To Du or not to Du.

MfG

This is becoming quite depressing; for the third time in two months I have been snubbed in the same manner: after chatting with a new aquaintence we shook hands and I offered my first name only to be completely blanked and rebuffed by the lack of a reciprocal first name. These are not complete strangers, but neighbours and local people who know we moved here recently and who we are interacting with.

After reflecting upon this, I have come to the simplistic conclusion that the blame for snubbing, cashier rudeness and don’t mention the war, can be blamed on the use of the formal ‘Sie’ and informal ‘Du’ in Germany (in English, ‘you’).

As I understand it, Du is for children and friends, Sie is for everyone else. Du is diminutive whilst Sie has gravitas.

Nobody likes being belittled or made feel unimportant, yet that is what happens every day to German kids. In general, children are only allowed call parents, family or other kids, ‘Du‘. All teachers and adults must be called  ‘Sie’, conversely all children are called ‘Du’ by everyone.

There is a clear association with power, superiority and inferiority in the use of these words, consequently, it is only natural for a child to aspire to being called ‘Sie’. And when a child becomes an adult and is called ‘Sie’ by strangers and children, it does not want to go back to being called ‘Du’ by just anyone because this implies inferiority.

When I asked my wife why people were being rude and not reciprocating with first names, she said that it was probably because they do not want me to call them ‘Du’ which might happen if they give me their first name (this is termed ‘offering the Du’).  Consequently, just because of the words Sie and Du, a natural barrier to friendliness exists.

It’s human nature, those on top want to stay there… and I suppose its entirely un-realisitic to expect evolution (progression?) on this since Sie and Du are central tenets of German identy and culture. Would Mozart and Beethoven have created their masterpieces if everyone had called them Du?

What kind of silly question is that? I’m going mad!

Anyway, I am convinced that only these two words ‘Sie’ and ‘Du’ are the whole reason for German formality and rigidity in business and in fact  in all walks of life; everyone wants to be called Herr or Frau because they are afraid of losing status and being belittled by ‘Du’ thus christinan names cannot be used.

It’s a different culture, and when in Rome do as the Romans do etc. but if I do this I am contributing to the problem. True, it is probably not perceived as a a problem by germs but nevertheless I am severely tempted to use the English ‘you‘ in German conversations, and continue to offer my christian name – just to see what happens;-)

MfG!

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To Du or not to Du; Sie vs. Du -the reason things are they way they are here?

MfG

This is becoming quite depressing; for the third time in two months I have been snubbed in the same manner: after chatting with a new aquaintence we shook hands and I offered my first name only to be completely blanked and rebuffed by the lack of a reciprocal first name. These are not complete strangers, but neighbours and local people who know we moved here recently and who we are interacting with.

After reflecting upon this, I have come to the simplistic conclusion that the blame for snubbing, cashier rudeness and don’t mention the war, can be blamed on the use of the formal ‘Sie’ and informal ‘Du’ in Germany (in English, ‘you’).

As I understand it, Du is for children and friends, Sie is for everyone else. Du is diminutive whilst Sie has gravitas.

Nobody likes being belittled or made feel unimportant, yet that is what happens every day to German kids. In general, children are only allowed call parents, family or other kids, ‘Du‘. All teachers and adults must be called  ‘Sie’, conversely all children are called ‘Du’ by everyone.

There is a clear association with power, superiority and inferiority in the use of these words, consequently, it is only natural for a child to aspire to being called ‘Sie’. And when a child becomes an adult and is called ‘Sie’ by strangers and children, it does not want to go back to being called ‘Du’ by just anyone because this implies inferiority.

When I asked my wife why people were being rude and not reciprocating with first names, she said that it was probably because they do not want me to call them ‘Du’ which might happen if they give me their first name (this is termed ‘offering the Du’).  Consequently, just because of the words Sie and Du, a natural barrier to friendliness exists.

It’s human nature, those on top want to stay there… and I suppose its entirely un-realisitic to expect evolution (progression?) on this since Sie and Du are central tenets of German identy and culture. Would Mozart and Beethoven have created their masterpieces if everyone had called them Du?

What kind of silly question is that? I’m going mad!

Anyway, I am convinced that only these two words ‘Sie’ and ‘Du’ are the whole reason for German formality and rigidity in business and in fact  in all walks of life; everyone wants to be called Herr or Frau because they are afraid of losing status and being belittled by ‘Du’ thus christinan names cannot be used.

It’s a different culture, and when in Rome do as the Romans do etc. but if I do this I am contributing to the problem. True, it is probably not perceived as a a problem by germs but nevertheless I am severely tempted to use the English ‘you‘ in German conversations, and continue to offer my christian name – just to see what happens;-)

MfG!

Motorway SEX SHOP!

We went to the baumarkt (DIY shop) last week. As we parked, the ten-year-old asked: “where’s the sex shop?” resulting in a incongrous burst of hilarity and concern.

The  motorway service station on a previous day had a sex shop beside it. Luckily it was impossible to miss, proclaiming in gigantic red letters ‘SEX SHOP’. The kids immediately started up “what’s it for” etc… we managed to divert their attention.

For some reason he now thinks there are sex shops all over the place.  He also thinks SEX Shops are where women buy lipstick and teeth whitener and stuff to make them sexy… we haven’t corrected him.

He turns eleven today; I’ll miss his innocence.

 

Lets go camping

it’s a really nice bank holiday weekend, let’s go camping? Wow, what a great idea!

Oh no,  I forgot, we can’t; the whole neighbourhood is supposed to be weeding and sweeping the streets tomorrow.

Why can’t they leave a perfectly good bank holiday weekend alone?

I agree, there is something to be said for community spirit, but sometimes it’s just a bit over the top.

 

Ausländer: outsider, foreigner.

I  admit the following opinion is totally unreasonable since ausländer is an official German word.

I find I am unnerved by the term ‘ausländer’. I heard the words ausländer’ and ‘spreche kein Deutsch’ today as I walked past some parents at the local school.

Ausländer, to my ears, sounds like aggressive, like “get out of my land”.  Unlike the English word foreigner, it does not only mean foreigner, it also means outsider, someone who does not ‘fit in’ socially or who is not socially accepted or ‘not one of us’. Why does it have to be used when (according to the dictionary) the nicer sounding word ‘fremde’ is available?

This  can’t really be true, can it? according to an online dictionary, the word ausländer only dates from 1936 (when Hitler was contributing to standards of eitequette).  click here to see it

In Ireland,  the term ‘blow in’ was a popular derogative term for emigrants returning to Ireland during the wealthy ‘Celtic Tiger’ years. You don’t hear it much now that everyone is leaving again -schadenfreude -now that’s a good German word.

Tempting kids with displays of sweets at supermarket checkouts -the adult version.

like most Irish, I am a moderate yet enthusiastic drinker. However, I can confidently state that if the price of alcohol was as low in Ireland as it is here, the country would grind to a halt overnight.

As we see, Germans have willpower. Nevertheless, those temptingly nonchalant tumbles of cigarette packs by the supermarket checkouts are too much even for them…

Whoever thought that tumbling cigarette packs in instead of lining them up in rows would make them so much more desirable? Brilliant!

cigarettes aldi

A new school

The kids changed to a new school yesterday- it’s too far to walk. Even cycling will necessitate a very early start -not something my kids are good at!

WTF, who thought it would be a good idea to advertise beer and lotto in the school bus stop?

And while I’m having a go, the smoking teens by the school gates are such an unbelievably shitty example for the younger kids- I cant believe it’s permitted.

It is noticeably calmer in the common areas of their new school; as Mr. T says “kids need discipline in schools – fool”.

Englanders are spanners

it seems my self-built campervan, may never pass a German MOT (TUV) since some parts are British and might have been made by people who were not paying attention.

The German word for adjustable spanner is ENGLANDER. I still haven’t worked out if this is intended as a slur..

Update: apparently it is so named because in the old days it was the only tool available for use on imperial nuts and bolts. Well there you go -paranoia unnecessary.

A German lesson

Käse is pronounced kay-ze. Kaiser is pronounced ki-zer.

 Our eldest boy gets a bit mixed up whilst reading and pronounces kaiser as kay-zer causing my wife to crack up.

empnpcheezy

 “it’s Emperor Penguin, not Cheesy Penguin!”

Those heavy metal dots on letters

Our eldest boy gets a bit mixed up whilst reading causing my wife to crack up:

“it’s Emperor Penguin, not Cheesy Penguin!”

cheesy penguin
Kaiser Pinguin <> Käse Pinguin

Putting dots (umlauts) on the letter A changes the sound from ai to aay -apparently…