Fresh fruit salad

Heallthy Organic Fruit Salad

One, two, three, four, Mary at the cottage door. Five, six, seven, eight, eating cherries off a plate. Thus goes an English nursery rhyme. But who picked the cherries Mary is innocently eating here? And do Germans pick cherries too? Read more on cherries and other proverbial fruit …

Fresh fruit salad has for decades been on British hotel breakfast menus. I recently remembered I saw it on a menu in Jersey once, and this made me think how different cultures use fruit in their proverbs and figures of speech.

The proverbial ‘cherry picking’, which is increasingly used as a loan word in German (as this example shows), i.e. the act of selectively considering only information which serves a certain purpose and thus taking the best bits of something, is referred to in German as ‘raisin picking’ (sich die Rosinen herauspicken).

A similar turn of phrase in English is ‘to have your cake and eat it (too)’, i.e. to have the best of both worlds. In German, one could say something along the lines of auf zwei/allen Hochzeiten (gleichzeitig) tanzen.

In German, cherries are usually mentioned in relation to neighbours (die Kirschen in Nachbars Garten sind süßer), to which situation Englishpeople would say the grass is always greener (on the other side (of the fence)). However, if someone is a moper, we say mit dem ist nicht gut Kirschen essen.

Speaking of fruit-bearing trees in gardens, apples are a popular subject in turns of phrases. In German, when faced with a difficult situation but having to endure it, you ‘bite the sour apple’ (in den sauren Apfel beißen). In English, you ‘bite the bullet’ or ‘grasp the nettle’ (ouch!).

In both languages, you can’t ‘compare apples and pairs’ (Äpfel mit Birnen vergleichen), the equivalent in non-British English being ‘apples and oranges’. ‘Apples and pairs’, though not actually used much these days, is also one of the flagship examples of Cockney Rhyming Slang (see earlier blog post ‘Poesie made in London’).

If you are making a great bargain in German, you buy something ‘for an apple and an egg’ (für’n Appel und ‘n Ei), in English it is ‘cheap as chips’ (in US American English ‘a dime a dozen’). In England, ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’.

If you are insinuating that a daughter is very much like her mother, the German and English sayings are similar: der Apfel fällt nicht weit vom Stamm (‘the apple does not fall far from the trunk’) and ‘the apple never falls far from the tree’. However, ‘like mother, like daughter’ is also commonly used.

Oh, we could go on for ages dwelling on the sheer abundance of fruit and vegetable-related utterances. Let me finish with some of my personal favourites.

The first one will blow your German friends away if used after a long period of not seeing each other. If they have been neglecting communication, take that, ‘Du treulose Tomate!’

The second one, using the same fruit (someone told me once that tomatoes are fruit and not vegetables – no clue if that’s true or just an alternative fact), could be a door-opener at the Ausländerbehörde, where most of you poor Brexit-beaten bastards are presently queuing for German citizenship. If you can squeeze that one in, they will let you go without a language test for sure. Just say something like, ‘Ich glaub’ ich hab’ Tomaten auf den Augen. Ich konnte Zimmer 305 nicht finden.‘ That’s it. You must be German! Come into my arms, son! Here, have a piece of Blutwurst!

And finally, numbers three and four are English expressions referring to a person who behaves in a rather strange or crazy manner: ‘nutter’ and, turning full circle back to fruit salad, ‘fruitcake’.

So enjoy your fruit salad, or fruitcake, whichever it may be, and feel free to contribute more in the comments section below.

The Pommes Buddha says: Do you have beans in your ears?

  

Advent adventure

Paar auf dem Weihnachtsmarkt

As my fellow observer of the German culture Adam Fletcher writes in his new book How To Be German – Part 2, Christmas is serious business in Germany. And it all starts with the run-up to Christmas, which is Adventszeit (Advent season). There are certain things any self-respecting German should do. Here’s a bit of Adventiquette …

Christmas seems to be coming sooner each year. Supermarkets started displaying Christmas paraphernalia such as Lebkuchen (a type of gingerbread), Spekulatius (spicy biscuits) and not to forget the all-German currency Dominosteine (cubes of layered chocolate, gingerbread and marzipan) in late September this year. So you’ve just waved off your beach towel into hibernation and, poof!, it’s Christmas!

And every year I make the mistake of thinking I have plenty of time till Christmas. And every year, the Erster Advent (first Sunday of Advent) comes as an utter surprise. We interpreters have high season in November. So there I am, working my arse off with no figurative room to swing a cat, and I suddenly find myself hauling my exhausted body into the catacombs of my home to find the box with the Christmas decorations because – Lesson 1 – Germans perfuse their places with Räuchermännchen smoke and clutter them with tinsel, an Adventskranz (advent wreath) and possibly even a Christmas tree the fricking second the clock strikes 24th December minus four Sundays, which was 27th November this year.

Lesson 2: Have Adventskaffee on each of the four Sundays leading up to Christmas. In the hardcore (read: default) version, this includes offering a home-baked variety of at least three different sorts of Christmassy biscuits you prepared earlier in life. Not to forget the lighting of the candle(s) and, should you be so inclined, a dollop of Hausmusik.

Lesson 3: Craft an Advent calendar for someone. Honestly, parents go mental just before the end of November. My friend saw one of her friends in a shopping frenzy the other day because when confronting her fourteen and fifteen-year-old daughters with the fact that she assumed they had ‘outgrown’ Advent calendar age, she saw tears dwelling up in her teenage offspring’s eyes.

My own mother, much to my amusement, kept doing Advent calendars for us until we moved out. Thanks to her, I will never run out of little ‘useful’ things such as permanent markers and paper clips in my whole life.

Regarding the crafting front, I went on strike this year, though. After giving my older daughter one little present a day from 1st to 24th December for several years, seeing her roll her eyes at most of the gifts I had so lovingly and carefully selected, I decided it was time to opt for the path of least resistance, hop on the capitalist toy industry’s bandwagon and buy a Playmobil Advent calendar. And what can I say? They. Just. Love it. Every shitty little farmer’s fork provokes outbursts of limitless delight. I’ve spent less time and money, and they are happy as shit. Win-win. What more could a parent’s heart desire?

Lesson 4: On the evening of 5th December, children put one of their (polished!) boots outside the front door and wait for Nikolaus to fill it up with goodies (read more here). Yes, this is on top of Advent calendars and Christmas presents! I know: in November most German parents are left with nothing but heels to chew on while their children feast on the horn of plenty. Modern German Parenting 101.

Lesson 5: In the ample free time that is not used on crafting, baking, decorating, shopping, cleaning boots or playing music, see to your other Germanic duties such as downing some Glühwein (mulled wine) or Feuerzangenbowle (read more on this here) at the Christmas market, eating some Grünkohl (kale – yes, forget the smoothie movement – we started it many moons ago) and, most importantly, joining a round of Wichteln (Secret Santa) or Schrottwichteln (‘Scrap Secret Santa’ – find the most horrible gifts).

Any questions?

Ah, did I mention it’s one of my favourite times of year?

The Pommes Buddha says: Have a lovely German December!

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Troubled transport

Beautiful railway station with modern red commuter train at suns

The other day I was working in Mainz, and a colleague on my team asked me if I had “mit der Bahn gekommen”. Indeed I had. But what do Germans mean when they say Bahn? And where do ice trains come from or go to? Come and join me on a railway journey through the land of trrrävelling …

Mainz is about 180 km from Cologne. If I had been asked the exact same question (“Bist du mit der Bahn gekommen?”) on a local job in Cologne, it would have meant local public transport, specifically the U-Bahn (underground trains) and Straßenbahn (trams), and sometimes S-Bahn, which stands for Schnellbahn (urban rail).

To make matters even more confusing, there are quite a few German cities, including Cologne, where underground trains turn into trams and vice versa, and Bahn is universally used to mean either.

When you travel further, however, i.e. regionally or (inter)nationally, die Bahn usually refers to regional or national rail services, the largest provider of which is the formerly state-owned Deutsche Bahn (DB). A synonym for travelling by rail is mit dem Zug fahren, which never refers to trams or underground trains.

You will also hear many Germans talk about specific types of Deutsche Bahn trains they use, the most common ones being ICE, IC and Regionalexpress or Regionalbahn. What do these names denote?

ICE (pronounce individual letters, i.e. [i tse e] – although I have taken quite a liking to the fact that other nationals call it the ‘ice train’ … I picture snowy train roofs, frosted windows with icicles and a steam train puffing through a winter wonderland …) stands for – wait for the rather disappointingly prosaic reality check here – Inter City Express. How unimaginative. Picture me pouting.

It’s supposed to be the fastest German train – a concept that is put into perspective in view of the fact that long-distance trains accounted for most of DB’s over seven years of delays in 2015 alone (cf. Handelsblatt article 3,79 Millionen Minuten Verspätung). Yes, I’m sorry to be the one to break this news to all of you who still believed in the fabled German virtue that is punctuality. Woe is me, that ship has sailed. Or rather, that train has left.

And then we have the IC, which is – who can guess? Yes, ta dahhh! The Icicle Crusher! It, too, is a relatively fast train, relatively being the operative word here.

Finally, you have your Regionalexpress and your Regionalbahn. The former is the train that stops at the larger regional stops, i.e. metropolises including Oer-Erkenschwick and Bad Oeynhausen, while the latter, also referred to as Bummelzug or Bummelbahn, stops an jeder Milchkanne, as we Germans say. Both are 5 minutes late by default. This is because only delays in excess of 5 minutes appear in DB’s delay statistics.

As for the Bummelbahn, though, it can get even bummeliger than that. DB has even sub-regional trains up its sleeve, some of which run on diesel fuel, going where no man has ever gone before. Where no Milchkanne has ever been spotted, even. Picture a poor, lonely, dusty train all alone, tumbleweed, and, in the distance, a stranger playing the harmonica … I digress.

I like trrrävelling viz Deutsche Bahn because, if nothing else, you will always have enough time to finish prepping for the job you’re going to. Or writing blog entries about die Bahn.

The Pommes-Buddha says: Five minutes are zero minutes. (Zero minutes can feel very long.)

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Mushy speak

Fish and chips fast food

Among the many things that can cause confusion – generally in this world, but in particular to persons like many of yourselves, dear readers, who live in a country where the main language is not their mother tongue – are words that sound the same but mean something entirely different in two languages. Here’s why you should never bring a ‘gift’ to a German home.

 Further to what has been discussed in “Gute Fahrt, Mr Krabs!” a while back, I would like to take you on another little stroll through the maize of acoustic pitfalls between English and German. Let the following tales be a gentle warning to any unsuspecting Yorkshire dinner guest.

One of my office mates, a sound engineer, once told me that she was involved in designing and naming a new mixer console, which was to be marketed globally. All was well, the hardware had been assembled to all the international stakeholders’ content, alas a suitable product name was to be found. The Germans came up with a name that sounded entirely unconspicuous, even professional, to the ear of a German sound mixer. The Americans, however, emmed and erred about the name, saying it didn’t quite work for them, without being too explicit. The Germans, had no idea what was wrong with the name they had so carefully concocted, until someone eventually took pity and explained what Uranus sounds like in American English (‘your anus’). (Oh, hello, Austin Powers!)

Another anecdote takes us to the north of England, where a fellow German has dinner with his English girlfriend and her mother. They are having a take-away from the local fish-and-chip shop – cod, chips, mushy peas, the whole shebang. So, with a northern accent, the mother asks the prospective son-in-law, ‘You like mushy peas?’ His face drops. What did she just ask me? Surely, she can’t have said ‘Do you like Muschi …?’ Muschi, you see, is like ‘pussy’ in English. It could just be a cat, but to the average adult it’s female genitals.

Well, and of course you may bring gifts to a German home, just don’t say ‘Das ist ein Gift’ or something, as Gift in German means ‘poison.’ Which reminds me of a very common brand of children’s bicycles in Germany, PUKY (pronounce: ‘pookie’, with a short ‘oo’ sound, or [ˈpʊki]). It’s a made-up word with no particular meaning, and, of course, it sounds nothing like throwing up in German.

So, here you are, just be careful what you say (or hear) … and enjoy dinner with your in-laws!

The Pommes Buddha says: I have a Master’s from FU Berlin.

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Don’t Fräulein me!

mdchen und bursche auf feldweg laufend I

Recently, I watched Season 5 of Homeland. (In British English, it used to be “Series 5” – and while people still say this, the American version of Staffel is slowly taking over.) This latest series of Homeland (and in my personal view best one yet) being based in Berlin, I was flummoxed by a few rather striking blunders. Here’s what Homeland doesn’t get quite right about Germany. (Spoiler alert!)

  1. We don’t use Fräulein At all.

Contrary to what American film and TV productions would like the world to think – because it sounds so neat and German or for whatever other reason – in the German language we no longer distinguish between a married and an unmarried woman. Since the 1980s, we have been using “Frau” to address any female person over 16 years of age. (For more details, please read “You can say you to me”.) No exceptions. Fräulein, which Carrie uses referring to her daughter’s teacher, sounds very wrong!

  1. Doctor-patient privilege applies to gunshot wounds as well.

Interestingly, in the extras on the Homeland DVD (yes, my name is Sarah and I’m not a digital native, and I still watch DVDs – Hello Sarah!) the producers say they chose Germany as a setting for their plot specifically for its strict privacy laws. Yet they ignore one of the central privacy laws in Germany which says that it is not only not obligatory but even prosecutable for a doctor to report a gunshot wound. So it is simply unthinkable that a former intelligence officer (Peter Quinn) who knows any country he is in like the back of his hand would refuse medical treatment in Germany if he is shot.

  1. The BND does not have its own police force.

Unlike the CIA, the German intelligence service BND (Bundesnachrichtendienst) has no police force of its own. The national police forces are the Bundespolizei (Federal Police), the Bundeskriminalamt (the Federal Criminal Police Office, where I happen to have worked as a translator at the beginning of my career) and the Polizei beim Bundestag (German Parliament Police).

  1. German legal proceedings do not include video-taping or depositions.

As an interpreter working in patent law, I found this slip quite interesting, especially as I often interpret during depositions, even depositions held on German soil – but they are never part of German proceedings. Also, at no point during German legal proceedings are testimonies or any kinds of statements recorded live, ie on audio or audiovisual media (with possible exceptions when children are heard as witnesses). Usually, we do not even have word-for-word transcripts – these can only be requested in court as an exception.

So despite the fact that the Homeland crew apparently gets high-ranking (former) intelligence-service experts to sit around a table to bounce ideas off them while not thinking to find a person who has lived in Germany in the past decade to double-check basic facts that, if got right, would lend the programme more credence (thanks for staying tuned to the end of this monster subclause) I still consider this latest Homeland series the most exquisite one yet. The plot is just so well-written and the characters are superbly played. Turn a blind eye to some basics, and you will have a nail-biting ball!

More food for series junkies coming soon …

The Pommes Buddha says: No, we don’t all wear lederhosen, thank you very much!

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Gendering German

Teamgeist

It’s not easy to be English these days. First the Brexit shock, then being kicked out of EURO 2016 by a country that previously didn’t even exist on the European football map. Now you poor lads and lasses really have to take a lot of grief from your German and Icelandic friends. But cheer up! After the match is before the match, as Sepp Herberger once remarked. So let’s keep playing and look at a particular linguistic oddity in football.

German has many words that foreigners find hard to understand. Frauenmannschaft is one of my English husband’s favourites. It refers to an all-female sports team, which seems odd, as the German word for ‘team’ (Mannschaft) is based on the word ‘man.’ How can women be men at the same time? If you’ve ever seen the Cologne Christopher Street Day Parade you wouldn’t even ask this question. If not, here’s what I think.

Unbeknownst to the average German, the German language is secretly the most sociologically advanced language. See, we don’t even consider men and women any different from one another, so women can be men any time they please.

But wait a minute, I can sense a tad of injustice manifesting itself here … What about men who want to be women? Unfortunately, our poor male national football squad don’t have the option of being a Frauschaft. But I’m sure if they took a unanimous vote the German language would be open for suggestions.

Seriously, now. The crux of German is that gendering is so bloody awkward – if not outright impossible. As a result, time and again some important officials come up with ridiculous official names for groups of people, such as Studierende instead of Studenten because the latter excludes Studentinnen.

The thing is, if you want to write correct German, you cannot be politically correct and reader-friendly at the same time. Plus there is no agreed form of gendered language. You are spoilt for choice between the rather old-fashioned slash (“Sehr geehrte/r Herr/Frau X”), the brackets (“Liebe(r) Freund(e)”), the Binnen-I (“Wir wünschen allen KundInnen ein frohes Fest!”), the asterisk (“Partner*innen”) and, of course, using the long forms of everything (“Wir bitten jede Abonnentin und jeden Abonnenten, sich mit ihrem bzw. seinem vollen Namen anzumelden.”).

So, don’t try too hard. It’s impossible to get it right. Just enjoy Schland for what it is.

And next time, we’ll take trip to a faraway land …

The Pommes Buddha says: Manu, put on your hand shoes and save us into the final!

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Happy holidays

Urlaub auf dem Balkon mit Buch und Drink

If you happened to be on the verge of moving to Germany and had to pick a place to live, what would be your checklist to go by? Cost of renting? Climate? Food? Hospitality? These are certainly all important factors. But if you fancy as much time off work as possible, here’s a little secret that might help you decide.

Depending on the German Bundesland you live in, you may have more or fewer days off work in the calendar year. I never realised this myself until I moved from North Rhine-Westphalia (one of the länder with a fairly large number of bank holidays) to Hesse. In NRW, my birthday always used to be on a bank holiday. In Hesse, it was not.

The attentive reader may have noticed another particularity of German holidays. Unlike in England, where most bank holidays are only in theory on the same date, but in practice are moved to Mondays so that every bank holiday makes the subsequent weekend an extended, three-day weekend, German bank holidays always fall on the actual date of the original holiday. If this happens to be a Saturday or Sunday, hard cheese – you’re one work-free day short that particular year.

In case of Ascension and Corpus Christi, though, which are always on a Thursday, many German schools and employers impose the Friday between that Thursday and the following weekend as a so-called Brückentag (“bridge day”), making the weekend a four-day weekend.

There are nine national bank holidays in Germany which every Bundesland must observe. The number of additional regional bank holidays varies between zero (Berlin, Bremen, Hamburg, Lower Saxony, Schleswig-Holstein) and four (Bavaria). For those of you who want to know precisely what they’re in for, here’s a list.

Another thing should be mentioned in this context. Contrary to the meanwhile nationwide extended opening hours for shops in Great Britain, Germany’s workers’ unions have made sure that, here, working hours are staff-friendly. Shops are closed on Sundays and bank holidays. Almost without exception. Exceptions are the odd special-occasion Sunday, as well as Sundays in December (but not everywhere). The phenomenon of shops being open on Sundays is so rare that it has a special name: verkaufsoffener Sonntag. During the week and on Saturdays, most big shops are open til 8pm, or sometimes longer. In smaller towns, opening hours might end as early as 6:30pm on weekdays and noon on Saturdays. If you need anything after hours, the only options are petrol stations or kiosks (in Cologne vernacular called Büdchen – “little huts”).

So, keep your eyes peeled for opening hours and closing days.

Next time, let’s find out about one or two of Britain’s favourite summer crazes.

The Pommes Buddha says: Miss out on a day off? Not in a month of Sundays.

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Smelly Pee Season

Frische spargel teller

Dear Brits in Germany, relax, take a deep breath, you’ll live! Those of you who’ve lately noticed a certain physiological phenomenon to do with body fluid evacuation and were about to consult their doctor for fear of a rare, deadly disease, let me tell you a story about a fellow hypochondriac. One day in May, several years ago, my English husband approached me, doom-faced, and mentioned, in confidence, that his urine smelled funny. He was sure he wasn’t going to last much longer on this earth. I laughed. Wicked wife that I am. Here’s why …

Most Germans grow up knowing this because we just love asparagus. In case this is news to you, just open your peepers and note the separate Spargel section on each restaurant menu between mid-April and late June (yes, that’s Spargelsaison aka Smelly Pee Season), some establishments even have a separate menu containing a varied selection of asparagus.

So, in this country, asparagus, when in season, is the queen – and not just a lackey – of vegetables. And when I say asparagus, I mean white asparagus. We will eat green, but it’s not very common. I don’t know why we go bonkers about it – it may have something to do with seasonality, i.e. scarcity – but we absolutely love it.

And every region has its prime cultivation area. When I lived in Berlin, Beelitzer Spargel was the toast of the town. In Cologne, my impression is that the trend is more towards specific farms such as Beller Spargel. Buying straight from the supplier is the dernier cri in the middle class Gen X community, of course.

The classic recipe is boiled asparagus with potatoes, cooked or raw ham, hollandaise sauce or melted butter and chives. But there are also wonderful variations in the form of salad or risotto. For an easy meal, I recommend buying peeled asparagus (you can take the peel home too if you’re keen on using every part of the plant, and make soup from it), wrapping 4 to 6 spears in aluminium foil with some butter, salt and chives (making an air-tight package with some air inside it) and baking it in the oven (around 190 °C) for just under 30 minutes. This preserves the juicy flavours best. You can replace the potatoes with savoury pancakes (a variety from the Baden region a friend once revealed). The hollandaise sauce you can buy in a pack is just fine (Lukull is my preferred brand). So now you’re ready to take on your truly German culinary adventure.

Unfortunately, there is a small downside. As hinted above, asparagus, white or green, makes your pee smell. Not everyone’s. Some asparagus consumers are more equal than others. And some are even lucky enough to lack the gene to smell the putrid stench. But the phenomenon is known as (I love this German term) Uringeruch nach Spargelgenuss, which my giddy linguist friend Sus finds heart-warming pleasure in converting to Uringenuss nach Spargelgeruch.

The smell wears off if you drink lots, though. So here’s a simple recipe for Maibowle, a refreshing, lovely, equally seasonal punch. It requires some preparation and, yes, the woodruff (Waldmeister) is imperative (you can buy that on farmer’s markets or pick it yourself, but make sure it’s not blossoming yet; and it freezes well) – but the result is rewarding. Enjoy!

And next time, let’s take a stroll down Fleet Street …

The Pommes Buddha says: Only smelly pee is good pee.

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How to become a German

Weier, deutscher Spargel mit glatter Petersilie auf Holztisch

It’s happened! My valuable source of English quirkiness is henceforth lost. I regret to inform you, dear readers, that Mr K, formerly known as ‘My English Husband’, has now reached the ultimate stage of naturalisation. On Wednesday, 6 April 2016, at 11:49 hrs, he bought a Jack Wolfskin all-weather jacket. Meanwhile he has received a ‘welcome-to-the-club’ letter from Angie.

So, I said, ‘So now that you’re a proper German, do some German things! He came up with quite a few. Here’s a to-do list for those among you who are still practicing.

  1. Use ‘Na?’ as a universal greeting.
    Never underestimate the power of this Tardis of a word. It may only have two letters, but depending on the length and intonation of the vowel – which, believe you me, can be stretched to the duration of a cricket match – as well as the facial expression going with it, it can mean anything between Whaddup? and Wipe that cheeky smirk right off your face, you bum! You still owe me an apology for standing me up last Tuesday! Again, German is easier than you think. Some more examples of what ‘na’ may stand for:
English German
Good morning. Na?
How are you? Na?
Fancy seeing you here. Na?
Good to see you. How did your date go last night? Na?
Does that Matjesbrötchen still repeat on you? Na?
How’s work going? Na?

 

  1. Find something to moan about.
    Anything. There’s always something. The weather: it’s always too hot or too cold. Das gibt’s doch nicht!
  2. Give a stranger a hard time out of the blue.
    Preferably, yell at a child riding his bike on the pavement, ‘Das hier ist ein Bürgersteig und kein Radweg!’
  3. Confirm any piece of information saying ‘Genau!’
    The Germans’ favourite word ever.
  4. Do The Pout.

For more advice, turn to How To Be German In 20 Easy Steps.

Then again, my German husband still drinks his tea with milk and comments on our little one’s bowel movements with ‘My word, what a ripper!’ And, to be fair, he only bought the Jack Wolfskin fashion item at the recommendation of Which? magazine. Perhaps he may still be blog material after all …

See you next week, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.

The Pommes Buddha says: Ich habe keine Zeit.

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Raven mothers

Garden snail reaches for a drop of dew on the grass

The other night I went out with a new German friend who had not long returned after living in the US for several years. When I asked her how she found life in Germany, she said the most difficult thing to do here was being a mother. I was intrigued and asked her to elaborate …

‘Well,’ she said, ‘in the US both my children went to daycare from the age of six months. Daycare closed at 6pm, and that’s when I picked them up. Once a week, our babysitter would pick them up and put them to bed while my husband and I went out. This was perfectly normal. In Germany, the Kita closes at 5:15pm. If I pick up my daughter at 4:45pm, she’s one of the last children there.’

So we established there was a certain undercurrent of ‘expected motherly duty’ in German society that causes mothers to be extremely hard on themselves – and judgemental about one another. In Germany, it is not uncommon for complete strangers to comment on your childrearing practices.

Another German friend living in Belgium reports that, there, it is perfectly common for your child to go to crèche from the age of three months. This seems to be the case in most European countries. According to the public study Familienleitbilder from 2015 on how parenthood and family are perceived in Germany, more than 80% of Germans reckon it is not okay for an 18-month-old child to be in care for more than 6 hours a day.

We Germans seem to be unable to shed our quintessentially patriarchal image of motherhood. We even have a word for ‘underperforming’ mothers: Rabenmütter.

On the other hand, there may also be surprisingly positive aspects about being a parent in Germany, as American mum Sara Zaske writes in TIME magazine. I recommend Tom Hodgkinson’s The Idle Parent for further reading.

Should you ever be tempted to think of yourself as a Rabenmutter, or Rabenvater, I invite you to adopt my four-year-old’s pragmatic view. In an episode of classic cartoon series Biene Maja, a snail, upon urging her young to venture out into the world on their own, was dubbed a Rabenmutter. My daughter cast a skeptical glance at the telly and declared, ‘Das ist keine Rabenmutter, das ist eine Schneckenmutter!’

Next week, learn which classic of film history most Germans don’t know.

The Pommes Buddha says: You’re not a raven mum, you’re a human mum.

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