At the beginning of September I celebrated my 6-year anniversary in Germany. Though it made me briefly nostalgic, more than ever it’s the future that I have on my mind: in February I’ll be having a baby. In Germany. An American-German baby. A baby who will probably be able to speak better German at age ten than I will in my adult life. A baby who will be educated in a school system I am only vaguely familiar with. Who will grow up in a country where homeschooling isn’t allowed, but drinking at 16 is. Parenting is difficult no matter where you live, but in a country where I still have so much to learn, it’ll be double the challenge. And I can only hope, double the fun. Good thing it’s not twins. There’s only so much doubled fun that one girl can handle.
If I said to you barbeque, you’d say to me: America! After all, it is the land of BBQ sauce, rib and steak cook-outs and, oddly enough, a variety of grilled “dogs” – which, I have to confess, I always had the Koreans down for, but whaddya know?
Anyway, I’m not the only one who’s a little limited in his range of associative thinking when it comes to barbequed food: after all, how many of you would instantly think of Germany when you smell charcoal and singed sausages?
In January last year, I wrote the popular theory that, in the twentieth century, important things tended to happen to Germany in years ending in 9 – i.e. the 1919 Versailles Peace Treaty, the 1939 start of the Second World War, the 1949 founding of the Federal Republic and, most recently, the 1989 fall of the wall. My aim, however, was to prove that years ending in 0 were actually the truly momentous years – or at least of comparable importance.
In under 48 hours, I will be celebrating my third Christmas in Germany. Most of my friends are still mildly surprised that I don’t go back to my mum’s for the festivities: Christmas is, after all, supposed to be the time when people return home to see their family to be treated like big kids by their parents.
However, I think it would be a shame to live in Germany and miss out on Christmas here, which, thanks to the Weihnachtsmärkte, extensive pine forests, and the invention of the word Gemütlichkeit really does have a head-start on all things Christmassy.
The British pub crawl is a much maligned thing. Probably because the word “crawl” implies that the participants are unable to walk between pubs, the pub crawl is generally interpreted by British people as an excuse to get absolutely hammered, and is therefore associated by our European neighbors with nothing more than drunkenness and debauchery of the worse, most British kind.
Yet as Brit living in Germany, I can point to a shining example of how the British Pub Crawl can actually contribute to rather than irreparably damage relations between my fair home country and our long-suffering continental neighbors. How do I manage this amazing feat of social integration? What glue do I use to make this diametrically opposed… er, thing stick? Well, it’s a mixture of mulled wine, cinnamon-flavored goodies and the Spirit of Yuletide itself.
The end of November 2010 marks an odd personal anniversary for me: It means five years of no flying. That’s right, I last got on an airplane back in November 2005, travelling from Paris to Dortmund and back again. I was growing increasingly uncomfortable with news about global warming and the damaging impact of flying, and so decided to stop worrying and do something about it. I’ve been taking the train ever since then.
Just like beer, north-south differences (especially linguistic ones) are one of the defining features of Germany – and one of the things I most frequently write about on this blog. When I was learning German, I had it drummed into me again and again: make sure you learn Hochdeutsch; learn to speak like people in the northern half of Germany; whatever you do, don’t learn German in Munich! No one will be able to understand you, and you’ll sound like too much of a peasant to get a job!