The Ultimate Butterbrot

0109 The Ultimate Butterbrot

In life, at times one happens upon unlikely combinations of things which either seem banal when regarded individually or do not appear to be too great a match at first sight. The culinary world is teeming with such wondrous creations as the BLT (bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich, whose latest save-the-world variants are the TLT (tofu, lettuce & tomato) or the ELT (eggplant, lettuce & tomato)), Pommes Bahnschranke, and another very special treat, as simple as it is intriguing…

I have long wanted to write about my favourite sandwich of all times but wasn’t sure if anyone was interested. And then a second-series episode of The Big Bang Theory the other day threw me a mention by hopeless Howard of pumpernickel as his favourite sandwich component. So I thought – I’m not alone: there is at least one other (albeit fictional) geek who likes this stuff.

My Ultimate Butterbrot, as mentioned previously in Very special bread!, to me is simply the best sandwich (or Stulle, as my late Brandenburg-born grandmother would call it) in the whole Abendbrot-making world – and yet, inconceivably, it has no name.

Regarding its preparation, I have a mental picture of my grandparents’ housekeeper sitting in their kitchen after a hard morning’s work, cutting a white bread roll in half, spreading butter on both sides, putting a slice of Holländer, as we in the Rhineland region say and by which we mean Gouda cheese (and, yes, people, contrary to US American usage, it’s pronounced /ˈɡaʊdə/, not /ˈɡuːdə/!), plus (and this is the magic ingredient) a slice of buttered Schwarzbrot on each half. Ta-dah!

I know. You’re disappointed now. It sounds mundane…but it’s divine! Don’t ditch it ‘til you try it! It’s like coriander or Breaking Bad: you either love it or you hate it. There’s no middle ground.

Now, Schwarzbrot is a tricky matter. My English husband has not one nice word to say about Schwarzbrot. In his opinion, it’s ‘the devil’s food’, whose texture and taste strongly invoke cork (or worse). Well, Dä eene säät esu, dä andere säät esu, as the Rhineland woman would say, whereby she means ‘each to her own’.

As this Ultimate Butterbrot, unlike the Halve Hahn (similarly a bread roll involving Gouda cheese), cannot be found on food menus but is a phenomenon from the realm of handed-down home cooking, its origins and prevalence are somewhat hard to research.

My father says that, in his childhood, any belegte Brötchen (not just the cheese ones) served as halves were covered with a slice of Schwarzbrot for practical reasons. (It makes them easier to transport, as they do not stick to one another.)

A friend from the Münster region reports that the Ultimate Butterbrot can be found there, too, but having pumpernickel (hello, Howard Wolowitz!) in it, a special, very dark and sweet kind of Schwarzbrot. Therefore, she believes that this type of culinary compilation is a version of the French classic camembert with cranberries, i.e. pairing savoury with sweet.

A different type of sandwich beloved in the British latitudes is the so-called chip butty, i.e. a bread roll (of the ‘bappy’ English kind) with butter and – wait for it – Pommes! It’s something that sounds like you’d be eager to gobble it after downing copious amounts of alcohol. Alternatively, of course a crisp butty (featuring Kartoffelchips instead of Pommes) will also do the trick.

When I first heard about those things, I was ecstatic to learn that there is a country where this is considered a perfectly normal part of people’s diet instead of a guilty nightly go-to you would only tell your BFF about, as it would likely be viewed in Germany.

Whatever floats your tramezzini boat – don’t let us judgmental Germans spoil the fun. Own it and indulge!

The Pommes Buddha says: One woman’s Schwarzbrot is another woman’s bap.

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0106 Rugby

Ein Haufen bulliger Typen, die sich übereinander schmeißen? Als mich ein guter Freund 2006 in Australien besuchte und sagte, sein größter Wunsch sei, sich ein Rugbyspiel anzuschauen, hatte ich keine Ahnung, was mich erwartet. Seine Erläuterungsversuche halfen mir leider auch nicht viel weiter, weil ich auf die Entfernung im Stadion einfach nichts erkennen konnte. Was steckt eigentlich hinter diesem Sport und warum ist er in Australien – und England – so beliebt?

In England und vielen anderen Commonwealth-Ländern ist Rugby ein Nationalsport. Im Albion gibt es hierzu den vielzitierten Spruch „Football is a gentleman’s sport played by hooligans, rugby is a hooligans’ sport played by gentlemen“. Whaaat? Das fand ich überraschend, als ich es zum ersten Mal hörte: Dieser rabiate Sport gehört tatsächlich an allen englischen Privatschulen zum guten Ton.

Rugby wird grundsätzlich nach zwei verschiedenen Regelwerken gespielt: dem der Rugby Union und dem der Rugby League. Laut dem Marktforschungsunternehmen Statista spielten 2018 in England etwa 70.600 Menschen mindestens zwei Mal im Monat in der Rugby League, in der Rugby Union waren es rund 240.000.

Die diesjährige Rugby-Weltmeisterschaft der Männer (Rugby Union), die am 2. November zu Ende ging, sorgte für ein paar kleinere und größere Sensatiönchen. Es war viel los: Das Turnier fand dieses Mal in Japan statt, und wegen des Taifun Hagibis mussten einige Spiele abgesagt werden. Die Ausrichter, die es in vergangenen Turnieren selten durch die Vorrunde geschafft hatten, gewannen alle ihre Spiele im sogenannten heat. Und die berühmt-berüchtigte neuseeländische Mannschaft, die All Blacks, verlor zum ersten Mal seit Langem gegen England, welches es dadurch zum ersten Mal seit 2007 ins Finale schaffte. Sieger des Turniers wurden die Springboks – zum ersten Mal in der Geschichte des südafrikanischen Rugby mit einem schwarzen Kapitän, Siya Kolisi.

Als wir den Rugby World Cup im deutschen Fernsehen verfolgten, amüsierte sich mein englischer Ehemann übrigens immer wieder darüber, wie die deutschen Kommentatoren „Tacklings“ im Plural benutzten, was im Englischen seltsam klingt (hier würde man tackles sagen).

Ein wichtiger europäischer Pokal der Rugby Union ist der Six Nations Cup. Dieser begann 1883 als Home International Championship zwischen England, Schottland, Irland und Wales. 1910 kam Frankreich dazu, und das Turnier wurde in Five Nations umbenannt. Im Jahr 2000 trat Italien bei und führte damit die Bezeichnung Six Nations ein. Seit 2001 gibt es den Six Nations Cup der Frauen.

Die nächste Rugby-Weltmeisterschaft der Frauen findet 2021 in Neuseeland statt, die der Männer 2023 in Frankreich.

Wer mehr wissen will, findet hier ein paar nützliche Links: (TMO explained)

Der Pommes-Buddha sagt: Vor dem Ei ist nach dem Ei.

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The glitter revolution

0105 The glitter revolution

Living in Germany is great. I’ve talked to quite a few expats in recent times, most of whom confirmed that they have made a conscious choice of living here based on the standard of living, quality of life, benefits for families, social security and so on. There’s plenty to love about this beautiful country. However, one thing strikes many foreigners about Germans. What annoying quality might I be talking about?

Granted, Germans are perceived by most other cultures as rather direct and straightforward. But while this may take some getting used to, it is not always viewed as an altogether bad thing.

One thing, though, that does get pointed out to me time and again in conversations with immigrants (and that I myself find utterly annoying) is that Germans have a penchant for what I call ULOSIPping (unsolicited lecturing of strangers in public). This may occur in any situation, but there are two spheres where it tends to be applied most: traffic and parenting. Anyone staying in this country for more than a week will certainly experience instances of ulosipping. Let me give you two examples from our recent family life.

Situation 1: My English husband is cycling on the pavement with our four-year-old. Everyday occurrence in Cologne, as it has been permitted under the Traffic Code of North Rhine Westphalia (the German state we live in) for quite a while now for parents accompanying young children on bikes to ride on the pavement with them. An elderly couple comes along and the man feels it is his duty as a citizen to step in as Batman’s wing man and right a wrong here. But not only does he yell (like so many do), ‘This is a pavement, not a cycle path!’ – No, while doing this, he extends his arm in front of him across the pavement, so as to force Mr K off his bike. As this came as quite a surprise, my husband had to brake really hard, which made my four-year-old bump into him and fall off her bike.

Situation 2: I am crossing the street with my two children. Because of their height they obviously can’t see above the cars parked on the curb, so they step forward (as they’ve been taught in kindergarten police traffic training) to the edge of the cars so they can see if the road is clear. Zooming past us from behind on the pavement is a middle-aged berserk woman on her bike screaming ‘Get those children off the road! They’re about to get flattened!’ as she cycles across and back on the pavement again on the other side. I was so perplexed that it took me a moment to find my speech. Then I said, ‘Oh yes, by you, it seems like.’

Riding my bike about town a lot, I’m used to getting yelled abuse at, such as ‘The most wicked kamikaze cyclists are mothers without children!’ or ‘It’s not I who has to look out, it’s you!’ Or I get beeped at just because I’m there and cars need to slow down because of me. (Oh, the cheek of me, just being there, breathing!)

Also, strangers in Germany tend to tell parents and/or their children how to behave. When a child loses it at the supermarket, there is always a concerned mother or elderly woman (yes, they tend to be female) around the next corner who knows what’s best and will make sure to let you know. And often insist.

As my English husband points out, in his country, you would think those things but not say them out loud. Of course, not saying what you really think can also go the other way, but seriously, queens: a little less policing would do you full-blooded Teutons good!

I have a suspicion that, for some reason, Germans have a primeval craving to be right – myself included; I’m not entirely free from that either (as Mr K would be hard-pressed to deny). It seems to be in our DNA. I for one have been doing lots of yoga, Pilates and soul-searching and working on this in recent years, and I do find that, in spite of my genetic make-up, I’m gradually getting better at the initially ludicrous idea of loving myself and others.

So, my lovelies: A little more benevolence and warm-heartedness in everyday life would make social interaction so much easier, more pleasant and more joyful for everyone. Why not just break into song or start to tango the next time someone has a go at you? Or buy them a drink or wish them a wonderful day from the bottom of your heart. Imagine we all did this from now on – this is how revolutions get started. Kill them with kindness and feel the love, queens! (I think I’ve been QE’d beyond hope – I like!)

The Pommes Buddha says: When life’s a bitch, just sprinkle some glitter on her!

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Musical hat-trick

0103 Musical Hat-trick

Hat-trick (noun): three points, goals, etc. scored by the same player in a particular match or game; three successes achieved by one person (‘to score a hat-trick’). Word origin: late 19th cent.: originally referring to the club presentation of a new hat (or some equivalent) to a bowler who took three wickets successively in cricket. (Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary,, retrieved on 4 Oct 2019) Read on to learn more about the hat-trick I’m referring to.

This summer, my English-come-German husband and I had the opportunity to indulge in one of our favourite pastimes – le cinéma. As it so happened, we ended up seeing three films each of which was both a little gem of British culture and a gripping tribute to pop music. Check them out – they all come highly recommended by both of us.

Imagine the world, pop culture and language without the influence of The Beatles. This film takes you on an experimental journey and invites you to explore alleys off the beaten track of what we all take for granted. While watching I thought, It’s like listening to The Beatles’ music for the first time all over again. A unique experience. Ed Sheeran plays an amusing guest role with an even more amusing entourage. My favourite is his no-nonsense manager Debra, drop-dead adorably played by Kate McKinnon. The love story is somewhat soppy but ingeniously counterbalanced by the dry humour of characters such as Debra or scenes such as The Marketing Meeting of Meetings (‘You can’t call it The White Album, man!’). The film is entertaining and really enjoyable overall.

A visually stunning, poetic and sensitive portrait of rock legend Elton John. Makes it easy to appreciate his profound artistic talent even for people who might not relate all that much to the style of his music at first sight. Taron Egerton is a staggering delight to watch because he knows neither fear nor vanity. His interpretation of Elton John’s music gives it an entirely new, scintillating twist. Then there is also the intimate tale of little Reginald Dwight, a fragile, sensitive boy craving paternal affection. His story is told with compassion, while remaining unspoiled of excessive sentiment. The overall mise en scène is witty, imaginative and psychologically powerful, with the refreshing cinematography taking the storytelling to another, almost fairy-tale-like level. A feathered cushion for the heart and the soul and my favourite out of the three!

Blinded by the Light
Immerse yourself into teenage British suburban life of the 1980ies. This film is great fun, with Routemasterloads of references to the sociopolitical upheavals of the Thatcher era. My favourite quote is from a left-wing political activist, who describes her parents as ‘no-society Tory traitors’. A great complement to this is Tim Lott’s novel Rumours of a Hurricane – highly recommended. The film, which is based on a true story, features the music of US-American old hand Bruce Springsteen, which you don’t need to dig to like the film – because what the film is really about is becoming our own person. It is funny and sad, and ultimately uplifting.

Read here why you should watch these films in the original version.

The Pommes Buddha says: You can teach an old hat new tricks.

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Wind of Change

Wind of Change

Neulich war ich auf einer 90er-Party eingeladen. Ja, so weit ist es schon! Die 90er sind mittlerweile nostalgiefähig und scheinen doch immer noch gar nicht soooo lange her. Als wir Eltern, die laut unseren Kindern an diesem Abend „sehr jugendlich“ aussahen, auf einen Genre-Reigen von Insomnia über Teenage Dirtbag bis hin zu Wannabe „abtanzten“, wie man das in den 90ern nannte, waren wir wieder mitten in unserer Schulzeit. Sogar die alten Dance-Moves kamen uns wieder. Und hier der Pommesbuddheske Gedanke: Musik verbindet über Ländergrenzen hinweg, oder? Was wissen die Britinnen von „unseren 90ern“? Und was hat dies mit dem heutigen Tag der Deutschen Einheit zu tun?

Zur Beantwortung dieser Frage bedarf es einer weiteren Anekdote. Also, holt Euch ein Heißgetränk, zieht die Schuhe aus und macht es Euch auf der Couch bequem: “When I was a lad”, wie die Schwester meines amerikanischen Austauschpartners immer zu sagen pflegte, wenn sie weit ausholte – nein, so weit zurück geht es dann doch nicht. Es war an einem Mittwoch im Juli. Ich hörte vormittags BBC Radio 4 und stolperte dabei über die Sendung “Soul Music”, in der es an diesem Tag doch tatsächlich um die Hymne der deutschen Wiedervereinigung Wind of Change von den Scorpions ging. Ich war überrascht darüber, dass diese Rockballade tatsächlich auch in UK bekannt war und immer noch ist. (Hier kann man sehen, dass zumindest die Re-Release-Single im Herbst 1991 immerhin Platz 2 der UK Charts erreichte und 9 Wochen in den Charts blieb:

Das Beeindruckendste an der Sendung waren jedoch die sehr persönlichen Berichte von Zeitzeugen, die zum Teil unglaublich bewegende Geschichten der Flucht schildern. Besonders berührt hat mich das, weil meine Großeltern mütterlicherseits ebenfalls aus der damaligen DDR geflohen sind und sich in Westdeutschland ein neues Leben aufbauen mussten.

Eine Demokratie sei die Deutsche Demokratische Republik nie gewesen, berichtet einer der deutschen Zeitzeugen auf Englisch. Nur dem Namen nach. Und das Wichtigste, was wir heute hätten, seien Frieden und die Freiheit, die politische Partei zu wählen, die einem gefalle.

Für meine Familie mündeten damals viele kleine und größere Ereignisse in der letztendlichen Entscheidung, die Wohnung mit allen Möbeln zurückzulassen, keinem der Freunde oder Bekannten etwas zu erzählen, und Hals über Kopf abzuhauen. Nachhaltig in mein Gedächtnis gebrannt hat sich beispielsweise die Anekdote meiner Mutter, die es zutiefst verabscheute, im Kindergarten jeden Morgen „Händchen falten, Köpfchen senken und eine Minute an Stalin denken“ zu müssen. Sie überzeugte meine Großmutter, nicht mehr in den Kindergarten gehen zu müssen, und zwar mit den Worten: „Wenn ich da noch mal hinmuss, erzähle ich denen, dass ihr RIAS hört!“

Wie sich doch tatsächlich und zu aller unser großem Glück die Zeiten geändert haben. Sorgen wir dafür, dass dies auch so bleibt!

Der Pommes-Buddha sagt: Mir hän dodursch su vell jewunne.

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This is it


I’ve joked about it a few times and now it’s been reality for a good year already: my English husband officially became my English-German husband. After an eleven-month trekking trip through the jungle of application deadlines, waiting periods and scraping together of long-forgotten pieces of paper, Mr K is officially Herr K. For those of you with a Brexit-induced interest in self-Germanisation, here are some of our experiences…

If you want to become German, the first thing to do (or so it says on the website of the German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF)) is contact your local Ausländerbehörde and make an appointment for consultation.

This turned out to be helpful advice, as the person at the Ausländeramt told my henceforth-split-personality husband not only what specific documents he needed to provide in his particular situation, but also that the recommended next step was to make an appointment for filing the application for citizenship.
That’s right – first lesson in being German: don’t just do things – make appointments to verify you do things properly.

The thing is, and that’s useful to know, the waiting period for an appointment to file your citizenship application is about six months (or was at the place and time we did it). If you try to collate all the necessary documents and pass all the required tests before making that appointment, you may find that the overall process will take much longer.

So Herr K’s timeline was this: first meeting with Ausländerbehörde clerk in March 2017, German-language test in June, Einbürgerungstest in August, appointment for filing the application in October 2017, Einbürgerung ceremony in February 2018.

My ECGH (English-come-German husband) and I are convinced, though, that for German authorities the real proof of eligibility for citizenship is not in the formal tests but in the trials and tribulations they throw your way on the journey. For example, to receive a physical copy of his German-language certificate, my then-still-exclusively-English husband had to pull off the stunt of being at the right place (5th floor, turn left, go through two sets of doors, turn right, then left, then right again, 2nd but last green door behind the Benjamin’s fig – which is compulsory in public-service buildings in Germany) at the right time (between 14:03 and 14:18 hrs on the fifth day of the Ides of August, but only if the wolf howled three times during the last full moon) and in person with his passport, favourite socks and 100 most recent income statements in tow. The letter stating this was sent during the summer school holidays with one week’s notice.

Another tribulation: making it through the daunting, windowless corridors of the Ausländeramt, adorned with aggregate-concrete on the outside and larded with miserable misers on the inside, in the otherwise cheerful and welcoming Cologne district of Kalk, only to find a hapless figure hunched over their big ledgers, throwing suspicious glances and sneering at you. As you pass each doorway, neon-light signs flare up that say, in progressing order, ‘Are you sure you want to do this?’, ‘Are you REALLY sure you want to do this?’ and ‘Are you my-life-depends-on-it-and-I-will-never-be-happy-again-if-I-fail-sure about this?’

For my husband, being German is a no-nonsense responsibility. We have therefore since welcomed stringent German order in our home. For example, we are now the proud users of an app (for desperate parents: FAMANICE) that manages your entire family’s schedule up to and including the Mitbringsel (small gift) that our older daughter’s second-BFF’s second-youngest brother gets for the second-BFF’s 10th birthday in 2021 (Ides of April, I think – but let me double-check).

As for next week’s planning, I made an appointment with my newly-German-among-other-things husband to confirm that the filing of an application for spending Tuesday evening on the couch watching Queer Eye (our current ab fav after-work-build-me-up programme of love) was made in due form and time.

The Pommes Buddha says: Mind the Benjamin’s fig.

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Die Krönung

3d rendering of chess board game

Seit in Großbritannien für den Brexit gestimmt wurde, sind viele interessante Entwicklungen zu beobachten. Eine davon ist die gefühlt wieder auflebende Begeisterung für die berühmt-berüchtigte quirkiness („Schrulligkeit“) der Briten, allen voran der Royal Family. Filme wie „Paddington“ und Serien wie „The Crown“ erfreuen sich größter Beliebtheit. Hier sind ein paar unnütze Fakten über die British monarchy.

Laut der britischen Zeitung The Guardian erhält die Krone derzeit gut 82,2 Mio. GBP Steuergelder jährlich (im November 2017 wurde der Anteil von 15 % auf 25 % des Crown Estate („Kronguts“) erhöht). Bei einem BIP von rund 2 Bio. GBP im vergangenen Jahr sind das also etwa 0,004 %.

Die Queen spricht wie alle Britinnen und Briten der sozialen Oberschicht Hochenglisch, die sogenannte received pronunciation oder RP. Hierbei handelt es sich um eine auch als Queen’s English bekannte, von regionalen Färbungen freie, künstliche Variante des Englischen. Von einigen wird es auch als posh English bezeichnet.

Bis vor gut 10 Jahren wurde erwartet, dass alle Reporter der öffentlich-rechtlichen BBC-Fernseh- und Radiosender RP verwenden. Daher nannte man diese Sprachvariante auch BBC English. Die konservative Tageszeitung The Daily Telegraph (Wir erinnern uns: Sie wird gelesen von Leuten, die denken, das Land wird von einem anderen Land regiert (Blog-Eintrag „Pressestimmen“).) schrieb 2008, der Chef der BBC wünsche sich mehr regionale Akzente. Zynische Stimmen munkeln, diese Öffnung hin zu einer großzügigen Vielfalt drücke sich heute darin aus, dass Schottisch das neue BBC English geworden sei.

Hier findet man übrigens etliche Hörbeispiele britischer Dialekte:

Die Königsfamilie ist nach wie vor beliebt. Laut einer Opinium (nicht Opium!)-Umfrage waren 2017 zwei Drittel der BritInnen für die Erhaltung der Monarchie. Findet gar ein königliches Großereignis wie eine Hochzeit (Save the Date: Prince Harry & Meghan Markle heiraten am 19. Mai 2018!) statt, ist das Land außer Rand und Band. Man feiert kostümiert auf den Straßen oder im eigenen Garten, wo Accessoires wie Fähnchen, Hüte und Wimpelketten nicht fehlen dürfen.

Bei der letzten royal wedding 2011 ging das Spiel „Find Your Royal Wedding Name“ in den sozialen Netzwerken viral. Nach einer Spielart setzt man seinen Namen, den man als hypothetischer Gast bei der königlichen Hochzeit trägt, wie folgt zusammen: Lord/Lady + Name des ersten Haustiers + Name der Straße, in der man aufwuchs. In anderen Varianten findet der Mädchenname der Mutter oder der Vorname der Großeltern Verwendung.

Unter glühenden Handarbeitsverfechtern hochbeliebt war auch das Buch „Knit Your Own Royal Wedding“ von Fiona Goble.

Wer sich für die menschliche Seite des jüngeren britischen Königshauses interessiert, dem sei die Netflix-Serie „The Crown“ ans Herz gelegt. Sie überzeugt durch bewegende Darstellung – doch Achtung: historische Ereignisse werden nicht immer wahrheitsgetreu dargestellt. Elisabeth II, oder wie die Berliner sie auch gerne gewohnt schnodderig, aber liebevoll, nennen: Themsen-Else, wird von der großartigen Claire Foy einfühlsam und mit wunderbarer RP portraitiert.

Wer einen für alle Generationen unterhaltsamen, angekitschten Familienfilm vor der Kulisse Londons sucht, ist mit Paddington (1 + 2) gut beraten. Nicht zuletzt ist auch das sehr britisch: das Romantische, leicht Abgehobene, Urige, Fantasievolle. Denn wie las ich neulich recht treffend auf einer Postkarte? Die Realität ist etwas für Leute, die Angst vor Einhörnern haben.

Der Pommes-Buddha sagt: It takes all sorts to make the world.

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The Mouse

Field Mouse. isolated. striped field mouse

Every country has its famous kids’ TV programmes. When I was in Gymnasium, one of my German teachers told the teenage class, much to the latter’s incredulous amusement, that his favourite TV programme of all times was Die Sendung mit der Maus, a kids’ show. Learn more about this ominous mouse and why it’s still all the rage today …

Well, to tell you the truth, my English husband loves that programme too. It may not be obvious to first-time watchers, but the best part of the show are the so-called Sachgeschichten, the documentary-style stories that tell you about things or show you how things are made. Most of these clips are truly interesting, even to adults, because often we’re not aware, for example, of all the steps involved for a posted parcel to reach its recipient (see this clip) or how an episode of Shaun the Sheep is made (see here).

What is more, the Sachgeschichten are excellent for learners of German because, as it is targeted at children, complex processes are explained in plain, slow-spoken German.

Just like the popular board game Mensch Ärgere Dich Nicht, Die Sendung mit der Maus is a proper German invention and not an adapted format from another country. You will find more background information on the programme on Wikipedia.

Having two small children, my husband and I get quite a few opportunities to watch the programme together with them. (It is aired every Sunday morning on ARD, annoyingly at different times, and repeated on KiKa.) When we watched it one Sunday earlier this year, we were all particularly delighted because it was a special about Great Britain. I do recommend watching it and have put it on my Links page. Here are the direct links to both parts: Teil 1 and Teil 2.

You may think of it what you will. The show is (or has been) sexist to some extent, as most German TV still is today. But within its cultural context, it is simply one of the most popular German TV programmes ever for children.

Each episode offers something for different age groups: the mouse cartoons are targeted at smaller children (for our two-year-old, that’s all she wants to watch), the other cartoons and fun stories are for older children, and the documentaries appeal to nerds of all ages (and, as we all know, most parents are nerds).

I just wondered why it actually is that most parents are nerds. I think it’s because children ask so many questions. And parents need to find a child-friendly way of explaining all kinds of things which they have no clue about at first. (Seriously: no prep-time! You’re in the bathroom brushing your teeth, next thing you know, you have to give a full-blown presentation on the solar system. Impromptu-speech practice at interpreting uni class was a walk in the park in comparison – at least there we had five full minutes to prepare!) So you start being inquisitive and wanting to find out how things work.

First you tell yourself, it’s all for your child. But after a while you realise you’re totally into it yourself. And isn’t that the best bit about parenting when everyone gets something out of it?

Here’s another thought: I recently read that things that used to be seen as nerdy are now in demand because they are analogue and provide a haven from our busy digitised lives. Things like gardening, vinyl, board games, hardcopy books, crafts etc.

So modern parents are nostalgic nerds. And loving it!

The Pommes Buddha says: Go on and have some cheesy fun!

> Audio version



Pinker Regenschirm und gelbe Gummistiefel Freisteller

Mein englischer Ehemann ist schon ganz genervt: Immer wenn er sagt, woher er kommt, erntet er von den Deutschen mitleidige Blicke und einen Kommentar über den vielen Regen in England. „In London regnet es viel weniger, als ihr denkt!“ ruft er dann stets verzweifelt gen Himmel. Was aber ist dran, an dem Mythos vom Engländer und dem Wetter?

Es ist das ultimative Klischee: Der Engländer spricht gern über das Wetter. Allzu oft trifft dies jedoch in der Tat zu. Der perfekte Einstieg für jede Unterhaltung mit einem Fremden sind Sätze wie It’s turned out nice again (dieser klassische Ausspruch ist sogar in Form eines Films verewigt worden).

Woran dies liegen mag ist eine Frage mit vielen möglichen Antworten. Ein Grund ist sicherlich, dass das Wetter auf der Insel sich für gewöhnlich rasch ändert und somit nahezu unerschöpflichen Gesprächsstoff liefert. Die sprichwörtlichen vier Jahreszeiten an einem Tag habe ich persönlich diverse Male erlebt, beispielsweise im April 2000, als ich mit Freunden zunächst noch im T-Shirt im St James‘ Park picknickte, dann wurde es stürmisch und begann zu schütten, kurz darauf fielen ein paar Schneeflocken und wenige Minuten später kam wieder die Sonne heraus.

Der Exildeutsche Henning Wehn hat das Phänomen des Wettergesprächs in seiner TV-Mini-Serie An Immigrant’s Guide to Britain (Channel 4) sehr anschaulich demonstriert. Eine ungarische Einwanderin machte dort (S01 E01) den Test: Die ungarische Art, in Form eines Komplimentes mit Fremden ins Gespräch zu kommen, sorgte allseits für Misstrauen. Sobald die Kontaktsuchende jedoch einen Kommentar zum Wetter offerierte, waren die Menschen offen und gesprächig.

Dass dieses metereologische Vor-sich-hin-Philosophieren nicht einmal bewusst als „Gespräch“ wahrgenommen wird, zeigt die folgende Situation aus dem Immigrant’s Guide: Ein Herr ergeht sich ganze 30 Minuten in Bemerkungen zum Wetter der letzten Tage. „You like talking about the weather?“ fragt die Ungarin ihn. Er schaut daraufhin ganz erstaunt und erwidert: “Not particularly, no. Why?”

Das Wetter ist das Sesam-öffne-dich zur britischen Seele. Eine Zauberformel, die die Macht besitzt, selbst schüchterne Mauerblümchen in smooth operators zu verwandeln. Probiert es doch bei nächster Gelegenheit einmal aus. Es mag zwar einfallslos sein, wie Oscar Wilde befand, doch es erfüllt seinen Zweck. Ich verspreche Euch, Ihr werdet Überraschendes erleben!

Übrigens ist, wie bereits im Beitrag „Radiokult“ erwähnt, der Seewetterbericht (shipping forecast) eine besondere Ausprägung der britischen Wettervernarrtheit.

Für die weitere Lektüre über das Englischsein sei zudem zum wiederholten Male Kate Fox‘ Buch Watching the English wärmstens empfohlen.

Der Pommes-Buddha sagt: Auf Regen folgt Sonnenschein.

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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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