of harassment or mistreatment, especially in the work place by coworkers or management.

Informations, trainings, sheeps, etc. Germans have the most annoying habbit of make up plural forms of words you can’t really do that with, which sounds pretty ridiculous.

Lucky means happy to Germans. Kind of weird since most Germans use the word happy now and then, as in "This film is a happy end." By the way Germans, if you are listening, you mean "This movie has a happy ending."

An Oldtimer to a German means a vintage car, not your grandpa. 
A shooting is not what happens on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard once a day; Germans use it to mean a photo shoot or filming. 
Shrimps is the German word for shrimp, even though they could use their own lanuage, the Germans prefer to misuse ours.

A Body bag in Germany is not what the authorities take dead people to the morgue in, but rather a back pack or a fanny pack.

The word funny is misused all too often as well. When a German wants to express how much fun something will be i.e. going to the movies or going to a club, they almost always say "Wow, that would be so funny" when they obviously mean "Wow, that would be so much fun!"