In August 2012, I moved to a small town in Germany in the North Rhine Westphalia (NRW) area. Little did I know that Adolph Hitler spent much of his time in the NRW in his early years. It’s the most populous state in Germany, the fourth largest in area, and contains four of Germany’s ten biggest cities— Cologne, Düsseldorf, Dortmund, and Essen. Below is a map of Germany. The arrow might be a bit off, but we are about an hour from the Netherlands border, one and a half hours from the Belgium border, and a little more than two and a half hours from France.Because of the steel works, the Americans and British bombed the town we live in during WWII. People are still finding bombs that had not detonated, and in some areas, they’ve had to evacuate before defusing the bombs. We walk through a nearby forest where there are large craters made by the bombs, and for all we know, we could be walking over a few.
As interesting as I think the history is, I noticed there is a certain unspoken “German way” I’d like to share. Certain ways and traits that definitely define someone as a German. Even though my observations are true, I want to clarify that this is all in fun. No humans or animals were hurt in the process.
1) To be German, one must eat bread, rolls, cheese, spreads, and lunchmeat for breakfast (Frühstück). Some might throw in quark for variety, but this is a traditional German breakfast. They enjoy their varieties of breads, rolls, and spreads. It’s understandable, because Germany has the BEST BREAD. EVER. Before coming here, I wasn’t much of a bread eater, so I felt it was my duty to show my husband the American way. We have moved away from breads to a more well-balanced breakfast.
2) To be German, one must not smile or greet. Anyone! There are plenty of walking and biking trails for Germans to enjoy, but their expressions say otherwise. Their faces are set in an agonizing, intense scowl that you’d think their underwear was suffocation their genitalia. Well, I decided to have none of it. When my husband and I go for walks or rides, I’ll say, “Guten Morgen,” “Guten Tag,” or “Guten Abend” to those we pass. The interesting thing is that once I greet them, their faces light up, and they return the greeting. It’s as if I turned a light on. Over the past few years, people do greet others more so than when I first arrived.
3) To be German, one must not care about customer service. It’s almost comical to experience service in Germany. Picture the soup Nazi from Seinfeld. The wait staff doesn’t receive or count on tips like they do in the U.S., so maybe that has something to do with their charming dispositions. If something isn’t good, eat it anyways. If you get something you didn’t order, eat it anyways. There is no service in customer service, other than an insult or a possible suggestion not to come back. Friends of my husband went to a restaurant in Essen with another couple. They all ordered different foods so they could share the variety. After they paid, they received an envelope, and inside it, management told them not to come back. The owners didn’t appreciate the sharing of food.
4) To be German, one must talk fast even when one’s annunciation is bad (schelcht). Germans talk at lightning speed, and many times don’t even understand each other. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked my husband what someone said and he’s told me he didn’t know because he couldn’t understand them. In the U.S., when someone doesn’t understand English, we talk louder as if the volume will help them out. In Germany, when someone doesn’t understand German, they speak faster. Us foreigners do love a challenge. Now, I just say, “Entschuldigung. Mein Deutsch ist schlecht. Ich lerne Deutsch und ich verstehe kurz und langsam Sätze.” (Excuse me. My German is bad. I am learning German and I understand short and slow sentences). They either switch to English or leave. It’s a toss up.
5) To be German, one must not take pride in their country. If you do, other Germans assume you’re a neo-Nazi. They have the past tattooed all over their faces and hearts. They’re embarrassed of what happened during Hitler’s reign, and feel they have no right to have pride in their country (although it’s okay to have German decal and flags during soccer season). It’s quite sad, because Germany has come a long way since the Third Reich.
6) To be German, one must love castles. Germany has some beautiful castles and cathedrals. Here is a picture of the Burg Eltz in the Mosel Valley.7) To be German, one must partake in the holiday season by attending one or several Christmas Markets. From breads to scarves, to mulled wine, to potato pancakes, the traditional German Christmas markets are a wonderful spectacle to experience. Each town or large city offers their own touch and tradition to the season. In our town, they decorate the windows of a building in the Alt Stadt (Old Town) with burlaps, and from December 1 to 24, they remove that day’s burlap, and someone from the window tells a story to the children. Here is a little clip of story time at Christmas.
8) To be German, one must love children and animals. In 2014, Germany ranked the third best place for expats to raise children. Several places are setup to cater to the family lifestyle. Germans also love their pets. Cats seem to outrank dogs when it comes to percentages. Still, I get the opportunity to meet several people while walking our dog throughout the day and night.
And that, my friends, is how to be German.
Germans, Traditions, and Traits,
P.S. I thought I’d do a little self-promotion. If you get a chance, hop on over and enter the Goodreads Giveaway for a chance to win a copy of Fogged Up Fairy Tale. It makes a great present!