How to be German

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.germanyBecause 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.Burg Eltz7) 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,
Baer Necessities

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14 thoughts on “How to be German

  1. Great post! So many ways to be German. I love all the lunch meats and cheeses for breakfast. I do that sometimes at home now too. The tour guide we had in Munich talked a bit about how German’s are not supposed to show pride in their country. That’s crazy for most Americans to think about since we’re taught to be super-patriotic from birth.

    1. Jeri, I never really thought about how crazy it is for Americans, but you’re right. Since we were little kids, we were taught about patriotic pride.

  2. This was great! Hubby is as German as the come. Need to share this with him. I really hope to get there someday. Bonus that you’re there to be my tour guide. I need to get on this pronto!

  3. I took German all 4 years in high school. Ich spreche Deutsch, aber mein Deutsch ist nicht so gut! …And yet, with that rapid fire talk, I probably wouldn’t understand any of it. Spanish is the same way. I know enough to get by, but when my in-laws start speaking it I’m just lost in a sea of machine-gun Spanish words.

    Oh, and +2 auf dem Bier!

    1. I bet your German is better than mine. And forget about Spanish. I took 2-years of it in high school and I was lucky to pass. My husband already pointed out some misspellings I had in German on my blog. I left the errors to remind him how I need his help to learn the language. 🙂 He talks to me in English.

  4. What a great post. You really had me cracking up numerous times. Probably the note at the restaurant was the absolute kicker.

    My wife’s family is part German and so is mine. In fact most of us in the US are. I always loved the food. Now that my wife and are have gone uber-Vegan, eating any other foods is a real stretch for us. Sometimes I do cross the line when it comes to cheese. We have some great German breweries here in Missoula.

    I am still pushing for Net Switch to be the BOTM for the psychological-thriller group on GoodReads. Unfortunately, when I was pushing it before, we got hit by a flash mob of senior citizens from the East Coast pushing their favorite book of all time through the voting. That was some high drama, for sure.

    Your location seems fantastic in so many ways. About ten years ago I saw an exhibit about the “new” Berlin. It looked pretty cool. One thing you failed to mention is the popularity of dressing up like cowboys and Indians for “reenactments” of some sort. Living where I do, immediately south of Glacier, I realize this is sacred ground. And isn’t it all?

    Cheers! It’s a long way from Chicago there.
    Jim in MT

    1. Jim, I’m glad I amuse you. 🙂 Yeah, I think much of the U.S. has some German decent. We watched a documentary about Prohibition, and all the big bootleggers were German immigrants. Go figure.

      Thanks much for pushing Net Switch as a BOTM. It’s so nice of you to do, and truly appreciated.


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