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Book Review: German Men Sit Down To Pee

Book Review: German Men Sit Down To Pee

Disclaimer: I was sent a free review copy by one of the authors, however, I was not compensated in any other way for this review. Opinions are completely my own.

What’s it about?

German Men Sit Down To Pee & Other Insights Into German Culture is a humorous take on German culture by a German (Niklas Frank) and an Irishman living in Germany (James Cave).  I feel that Cave must have had many experiences like mine, because I felt this book covered all the aspects of German culture that I find baffling.

The title provides a clue that this is not a serious dissertation on German cultural practices, but a lighthearted and fond look at the country’s eccentricities. While I’m sure many stereotypes formed a basis for these observations, I think Frank and Cave were careful to provide a little more depth where needed. They broke down stereotypes where they didn’t match with real life, and brought some insightful cultural context to other sections. I learned a few historical tidbits that I hadn’t known about in my two years living here.

There are also a few spot-on illustrations throughout the book, and I laughed several times while reading.  As I read through the table of contents, I would stop at certain chapters and laugh a bit to myself because I could relate so well already. Mr. Faultier and I are in the middle of stocking up on insurance policies. This might be the most German thing I have ever done, according to the rules of this book. The humor is spot-on.I think pokes a bit of fun without being mean or rude. A true German might be able to give a better view on this than me, but I feel the jokes are more of the laughing-with variety than laughing-at. This can be a hard balance to maintain, but I think it was done quite well.

Who is this book for?

I think this would make a wonderful gift for a friend or family member who is planning on moving to Germany or has even lived there for a little while already. Or for a German friend who doesn’t quite realize how strange their culture is – assuming they have an appreciation for self-deprecating humor (most Germans I know do).

Or just buy it for yourself if you’re a fan of German culture, even though it doesn’t always make sense to you.

Just be aware that there are a few “adult” chapters. It’s nothing to really blush about, but it might be worth skipping if you’re sharing the book with young or sensitive readers. Perhaps this is just a very American opinion, though.

You can buy it here!

The Worst German Food – Mett

The Worst German Food – Mett

Mr. Faultier has told me that my transformation into a German will be complete when I try Mett for the first time. I’m afraid that I will never become German. Thankfully the Ausländerbehörde doesn’t not require Mett consumption to get a residency permit.

For those who don’t know, Mett is raw, minced pork that for some reason people like to consume without cooking. I’m not completely against raw meat. I’ll eat raw fish and rare steak. Heck, I even like my burgers with a bit of pink in the middle. But something about uncooked, ground-up pork turns my stomach.

Mr. Faultier eats it on breadrolls with some chopped onions.

Mettbroetchen
By Nize (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
I know it’s meant to be safe, because butchers have to prepare it the day of if it’s not prepackaged. Our fancy butcher keeps it wrapped up in plastic, but other places I’ve gone to just have an open pan of it sitting out. Exposed to air. And flesh-hungry bacteria.

Even better, often times at parties, Mett is served shaped like a hedgehog with onion spikes.

By Boris Kumicak + Kai Namslau (Studio Kumicak+Namslau) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
By Boris Kumicak + Kai Namslau (Studio Kumicak+Namslau) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
He might look cute, but my food safety senses just can’t handle a raw minced pork hedgehog sitting out for hours and being consumed without cooking. I wash my hands after touching raw pork, why would I eat it?

I know I’ve gone full American with this post, and I shouldn’t be so judgmental about another culture’s food. But I just can’t get behind this one. Sorry Germany. I’ve even tried Fleischkäse, so while I don’t like it, I can at least give it a go, but I just can’t with Mett. Call me back in five years, but I still don’t think that will be enough time.

Perfect Man and Woman – Lessons from Tedi

Perfect Man and Woman – Lessons from Tedi

I missed my first train home today, because I got too distracted in Rossmann. But I think it was good, because I learned a lot. In the pranks/gag gift section of Tedi, where I always go to kill time, I found these blow up dolls (the PG kind) of the “Perfect Woman” and the “Perfect Man”. Of course, these are full of sexist stereotypes, but it was a bit fun to see where those stereotypes overlapped with American culture and where they differed.

PerfectManandWoman

The Perfect Woman

PerfectWoman

  • Fragt nie, ob ihr HIntern zu fett ist! – Never asks if her butt is too fat! (Why is this a stereotype?)
  • Merkert nie! – Never complains!
  • Holt ohne Wiederworte Bier! – Gets beer without arguing!
  • Kann gut kochen! – Can cook well!
  • Geht nicht gerne shoppen! – Doesn’t enjoy going shopping!
  • Braucht keine Aufmerksamkeit! – Doesn’t need attention!

So, according to Tedi, the perfect woman just silently cooks all day and retrieves beer. I’m pretty sure you can get a robot to do that.

 

The Perfect Man

PerfectMan

  • Ist ein guter Liebhaber. – Is a good lover.
  • Verdient gut! – Earns a lot of money!
  • Liest dir jeden Wunsch von den Augen ab. – Reads all of your wishes from your eyes. (Which is good, because apparently the perfect woman never talks…)
  • Mag ihre beste Freundin! – Likes her best friend! (I don’t know who “her” is here…)
  • Hiflt dir immer im Haushalt! – Helps you always around the house!
  • Pinkelt im Sitzen! – Pees while sitting!

The Perfect Man is a bit more “German” – I had to ask Mr Faultier about the wishes in the eyes think and I know that peeing while sitting is a thing here as well.

I have trouble imagining the Perfect Woman and the Perfect Man being a couple. The house would just be silent with the woman always in the kitchen and the man just buying her things she tells him she wants telepathically. I just imagine the woman as a robot and the man as an Amazon gift card.

New Year’s Eve in Germany

New Year’s Eve in Germany

NewYearinGermanyHeader

The holidays were a bit crazy for me, but now I’m back to work and settling into a routine again. Now that I’m back to writing, I thought I’d share a bit of what I did over my Christmas vacation.

We had a small New Year’s Eve (or Silvester) party at our apartment, which required a cleansing of the apartment, with a bit of help from my mother-in-law and sister-in-law. It looked great, if only I could keep it that way.

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There are some typical New Year traditions in Germany that are a bit different for me. I’m used to staying up and making a bit of noise at midnight, but other than that, my American New Year’s Eves have been fairly uneventful. Germans, however, don’t just make a bit of noise. They set off an crazy amount of fireworks in the streets. It puts the Fourth of July to shame.

Now, our street was much quieter than Berlin, but we did shoot off fireworks for awhile.

I inherited my mother’s nervousness around them, however, and I made Mr. Faultier get the kids’ packs instead. Though, I’m not sure I agree with what the Germans think are appropriate for kids.

PyroFun!
Pyro Fun!

It was also strange to me that we could pick these up at the grocery store. Here, stores are allowed to sell fireworks just for a few days before Silvester. But that’s still a difference from St. Louis where they’re illegal all year round. You have to drive to a different county to get them. Here, we could just pick them up with our groceries.

We also attempted another tradition – Bleigießen. It means “lead pouring” and involves melting bits of lead and dropping them into water to see what your future will be like. Whatever the metal blob kind of looks like is supposed to symbolize how the new year will go for you. As someone who had to get tested for lead poisoning as a child because of shady miniblinds (pun originally not intended, but I’m keeping it), this worried me more, initially, than the fireworks. Last year, when I tried it for the first time, I was adamant about washing my hands immediately afterwards.

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This year, however, I don’t think we actually got lead in our packs, because they would not melt. I posted pictures to Snapchat (FaultierBeauty) but failed at actually saving them to my phone. We bought our packs from Tedi, but we talked to someone else who got some from Kik, and they also didn’t work. Did anyone actually have functioning Bleigießen this year? Please tell me where you got it from, because I don’t want to be disappointed again next year.

Finally, a true German Silvester would not be complete without watching Dinner for One. What is Dinner for One, you ask? It’s a 10-minute, comedic sketch, entirely in English that is actually super depressing and is played every year in Germany for New Year’s Eve. I really do not understand why it is popular, but it is.

It features an old woman who has her butler pretend to be her four dead friends at a dinner party, and as the dinner continues, the butler gets increasingly drunk as he has to drink for four people at each course. I’m still trying to figure out German humor. Even though it showed at a dozen different times, we still managed to miss it on TV. But we were able to pull it up on YouTube. You can watch it, too.

What are some of your New Year’s Eve traditions? Can you beat lead melting and depressing comedy sketches?

Very American Questions About Christmas Trees

Very American Questions About Christmas Trees

Very American Questions About Christmas Trees

For whatever reason, the process of getting a Christmas tree has really brought out my Americanness. I hadn’t considered myself a big stickler for traditions, but suddenly, I’m trying to recreate an American Christmas tree. I’ve made compromises, but I’ve also promised myself to stock up on certain decorations the next time we go to the US.

Despite spending Christmas here before, I’ve remained pretty clueless as to how O’ Tannenbaum works here. These are some of the important questions I’ve been irritating my husband with.

1. Do you know what a tree-skirt is?

I tried to find a tree-skirt on Amazon (Amazon.de that is. Amazon.com has a whole section of them!) without much luck, so I decided to ask my husband if he even knew what one was. He did not. I tried describing it, and he seemed to have no clue what Germans actually put under the tree. When I asked him how he intended to keep needles and sap off of the floor, he suggested we put a trash bag under it.

His lack of a proper solution made me question whether his lack of knowledge about tree-skirts was a German thing or just a Mr. Faultier thing, so I asked a friend whose family had lived in both the US and Germany. She wasn’t sure if they could be found here either, so we asked her mother who informed us that Germans usually use blankets. Not trash bags like Mr. Faultier suggested.

If you don’t know what a tree-skirt is, it’s usually a round blanket or small, festive tarp that is made to wrap around the bottom of the tree. It’s got a hole in the middle and a split from the middle to the outer edge that can usually be tied or velcroed together.

Photo by jenn - She also made it herself! Maybe I should knit one for next year.
Photo by jenn – She also made it herself! Maybe I should knit one for next year.

Essentially like a skirt for the tree. I had planned on making my own from a table cloth until we stumbled upon a small round rug. It goes under the tree and stand instead of wrapping around, but it has the same look and makes it easier to water the tree. I’d call this a cultural-compromise win.

Tree Blanket
Bonus points for the Christmas squirrels.

2. Where can I get a star for the top of the tree that lights up?

Apparently like tree-skirts, light-up stars are not a thing here. The most common top-of-the-tree decoration I’ve found so far are these fancy spike things that remind me of Prussian helmets that saw pictures of in history class. There are stars, too, but they just sit on top of the tree and might be covered with glitter and not lights.

Growing up, we always saved the star for last when decorating the tree, and plugging it in was our big sign that the tree was finished, and we were ready for Christmas. I don’t normally get very homesick, but the idea of not having this moment with our tree in Germany made me miss home quite a bit.

American Christmas Tree
My family’s tree from last year. Look how bright the star is!

I haven’t found an adequate replacement yet. My current plan is to buy one of those sparkly stars or spikes and to hunt down a light-up star for next year – even if I have to pick one up over Thanksgiving and make it work with our electricity.

3. Why are all the trees so fat?!

German Christmas tree people seem to leave the trees as nature intended, instead of grooming them in to full, symmetrical cones. This means that they end up puffy on the bottom and sparse on the top, sometimes with empty sticks reaching for the sky at the top that you have to trim off yourself.

American German Christmas Tree Comparison
Left Tree Photo by cathryn040, Right Tree Photo by Hans

We weren’t looking for a big tree, but we needed a fairly narrow one for our apartment. Unfortunately all the small and medium ones were quite wide. It seemed that the width did not vary much, just the height. We managed to find a big one that looked like it had gotten squished on two sides, which ended up fitting into our space perfectly – after we cut off the top bit. It’s much bigger than Mr. Faultier expected. I think he wanted one shorter than me and ended up with one taller than him!

Our Christmas Tree
Mr. Faultier also thinks I put up too many ornaments.

We do have these weird bits growing up at the top that I suggested cutting off. But apparently it’s a ‘King Tree’ and I’m not allowed to cut his crown.

ChristmasTreeCrown
I suppose it looks majestic?

I’m pretty happy with the tree, even with my conflicted feelings about its crown. It makes the apartment feel very homey – and it smells good, too!

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