The Crime Scene

Have you ever asked a German what she does on Sunday night? Try it! A great deal of my fellow countrypeople will say, ‘Sunday night is Tatort night!’ You (and many Germans) may think of it what you will, but you can’t begin to grasp the German psyche without investigating (pun intended) the Tatort (= crime scene) phenomenon. Let’s embark on a somewhat bumpy journey through German television history. Read more

The Meadow

It’s the world’s most famous beerfest. And it used to be strictly Munich. In recent years, though, in the first weeks of autumn, shop windows all over Germany have been displaying an increasingly higher number of traditional Bavarian costumes. What is this Oktoberfestisation? Read more

Rough and ready

Thinking back to my blog post of the other day about quintessential Britishness, I wondered what my English husband would consider the most German thing of all German things. And then I remembered his horror when we first set foot into our first joint flat in Germany. Read more

German and English

In warm countries, there’s quite a bit of creeping and crawling an average Central European is unfamiliar with. When I lived in Sydney, Australia, for a year, we had a certain type of small cockroach in the kitchen. When I asked my Australian flatmate what they are and how we can get rid of them, she just said, ‘They’re German cockroaches. You can’t get rid of them.’ (I’ll just leave that uncommented for you to feast on.) What else is ‘German’ in English and vice versa? Read more

Big business

Last week, we visited the bathroom. It’s only a small step further to a facility that lends itself to extensive cultural studies. In many Asian countries, the sounds produced by a person using a WC are considered very private and shouldn’t be witnessed by other people under any circumstances. Therefore, lavatories are often equipped with sound machines imitating the flush to mask any possibly embarrassing noise (replacing the use of the actual flush, which had led to an exorbitant waste of water). So what about Germany? Here’s a bit of German loo etiquette. Read more

The land of tailor-made terms

One of the many reasons I love the English language is that it allows for almost unlimited interchangeable usage of word classes. You can turn a noun into a verb (‘to pool’) and vice versa (‘mix-up’) – and even combine the two! (While this is grammatically true for my native language, German is far less tolerant of neologisms.) Here are some examples of inspiring English ‘noun-adjectives’… Read more

The foodie trap

As you may have guessed, the realm of culinary delight is an area I am fond to delve into. But like in any other field, there are countless ‘unknowns.’ As an interpreter, one often has to translate restaurant menus ‒ a bloody minefield! I can’t tell sole from plaice even in my native language to start with. Here are some other examples of food-related pitfalls. Read more

The Pout

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… Read more

The naked truth

When I was fifteen, I went on a school exchange to Villa Park near Los Angeles in the USA. One day, I remember chatting, unceremoniously as one does, about going to the sauna in Germany – my parents had one at home that we used regularly. The expression of total shock and horror on the American students’ faces when I told them that we go there in the nude! Then uncontrollable giggling. They asked me a million questions about it. They could not believe it! And when they eventually did, they didn’t buy that it was nothing sexual. Read more

The plait scale

There are several reasons for this week’s revelation. One, it’s an act of reprisal: my husband hijacked my Facebook page the other day, so I’m hijacking his idea. Two, I’m on a rescue mission. This fascinating observation on the German culture is otherwise likely to pass into oblivion as it’s safe to assume that the blog my magnificent other was going to launch won’t be launched for another 150 years or so. (In case it does I herewith officially recognise his intellectual property rights.) So let’s learn about the mysterious plait scale… Read more