Jul 29, 2014

Almost German / Not Quite German

In light of Germany winning the World Cup earlier this month, a question came up that I couldn't help but ponder. The big win left me questioning how German I've really become, in addition to now being a lover of football. Living in Germany has undeniably changed certain aspects about myself, some I hadn't even realized until I gave it a good think.

5 Signs That I'm Almost German


  1. I’m not particularly proud of admitting this, but, I eat Wurst almost every day. Now I know what you’re thinking and no, I don’t each sausages every day. But Wurst is also the name given to sliced meat and my lunch almost always consists of a sandwich containing Käse, Gurken, Tomaten and Wurst. Hey, at least I’m not a slave to canteen food like all of my students are. The canteen at the company where I work, by the way, serves Currywurst every day.

  2. I value ventilation like I’ve never valued it before. When in doubt, open up a window. You’ll automatically feel better. Not only does it remove the lingering smell of cheap cologne worn by businessmen in the office, it also helps to remove the feeling of stuffiness in your flat. I know this because I learned it from the Germans, a people obsessed with ventilation and who throw open their windows (albeit briefly) even in the wintertime!

  3. I’ve thrown all notions of prudishness out the window. Let’s face it: North Americans are prude. Period. Especially in the eyes of Germans, who are comfortable with nudity and actually open about sex. I feel like I grew up in a completely opposite society and culture, and almost feel liberated now that I live in Germany. Case in point: in the change rooms at my gym, women of all shapes and sizes change and shower with brazen confidence. They don’t bother trying to cover themselves up with towels or what have you. I’ve even seen women have full-on conversations with each other in the nude!

  4. I ride my bike in spring, summer, autumn and oh yes, even in winter. Expertly too. Nobody thinks I’m crazy for biking in rain or snow because everyone does it. The Germans say Es gibt kein schlechtes Wetter, nur falsche Kleidung. In other words, there’s no such thing as bad weather, but rather, inappropriate clothing. While I prefer to wear rain pants, a rain jacket and waterproof shoes, it’s typical to see people donning a poncho or holding an umbrella while riding in the rain.

  5. When Skyping or FTing with friends and family back home, I have to resist the urge to start off by saying naaaaaa and inserting German words such as doch or egal throughout the conversation, for they’d likely respond with a clueless ‘huh?’ The thing is, there are so many German words that I wish we could adopt in English. The reason why I admittedly enjoy peppering my English with German words is simply because these words fit so well in context yet do not have direct English translations or, when translated, don't express what I'm trying to say as fittingly.

So there you have it. I'm probably, say, 25% German? Am I therefore a mere 75% Canadian? However which way you want to break it down, there are definitely qualities about me that aren't German-like.

10 Signs That I'm Not Quite German


  1. I can’t say I love making small talk but I definitely don’t mind it when the person I’m talking to gives me something to work with. Conversely, Germans hate it. What we believe is essential for networking and for building good relationships, they think is a waste of time. The problem is Germans think that when English speakers make small talk, it’s superficial. It’s hard for them to comprehend that asking someone “How are you?” isn’t necessarily meant to inquire about one’s life in detail. This is because in German, Wie geht’s Dir? is indeed meant to sincerely inquire about one’s (oftentimes personal) life and normally only asked by close friends and family.

  2. I don’t care if people choose not to follow rules and regulations and I most definitely will not wag my finger nor scream at a jay-walker. Germany is a land of rule and regulation abiders, which is fine by me. But we do live in a free society, no? If someone chooses to jay-walk, that’s his or her decision and I’m not wasting energy or my emotions on denouncing that person.

  3. I’ll never learn to be as direct as Germans are. Countless times I’ve experienced (mostly old) people scream at me for things like biking too close to the sidewalk and I find it utterly tasteless. Germans have no shame giving you a piece of their mind, whether you’re a stranger to them or not. In the business world, assertiveness is also the name of the game. Some of my students feel uncomfortable saying “could, would or should” because they think these words express uncertainty. When translated into German, these words communicate indecisiveness and therefore weakness. While they're polite to use in English, in German they're not explicit enough.

  4. Germans are generally wary when it comes to data protection and privacy but unlike them, I don't feel compelled to change my name to Sh Elley on Facebook. I don't blame them, what with the spying going on and all. No one seems worried about their own cell phones being tapped though.

  5. Döner will never be my go-to fast food meal. I rarely even eat fast food, let alone döner. Nevertheless, I get why it’s so popular. It’s relatively affordable, a Dönerbude is never more than a hop, skip, and a jump away and it's filling. But it leaves this nauseating smell on your hands that doesn’t go away for days. No, you cannot eat Döner with a knife and fork.

  6. I haven’t been to Mallorca, which the Germans themselves have deemed their “17th province.” It’s such a popular holiday destination for Germans, you don’t have to worry about not being able to speak Spanish if you plan to go there - everyone speaks German. Although the thought of visiting Mallorca is tempting since it’s cheap to fly there from virtually any city in Germany, I’d like my next major trip to be a destination far different from Europe. China, perhaps?

  7. My 1s don’t look like 7s and I promise you, they never will. Germans were taught how to print certain numbers and letters in school differently from how I remember being taught. If you ever ask a German to write the number 1 on a piece a paper, there’s a 99% chance that instead of it looking like a lower-case l, it’ll consist of two lines, both of which touch the baseline and the cap height. It basically looks like a deformed 7. Ask a German to print out the whole alphabet for you and you’ll see that their letters have loopy qualities, similar to that of cursive.

  8. If I were able to have one warm meal per day, I’d prefer it to be dinner. Traditionally, German children got off school early enough in time for a late lunch at home where they’d usually have a warm meal. These days it's common for adults to enjoy a warm lunch as they either eat out with colleagues, or as I mentioned before, they eat in canteens. As a result it was and still is common to have Abendbrot (literally ‘evening bread’) in the evenings. To be fair though, due to changes in lifestyle, instead of just bread with sliced meat and/or cheese, nowadays more and more families are having warm meals for dinner as well.

  9. I don’t believe qualifications are the keys to success and that the more education and experience you have, the more successful you will be. This is very typical German thinking. Germans jeer at the idea of ‘rags to riches’ as being only possible in Amerika (aka the US). They’re super structured people so it’s hard for them to wrap their head around getting to the top without taking the qualified route. They don’t like taking risks and that’s why entrepreneurialism isn’t prevalent in cities that aren’t Berlin. In my opinion, the average, middle-sized German city lacks restaurants and shops that are truly daring in concept because no one is brave enough to open one up.

  10. Saved for last because it hits home the most, I can never be a true German because I know how to queue. A simple concept but one that has bestowed upon me many aggravating experiences. You may already be aware of such horror stories in German supermarkets where a new cashier opens up and everyone in the original queue tramples over one another to be first in line in the new queue. There exists zero courtesy in these instances. Sheer malarky! I see this all the time and it never ceases to make my blood boil. C'mon, Germans! Look to the Japanese and Canadians as good examples: apparently they're the world's best queuers.


I've proved that although Germany has moulded me in some ways, much to my sister's relief, I am and I'll always be Canadian. I sometimes wonder how I'd have turned out if I hadn't moved here. Would I still be prudish? Would I have learned how to bike in the snow? Would I have even bothered to learn a second language? I don't think so. And that's why I find the idea of living abroad so fascinating. Without even realizing it, you're influenced by the culture you're surrounded by. This is precisely why I think travelling is so important for one's growth, and also why I think being an expat is so verdammte fulfilling.


  1. Andreas R.July 30, 2014

    "Finger Wagger"?

  2. @Andreas: to wag means to shake (a finger) at someone, as in reproach (to find fault with (a person, group, etc.)