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.
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:
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 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)|
|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).|
|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|
|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:
- The Autobahn is the new Daytona Speedway. Speed limits don’t apply.
- Dress up as native Americans with fireworks for a soccer game
- Die Bahn macht mich mobil (The German Railways drive me nuts).
- Learn the many usages of the word “doch.”
- Learn the hundred variants of sausages and beer
- Every window of a flat should have a Christmas arch (Lichterbogen) and pyramid.
- Flensburg points are no laughing matter, even when visiting Germany
- Always have carp during months which have the R in it.
- Smile when you are blitzed by the Gatsometer (Blitzer), have your money ready for photo-pickup.
- Never rent a flat, whose landlord is a cleaning firm.
- Know what “Grobmull” is so that you known when to trash your furniture.
- Miners parades at Christmas markets.
- Always wish someone a nice day, even if they hate your guts.
- Take “Jesus-freaks” seriously.
- 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. 😉 🙂
Adam Fletcher has a website that promotes his work which you can click here:
After living in Leipzig for many years, he now lives in Berlin.