The Revolution Will Be Televised

After nearly 3 years, I am back, bitches. Happy Juneteeth!

I had to come back and write seeing that the chickens, as brother Malcolm put it, have definitely come home to roost. It seems finally FINALLY it took the horrific murders of innocent black people to GET IT. And by IT I mean the American original sin of racism. I could go off on why it took them so damn long – I mean the constant racial slurs and comments plus KIDS IN CAGES didn’t clue them in, but that would just send me into a rage stroke so I will focus on the positive that at least there seems to be a seismic shift in (white people) attitudes on race. And it’s about GD time.

So while we wait for white folks to catch up with what we black folks have been knew, I have some time to blog about shit that doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things – so don’t @ me that I need to be more serious, believe me, I take this shit real serious but I don’t need an education so Ima gonna talk about other stuff right now.

malcolm x history GIF

Where the Eff have you been, PhillybeiBerlin? Last we spoke in July 2017 — about 10 years ago in current dictatorship years —  I  was just about to start a job. Turned out … It was a nightmare. It was so bad, I called it the Gulag. It made my previous horrid work environments seem like a luxury spa. I won’t get into it lest I out myself but suffice it to say, I was not in a good place. But I found another job and it’s been over a year now and I like the work and I like having a sane boss who isn’t a narcissistic fuckwit.

How’s my German doing? Eh, it’s probably the same but at least Mr. Philly acknowledges it is as much his fault as it is mine that my German isn’t that great after 5 years – sure I get by fine now and can hold simple conversations but when the Germans get going my brain is like … Nah, dawg, and just shuts all the way down. I should speak more at home but… yea, no. You see, Mr. Philly realised he actually prefers English – to speak, to write, to read, etc. and he can’t be arsed to speak German with me at home, where I would really improve. My new boss tries, but have you ever tried lawyering in German? No? me neither. But as I wrote 3 years ago, I am now fully comfortable with the discomfort. I’m cool with that. For now. Right now we all just need to try to survive this GLOBAL PANDEMIC and the AmeriKKKan dictatorship.

I cannot promise I won’t drop off again, ‘cuz shit keeps getting realer and realer, but I will try to be more timely than every 3 years. Y’all stay safe…. And stay woke.

Big Brother Hello GIF by Identity - Find & Share on GIPHY

 

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The Next Chapter of WTFery

“And No, I didn’t retire” – Beastie Boys ,“Ch Ch Check it Out”

Hey y’all. Bet you thought I fell off the face of the earth but naw, I just needed to – in the words of one of my best friends – “get my shit together” after that bullshit election. I also launched my job search in January and took a series of C1 level German lessons – for * gasp * fun – yes, folks, Stockholm Syndrome has set in. Two years in Germany and I actually like German now – the crazy grammar rules, the main verbs plopping at the end of a long-ass sentence… And let’s not forget all the colorful words and expressions that don’t exist in English. Especially during these troubled times, we desperately need a word like Kummerspeck (literally: Grief bacon) to express the depths of our anxiety. Note to English – get on that.

Anyhoo, I’m over the “Holy Crap/WTF are these people saying?” point and I’m in the “Well/I’m not 100% sure WTF you’re saying, but I can follow along ok” stage. It’s a nice feeling to be over that initial language-barrier hump (or in the case of learning German, language-barrier mountain range). Yea, I still get flashes of frustration about not understanding everything all the time – I’m still me, afterall. I still wanna know what is going on around me, but I’m not flipping out about it like I used to. People know me in my neighborhood, I have cobbled together a social life here in Berlin and it’s nice to finally feel a sense of home. Hubs and I were on vacation in France this spring and although I took about 9 years of French as a wee lass, I was back to walking around fairly mute because I had forgotten 98% of my French. It was somewhat shocking, then, to return to Berlin and feel relief at being back in a German-speaking environment. American world travelers (at least those of y’all who aren’t bilingual), you know that feeling you get when you’ve been traveling abroad for a bit and as soon as you get back on US soil and everyone’s speaking English and everything is written in English your brain sort of relaxes – “aaaaahhh” – like unbuckling your belt after a 5-course meal? Well, that’s what my brain did when we landed at Tegel! Knock me the fuck over with a feather! But it was actually easier for me to be in Germany than in France, language wise.

I Did IT!

Beside my continuing adventures in German, other big news is – I actually found a JOB! Boy, am I excited. I can’t wait to get those lawyering muscles back in shape (i.e., after two years of learning German, it will be nice to go back to doing something where I actually have some knowledge and know what the fuck I’m doing). While I’ll be working in English, the office is, of course, German and I will be expected to interact with my colleagues and the office staff auf Deutsch. Not to mention, my employment contract was in German! One round of interviews was conducted in German! I think at one point, I out-of-bodied myself and thought “weee! Lookatme speaking German!”

So, in other words, I’m starting my next chapter in this grand Expatriation Adventure. I am mentally preparing myself for the inevitable freak outs of working in a truly bilingual manner but I know now that acclimation takes as much time as it does effort. When I moved here 2 years ago and I was barely A2 level, I never imagined I would have passed that dastardly B2 Goethe test, but as hard as it was, I did it. And I suspect (hope) in 2 years I’ll look back on my first few months on the job and be amazed at how “easy” German has become. Well, I’m not sure German is ever easy for anyone, and that includes  Germans, but a girl can dream, right?

Stay tuned!

 

 

 

 

The Hard Way

I’m back, bitches.

I ain’t gonna lie, the US election and subsequent installation of this petty dictatorship was hard for me to take. But I cycled through my stages of grief and now I’m firmly in acceptance mode (although that doesn’t mean I’m not fighting back #RESIST). When I was little, my Mom used to shake her head sadly after me and/or my brother did some knuckle-headed thing and say, “some people just have to learn things the hard way.”

Well, that’s America right about now. I guess we have to learn things the hard way.  Things like, yea, maybe you should always exercise your right to vote, even if you’re not jazzed about any of the candidates or you’re too busy or whatever.  Or, yea, maybe things are a bit different for POC in America and it’s okay sometimes to shut up, check your privilege and just listen to your fellow citizens.

Me on November 9, 2016.

Me on November 9, 2016.

But anyway, let’s put this tragic state of political affairs aside for a moment and let me get back to what this blog is about – my experiences as an Expat in Berlin, Germany. To that end, I don’t think I ever told y’all about my trip to the gynecologist a few months ago. Talk about the hard way.

At this point I had been in Berlin for over a year and was therefore past due on my annual exam. I had the name of a good gynecologist who spoke English, so I made an appointment all by myself auf Deutsch. I mentioned this to an American friend of mine at lunch – if I’m being honest, I was just fishing for a compliment and instead she got kind of quiet. “Girl, have you ever been to the gynecologist here? ‘cause it’s different…” Alarm bells!

“What do you mean, different?!”

She explained how it’s just like in the US, except there’s no cover. No robe, no sheet – not even a crappy paper one – no nothing. You get naked. Full body gulp. I had made the fatal mistake of forgetting two things, number 1, that everything is always done at least a little bit differently in another country and number 2, that Germans love to be naked.  Germans can get naked at the drop of a hat and they just don’t care. It’s refreshing on many levels (talk about body confidence) but it’s terrifying when you’re so used to American puritanical standards of modesty. But at least my buddy gave me a heads up.

Me - after I heard about the Naked Part...

Me – after I heard about the Naked Part…

So I arrive at the office and my very lovely middle-aged gynecologist sat with me in her office/examining room (the table with the stirrups) loomed large behind her.  I was a bit nervous. We went over my history together and I started to relax a bit.  I liked her matter-of-fact nature and of course, her English was perfect. I relaxed a bit more.

She then said, “Ok, time to exam you.” Yikes! To be fair, I did get a curtain to take my jeans and underwear off but after a minute, she just pulled back the curtain and motioned me to the table. I was like, uh, I’m used to some sort of cover.  It took her a moment for her to realize what my problem was and she said, “Oh, do you need a blanket? I have a blanket.” She said this with an amused look on her face. As she’d already seen the goods, so to speak, I now felt ridiculous trying to cover my ladybits with my hands. So I declined the blanket and said “when in Deutschland” and strode – yes strode – ASS OUT, people – up to that table and hopped on. I told her that since I was living here in Germany, I’d better get used to the German way of being comfortable with nudity. “We are shameless, aren’t we?” she chuckled.

So far, so good, I thought to myself. I was even a little bit proud of myself for nixing the blanket. Anyway, after my pelvic exam, I almost ran across the room to get my clothes back on (baby steps, people!) and when I turned, there was the very nice doctor standing there with that amused look on her face. I thought, Oh, God, what now?

“I must examine your breasts.” And she stood there. Which meant, yep, you guessed it. The German way. Take that shit off, now. So I sighed and took my shirt and bra off right in front of her. I had never done that before in my entire life, which is weird, when you think about all the doctors I’ve seen in my time. But you know what? I didn’t die of embarrassment or shame. She’s seen it all. And at the end of the day, who really gives a shit if a doctor sees your naked body? I have to admit, after that experience all the hyper modesty in the US does seem, well, kinda stupid.

I think I can get used to the German Way… which is so much better than the hard way.

 

How to be Woke

Listen up: my fellow white Americans:

If you want to be an ally, if you want to be “woke” then please stop grasping at every other reason except for the obvious reason. People voted for der Gr0penführer (Thanks, Internet!) because they liked his disgusting views. They liked that he made fun of people with disabilities and that he said he would persecute Muslims. They liked that he wanted to roll back women and LGBTQ rights. They liked that he ranted about building walls and about how Mexican were rapists. He won because the majority of white Americans are still invested in white supremacy. He won because the majority of (again white) Americans are invested in the patriarchy. He was endorsed by the KKK and other far right wing groups. There is no whitewashing what this election revealed about this country.

If this reality makes you uncomfortable, makes you cringe, makes you feel ashamed, then open your eyes, learn, listen and fight back. POC don’t need your pity. What we do need you to do is not get defensive, not brush aside their (now very validated) concerns or tell them a variation of “don’t be so sensitive/don’t overreact/it’s not that bad.” Or “All lives matter” or whatever you need to tell yourself to convince yourself that we’re living in some post-racial promise land. And, please, stop letting racism and sexism and bigotry slide when you hear/see it. Don’t bite your tongue to be polite or keep the peace. Don’t “agree to disagree” anymore. Change minds, shame bigots, tell them why.

You want to help? Then speak up. Have our backs. For real. Fight as if YOUR rights were on the line. If you are at dinner or in the office or at a party and someone says something racist, then call them out. Right then and there. Tell them it isn’t acceptable. Tell them you don’t want to hear it. Don’t be silent. You don’t have to give a speech, you don’t have to take a class. Just say, quietly and firmly, “that kind of [joke/comment/thinking] is not acceptable. And I don’t find it funny/I don’t agree.” And if you get pushback from a bully (many racists, I’ve found, are classic bullies), you can leave it there or simply repeat yourself. Your strength here is you are in the right. Completely. You have the moral high ground. They are on the wrong side of history, period, and if you back down, then you will be too.

In my 40+ years, I have been called a nigger, a black bitch, a spook, a porch monkey (even a wetback once when this particular bigot wasn’t sure of which racial slur to hurl at me) – on the East Coast, in the Midwest, in the South and on the West Coast. I have been treated like a criminal often when I shopped and dined – all over the country. I have been insulted, sneered at and screamed at by adults and children alike. I’ve been hassled by cops and security guards. I’ve been told I’m articulate, pretty “for a black girl” or I have a “nice color” (by the way, “compliments” like the aforementioned are racist). I have been told that my degree from NYU was gotten not because I had an exemplary HS record and got in early decision, but because of “special treatment.” Same with my Ivy League law degree.

I say this not for sympathy – I’m no one’s victim and I’m certainly not alone in my experiences as a minority in America. I don’t feel sorry for myself at all – my life is full of blessings and wonderful friends and family. Heck, I live in Germany with my lovely German husband. I have universal healthcare, a place to live, a great education and money in the bank. My life is awesome and I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m proud to be a black woman descended from slaves who helped build America with our tears, sweat, toil and blood. I’m just telling you, that I know exactly who these people are because I’ve known them my whole life. Now you do too.

Don’t let them get away with what they want to do to our country. I will help you anyway I can, I promise if you approach me with an open heart and thoughtful mind I will talk to you about these issues. I will do my best to make you understand how I, and so many other POC feel.

But if you want me to take back or temper what I said or make you feel better about that racist brother/uncle/mother of yours, then please talk to someone else. I’m not here to make you feel better about reality. And I’m not here to listen to the excuses, false equivalencies or flat out lies you will need in order to rationalize your Dad’s vote. Unfriend me, don’t call me, don’t invite me to your parties, whatever. Do what you have to do to keep your head in the sand. But don’t talk to me anymore. I’ll be over here with the resistance.

chappellestfu

To the apologisers and enablers….

So

Ok, guys. I went dark not only because I was studying German like a mofo these past couple of months but also because I wanted to wait to write after this election season was over.

Well it is over and about 25% of American voters chose the orange butthole to be the next President. To the 47% of eligible voters who couldn’t be bothered to vote – fuck you – but this post is not about those fuckwits, but the ones who voted for the puckered orange butthole of  malignant narcissism.

In the first time in nearly 3 decades of voting, I will say, unequivocally, that he is NOT my president. I didn’t like either Bush but they were my – our Presidents – but this thing is not and he never will be. I was one of the 93% of African-American women voters who voted for Hillary Rodham Clinton. I will hold on to that, even as I’m deeply hurt and ashamed that my home state of Pennyslvania, the gotdamn birthplace of our nation, FFS, decided this complete ball of hateful incompetency would make a good POTUS.

And I’m done crying.

To the white Americans who voted this piece of shit into office: this is all on you now (I believe over 50% of white women and over 60% of white men voted for this POS). You can hem and haw (the media! the FBI!), but this is all your fucking fault. You did this. And you are no better than him. You voted for (just to name a few):

Racism

Sexism (including rape, sexual assault and harassment of women)

Homophobia

Classism and Social inequality

Religious Persecution

And against:
Democracy and Freedom. Against the principles this country was founded on – these include, but are not limited to, freedom of religion, expression and assembly. These tenants are the foundation of our Republic and you voted against that. Just making sure we’re clear.

You did this. You broke it and I blame you, and I will hold you accountable for the demise of our Republic. I don’t want to hear about “emails” or “I Just didn’t like her” or her husband was a “sleaze.” There is no valid reason except rabid racism and sexism as to why you would choose Cheetolini – an admitted sexual predator and business and tax cheat – over someone who is smart, immensely qualified and experienced. No decent white person (and there are obviously many) who is not a racist, bigot and/or sexist asshole would ever, in good conscience, vote for this man. That is the truth, so if you did, you are a racist/sexist piece of shit just like him. Or, if you are a woman, you are also definitely a racist and a sexist and, in addition, a self-loathing piece of shit -just like him.

No, no, don’t try to weasel out of it now even as you celebrate the occasion of shooting yourselves straight between the eyes – don’t try to tell me that you were unaware of his ties to the alt-right or that he was endorsed by the KKK or his anti-semitic taunts or that he believes women are just objects to be used and discarded at will. Or that he didn’t really “mean” all that he has said and done. Or that evidence of his vile racism doesn’t go back decades. Don’t tell me you didn’t know he’s been attacking President Obama for years about not being a “real” American with his Birther lies. You sat by while the Republicans obstructed and attacked President Obama at every turn. You didn’t care, because you agree with him and reveled in his filthy, disgusting, hateful bile. You called yourselves Christians and then proceeded to go against every teaching of Jesus Christ. (Did you forget that Slaveowners were nominally Christians too? Well I didn’t). You are hypocrites of the first order.

You told yourself he was just “tapping into” a “populist,” “anti-establishment” sentiment. GMAFB. Spoiled little dumb rich boy who inherited Daddy’s money is about as establishment as you can get. And you fell for it, hook, line and sinker;  just as long as he kept reinforcing your deluded sense of white privilege.

For 18 months, hell, for years, you heard it all and you embraced it, endorsed it and waved it away as “boy talk.” You think black people didn’t know what you meant when you said “well, I like him because he tells it like it is.” Oh, yea, we know exactly what he meant and what you meant. You meant that you like that he says out loud what you truly feel about your fellow black and brown and gay and Muslim and Jewish, etc., citizens. You like that he makes fun of people with physical disabilities and that he thinks a woman’s worth is tied solely to whatever she can do on her back (but only while she is “hot” and under the age of 35, natch). You like that he promises to give you “your” country back to you, presumably from all those nasty women and coloreds who have taken it away from you.

You know what, I saw those rallies and I heard people screaming their slurs and their bile and their threats. I won’t bother repeating them here. A lot of them were what I have come to know from my years coming of age in the 1970s and 1980s in Pennsyltucky – not very bright, ignorant, usually fat*, typically ugly*, losers who can’t compete on the global stage and cling to their whiteness because they have nothing else to offer the world. No honor, no character and no compassion or heart. People who know that the color of their skin is the sole advantage they have in this 21st century economy, because they know they could never compete (let alone win) on the global stage that is, more and more, rapidly becoming a reality. But I actually have more respect for those people. At least they own their racism and are unafraid to shout it from the rooftops and wave their little Confederate flags. They’re gross and stupid, no doubt, but at least they have the courage of their fucked-up convictions.

But the ones who I truly despise, the worst of the worst, are the cowards who should know better, who do know better, but don’t care to and don’t care – about anyone but themselves and the maintenance of their white supremacy. The ones who are willing to burn down our democracy so they can prolong the status quo of white privilege.

Y’all people make me especially sick.

And when your orange Gropenführer (TM, Internet) fucks you over (because like all dictators he will), I will laugh in your face and tell you I told you so and that it is all your fault that you’re suffering. I just hope that me and mine aren’t dragged down with you.

Oh, and one more thing. You may have won this battle, but we’re going to win the war. Women aren’t going back to the times when they could be raped and beaten with impunity. Black people aren’t going to the back of the bus. And gays aren’t going back in the closet. If you, the GOP and der Gropenführer think we won’t fight tooth and nail to get our country back from your evil clutches, you’re stupider than I thought.

So bring it on. Oh, and, fuck you very much.

*Normally, I don’t go after people’s physical appearance, but since Cheetolini has lived his life judging women by their appearance, I feel it’s fine for me to say that I’ve noticed again and again just how frankly unattractive his supporters tend to be.  All that hate must be bad for the skin. Just sayin’.

Summertime Blues

Philly bei Berlin here!

Hello my lovelies, I had to go dark for a bit. I needed to avoid my laptop during the RNC to avoid writing a raging, stroke-inducing rant about the liars, bigots, frauds and fascists trying to take over my country… All that hateful bullshit made me want to just stay under the covers. But I’m back, hopefully with a light diversion (read, rant) for y’all to enjoy.

Summer used to be my favorite time of year but I think I maybe changing that opinion since moving to Berlin…

The thing about Berlin is that it can be 80°F in the sun and then feel like 60°F in the shade. I shit you not. There is rarely air conditioning (Europeans in general eschew A/C, like it’s the devil or something… but more on that later) in buildings or on public transportation. So on hot days you will dress accordingly, but then, suddenly, there’s a breeze or a surprise summer rain and you’re suddenly freezing. Or you’re on the U-Bahn and there’s a heavy fan blowing right on top of your head that does nothing to cool you but everything to ensure that all the nasty little summer bugs get evenly distributed to all passengers. Lemme tell ya, it gets old having to schlep a sweater and/or umbrella with you every damn day or risk the consequences.

I’ve said this before and I no doubt will say it again: Berlin, I love you, but your weather is absolute shit.

So back to the lack of A/C… Berliners, like many Europeans I’ve met, hate A/C. They bitch about how it’s “so cold” (er, that’s the idea, folks) and it pumps in “bad air” and they prefer “fresh” air. They also say that you don’t “need” A/C in Germany. OhRilly? It was nearly 90°F for several days in a row already and the summer’s not over, y’all.  And yea, I get that maybe, like in 1963 or something, the summers never got too hot, but haven’t these people noticed Global Warming? It can and does get hot as balls here every summer – I know it’s North Germany, but c’mon. Can you imagine, say, Bostonians or Chicagoans being all: well, we only really need it, for a month or maaaybe two and the rest of the time it’s cool to cold, so why bother? Nope. Nope. Nope.

Nope. Nope. Nope.

 No, Americans know that when you do need A/C you need it and it doesn’t matter if it’s “only” for one month out of the year.

Last year, whilst (gotta love British English!) buying our apartment, the builders had the nerve to look at me like I was nuts when I asked why they weren’t installing A/C in the units. I basically got a shrug as an answer and the equivalent of a “you don’t really need it, lil’ lady” pat on the head. You know what, dawg? Fuck. You. I do really fucking need it when it’s fucking hot outside. In 85°F+ weather, hot air coming in from the windows ain’t gonna do dick when I burst into flames. This is where the smug superiority some Europeans have toward Americans and our ways does get on my last damn nerve considering a big chunk of the populous smoke like chimneys. Oh yea, lemme explain this particular special brand of Euro-hypocrisy. They hate A/C because it is somehow “bad” for you (see above) and yet a lot of them smoke, like, alot. But they’re all about loving “fresh” air. Eye roll.

Yea, when it's hot outside. I want my A/C inside.

Yea, when it’s hot outside. I want my A/C inside.

This bad habit of theirs would be okay in summer if you could close your windows like a normal person and, you know, turn on the gotdamn A/C. But your choice is to either keep your windows shut and turn into a raisin from the heat or keep the windows open and die of second-hand smoke from all your neighbors on their balconies and passersby smoking in the street. Talk about “bad air,” people. When I complain to Hubs he just kind of gives me that especially annoying Euro-style “what’s the big deal?” look. I feel like I’m going to have to wear a ventilator mask just to survive the summer. It’s lung cancer or heat stroke, y’all.

But at least Hubs, bless, made sure to install window screens in our apartment. Yes, that’s another odd thing about Germany – the windows have no screens and they will keep the windows open all day long. This habit cracks me up.

I remember my parents yelling at my brother and me if one of us left a (screenless) door or window open in the summertime: Don’t let bugs in!!!! Are you trying to let the bugs in?!? What are you thinking?! Ah, good times. And I also remember having fly swatters and all kinds of toxic bug sprays placed strategically all over the house and my Dad, in particular, trying to kill every fly, gnat and insect that dared venture into his domain. Killing insects was serious business in the ‘70s. And growing up in semi-rural Pennsylvania, my parents really couldn’t afford A/C, but they damn sure had screens on most doors and windows, otherwise, we would have been eaten alive/stung into oblivion. Either Germany has less, er, wildlife or they don’t really care, because most windows here have no screens and as I said, they just leave the windows wide open all day in the summer.

Our temporary apartment last summer (4th floor and HOT as blazes) had no window screens and with the windows open, natch, it was not unusual to get all manner of flora and fauna coming in to visit while cooking or doing one’s morning toilette. It’s no big deal if it’s a stray leaf or ladybug but I’m sorry to say that on more than a few occasions, I had to flee a room, with haste, ceding territory to a wasp or bee that decided they wanted to hang out and chill before heading back out the wide open window.

I will say some nice things about Berlin in summer: it doesn’t get dark until after 9 pm, having fresh pedicures matter again, there’s awesome ice cream and of course cold beer is available on every corner. It’s also fun to explore the city without 50,000 layers of clothing.

Just bring along your ventilator mask.

Viva le Deutsch

Y’all know all about my struggles learning German. In this past year of intense lessons, German has consistently kicked my ass on the regular and has even made me cry.  Today, my German is by no means “good” – but it isn’t bad. I can get by. I can get around Berlin on my own. I can have simple conversations and, more importantly, understand simple conversations – without having to hear it two or three *&#*)@! times. In other words, I have a long road to go before I am anywhere near fluent: BUT and this is the big but, I am over the DUDEN hump, as it were.

Maybe it’s different for others, but German intimidated the crap out of me up until probably a few months ago when things started to click a little and it stopped being so horrifyingly, over-the-top strange.  You see, German has a fuckton of rules and it’s not like you can gloss over them and get the gist. Nope. In the beginning, you just have to accept that your brain will be cleaved open and you’ll be forced to learn all that shit at once – the crazy grammar rules, the endless vocabulary (there are two words for melt – one of which only applies to butter? Seriously, people?! WTF??!) add to that the tongue-twister-y pronunciation and yea, it feels impossible.

I say all this, my lovelies, because my previous posts about The Awful German Language (TM Mark Twain) were really just the rantings of an exhausted and confused beginner. With a little distance and perspective, I’ve come to appreciate the language for what it is and even to, dare I say it, like German.

No, I’m not crazy. (And, no, I don’t think this is the language student equivalent of Stockholm Syndrome). And no, this doesn’t mean I lose my right to never rant about German again because, well, it’s German. Everybody, even Germans, bitch about German. But German is cool. And German is kinda badass in a way English can never be. While English may have some $50 words, German has like $50,000 words. Words that have no direct translation in English. Single words that require many English words just to understand the meaning, and even translated thusly, it’s still a weak translation. You just have to understand what it means and leave it be.

Words like– Die Gemütlichkeit (noun)/gemütlich (adjective): This word – or concept – is huge in German. It means, roughly, a combination of the following English words: “cozy”, “comfortable”, “warm (in the sense of inviting)”, “homey”, “secure.” If a German tells you your home is gemütlich, then that is high, high praise. One word says so much.

Another thing that’s jarring when learning German is accepting the preciseness of the language. Some say anal retentiveness – tomay-to, tomah-to…  German can have many words for just one English word. At first, this is maddening (because really, you have enough to fucking remember in the beginning with the grammar from hell and all without drowning in vocabulary), but after awhile, you come to appreciate this feature of the language. You can’t just plop any old word into a sentence and be understood. Nope. You gotta know the right word to use in the right context. Talk about a deep bench.

Take one simple English word like “order” – it can be a verb (to order something, for example), it can be a noun that means an order you place at a restaurant or a military command. One can also put their affairs “in order.” English is flexible, and that’s what probably makes it so easy and yet so difficult to learn all at the same time. But this post is about learning German, and yea, you guessed it, German has several words that all translate into that one itty-bitty English word “order” (Ordnung, Befehl, Bestellung, to name a few) – and there’s no real relation to them, you just have to memorize and know which word to use in the right context. Again, maddening, but when you find yourself reaching for the right word and you actually find it and drop it correctly into the sentence, you get all gooey with a sense of achievement.

I'm all like YAY!!!

I’m all like YAY!!!

Also kinda fun is the famous way German builds superwords by putting together smaller words like some demented video game. There are the relatively simple words like “Fahrstuhl” which means elevator (but translated directly, means “driving chair” * giggle*) or “Blumentopferde (potting soil). Then there are words like Streichholzschächtelchen (little box of matches). When you first see words like that, you flip out, because, really, people?!? WTF? But in the end, such words wind up helping a sista out, ‘cuz I can often guess the meaning of the superword by picking out the words I recognize.

Yea, I know.

Yea, I know.

Finally, for the native English speaker, German can be unintentionally hilarious. It really is. When the word for driving is conjugated in the third person singular (fährt), it sounds like the English word for, yep, you guessed it, fart (yes, I’m juvenile and, yea, it still makes me a giggle). Die Schnecke means snail. A slug in German is a Nacktschnecke (a naked snail). Once, when Hubs and I were walking and saw a slug on the ground, he remarked offhandedly, “oh, look, it’s without its house.” And I was like, “what?!” And he repeated reasonably, “it doesn’t have its house.” And I said –while dissolving into fits of giggles – “you mean the shell?! You call the shell a house!?!” As I cackled, Hubs looked at me like I was nuts because for him it makes perfect sense to call it a house, because in German, a snail shell is, you guessed it: a Schneckenhaus (see above about building words). The slug’s not only naked, y’all, it doesn’t have its HOUSE. That shit cracks me up.

giggle

I tell ya, slugs and beginner students of German may  have it rough auf Deutsch, but if you can learn to appreciate the unintentional humor and just roll with it, you can also start to enjoy German’s payoffs. Payoffs like, for example, being able to figure out what the hell a Rechtsschutzversicherungsgesellschaften* means all by yourself! (*Insurance companies providing legal protection).

 

TOP 5

In continuation of my theme discussed in my last post (It’s The Little Things), I want to discuss some more “little things” that are different from my life in the US, but that I actually prefer. Shocking! This won’t be another bitchfest, my lovelies. Here are some “little things” that I love about living in Berlin that I’m sure I would miss if I ever move back to the states.

  1. Life of leisure. I’ve noticed that even in a big city like Berlin, the Germans don’t do a lot of rushing around all willy nilly. (I love using willy nilly… we need to bring that back, people…) They walk at a slower pace, they take their time, a lot of them sit to drink their “coffee to go.” Vacation, days off, Sundays – downtime is a big damn deal in Germany and time off is sacrosanct. They even have a specific word (Feierabend) that literally means “Holiday night” but loosely translated it means the time you get off work or “quittin’ time.” A German will wish someone a “frohen Feierabend” just for finishing work for the damn day. I’ll wait *while your American minds are blown…*
    HomerMindBlown
    Sometimes I go into automatic American Type A girl mode: I walk fast, I’m constantly watching the clock and I’m annoyed that I have to wait 3 whole minutes for the U-Bahn … and then I’m, like,… whoa girl, slow your roll… what’s the hurry? As a Berliner would say: girl, gechillt. It’s disconcerting, this slower pace, but great.
  1. The supermarket food – from cold cuts to whole grain bread to yogurt – is far superior to the typical stuff you buy at supermarkets in the states. The lettuce is crisp, the six pack of beer for less than 4 euros is AMAZING and the bread is to DIE FOR, yafeelme? And it’s cheap. Like the cheap supermarket brand salami is delicious. Sure you can make the extra effort to go to an upscale market here in Berlin and spend a grip for some la-de-da charcuterie and it will be fine, but heck, that’s what you had to do in the states just to get quality stuff (I still miss you Di Bruno Bros. *sniff*). Or venture to an upscale grocery store and basically get robbed at gunpoint for average food (*cough*WholePaycheck*cough*). Hubs used to bitch about the quality (or lack thereof) of the food in the US. I used to think he was just whining (and I rolled my eyes accordingly), but I so get it now. Food here is good y’all, and I have the 15 extra pounds to prove it.

    I've embraced carbs and full fat cheese again.  Don't judge me.

    I’ve embraced carbs and full fat cheese again. Don’t judge me.

  1. Less is More. Berliners are not as glam as New Yorkers, and that’s starting to be a relief. At first, it was a bit strange – every place I went to I was inevitably overdressed, and it ain’t like I’m some Supermodel. But after a few months here, I realize it’s actually nice not to have to get all red carpeted up just to go to dinner in your neighborhood or grab coffee with your friends. It’s not that serious. Throw on some jeans, booties and some sort of casual jacket (Anorak, leather and denim jackets abound) and you’re done. A little mascara and lipgloss goes a long way in Berlin. Even the Berlin women I have spotted who seem to give a damn about fashion have the casual, effortless chic thing down pat. This goes hand in hand with point #1 above. I think Berliners think life is too short to spend hours putting on make up and getting gussied up on the regular, or trying to hobble around this vast city on stilettos. And I dig it.
  1. They love to sit outside. I can’t say I blame them – Berliners are forced to stay indoors as it seems like 90% of the time the weather is absolute crap here – it’s cold, it’s rainy, it’s gray, it’s snowing, it’s all of the above. So as soon as the sun is out, the Berliners are OUTSIDE in force. They are having coffee outside. Beer outside. Ice cream outside. Breakfast, lunch and dinner outside. Restaurants offer blankets to their customers. It was barely 40° here a few weeks back, but the sun was out and so were the Berliners. Now, I’m not one for shivering while guzzling down my beer (I’ll be one of the folks inside, Danke), but it does make me smile when I walk around the city and see all these Berliners soaking up that cold, Prussian sun.
  1. This little thing just pertains to my slowly improving German skillz… but it makes me happy so here it is. I can now pick up bits and pieces of conversation on the street. It used to be a cacophony of gibberish surrounding me – if I closed my eyes I could have been anywhere in the world where English is not spoken, that’s how lost I felt. I had no idea what anyone was saying most of the time and as a highly verbal person, it bugged the crap out of me. Now, I actually am starting to understand some conversations I hear in passing. Without trying too hard. I even caught two young German women misusing the dative (“…neben dem Apotheke”(next to the Pharmacy)), no, darlings, I thought to myself it’s “neben der Apotheke.” I wasn’t smug at all, no siree bob, because obviously these young ladies were native speakers who can butcher and slang their way through their mother tongue as they damn well pleased. But for a newbie like me? I was thrilled that I knew enough German to (1) follow their conversation at all and (2) that I knew enough German that I knew they had made a grammatical mistake. It was ridiculously exciting for me. And this is happening more often. Hubs is patiently indulging my ceaseless childlike glee that I can actually, sometimes truly understand German, bless.

    I understood 3 words of German and I'm all like YAY!!!

    I understood 3 words of German and I’m all like YAY!!!

So that’s it for now. As I assimilate further, I look forward to adding to this list. Berlin: so far, so good…

 

 

It’s The Little Things

Miss me, bitches?

I’m still alive (although German did its damndest to do me in this winter)! Spring is now here and with my achievement of Deutschbasiskentniss, I can relax and try to live a little, which includes writing to you all.

Today’s post is about some of the “little stuff” – the small things that are different from what you’re used to in your home country and how adjusting to those tiny differences are all part of the expatriation process. One of these days, none of the stuff I’ve listed below will seem all that odd, but for now, since I’ve been here for less than a year, I will make note (read bitch) about some of the peculiarities of living here in Germany.

And in no particular order, they are as follows …

  1. What’s with the small jars of sauce, people? I mean, Germans are not dainty eaters. Nor are they small people. Why do they only sell little-ass jars of sauces, chutneys, nut butters, etc. It’s really strange. I made chicken curry the other day from a jar (don’t judge me) and the sauce was delicious but… there was barely enough for two people. Hubs made like Oliver Twist, thrusting his bowl at me and was all plaintive like, “is there more sauce?!” And I’m like, um, no, there isn’t more sauce because your people don’t sell large jars of sauce. Nope. I mean, Germans have families. Someone might want seconds. Are you just supposed to buy a shitload of jars every time you want to make spaghetti? Or are you just not supposed to eat too fucking much? Which is a whole ‘nother story…
  1. Our favorite bakery does not sell muffins on Sunday. Let me give you a moment to let that sink in. There are no *@&#*@! muffins on Sunday morning at the bakery. They have special Sunday hours (8-11 am) so Germans can get their daily bread on. But what about those delicious crack berry buttermilk muffins they offer every other day of the week?! What if you want some muffins to enhance your at-home Sunday brunch??! The lady at the counter told Hubs when he inquired about the muffins, “never on Sundays.” Muffins: Verboten on Sundays. Got it. Germay, you are the poorer for it, IMHO.
  2. Speaking of Brunch. Pancakes do not exist in Germany. Germans have something called “Pfannkuchen” (which literally means “pan cake”) however, no one would recognize them as the good ol’ pancakes we know and love in the states. I have seen crepes called “Pfannkuchen” and I’ve seen DONUTS called “Pfannkuchen”, go figure. I don’t think Germans really know what the hell a “pan cake” is – but it’s not even close to what we call a “pancake.” And it’s a shame, too, ‘cuz they would love ‘em if they gave them a chance. Hell, my 82-year-old mother-in-law loves ‘em – has no idea what they are, other than it’s a “traditional American breakfast food.” She’s all, whatever, who cares what they are, pass the syrup. Yes, Germany, pancakes are awesome and you need them in your life. Get onboard.
  1. The burgers here are … different. Not different bad, just that burger places tend to spice and prepare their burgers a little, shall we say, differently, than what my American palate is used to. It’s not like the burgers here don’t taste good … they just … don’t taste like a burger. Instead of 100% beef, I believe a good many Germans take the “ham” in hamburger to heart and sneak some pork into that action. Others spice the meat strangely (like adding curry?! WTF?) In fact, I have only been to one burger joint in Berlin that has a burger that tastes truly like an “American”-style beef burger. And it is delish: Burgers Berlin in Schöneberg: http://www.yelp.de/biz/burgers-berlin-berlin-2. What’s hilarious about Burgergate is how Hubs will happily scarf down what I derisively call a “gotdam curryburger” and have the balls to tell me it tastes “fine” to him. As if the man didn’t spend 15 fucking years in the US eating properly-prepared American burgers (I expect more from you, Hubs).
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  1. English is everywhere, and everyone speaks English but T-shirts emblazoned with dumb English phrases are all the rage. I’ve discovered that Germans use English A LOT. Especially in advertising; it is “hip” to use English to sell everything from gym memberships to cars. I’ve seen English on throw pillows and coffee cups. I’ve seen tons of US teamware – Yankees, Brooklyn Nets, etc. on people that probably don’t even watch the MLB or NBA. Germans have adopted English words like “cool” and “super” and liberally use them in everyday speech. Yet that doesn’t stop clothing stores from selling t-shirts with straight up dumb shit auf Englisch emblazoned on them. Like, really corny stuff: “I like you.” Um, okay? Cringe.  Seriously, with all the damn native speakers running around this country and with all the Germans who speak decent English, can’t these people hire someone to come up with sayings that don’t suck?
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But all that said, this native English speaker is enjoying life in Berlin and is, in fact, happy to be here… (Although I will continue to make my own pancakes, buy my sauces in bulk and reserve my slogan T-shirt buying to trips to the US…)