Category Archives: opinions

my opinions

The church, Jesuits, Holy Ghost Fathers, Christian Brothers and child beating in Ireland. “Biffing”.

Although I would love to live in Ireland again, there are some things that I do not have fond memories of.

Biffing, what a great word, almost like spiffing! A spiffing good biffing! Now that’s something I never heard…

Anyone who thinks a thin bamboo cane doesn’t hurt was never biffed in school as a child. I was caned in school in Ireland between the ages of  seven and fourteen. It only  stopped at fourteen because we moved.

A 1 cm diameter bamboo cane was the priests weapon of choice. It had a curved handle where they used to hang it from the rope around their waists, with the rosary beads and the crucifix – for fucks sake, the irony.

A cane this size is both stiff and flexible. If it is used with force it acts like a whip, the tip initially lags behind but then catches up with the rest of the cane -travelling much faster.  When the cane hits your hand, instantly, at the point of contact you feel a terrible stinging, as if you had been stung 20 times by wasps on every finger (the priests usually hit you in the middle of your fingers). A second or two later the ends of your fingers go numb but also continue to hurt really badly. The point of contact of the cane remains white for some time whilst the rest of your fingers become red and inflamed. Sort of like hitting a finger with a hammer. Normally we were hit six times, three on each hand (perversly termed “six of the best”). Naturally the cane hitting you twice again in a place you had already been hit was exceedingly painful.

As younger children naturally we cried when we were hit; as we got older we would not give those fucking sadist priests the pleasure of seeing us cry.  The priests would play sick psychological games on us: when you were sent to stand outside the classroom for some minor transgression (perhaps dropping a pencil more than once),  the dean of discipline  patrolled the hallways and he would tell you that if he passed by again and you were not back in class, you would be hit. The classroom doors had  large frosted glass windows and everyone inside, including the teacher,  could see and hear these exchanges. Sometimes the teacher would you let you back in at this stage if you asked, but often he would say no. Sometimes they would let you in without asking.

Although getting hit was bad, I never asked a teacher to let me back in,  and I was always beaten. Fuck them.  When you walk back in the classroom after being beaten, the teacher and all the other kids knew you could have begged to be let back in, but you didn’t. In some way, it seemed like a small win at the time. I suppose it was. But look how bitter they have left me;   their legacy.  Fuck religion.

There was an industry in Ireland, a factory or more, which made laminated leather straps for beating schoolkids. They were made with layers of leather with  lead or coins sown into them so that it hurt more when they were used for beatings. These straps were specifically for beating school children. This was not during the time of Dickens, this was late 20th Century Ireland – for fucks sake…

This is what the Jesuits beat me with. Bad as it was,  the cane hurt more.

 

 

 

Here are two pieces of shit who beat me:

Finbarr Lynch, Belvedere college, Priest, Child beater
Arthur Carragher, St Mary’s college. Child molester, Paedophile, Child beater, priest..
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Folk Music cool double hand clapping

I like folk music. Often  people clap along at a live gig. I get it, it’s fun, but it’s also sometimes just a bit granny. For a little bit of effort, if enough people get involved, you can change a mundane hand clap into a great part of the music.

Listen to this recording of Broom Bezzums playing live at Radio Eins, Berlin. Slide the play bar to listen at time 24:17 to 24:42 and you will hear what a difference the double clap can make.
http://mediathek.rbb-online.de/radio/Die-radioeins-Dachlounge/Broom-Bezzums/radioeins/Audio?bcastId=20121112&documentId=48421928

All you need to do is clap “opposite” people who are already clapping. The easiest way to do this is clap twice as fast, using one soft and one hard clap. This does need some rhythm, it it not simply clapping twice as fast; it’s more of a bounce 1-2, 1-2, 1-2 etc.

Try it at home first with a recording so you don’t screw up the timing at a real gig!

Batty for Haloween

I wish I could get a turnip and make a proper Halloween lantern. The traditional Celtic festival has been Americanised with pumpkin culture reverse-exported back to Europe and turnips falling by the wayside. Turnip lanterns are smaller but much cooler and more sinister than pumpkins. I don’t think Germs are very familiar with them; maybe they were never traditionally eaten here or don’t suit the climate? As far as I know, there is no similarly aincent end of harvest festival here -there is Oktoberfest of course but that’s a bit different. I believe that early christians co-opted halloween (Samhain) from the pagans and stuck a holy day on it instead.

Halloween Bonfires: When I was a kid we used to “borrow” our dad’s little carpentry saws and campfire hatchets and scour the neighbourhood woods, searching for likely trees, i.e. big enough to impress but small enough for a gang of kids put a rope around and drag to the pyre. We would cut down the best trees for miles around and build a huge bonfire in a local field. If our parents had only known, we were lucky we never killed ourselves. One afternoon, after three days work,  we finally finished cutting all the way through a large beech tree but it would not fall, it’s branches were caught. So we decided to try to push it over. It fell allright -vertically; the trunk slipped off it’s stump and pile-drived deep into the earth -missing my foot by about 2″.  We ended up having to cut the tree into segments to drag it back. Not a bad days work for a bunch of 11 year olds.

Anyway, on the night itself, after going door to door begging for apples and nuts (trick or treat had yet to arrive on these shores) we would light the bonfire and set off rockets and bangers.  All the adults would invariably show up and act as if it was their fire and try to boss us about.  Nowdays however, it’s all official, neatly stacked shipping pallets and supervised by the fire brigade. Somehow a lot of the fun has been organised out of it -a bit like Carnival perhaps?

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZyX83jnxVQk&feature=player_detailpage[/tube]

A proper Irish Haloween bonfire. 

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=12TI10Gh7Ng[/tube]

In honour of the season, a bat video.

Here are some good pumpkin carving sites with tutorials:

http://www.fantasypumpkins.com/links-and-tutorials.htm

http://www.zombiepumpkins.com/

 

German Phrases -part 1: Alles Klar

Alles Klar – one of the first German phrases I understood. Alles Klar = Everything Clear i.e. I understand or do you understand, that’s simple enough right?

Nein, Alles nicht Klar, dumm auslander (no, you don’t understand, stupid foreigner). This phrase has a confusing number of meanings; here are three – but I’m sure there are more I don’t know about.

On their way to a BBQ, two friends greet each other: Angela: How’s it going? Helmut: Can’t complain!

On their way to a BBQ, two friends greet each other:

One person puts too much food on his plate at the BBQ, the other person explains he is being a pig and and asks if he understands.: Angela: Do you understand? David: Yes!

 One person puts too much food on his plate at the BBQ, the other person explains he is being a pig and and asks if he understands.: Angela: Do you understand? David: Yes!

After the BBQ, one person lets off some gas and the other person enquires of their health: Angela: Are you feeling ok? Helmut: Yes, but I think the currywurst was off.e BBQ, one person lets off some gas and the other person enquires of their health: Angela: Are you feeling ok? Helmut: Yes, but I think the currywurst was off.f.

 

 

Saudi Arabia WTF #2

It seems I was overly optimistic about  progress in this place.  The religious fuckwits, sorry fundamentalists, are still at it.

Here is a solution in that lovely shade of turquoise we all know so well.

The authorities in Saudi Arabia have stepped up warnings to women not to defy a ban on female drivers by taking part in a mass driving protest.

The interior ministry has reiterated that anyone flouting the ban is likely to face unspecified punishment.

More complaining: Stupid fishing stuff.

You would think  there might be a bit of difference in aspects of fish diet between an Island country and a mainly landlocked country such as Germany. And you would be right. Bivalves are generally called mussels (muscheln)  here -nevermind if it is not a mussel but actually a clam or an oyster -its still a muscheln in Germany. And just about the only sea fish you can find is something called sea-lachs. Lachs is salmon and trout is a salmonoid. So, I figured, see-lachs must be sea trout, right? Wrong again, -stupid auslander. See-lachs is coley -one of the shittest tasting fish in the sea. It’s not white, but a sort of pollution grey colour. It has nothing to do with lachs, it was a bullshit name dreamt up by some dickhead marketing guru. But it worked since Germs now buy 25% of the worldwide catch. Coley is actually one of the two species of pollack; sadly it’s the other one which actually tastes nice. l  suppose it tastes nicer than carp at least… Oh yes, just because it’s traditional to eat carp doesn’t mean it actually tastes nice. It’s termed a coarse fish for a very good reason and island nations don’t eat it  -I could go into further detail but it’s basically because it’s a bottom feeder that eats shit -and it tastes like it.

fish

Since I’m ranting about fish today, I see no reason to stop there; as someone who has fished since childhood, I feel obliged to say that Germany has implemented recreational angling in the most inane way possible. So you wanna take your kids fishing auslander? Well, then you have to  graduate from an angling school and join an angling club, then you can fish on the property where that club is allowed. Oh, is that all? well no actually.

In other countries anyone can just go to the sea and start fishing,  you don’t need a license. In other countries kids don’t need an angling license for coarse fish. In other countries, you are encouraged to throw fish back. Well, this isn’t other countries bucko!

Here, if you catch a fish you have to kill it. Why? I’ll tell you why: how else would you practice the mandatory fish execution skills which you were trained and certified for at fishing school? catch and release is considered inhumane so you have to put a spike in it…  If I were a fish, I’m pretty sure I would disagree.

If they were to apply this policy across the board using the logical thinking Germany is famed for, no commercially caught fish would be allowed in supermarkets since they all die slowly in air. It’s total bollocks and complete hyprocicy but it’s another rule to bash you with and that’s what matters right? In Germany, if there is a choice between logic and a rules, the rules win -even if they are fucking stupid.

I feel sorry for the poor kids, the powers that be are doing their best to legislate all the fun out of childhood, it’s not a wonder so many adults seem miserable. Me? I was born that way but stupid rules help me remember to stay that way.

heaven knows i m miserable now

It strikes me that it is actually quite fun to bitch and moan about things sometimes but the problems start when people take it up as a lifestyle choice. Then it becomes ingrained to your personality and you don’t know when to stop or you can’t stop. When this happens it makes you and everyone around you miserable.

Whether a family or a nation, when a rigid fixation on adherence to minor rules or standards of behaviour or even just implied standards of behaviour is the norm, and where not falling strictly into line and obeying without question, results in being bitched at by friends and strangers alike,  it seems quite obvious to me that the people living under these conditions will be more stressed and less happy than they could, or need to be. 

Saudi Arabia, wtf?

Finally someone talking sense, but from an unforseen direction; Saudi Arabia, that hotbed of tolerance and magnamity.

Abdulnasser Gharem is an artist/warmonger -his hobby and his job. Nevertheless, he has espoused the only sensible cause I have heard from a representative of that particular country: “I have worked out what is wrong with the world: people don’t think.  Horray, someone else worked it out too. He is 100% correct. If people would get off their lazy behinds and formulate their own opinions instead of  parroting those of their friends, relatives and TV personalities, the world would be a far more sensible and pleasant place for all.

[tube] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3bWXC4BpXb8 [/tube]

Do I get a badge?

I did expect at least a little sympathy after sanding myself with the belt sander. All I was trying to do was unclog it by banging the belt. Yes, I probably should have turned it off first and avoided a sore hand – a German would certainly have turned it off.  So do I get sympathy? No; my helpful frau informs me that I am a candidate in waiting for a Darwin award. Does that mean I can have a badge?

darw

Holy Shit!

School break: we  left the kids with opa and took a trip to Strasbourg.

It was about 10pm in the old town.  A middle aged drunk with a bimbo on each arm stumbled around the corrner.  He glanced up:  “holy fucking shit!” he shouted.

There are so many tall buildings and the street it’s on is so short, you don’t know it is there until you turn the corner and BOOM! right in your face; amazing.

We had been inside earlier in the day. To the right, barred to the crowds, lies a smaller church. Through the bars you can see a very old, painted wooden statue. The sculpture is unremarkable – except for the expression on the face -it totally blew me away.

mary2                mary2

Recovery from this near religious experience entailed drinking lots of neu wein since luckily, opa lives on the wein straße and it’s harvest time. 4.5 abv, cloudy but fizzy. -goes down a treat with the French equivalent of stilton.

 

Báidín Fheilimí

For some reason I’ve been struck with a maudlin yearning to hear schoolchildren singing Báidín Fheilimí as I remember from my childhood. It’s a great little tune and still taught in kindergarten all over Ireland. This is the only version I could find but it’s better than nothing.Báidín Fheilimí 

It’s all about Fheilimí’s little boat sinking with him and his fish. Too bad for poor Fheilimí but at least we got a nice little song out of it.

ff1-125x150

A mugful of Irony

An Irishman moves to Germany, a country famed for exceedingly cheap, excellent beer  – then discovers he is gluten intolerant and can’t drink any of it.

So he looks for some crappy (rice) beer he  can actually drink and finds the only auslander beer in the shop is some disgusting Irish piss lager with a name in the vein of  Begorrah Leprechaun MacO’Paddy.

Ireland is brilliant at making stout but they don’t have a fucking clue about lager- to paraphrase Carlsberg: “the worst lager in the world -probably”.

Satre was wrong, Hell is not other people, hell is a beer lover surrounded by beer he can’t drink  (ok, possibly an alcoholic).

-as the bloke in the Murphy’s ad say’s “I’m not bitter.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jb5IPE3tzXQ

the hell I’m not!

Sour Cream

Fajitas for dinner -yum!

Now  – if you went into a shop and bought sour cream you would be pretty confident you would actually have some nice, tasty sour cream to put on your fajitas when you sat down to dinner, right? Well that’s where you’d be wrong mein kleine Pendejo. You would actually have some kind of plasticky gloop to put on them.

My son’s favourite excuse is: “when I said yes, I actually meant no“.  Well this is a bit like that: It says sour cream but it’s not actually sour cream. You put Schmand on fajitas. Pendejo.

Dammit, this is really important. We’re in Germany right? someone should make a law against sour cream impersonation.

I don’t know what this is. I think it’s supposed to be a fajita or a burrito, but it looks like something the dog’s brought up -looks like German sour cream on top too…

Fisherman’s Friends

[tube] Os7RV5N9VLs [/tube]

Ok, I speak as much German as the Banjo picking boy from Deliverance but nevertheless a metamorphis of sorts has begun: I sucked a Fisherman’s Friend today and I didn’t even have a cold.

I just re-read that sentence and realised it sounds like a gay euphimism. Granted, this particular Fisherman’s Friend was tropical fruit not the traditional disgusting flavour – this is getting worse, yes, I sucked a fruity fishermans friend. Anyway, there are about fifty million different flavours of these here and they are sold beside the checkout in racks beside the cigarettes. I don’t even know if Germs use them for phlegm and catarrh but they definitely eat them like sweets.

In the UK  you see these pastilles, ignored and dusty, in a dark little corner of the chemists but here they are given pride of place by the supermarket checkout -what a difference- the packages are even dressed up in bright and merry pastel colours – well there is still the drawing of a sinking fishing trawler but at least the background colours are merry.

ff

 

Sie and Du -yet again!

On the basis of my extremely rigorous and statistically valid study (ok, two people) the consensus seems to be that the best reason NOT to get rid of Sie from the German language (like that’s an option!) and not using first names when you first meet someone is because it can be useful in case you wish to disagree or confront them in an unfriendly manner at some point in the future. e.g. a mechanic who has broken your car instead of fixing it, or a politician breaking a promise -yes, yes, I know – that never happens….

You can then say things like Sie ist ein Fucking Kakakopf or something like that. Now, I realise I am pretty much totally ignorant about these things but I am guessing that if you say Du ist ein fucking kakakopf to a German it has pretty much the same effect as saying Sie ist ein fucking kakakopf, right?

Click here for some examples of phrases you can use to start an argument in German.

In English, first names or formal titles have absolutely no bearing on the things you can say  to argue or disagree with someone. Yes, there is a need to keep a symbolic formal distance in some circumstances e.g. parent / teacher and patient/doctor, but this can be achieved on the basis of Mr. Mrs, Dr. etc.surname. There is no need to complicate it any further. Next argument for keeping Sie?

I would like to acknowledge my children’s invaluable advice on the difference between poohead and shithead.

What we miss about the UK

Yesterday I was asked the question: “what do you miss about Wales?”

Unexpectedly, my answer is not what I thought it would be. The thing I miss most is not being able to deal with the people who make life difficult. I can’t speak German well enough to sort out the problems with bankers, landlords and the assorted villains of modern life. Maybe when I overcome this problem, I will miss being by the sea.

The thing my wife misses most about the UK is people being nice (and she is German). Apparently there are a significant number of people in the service sector here who don’t just think it their God given right to be arseholes, but feel duty bound to do so. If you worked in a bank or shop in the UK, you would expect to lose your job if you were purposely rude to customers, right? Well, not here my little Dummkopf.  It’s almost mandatory to be rude; if you aren’t your colleagues might think you are going soft.

Does this behaviour has its roots in the Sie and Du thing and the way Germs seem to crave respect and status -at least, more so than in the British Isles?

If you are an arsehole to someone, they may not respect you but at least they know you don’t respect them, and that’s almost equivalent isn’t it? In a really twisted and fucked up way, you confer status upon yourself when you are rude to customers without danger of repercussion.  This isn’t just culture clash, it’s culture clusterfuck.

Personally, I think supermarket staff here have actually become much nicer over the last few years. Now 99% of staff will say “schones tag” when you leave the checkout, and even if they don’t mean it, it doesn’t matter since they are no longer going out of their way to be rude. Everyone is happier. I think I remember reading something about people being forced to smile for a study, the upshot was they ended up putting themselves in a good mood; maybe that’s happening here?

MfG

The correct tools

As every proper German knows, it is vitally important to use the correct tool for each and every task. Using the wrong or inappropriate tool will result in head shaking, tutting and possibly even intervention with a lecture aimed at saving you from further embarassment. This is very difficult for Irish people to understand since we were always poor as shit and probably never had the proper tool in the first place. Ask any Irish person what the first tool they used as a child was and they will tell you a hammer -probably for opening walnuts at halloween. I thought walnuts were flat until I was eleven.

Germans probably don’t really consider a hammer to be a tool. If it wouldn’t be considered as less than macho I am sure it would be redesigned: the perfect German hammer would have a laser and crosshairs to aim exactly at the right spot, a guide to make sure it follows the correct path and markings on the guide to ensure it is lifted to the correct height.

How did german cavemen survive without a  lathe for making spears? I don’t think there is even a word for “bodge” in German.

Cool German words, part 1: Zeug

Zeug, what a great German word. It’s similar to the Irish word yoke, as in “that yoke over there“.  In Ireland a yoke basically means a “thing” – when you can’t be bothered to say the word thing -or have forgotten the real name of it.

In German, as I understand it, (which may not necessarily actually be the correct understanding!) zeug means “stuff”.  And when joined to other words, it means different stuff. And Germans really, really like to join words together. e.g. Kreuzschlitzschraubenzieher = cross slit screw puller or as we know it, a phillips screwdriver -which I suppose doesn’t make sense to a foreigner either -who the hell is Phillip and why does he have a screwdriver named after him?

Anyway, I digress, here are some examples of zeug:

  • Feuerzeug =  fire stuff (cigarette lighter)
  • Flugzeug =flying stuff (Aeroplane)  
  • Werkzeug = work stuff (Tools)
  • Zeugmeister = someone in charge of stuff 

And my favourite, although not joined, Dummes Zeug = rubbish or nonsense

To be continued…

Which one is Phillip’s?

 

It’s hot!

Phew! its hot here, 32C today.

Another feature of German living: it is important to know the inside and outside temperatures at all times.

In the UK, it’s normally not really hot or cold so you don’t worry about it. If you guessed rain without looking out the window, you would probably be right.

Aber, in der Farterland not so simple – the diktat: vorsprung durch technik (advancement through technology) is an unwritten rule of life here.

Consequently Aldi, Lidl and every shop in Germany sells inside/outside wireless weather stations. And consequently, in order to be prepared, organised and appropriately attired to step outside, as all good Germans are, every home must have a wireless inside/outside thermometer -sometimes two. Hell sometimes three or four -sometimes one in every room in the house!

Lidl weather station (disclaimer: not an endorsement)

 

 

Ok, time to compare

It’ s been 5 months now, lets compare the pros and cons:

Germany: a carnivore’s paradise, clean streets, minimal public drunkenness, proper cycle paths, cheap beer, everyone eats cake at 4pm. Snow in winter, sun in summer, a decent bit sea and coastline but only in the north, you’re only allowed ten BBQ a year or you get in trouble with the stasi, many pretty streets with various house styles, no pebble-dash, people say what they mean, small talk discouraged, grossly excessive attention paid to asparagus.

Wales: public drunkeness (e.g. St Mary St on friday nights), dirty streets, crap painted cycle paths on roasd (not the barrage, that’s excellent), everyone eats cake whenever they feel like it, snow occasionally, sun occasionally, a huge coastline of beautiful beaches, as many BBQ’s as you want, lots of ugly, pebbledash housing, vegetarain food available but asparagus not worshipped, people often beat around the bush, small talk mandatory.

hmm, seems about even so far….

Pros and cons of living here

It’ s been 5 months now, lets compare the pros and cons:

Germany: a carnivore’s paradise, clean streets, minimal public drunkenness, proper cycle paths, cheap beer, everyone eats cake at 4pm. Snow in winter, sun in summer, relatively small and crowded coastline but nice beaches, you’re only allowed ten BBQ a year or you get in trouble with the stasi, many pretty streets with various house styles, no pebbledash, people say what they mean, small talk discouraged, grossly excessive attention paid to asparagus.

Wales: public drunkeness , dirty streets, crap painted cycle paths on roads, everyone eats cake whenever they feel like it. Snow occasionally, sun occasionally, a huge coastline of beautiful beaches, as many BBQ’s as you want, lots of ugly, pebbledash housing, vegetarian food available but asparagus not worshipped, people often beat around the bush, small talk mandatory.

hmm, seems about even so far….

Ah Wales…

I really miss Wales on days like this when the weather is hot, there is nowhere in the world I would rather be than Marloes Sands. Once but a short drive away, now it seems like a lifetime..

marloes sands

Too bad an idiot minister has just announced scrapping the proposed marine nature reserve at beautiful Skomer Island around the corner.

Live webcam of Skomer Island

Kampfing in Frankreich (La France)

Just back from 3 weeks Kampfing in France. Here are some things I noticed:

  • If you are a passenger in a French car you have to remove your shoes and socks and put your feet on the dashboard.
  • If you are a middle aged French man on holiday, you have to put on a garish lycra costume, aquire an expensive racing bike and cycle up and down steep hills in the middle of any really hot day. This is especially the case if the Tour-de-France happens to be ongoing.
  • They haven’t really worked out how to put electricity wires underground in towns yet.
  • The food is really nice 🙂

Teacher throwback?

Yesterday, the eldest told us everyone was laughing in school because the teacher threw a blackboard rubber at a boy who was talking and a few minutes later sellotaped another boy’s lips.

The teacher would probably be disciplined in the UK but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with using a bit of humorous embarassment as a teaching tool -within reason of course. As a matter of fact, I think it’s a great idea!

 

Britain is not in the EU -apparently

I visited the local vehicle test centre with the campervan today. Having spent the last few weeks installing new headlights and foglights and making it generally neat and tidy, I thought there was nothing more I could do to prepare it for the test.

I didn’t expect it to sail through, but I certainly didn’t expect an outright refusal to test it. According to the proprietor, since it is a U.K. reg van it cannot be tested since Britain is not in the EU and the proof of this is they don’t use the Euro.

Now, I do my own work on cars and I have always thought that, despite the popular opinion that mechanics are a bunch of dumbasses, it requires a modicum of brainpower to diagnose problems and repair them safely.

Thanks for bursting my bubble Herr Mechanic.

                  

Graffitti on the Bürgerbus

Notice on board outside kids school: €200-00 reward for information on perpetrator of this heinous crime.

No, it’s not the local B&Q burger van that’s been sprayed, it’s the peoples bus (and a Bürgermeister is a mayor,  not someone who is really good at making burgers).

Update: I have been corrected on the pronunciation of bürgerbus, its actually pronounced boogerbus. The kids cracked up laughing when they heard this – to stern looks from the correcter.

 

Disgusting name calling

Much to their enjoyment, my kids can now curse in two languages and even better, call me rude names without me realising it.

Ekelhaft schwein-kaka-kopf is their latest: disgusting pig shithead... nice…

Or, is that disgusting pigshit head?

Fair play to them though, I would use it too if I were a kid; I may even use it as an adult;-)

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!

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!

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…

Houses and planning, Germany vs. UK

Housing

In the UK, we lived in a 1940s, semi-detached, pebble-dashed, ex-council house. All the houses on the street were identical -and all equally ugly. A neighbour wanted to make some changes to his house and applied for planning permission. It was denied; the reason: it would be out-of-character with the street. Now, call me stupid, but to my mind any change to this spectacularly ugly street could only improve it. But that’s not how planning works in the UK. Common sense and aesthetics have been sidelined – why?

In Germany almost every house is different; there is not a single mindlessly-designed, profit-maximizing, identikit, wimpy estate to be seen. Most people build their house on a vacant plot to a design of their choice, resulting in diverse and pretty streets full of interesting looking houses.

There is one thing which detracts from this however: garden fences. For some reason metal and chain-link fences are hugely popular. These metal fences imbue a disproportionate and depressingly negative effect on their surroundings relevant to their actual size – and it would be so easy to use wood-panel fencing instead. It’s probably even cheaper. Suburban garden fences are one place where normally excellent and purposeful German over-engineering completely trample any aesthetic sensibilities.

Whilst I’m on a rant anyway… Ireland’s planning has historically been just as bad, but in reverse, by allowing ugly, ostentatious “Dallas” style houses to be built in the middle of the Irish countryside it has destroyed many a historically beautiful landscape. I hate to say it, but this is the reason that Welsh landscapes beats Irish landscapes, hands down. The countryside is one place UK planning has got it right.

 

No school assembly and an argument about God stumped by a 7 year old

The 7 year old arrives home from school to announce that there are some things about the school he does like, such as no assemblies.

“Why didn’t you like school assemblies in Wales?”

“They always talk about God and stuff like that”

“Whats wrong with talking about God?”

“Well they always try to make you think there is a God at assembly, that’s why all the other children think there is a God.”

“No, maybe they think that because their parents believe in God.”

“No, your parents believed in God and you don’t.”

“Well maybe I’m agnostic and don’t know if there is one.”

“That means you believe in God.”

“Huh ? ! ”

“What makes you say that?”

“Whats the opposite of not believing?”

“Believing”

“Right, and since you don’t not believe, that means you believe.”

He is seven years old, how the hell has he learned to bend logic and argue like George Bush Jr? -actually I’ll just look at it from the other perspective: bush has the mentality of a seven year old…

 

It’s not just a sneeze

Sneezing, what a useful and enjoyable function. In the English speaking world, we make the noise “Ahh-choo” when we sneeze, presumably because that’s what our parents did. This noise has a useful social purpose. We are conditioned from childhod to expect a (potentially loud) “CHOO”  if anybody makes an “Ahh-” sound.

On the other hand…
Often Germs don’t say ‘ahh. Sneezing is accompanied by a loud ‘KAH’ sound from the back of the throat.  It always makes me jump. It’s probably my paranoia, but I suspect many are secretly looking out of the corner of their eye to see if they made you jump;-)

Realistically, I am sure there is an valid social purpose for the this; maybe there is less snot mist from a KA than a CHOO? Maybe you don’t need a hanky?

*culture clash*

Manipulative children

its the first really nice day here, 21c and sunny, -it was -5 last week.

Tons more garden birds than where we lived in Wales. Lots of sparrows, woodpeckers in tree next door, jays. A pack of Cranes riding thermals overhead -really nice.

Kids cycling in the garden teasing and winding each other up on their (ebay) new bikes. The youngest was around the side of the house and didn’t see me watching as he carefully put his bike down and lay on the ground beside it, then started calling out in apparent distress that his brother had crashed into him.

I just had to spray gold xmas decoration paint on his bike since he refused to ride a bike with pink highlights to school. He obviously hasn’t cottoned on that two down tubes make it a girl’s bike -the joke’s on him (yes, I am a mean, cruel dad).

Update: he now has a new bike:-)

 

Stylized image

Whilst explaining the meaning of stylized images to the kids at bedtime, the ten year old announced excitedly that the symbol on a box of kellogs cornflakes was a COCKHEAD!

The two of them them burst into fits of uncontrollable giggling for the next half hour.

I suppose since they hear the phrase at least once every drive -but it was funny:-)