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.

> Audioversion

  

The Pout

gelangweilter Mann

Every culture has gestures or facial expressions that have a meaning even without words. Every person brought up in a particular culture (or having spent a sufficient amount of time in it) will understand them. For example, Italians are particularly renowned for underlining their utterances by countless gestures (please find examples here). However, in a foreign culture, one will at times encounter non-verbal communication one can’t quite locate …

If he were asked to make the most German gesture he can think of, my husband would doubtless do The Pout. Germans use The Pout a lot. They use it when they listen carefully (along with The Squint and The Frown – we might call it ‘The PSF’; it looks fierce but is just a Germanic way of saying ‘I’m taking what you are saying seriously’). They use it when they are weighing up the pros and cons of something. They use (or maintain) it when they intend to qualify their ‘Yes’. In fact, The Pout can put a little tag on anything. A tag saying, ‘Why not?’ A tag saying, ‘It could be worse’ (for example, when asked how things are going). A tag saying, ‘It could be better’ (for example, when asked how things are going).

So The Pout is big. Any self-respecting German has it in her box of tricks. In fact, I’m sure I heard that it has recently been included in a newly-introduced practical part of the Einbürgerungstest (‘Demonstrieren Sie drei typisch deutsche Gesten’).

The other day, Mr K and I were sitting at our dinner table. I asked him if he’d like a yogurt. And there it was! I couldn’t believe it. He pouted, and then said ‘Yes’. At that moment I knew that, even without an Einbürgerungstest, he was properly naturalised. Above his head a blinking yellow sign said, ‘Germanisation completed’. It was an ‘Oi!’ moment. (You know, when Charlotte in Sex and the City, in the process of converting to Judaism, said her first ‘Oi!’) I was so proud.

Next week, we’ll revisit gestures and learn what fingers can tell you.

The Pommes Buddha says: When in doubt, use The Pout.

> Audioversion