Adam Fletcher’s How to be German

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This year marks 20 years that I’ve been living in Germany and making my living as an English teacher and a writer. Looking back at my arrival in Thuringia in 1999, there were no guides as how to speak German properly, no tour guides of unknown cities except those in Bavaria, Hesse and Baden-Wurttemberg (obvious because they were laden with American soldiers stationed there), and especially no detailed rules as to how to behave in Germany and immerse yourself into German culture, unless you have a German girlfriend- later turned wife, who is willing to show you the fine points to avoid making a fool out of yourself.  😉  ❤

But imagine you came to Germany all alone and clueless about the customs and culture. There are two ways to handle it:

You can be a fool and boast about being American, speaking loudly, getting drunk and speaking English as if you own the country (thank God we haven’t become the 51st State of the Union, especially given the current situation at the time of this posting).

Or you can inquire about the culture and immerse yourself into it while learning the language at the same time.

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Adam Fletcher has done the second. Having lived in Germany since 2007, the writer from Great Britain has been writing books on German culture for 12 years and how it has evolved and changed over time. But if there is one book that serves as a “starting point” in learning German culture and its language, but also getting a great laugh out of it, it would definitely be the guide on how to be German. Written in 2013, Fletcher gives you 50 points on how to immerse yourself in the culture in Germany. As a way of learning German, Fletcher has the points written in both languages, dividing the book into the English and the German halves, nonetheless, provides some humor in each of the points, adapted so that they are not lost in translation. The book is easy to read and easy to laugh about, just like the writer himself, as you can see in a TED talk special below:

Fletcher has followed up with part 2, written in 2016 because of changes that have been taking place in Germany due top current events and changes in the behavior of the country’s inhabitants and the environment in general.  How they have changed in terms of German customs, I have an activity for you to try for your amusement and discussion:

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Take a look at the points Mr. Fletcher makes on how to become a German and integrate into Germany’s culture. Determine if they are true/ relevant or false /irrelevant or dependent on situation.  Mark them with the following letters:

 

  • Applicable, like it or not
  • Bunch of bullsh–; not true, fake, quatsch
  • Changed based on laws passed since 2013
  • Depends- depends on the situation and the person(s) you are interacting with
  • Eliminated: doesn’t exist anymore
  • Forgotten: exists but long forgotten
  • Exists; good for the culture

 

Good luck with the points and the discussion that follows. Feel free to comment in the Files’ page or on its facebook page.  🙂

 

Points made by Fletcher Your Opinion
Put on your houseshoes (Hausschuhe) when entering the house
Eat a long breakfast
Planning, Preparation and Process are key
Get some insurance, it can save your lives.
Dress seriously, no matter what occasion
Speak German, it’s the official language.
Denglish is in- Outgesourced, downgeloaded, upgegraded
Obey the red man- The German traffic light
Drink Apfelschorle
Drink mixed beverages
Eat German food
Know your potatoes (and how to make them)
Bring Kartoffelsalat (potato salad) to a gathering
Eat German bread.
“Mahlzeit” when meeting people
Hate the GEZ/ GEMA (the fees for TV and radio for public channels)
Say what you mean
Speak freely about sex.
Do nothing on Sundays
Watch Tatort- a criminal series that is seen Sundays at 8:15pm on public TV
Nothing is true unless you read it in the Spiegel magazine
Always send friendly greetings (Mit freundlichen Grüßen)
Always use „Prost!“ when making a toast. (Prost means Cheers)
Drink Bionade and buy “Bio-produkte”
Recycle! Recycle! Recycle!
Follow the rules, always!
Love your car.
Deal with “Klugscheisse” (smart-asses)
Interrogate jokes!
Don’t light your cigarettes from a candle
“Fenster auf Kippen” Windows in tilt format when opened.
Feel mixed about Berlin.
Hate the banana.
Hate the Saxony dialect.
Pick a Side and Respect the Divide (between East and West Germany)
Fahr Schwarz (Ride as a Stowaway).
Get qualified
Enlarge your CV (Resumé)
Find a “real” job
Fail at sarcasm.
Learn to enjoy bureaucracy.
Learn the German lingua expressions, such as Gut-gut, naja, ach so, doch, alles klar and und sonst so.
Practicality trumps everything
Travel seriously.
Know that birthdays are serious business
Watch “Dinner for One” on New Years Eve.
Forget anything you were ever told about fireworks
Hate “Schlager,” know every word in it.
Say “Tschüß!” (Good bye).

 

Afterwards, find out what should be added to the Top 50 for some aspects may be missing. From my own perspective, at least 10 additional points are missing, such as the following:

  1. The Autobahn is the new Daytona Speedway. Speed limits don’t apply.
  2. Dress up as native Americans with fireworks for a soccer game
  3. Die Bahn macht mich mobil (The German Railways drive me nuts).
  4. Learn the many usages of the word “doch.”
  5. Learn the hundred variants of sausages and beer
  6. Every window of a flat should have a Christmas arch (Lichterbogen) and pyramid.
  7. Flensburg points are no laughing matter, even when visiting Germany
  8. Always have carp during months which have the R in it.
  9. Smile when you are blitzed by the Gatsometer (Blitzer), have your money ready for photo-pickup.
  10. Never rent a flat, whose landlord is a cleaning firm.
  11. Know what “Grobmull” is so that you known when to trash your furniture.
  12. Miners parades at Christmas markets.
  13. Always wish someone a nice day, even if they hate your guts.
  14. Take “Jesus-freaks” seriously.
  15. Respect the quiet hours, regardless of holiday and birthday.

There are more to add but you have an idea. Some of the points may have been mentioned in the 2016 version and I’m sure Adam Fletcher has part 3 in the works, whose ideas I have may be added. 😉 While he has published a work on how to be British, it would be curious to find out what 50 points should be made on how to be an American. But that would take lots of time and traveling to achieve this feat, for even though the region do share this one key point: “Do NOT talk politics if you want to live a long life.”, each region and state has their set of 50 points. If the 50 points for the whole country is achieved and written, I will definitely be the first one to write (and make a critique) about it.  😉 🙂

 

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Adam Fletcher has a website that promotes his work which you can click here:

http://adam-fletcher.co.uk/

After living in Leipzig for many years, he now lives in Berlin.

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TÜV: Review Exercise

An example of a steam Boiler exploding Prior to the introduction of TÜV. Photo courtesy of Bayerischen Dampfkessel-Revisionsvereins and available via wikiCommons

This Review exercise is in connection with an article written in 2015 about the TÜV, an organization responsible for the inspection of cars, machines and appliances to ensure their functionality and consumer safety. Before doing the quiz, please look at the text in General by clicking here:

 

  1. What does TÜV stand for and how can it be translated into English?

 

 

T/F: Read the following statements and determine whether they are true or false. If false, write in the correct answer in the right column.

Statement True or False Correct Statement
Lightning struck the car of the 58-year old woman once, causing a fire.
A police officer pulled her out of the car before it exploded.
TÜV was created in Mannheim.
There are only five TÜV offices in Germany.
The largest TÜV office in Germany is located in Flensburg.
TÜV has three segments: Certification, Mobility and Industry
Your car must be inspected by TÜV three months after purchase.
You cannot operate your car if you don’t have a TÜV certificate.
A person can pay a hefty fine and receive a Flensburg point if flaws in the car are not fixed.
There is a European guide to functioning cars and devices in addition to the TÜV

 

  • Multiple Choice/ Fill in the Blanks:

 

  • TÜV was established in _______ in response to the high number of boiler accidents in central and western Germany

 

 

  1. 1865          b. 1866            c. 1867                        d. 1868            e. 1869

 

  • There are _A._ TÜV offices in Germany including: ______B._________

 

A:

  1. three                 b. four             c. five              d. six               e. 43

B:

  1. Thuringia and Saarland
  2. Saarland and Schleswig-Holstein/Hamburg
  3. Berlin and TÜV-West
  4. South and North
  5. a & d

 

  • What parts of the car are NOT inspected by TÜV?

 

  1. body                 b. lights                              c. license plate           d. tires            e. steering

 

  • If the car is not inspected after eight months, how much does the car owner have to pay?

 

  • a. 60 Euros     b. 80 Euros      c. 75 Euros                  d. 90 Euros      e. 120 Euros

 

  • Which vehicle does NOT require a TÜV inspection (but should)?

 

  • a. Smart car               b. Combi         c. bicycle         d. motorcycle             e. truck

 

  • Which country has stringent requirements for bikes?

 

  • a. Switzerland            b. Denmark                       c. France         d. England       e. USA

 

  • Which country requires you to have insurance for your bike (in Germany, it’s voluntary)

 

  • a. Czech Republic       b. Switzerland             c. Sweden       d. Iceland        e. EU

 

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Genre of the Week: Das Haus am See by Peter Fox

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There have been many books, films and other genres that carry the name Lake House, which is the English translation of the title of this week’s Genre special. One of the well-known ones was The Lake House, a film starring Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reaves that was released in 2006 and focuses on a love affair between two people, two years apart, using the mailbox as the primary means of communication. But even as the film focuses on the love affair and the house that was to be passed down like a torch, another genre bearing the same name has a different meaning.

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Das Haus am See is a song produced by German pop and reggae singer Peter Fox in 2008, two years after the release of the film. The song has no relation to the film nor does it have a similar meaning. It primarily focuses on life in the city and how the lead singer longs for life in the countryside, with a house on a lake, a family and an environment where no one knows his name and he has a sense of peace and serenity. The main idea behind this is a quiet life surrounded by green and water, where life can be more diverse and adventuresome than in a city where everyone knows you and you know the neighborhood you are living in.

The setting of the song, also seen in the youtube clip is Berlin, the same place where Mr. Fox was born and raised and still lives in the suburb of Kreuzberg to this day. The song features a diverse set of strings, brass and background choral music, mixing the two music types together that Mr. Fox has gotten accustomed to in his 20+ year career in the music business. And while the music presents a subdued environment which doesn’t require heavy metal or dance pop (the latter, together with techno, is one of Germany’s key signatures), it does take a person back to the house on the lake, enjoying the great times with friends and loved ones. This was one of the key items that this song takes me back to- my time growing up at a house on a lake in Minnesota, with a golf course across the street from there.

Many of you have these memories of your times growing up there, while others long for that life. In either case, this song is for you and should give you an incentive to find that peace you are longing for. Enjoy!

Video:

 

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By the way, the lyrics are below, all in German but one can make a good translation exercise out of it.  🙂

Hier bin ich gebor’n und laufe durch die Straßen
Kenn’ die Gesichter, jedes Haus und jeden Laden.
Ich muss mal weg, kenn jede Taube hier beim Namen.
Daumen raus, ich warte auf ‘ne schicke Frau mit schnellem Wagen.
Die Sonne blendet, alles fliegt vorbei.
Und die Welt hinter mir wird langsam klein.
Doch die Welt vor mir ist für mich gemacht!
Ich weiß, sie wartet und ich hol sie ab!
Ich hab den Tag auf meiner Seite, ich hab Rückenwind!
Ein Frauenchor am Straßenrand, der für mich singt!
Ich lehne mich zurück und guck ins tiefe Blau
schließ’ die Augen und lauf einfach geradeaus.
Und am Ende der Straße steht ein Haus am See.
Orangenbaumblätter liegen auf dem Weg.
Ich hab 20 Kinder, meine Frau ist schön.
Alle komm’n vorbei, ich brauch nie rauszugehen.
Ich suche neues Land mit unbekannten Straßen
Fremde Gesichter und keiner kennt mein’n Namen!
Alles gewinnen beim Spiel mit gezinkten Karten.
Alles verlieren, Gott hat einen harten linken Haken.

Ich grabe Schätze aus im Schnee und Sand
Und Frauen rauben mir jeden Verstand!
Doch irgendwann werd ich vom Glück verfolgt
Und komm zurück mit beiden Taschen voll Gold.
Ich lad’ die alten Vögel und Verwandten ein.
Und alle fang’n vor Freude an zu wein’n.
Wir grillen, die Mamas kochen und wir saufen Schnaps.
Und feiern eine Woche jede Nacht.
Und der Mond scheint hell auf mein Haus am See.
Orangenbaumblätter liegen auf dem Weg.
Ich hab 20 Kinder, meine Frau ist schön.
Alle komm’n vorbei, ich brauch nie rauszugehen.
Und am Ende der Straße steht ein Haus am See.
Orangen-braune Blätter liegen auf dem Weg.
Ich hab 20 Kinder, meine Frau ist schön.
Alle komm’n vorbei, ich brauch nie rauszugehen.
Hier bin ich gebor’n, hier werd ich begraben.
Hab taube Ohr’n, ‘nen weißen Bart und sitz im Garten.
Meine 100 Enkel spielen Cricket auf’m Rasen.
Wenn ich so daran denke, kann ich’s eigentlich kaum erwarten.

 

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Genre of the Week: ‘Reasons To Stay Alive’ by Matt Haig

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This excerpt alone should be the incentive to read the book on how to survive the World without going insane. There have been many issues facing us in the past decade. In the last two years alone, the number of problems affecting us has increased exponentially. Yet before considering radical measures that could potentially backfire, one should take a look around us from an objective point of view, even from others, like this author did. Once that is done, we can take the measures needed to change the things we need to change in our world. Every little thing we do will have a huge impact on how we live, both long and short term.

A little food for thought while you order this book via Amazon or even pick it up at the library. 🙂

 

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Berlin Writes History in Soccer

The Stadium Altere Försterei, where FC Union Berlin plays at home. Photo taken by Christian Liebscher via wiki-Commons 

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FC Union Berlin advances to the German Bundesliga for the first time ever after ousting VFB Stuttgart in the Relegation Round.

BERLIN- In the end, only the strongest survived. The strongest in terms of nerves but also in coherency. The strongest is the one that makes history. This was done last night with FC Union Berlin. After a 2-2 draw against VFB Stuttgart, who had been sitting in 16th place during almost the entire 2018/19 Bundesliga season, all the iron men could have done is put the iron curtain in place- literally in front of goalkeeper Rafal Gikiewicz  and let Stuttgart fire their shots- to the left, to the right and right into the goalie’s hands. And while the offense was on autopilot, a 0-0 tie was enough for Berlin to make history.

For the first time ever FC Union will play in the premier league this upcoming season, competing with the likes of Bayern Munich- fresh off its seventh consecutive title but poised to lose its top two players in Frank Ribery and Ariel Robben- the Robbery Duo- similar to the Killer Bs of the Pittsburgh Steelers in American football before Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown left the team after the 2018/19 season and its lone B- the quarterback, Ben Rothlisberger. It will be facing other teams with multiple years of experience and armed with deep pockets for 1st class players, such as Frankfurt, Dortmund, Hoffenheim and Bremen. And while Freiburg, Cologne and Augsburg may be push-overs, like it was with Hamburg SV during its time in the second tier (winning 2-0 and tying 2-2), Union Berlin will have two rivalries to contend with:

  1. Inner-City Rivalry: FC Union Berlin will have to contend with Hertha BSC Berlin, which has been in the premier league for all but two seasons since 1997. While FC Union Berlin has had many soccer rivalries in the German capital, even during the Cold War era, this one will be the battle of the iron fists that will attract tens of thousands, and whose victories will be very close. While FC Union lost a close one 2-1 on 3rd September, 2012, the two teams finished tied at 2-2 on 11 February, 2013, the last time the two played. When the rivalry continues this upcoming season, it will be the first inner-city derby in the Bundesliga since the 2010/11 season with Hamburg vs St. Pauli.
  2. East German Rivalry: Apart from its western city rival, FC Union will have to contend with Leipzig. But not the Leipzig that many soccer historians are accustomed to. While Union and VfB Leipzig’s rivalry attracted thousands of fans during the 1980s and 90s, the Leipzig they will be facing is one that will have a new (and fiery) head coach and a talented group that is regrouping after losing the 2019 German Cup to Munich and finished third in the regular season- meaning RB Leipzig. Even they have played three games, FC Union has yet to beat Leipzig, having lost two and tied one- but all in 2015 and 2016.

FC Union Berlin will be the sixth East German team to be in the top league in almost three decades- the others were Dynamo Dresden, Hansa Rostock, VfB Leipzig (now FC Lok), Energie Cottbus and Hertha. It is the 56th team in history to reach the top tier. And after years of toil and disappointment, the team has entered chartered waters bound to make history. The team has the largest fan club in German soccer and its culture is implanted in Berlin soccer, with a stadium that has hosted soccer games, Christmas events and concerts and crowds that come to enjoy the game and not rampage it, like in some cities. This was noticeable with last night’s relegation game with Stuttgart- it ended in celebration and with no incidences! One could blame Stuttgart for its shortcomings, which will land them in the second league for the first time in three seasons, but the timing of FC Union Berlin’s rise to the top could not have come at a better time. All it needed was unity and the team got it.

And should this unity continue in the upcoming Bundesliga season, then FC Union Berlin will be making even more history as it climbs in the rankings at the expense of those who have been there for years. Seven years ago, one wondered whether professional soccer will return to the east. With first Leipzig and now Berlin, that question has been answered.

 

Congratulations to FC Union Berlin on making it to the big leagues! 🙂

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FC Union Berlin won the relegation based on the “Goal Away from Home” rule. This means the team that has scored more goals “away from home” wins, if the total goals scored by each team are otherwise equal. This is sometimes expressed by saying that away goals “count double” in the event of a tie. In this case, Berlin won against Stuttgart based on that rule by a score of 2-0 because of the 2-2 draw in Stuttgart. 

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From the Attic: The Telephone

Source: Kornelia und Hartmut Häfele [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)%5D
This Film from the Attic ties in an oldie and Doris Day. It’s the use of the telephone. The mean of communication, especially if it’s long distance. It’s one we cannot live without unless you are a long-distance sprinter like Achilles. It’s one that has become so advanced in the 170 years of existence, that we’re having problems keeping up with the newest technologies. Yet some of our children and grandchildren are wondering: “How did telephones work during your childhood?”

Ask not further. 🙂

A couple days ago, I stumbled across this very ancient TV film on the introduction of the modern phone in the early 1950s. Produced by Bell Telephone in 1954, the homemaker in this film takes us through the days where the modern phone was supplanting phone service where operators were standing by to connect you to another person. Gone were those days, the modern phone took over where all you had to do is dial the number and it would take you to your destination. For those wondering how it works, play this film and you will see. 🙂

The first thought that came to mind was a household figure during the 1950s and 60s: Namely, Doris Day. Ms. Day’s career spanned over a half century as an actress and musician, plus an additional 40+ years as an environmental activist when she retired from the business. One of the best examples of how she articulated herself as an actress playing the housewife, always using the phone during her days, like in the excerpt Pillow Talk, produced in 1959 and co-starring Rock Hudson.

As Doris Day lived on and ripened with age and wisdom, the telephone advanced in ways where we sometimes wonder: “How could we train our older generation how to use today’s phones- namely the Handys (mobile phones (UK); cell phones (USA))?” Many of them have lost track or resorted to the classic phone. But it would be cool to train them to use it, just once, and imagining life with the phone and its many uses in comparison to Doris Day’s time, wouldn’t it? 😉 After all, communication has advanced so much and we should all profit from what we have to offer today.

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Translation: The Longest German Words found in Duden

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If there is something that is typical of German culture and language, it is the fact that the German language has some of the longest words in the world. Longest because they literally are equivalent to words that fill up the entire Latin alphabet and more. Longest because they mostly can be found in the Duden dictionary . Longest because they are difficult to translate. In other words, we don’t have English equivalents similar to them and therefore, we are forced to paraphrase  in English.

Or perhaps not? Perhaps one can find a one-word equivalent despite the fact that finding them are almost impossible.

Take a look at the list of the longest words in German, based in the number of letters. All of them are longer than the Latin alphabet. The question is: what are the equivalents in English, let alone your own native language? Challenge yourselves and provide your answers in the comment section below. Good luck! 😀

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