Monthly Archives: January 2013

Culture Shock 7: An American Expatriate Answers Questions About Living in Germany

Beer on the Maschsee
Oh God, My Wife Is German is an ostentatious and wildly sarcastic blog highlighting the misadventures and near total communication breakdowns occurring between an expat American husband and his German wife as they adjust to life in Hannover, Germany.

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Interview conducted by The Expat Hub
January, 2013

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Where are you originally from?
I’m from the United States. Portland, Oregon, specifically. This makes me a ‘Portlander,’ though I wish with all my heart we were called Portlandians. Or Portlandites. Or Portlandafarians.

In which country and city are you living now?
I am living in Hannover, Germany, which actually feels a bit like Portland. Probably because it’s a big city with a small town vibe and it has a lot of green spaces. Parks and such. Also because I live in constant fear of being run over by skinny people on bikes.

Market Church, Hannover, Germany

How long have you lived here and how long are you planning to stay?
I’ve lived in Hannover since September 1st of 2012. I plan on staying until my wife informs me we’re leaving — the same way she informs me it’s time to do the dishes. Or pay the rent. Or take a shower.

On a side note, The Wife and I needed to have our American wedding certificate translated by a certified professional before we could receive our German wedding certificate. Without a German wedding certificate, I would not have been allowed to stay in Germany. The folks over at Polilingua offer professional German translation for legal documents, websites, business meetings and everything else. Get a free quote and tell ‘em Oh God, My Wife Is German sent ya! (Because that’s sure to lend you an air of respectability.)

Why did you move?
I moved to Germany in order to be with my wife. She’s hilarious, even when she doesn’t mean to be. For the past few years, I’ve been keeping track of all the funny things she says, especially when they involve German words or expressions translated directly into English. We like to call these quotes “Denglish,” or “Deutsch-English.” Here’s an example:

On December 27th, 2012, The Wife and I were preparing for a visit from one of our close friends from Portland. After we finished cleaning our apartment, it was my task to go to Netto for some extra groceries. I put on my coat and headed for the door, saying, “I’m buying eggs. Should I also buy a 6-pack of mineral water?” to which my wife replied:

“That would be, of course, two flies with one slap.”

Fried and mayonnaise with currywurst at Oktoberfest in Germany

What do you enjoy most about living here?
The thing I enjoy most about living in Germany is the fact that I’m always learning new things. Literally everything is new to me here — the language, the culture, the people — so I’m never bored. I’m forced into a perpetual student role, which keeps me engaged and curious. For example, I often find myself wondering why Germans seem to be in such a hurry all the time. What’s the rush? If you take too long in the checkout line at the grocery store, I promise some jerk behind you will sigh audibly, as if you are intentionally destroying his afternoon. If you are running to catch a subway train that has been stopped for longer than 10 seconds — even if the conductor clearly sees your efforts to reach it in time — you will still find the doors closing right in your face. If you find yourself in a car full of Germans (God forbid) and you hit a traffic jam, you can expect them to flip out about it like a bunch of geese fighting over a bag full of smashed bread crumbs.

What has been the hardest aspect of your expat experience so far?
By far, the absolute hardest part of my experience as an expat has been my inability to understand spoken German. I can walk up to German people, sling a few words around, make general statements and ask obvious questions, but I’m totally lost the second they respond. Here’s an interaction I had with a Rossmann drugstore clerk last week, if you were to translate everything directly into English:

ME: “Please excuse me dearly. I look for toothpaste here in this store. In your store, formally speaking.”

CLERK: “Pardon?”

ME: “I would gladly have toothpaste.”

CLERK: “Oh. Go to aisle four. It’s right there past the cosmetics, on your left.”

ME: “My God you talk fast. I am right now, at this very moment, learning German.”

CLERK: “No problem. Aisle four. Right there, where I am pointing.”

ME: “I get the ‘four’ part, but please, just for me, slowly speak.”

CLERK: “Aisle… four.”

ME: (Blinking twice, looking scared and confused) “Absolutely. Thank you. Thank you so hard.” (I then wandered off in the general direction he’d indicated, staggering through the drugstore like an American tourist with blunt force head trauma.)

Hannover Christmas Market in Germany

What advice would you offer to anyone following in your footsteps?
For the love of all that is holy. For the love of God and Jesus H. Christ on rice, learn the language of the foreign country in which you plan to live. Every single word you learn, written or spoken, will make your life easier. Be glad you are starting now, rather than later. Feel angry you weren’t born a native speaker, but be grateful you can learn to become fluent. Learn as much of the language as you can before you get there. Keep on learning while you’re there. If you return to your home country, keep on learning it anyway. Throw yourself into that language like a fat kid at the deep end of the pool.

I took classes, bought books and software programs, practiced with my wife and taught myself as much German as I possibly could before I moved here. This added up to exactly 1.5 years of language training, and I still depend upon my wife to translate any interaction more complex than, “Would you like another beer, Sir?” “HELL yes.”

If I could download the entire German language into my brain like in The Matrix, but it would cost my entire life’s savings, I would do it. I would do it right now. If I had to pay my entire life savings and then kick a puppy too, I would hand over the cash and punt that little doggie like a football.

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Denglish 78: My German Wife Asks Me Not to Strike Her Loins

Back in early 2012, The Wife and I were watching a movie in our living room. I can’t remember now, but it was probably a chick flick like Sex and the City 2 or Eat Pray Love — something my wife forced me to add to my Netflix queue, forever sullying its masculine streak of pure, testicle-powered entertainment. (Wait, that sounded like gay porn, didn’t it.)

So, sometime during the second half of the movie, I stood up to get a glass of water from the kitchen, swatted my wife’s thigh and asked, “Would you like anything while I’m up?”

She replied calmly, without turning her gaze from the TV screen.

THE WIFE: “Please don’t slap my fat meat.”

Click here to learn more about the term “Denglish.”

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Video: Expat Couple Hauls Ass on the Autobahn in Germany

As you may already know, I am American and my wife is German (as all hell). We live in Hannover, Germany, and though we do not own a car, we sometimes get to borrow one from friends and family members. During the weekend of December 15th, 2012, we drove between the state of Hesse (Hessen) and Niedersachsen (Lower Saxony) along the A7 Autobahn.

People in Germany often drive very fast on the Autobahn. We averaged 120 km/h during our journey, which is about 75 mph. In this video, you can see cars passing us at far greater speeds, especially the first car at the very beginning.

Listen, Germans, I know you want to make it home in time for Tatort and Wiener Schnitzel, but that’s no reason to wrap your Beemer around a tree.

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Writing and Blogging: Our Expat Blog Gets the WordPress 2012 Year in Review Treatment

Check out these sweet facts and statistics for our blog generated by WordPress.com! (Honestly, I had no idea the numbers could be broken down like this, which reinforces the fact that I have the math skills of a walnut.)

Here’s an excerpt:

19,000 people fit into the new Barclays Center to see Jay-Z perform. This blog was viewed about 80,000 times in 2012. If it were a concert at the Barclays Center, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Oh, and be sure to check out the list of top commenters toward the bottom of the page. You guys are the best!

To all our readers: We hope you and your loved ones are having a wonderful new year!

– Oh God, My Wife Is German.

Click here to see the complete 2012 Year in Review.

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Culture Shock 6: Five (More) Things That Suck About Living in Germany

Once again, let me begin by saying life in Germany is awesome. I absolutely love it here! I have, however, learned a thing or two about the realities of life abroad. What follows is the next list of discoveries, oddities and annoyances revealed in my first months as an expat American living in Hannover, Germany:

  1. Shameful public artwork is everywhere. It seems like every corner is home to a bronze sculpture featuring a pair of naked Germans, heads hanging in shame, mumbling to one another, “God we suck.” Yes, I understand the travesties of the world wars. I totally get the need to remember, to learn and to honor the dead, but I’d like to take at least one leisurely stroll around town without feeling like I just took a shower in dog poop and shame sprinkles.
  2. Soccer fans are scary. There are few things I enjoy less than being surrounded by drunken soccer fans, hooting and hollering as they stumble through the train station after the big game. Hell, any game. I’m not convinced the fans I’m seeing even go to the games; I think some of these guys just put on their team jerseys and scarves and go watch whichever team happens to be playing on TV at their favorite watering hole. And there’s something about a big German man wearing a scarf striped with his local team’s colors, swaying as he walks toward me with an empty beer bottle about to tumble from his fingers, which I find — on an instinctual level — absolutely terrifying.
  3. Germans are downers. This may have something to do with point #1, but a great many of the Germans I’ve encountered are depressing as hell. Nothing is ever awesome. Even if something is mostly awesome, like having a job as a wealthy, internationally respected beer taster, the average German will focus on the one part of that job which blows, and feel the need to tell me all about it. “Yes, I have a good job as a beer taster, but there is only one electric car charger at the brewery; it is indicative of a larger problem within our educational system and our government as a whole, and demonstrates the fact that our entire country is about to implode in a morbidly depressing vacuum of apocalypse.” I mean, sure, Germans have been through some crazy ups and downs throughout history, so maybe even now they’re afraid to get their hopes up, but Jesus; let’s turn those frowns upside down, Deutschland! Look, you have dirndls and beer all around you! Dirndls and beer, God damn you.
  4. Everybody is tall as hell. I’m sure someone out there can explain the correlation between height and colder climates, but all I know is here in Germany, I’m like Frodo Baggins in the land of the Silvan Elves. I’m about 5′ 10″ (or 5′ 11″ — when I’m totally lying), and I always thought my height was pretty average. Not here. In Lower Saxony, I’m surrounded by these elongated, angelic beings with wonderfully straight hair and wings sewn of Jack Wolfskin polyurethane.
  5. Even in Germany, there are assholes. Of course I am aware there are jerks in every country, but I’d hoped Germany would be different. Yes, this was my own cultural bias, but I didn’t want to let it go. Not even at the immigration office (Ausländerbehörde), full of snorting pencil pushers, who calmly lost my residence application and then told me not to worry about it. Or that sad little beer tent at Oktoberfest, where the waitress shut down my attempts to order in German, advising me, “Just speak English, it is the language of business.” Or those drunken soccer fans on Georgstraße, who passed my wife and I, asking, “Is this your boyfriend? No? He’s your husband? Are you sure?” But finally, reluctantly, I had to admit there are a few jackpipes in my beloved Germany. Luckily, for each one I meet, there seem to be 10 warm and wonderful Germans just waiting to brighten my day here in Deutschland.

Click here to learn more about the term “Culture Shock.”

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