Tuesday, May 21, 2013

How To Be A German

I recently read a funny article about How to be a German in 20 easy steps, and I laughed... and I laughed some more. Read part 2 and part 3 for even more laughs. There are actually 25 steps now and they say there are more coming. The author of the blog, one hipster named Adam Fletcher, asks if there is anything he has forgotten. Having spent the last 10 months in Germany I have picked up a few things that aren't on the list that I think you need to do, or be, or complete to fully immerse yourself in Germanyness (yes, Germanyness is a real word). In no order of importance here is my list-

1. Wear a scarf. Every day. Everywhere.  When we got to Germany I realized that I was not alone in my love of the scarf. Women wore them around their necks, around their pony-tails, around their waists. And stop right now if you think the scarf is reserved for merely neck warming and cold weather. The scarf is seen adorning the necks of women even in 90F°/32C° weather. It would seem German women have shy collarbones because you never, ever see them. And wait! It gets better. The scarf crosses gender boundaries! Back in the States, male scarf wearing was confined to heavy-wool-coat ensembles and they were always dark in color and lacking fringe. Not here. German men let their freak flag fly with scarves draped around their necks. My favorite "German outfit" which can be seen on the 18-25 year old male German is cut-off shorts, tank top, and then a very "fringey" scarf  loosely draped around those sacred collar bones which must be hidden from view.

2. Have a garden. Germans love their flowers. Flower and bush nurseries dot the outskirts of villages. Hours and hours are spent obtaining a perfection that seems to border on obsessive compulsive. Ask an American who has lived in Germany if they have ever seen a German sweep their dirt in their yard. Not sweep the dirt from the yard, but actually sweep the dirt so it gets all nice and smooth and even. And just because you live in an apartment is no reason why you can't do your part to beautify Germany. In these same village outskirts you will see parcels of land with little shacks on them and beautifully maintained gardens. At first I thought they were the shanty towns of Germany. No, these are the city dweller weekend gardens where they escape to have the opportunity to plunge trowel into German soil.

3. Love dogs. Their owners on the other hand? Not so much. Germany has to be one of the most dog friendly cultures I have ever lived in. Your dog can join you in the mall. There is nothing like shopping at Karstadt and have the woof of a Labrador Retriever echo out in the stores. You can take your little doggy with you into restaurants too. If you have a cute and good dog, most Germans will approach your dog and rub their head and lavish praise upon the dog. I will never forget when I had two German repairmen in my apartment who were looking at me with thinly veiled contempt. My dog Minkie bounded into the room and started licking their hands (traitor dog). They changed in an instant into happy and friendly people. "Du bist ein gut Hund!" Or you are a good dog. They scratched her, loved her, let her lick their faces, and practically rolled around on the floor with her for about five minutes before I had to break it up. As soon as Minkie left, thinly veiled contempt was back.

4. Don't care about other peoples problems. Many a time I have heard the wail of people here, American and German alike, about the lack of customer service. I am not saying that Germans don't care about people, like if you were on fire they would probably put you out. But let us say something broke and you are trying to return it to the store, or a shop is closing right as you need to run in just to grab some milk and could they please just let you in for just a second. Good luck.

5. Go out to eat and stay the whole night. To go out to a popular restaurant in Germany you are probably going to need your table to be reserviert, or reserved. There really is no need to put a time down because the table is basically yours the whole night. Want to eat at 9:00 at night? No problem because your table is reserviert and you can show up whenever you want. Or do you want to go early, and then never leave? You can do that too. In fact, that is mostly what we see. Matt and I went out to dinner at a cute little restaurant in the next town over. After eating and enjoying our drinks we looked at all the other patrons. Just as we were getting ready to leave, they were ordering after dinner drinks and talking and laughing and looking like they were just settling in after being there for almost three hours. Going out to dinner isn't something you fit in between weekend activities here. It is the weekend activity.

6. Never wash your car on Sunday. But somehow, always have a clean car. There is a law in Germany that makes Sunday car washing illegal. And through word of mouth I have heard that if you decide to bend the rules (break the law actually) and try to wash your car, the public shame is right up there with crossing the street on a red or dissing sauerkraut. You just don't do it. About 95% of Germany drives a black or dark grey Volkswagen, Audi, BMW, or Mercedes. And they always look clean. As in right off the show room floor clean. How do they do it? You know what my German/American husband would say? Something about the superiority of German engineering, even their dirt and how they have designed it not to stick to cars. Where can I get some of this non-sticking dirt because my car is always filthy.

7. Complain about the graffiti. But claim that it was all done by immigrants.

8. Go to the grocery store every day. And then the bakery. And then produce stand. And then the butcher. A typical German kitchen and refrigerator are quite small by American standards so there is no "stocking up" on items. You buy what you need for that day, maybe a little for the next and then that's it. And you go back tomorrow.

9. Claim to speak only a little English. And then proceed to speak in better English than the native English speaker who asked you. Germany has high rates of people who fluently speak English as a second language. And they speak it well. I have met some Germans who I have known spoke pretty good English in the past, yet they refuse to speak to me because they might be a little rusty. I told them that I could guarantee them that their English was gazillion times better than my German, so come on! Let that English fly! One girl claimed that she never really learned and then in a heated discussion she piped in and I pointed at her, "Ah-ha! You do speak English!" 

10. Celebrate every holiday by not going to work. And then also celebrate the day after too. And maybe even the day before. We are wrapping up the spring holidays in Germany right now that center around Christ. Easter, Ascension, Pentecost. And also May Day (German Labor Day), Muttertag, and Vatertag (German Mother's Day and Father's Day). It seems these people hardly work. Germany is a place of industry and I know things get done around here. But with the number of days people get off, it amazes me. And they don't take one day, they take like three. And everything shuts down. I guess they really are the model for efficiency with the amount of things they get done in the amount of time they work. The holidays make for nice driving though. The streets are empty.

11. Drive really well. Germans are known for their love of their cars. And for a place to really get out and drive those cars, the Autobahn. But you can't just drive around Germany like any 16-year-old-freshly-minted bonehead. You had better know your stuff, as in you had better know the rules. Like every other car when merging. Like use your blinker every time. Like get out of the left lane for passing cars. I actually really love driving here because people don't mess around. I feel a lot safer here going 160 km (100 mph) on the autobahn than I did back in the States with all those other idiots doing 65 mph. 

12. Wear only black. And for just a little variety dark blue jeans, grey, and brown. And for when you are feeling a little crazy... wait for it... Tan! Build your very limited but very expensive wardrobe around these colors and you will blend right into the German population. And to look even more German, have a slightly annoyed look on your face. Unless you are sitting all night at your favorite restaurant or petting a dog.

There is my list of How To Be A German. And in only 12 steps! Have I forgotten anything?



*Is secretly really pleased when mistaken for a real German and not the poser impostor she feels like most of the time. 


  1. I really enjoyed reading this. How come your site and the other site make no mention of beer or futball? I would think that would be in there...

    1. It was so obvious to me about beer and soccer. Maybe I should write another one? :-) Thanks for the read!

  2. LOL, that post made me laugh. My dad is German so I grew up in a half Polish and half German family. This is so true. Couldn't agree more. Germans always complain about graffiti on the walls and they dine out for hours in various restaurants ordering a lot of food :). Great post, really made my day!

    1. I'm so glad you enjoyed it! You never know how a post about Germans will go over with the Germans!

  3. This is awesome! I have some German friends in China and they always wear scarves, even in temperatures where we're sweating.

  4. Nice post! I like the scarf thing and the holiday thing, I loathe the grocery store thing though!

  5. I found this to dead on accurate as far as germans go. good job!

  6. Claim to speak only a little English. And then proceed to speak in better English than the native English speaker who asked you. ----> YES!!!!!!!

    Great blog! Follow right away.

  7. Hahaha Kelly it's real fun reading your blog. Several things of our culture I did simply never realize before. Actually i googled "germans are" just for fun and found your blog.. glad about it

    Greetings from a 24 y o Berliner

  8. http://www.technicianonline.com/opinion/article_5e153b80-3e78-11e6-abb7-a38093096136.html
    I think the "lack" of customer service is a cultural thing. I see no reason for establishments and their employees to bend over for the customer and pamper him/her with smiles, chitchat, and "Have a nice day". Some customers act like spoiled, entitled brats and whine when they don't get their way.
    It irks me to be interrupted by employees when I'm doing my shopping (if I really needed help, well, I could just step up and ask). All I want is for employees to do their jobs right.
    To make a long story short, sometimes you just gotta grow a thick skin and suck it up. Life in general just isn't fair.
    My two cents worth.
    - Josep


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