Why did the blonde’s boyfriend blow into her ear?
She needed a re-fill.
You see sometimes we call dumb people ‘airheads’ back home and since blondes have a reputation for not being so smart, and she has air in her head that periodically needs re-filling and…
Oh, I see! Oh yah, that’s funny.
So I tried again….
What does an agnostic, dyslexic, insomniac do?
Lays awake all night, wondering if there is a dog.
Um….what is….dyslexic? Actually…what is agnos…tic?
Well, you see…..
You get my point. I told these jokes to a German guy that I met recently, and they did not exactly get the usual reaction of “GROAN and CHUCKLE” that I was expecting, although I have to say that he really did get a kick out of the insomniac joke. He kept chuckling about it throughout the evening after I had explained what each word meant. We pushed forward in our journey of cross-cultural humor exchange, telling joke after joke, each one with a full on explanation. My family would be proud that I even told our long-time “Three strings walked into a bar…” joke….but it lost a lot in the explanation of the difference between “afraid” and “a frayed.” I felt more like an English teacher (which I am) than a comedian (which apparently I may not be.) Still, points to us for trying. I think the funniest part of the evening was the attempt itself.
Humor is one of those things a lot of people don’t think about before traveling or living abroad. You take it for granted that you can crack jokes with people, laugh at the same thing, have that release that we all need, but here’s the thing – they may not (and often don’t) get your humor. And yes, I mean YOUR sense of humour. I’M funny. No, I’m just kidding. Or am I? I’m so funny, right? Right? Hmm…then why isn’t that German over there laughing? Actually, why aren’t you laughing? Confused yet? Then you will feel right at home here. Anyways, this is the big secret to living abroad that people don’t tell you about. If you’re like me and enjoy laughing on a daily basis, don’t panic in your new country the first time someone A) doesn’t get your joke B) doesn’t laugh when you laugh or C) really doesn’t think it’s funny when you point at a sign (Einfahrt) that means “one fart” to you and just “exit” to them (this never gets old to me).
Laughter is the one thing that can really bond you to a new person in a new country or completely isolate you from them. So, every day I try my best to make the people around me laugh or sometimes I laugh at them, or they laugh at me (the latter is quite frequent). It’s how I get through my day, it’s how I make life fun, it’s how I get through yet another day of feeling like my German skills are getting nowhere.
We all know the German stereotype for seriousness. Everyone thinks Germans have no sense of humour. But folks, I’ve got news! They really do laugh! Honestly! But…it’s THEIR sense of humour. Weird, I know. I’m lucky enough to work with a mixture of people from different cultures each day. I work with Brits, an Aussie, an American, and Germans. I tell you, there are many moments of hilarity in these situations. Cross-cultural humor is some of the best out there. Language mistakes, misunderstandings, and strange actions by us foreigners can cause endless amounts of obscene laughter but this is often at the expense of someone else. Seeing the look of horror on my English coworker’s faces when I accidentally say something highly inappropriate to them without realizing it makes my day that much better. And probably theirs too. On the other hand, saying something highly inappropriate in German by accident might get an entirely different look…but when you can make a German laugh, you know you’ve really begun to adapt to the culture. But don’t worry if you get the, “what the heck is she on?” look on a regular basis. You’ll get used to it.
I felt such pride when I made my new German roommate laugh the other day when we were out together. And the best part was that after laughing he said to me in the most endearing and surprised German fashion, “that was really funny!” I felt like a five year old that tells a knock knock joke successfully for the first time. “You made a funny!” Indeed I made a funny. In Germany, you “make” everything. Seriously, they use “machen” like it’s going out of style. So why not a funny? And I do hope to make a whole lot more of them. For now, I will leave you with a couple of recent moments of pure laughter that I experienced here in Hamburg.
1. The mistakes my English students make. I’m sorry, but they crack me up. Don’t worry, they laugh too. And I make just as many mistakes in German. My favorite to date goes a little something like this:
Me – So, I thought it would be fun if next week we play a little language Jeopardy. Do you guys know Jeopardy?
My lovely student with a very serious look – We don’t talk about it.
(What she meant to say – No, we haven’t heard much about it.)
Me – Oh, I see. Was there some awful German scandal years ago during an episode?
My student – Um…
Me – You see…..I proceeded to explain that saying this phrase in that way had a very negative connotation and suggested a scandal of sorts. Once she realized it we all laughed very hard. It was a great bonding moment that we still talk about in class. Yep, we do talk about it now.
2. Mattress thickness. *Warning – this one may not be appropriate for some audiences, but is too funny to pass up.* Pretty much every single day I am amused by a word in German that to us English speakers sounds either ridiculous or really suggestive. My favourite one to date is the German word for “thick” which is….yep, you may have guessed it – “dick.” The best example of this comes from a fellow blogger and expat who writes a great blog called Ali’s Adventures and is living in Germany as well. Ali found a fantastic ad from a German mattress company simply stating, “Extra Dick, 27 cms!” I tell ya…those things must have sold like hot cakes! I told this story to my American cousin here and we laughed very hard. And we still do. If I ever have a down moment here..I just think of this ad. Check out Ali’s original post here.
So, the moral of the story is—living abroad, you’re gonna need to get your laughs wherever and whenever you can take them. If you want someone to get your jokes, find a fellow expat, if you want a different kind of laughter, tell a joke to a German. And maybe…if you’re lucky you can even say, “see, I made a funny!”
This blog was originally posted here.