Category Archives: Germany

My comments on all things Teutonic.

False Friends: 15 Examples How the German Language Is Trying to Kill You

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“Oh yeah, those are the exact same thing.” — Photo Credit: Kirby Kerr (https://www.flickr.com/photos/rotofugi/) — Subject to CC 2.0 license. (Hue and contrast edited.)

False friends are pairs of words in two languages which look or sound identical, but are wildly different in meaning. The false friends between German and English are hilarious, and in some cases, lethal.

What follows is a list of 15 German nouns and their incredibly different translations in English:

  1. Das Gift
    In America, we know exactly what gifts are: Nicely wrapped boxes full of goods made in poor countries. In German, however, das Gift means poison. Straight up, rat-killing, slug-shrinking poison. If you want to say gift in German, you have to say das Geschenk — and I agree; the German version sounds more like a tool used to stab someone in prison.
  2. Der Rat
    Rats — those filthy little rodents which helped spread bubonic plague throughout Europe in the Middle Ages — now kept primarily as pets by high school nerds with Cheeto fingers. Unfortunately, der Rat means advice or counsel in German. Actually, that’s kind of perfect; lots of government branches in Germany are named using this root word, like der Bundesrat (federal council), which is just full of rats…
  3. Der Stapler
    Remember Milton from Office Space, with his bright red Swingline stapler? Well, before you go burning your workplace to the ground over one of these things, remember, in German der Stapler means forklift or stacker truck, so if your boss screams, “Achtung! Stapler!” don’t just stand there laughing — fucking run.
  4. Der Quark
    If you’re a huge nerd like me, the word quark immediately makes you think of the Ferengi bar owner from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. (Who, by the way, was the best character on the show — I will fight you over this.) If you’re a smarter nerd than me, quark makes you think of the elementary particles which combine to form things like protons and neutrons. Anyway, in German, der Quark means cheese curd, and it tastes like really thin yogurt with all of the fun and joy removed.
  5. Der Hang
    Depending upon my mood, the word hang will either remind me of hanging out — like I did in the mid-’90s — or the verb to hang, like from a noose. (Generally it’s the latter, because gallows humor is the only thing which alleviates my crippling preoccupation with death.) In German, however, der Hang means a slope or inclination. Isn’t that boring? I would so much rather think about death by hanging and the hilarious boner it gives you.
  6. Der Mist
    Picture it: A beautiful meadow just as the sun is coming up. The air is crisp and cold. Red and yellow leaves are scattered across the grass. A gentle mist is drifting from the trees, moving across the ground and tickling your toes. It’s a beautiful day to be alive. No. Just, no. Der Mist means dung or manure.
  7. Der Pickel
    Pickles are awesome, right? They’re delicious — all bumpy and green — and you can wiggle them in front of your genitals like a Martian dick. But that’s not what the word means in German. Der Pickel is a zit or pimple, which, if you think about it, is way more revolting than my freakishly green weenie. “Kiss the tip!”
  8. Der Smoking
    Sounds like it has something to do with cigarettes, right? Maybe cigars or pipes? Something that really gives cancer the old middle finger. That’s what I thought, until I discovered der Smoking actually means tuxedo. Not even close! And now that I know what it means, I can’t stop picturing James Bond in a tuxedo smoking a cigarette. Just stinkin’ his tailored suit up real good, like a true asshole.
  9. Die Robe
    As an American, the word robe brings to my mind a soft garment worn immediately after a shower. There are fancy robes, like the ones Hugh Hefner wears, and shitty robes, like the ones your dad used to wear — you know, the thin, faded kind, which would, without fail, give you an eye full of his cock and balls every time he sat down on the couch. *Shudder.* Thankfully, in German, die Robe is an evening gown, and that is a mental image which does not make my right eyelid twitch.
  10. Die Lust
    Oh, this one’s gotta be good, right? Probably something naughty. Shunned or illegal, at the very least. Nope. Die Lust means interest or inclination. Isn’t that just lame as hell? On the plus side, in German, you can walk up to a woman and literally ask if she has any ‘lust’ to go out with you. That’s pretty hardcore. Might as well ask if she’s lubed up and ready to make a porno.
  11. Die Nutte
    Sounds like nuts or Nutella to me, so frankly I like where this word is headed already. Unfortunately, die Nutte means hooker or prostitute in German. Can you imagine asking your waiter or waitress for some extra Nutella, only you totally blow it with your American accent? Nothing like a totally unexpected insult to ruin someone’s double shift: “Excuse me. May I please have some more of this delicious hazelnut spread, you filthy whore?”
  12. Der Puff
    I get it, innocent stuff, like “Puff, the Magic Dragon,” cream puffs, and Puff Daddy — or whatever the hell he called himself before he turned into a beautiful butterfly. No, der Puff isn’t innocent at all; it’s a whorehouse or brothel. This one is so misleading, it’s like sitting down to watch an animated movie with your kids, only to discover you’ve brought home some hardcore hentai, complete with throbbing tentacle dicks and helpless girls who never fail to show you their undies.
  13. Der Tripper
    Sounds like Jack Tripper from Three’s Company to me! This word is sure to result in comic high jinks after a simple mix-up forces a hapless bachelor to inexplicably trip over every god damned thing in the apartment. No Sir! In German, der Tripper is gonorrhea or “the clap.” Man, what I wouldn’t pay to see John Ritter alive again, screaming as he falls down the stairs, “Mother of God, it burns when I peeeeeeeeeeee…!”
  14. Die Parole
    This is what happens after you get out of prison, right? Where you prove you’re ready to reenter the population by having absolutely no fun at all? In Germany, die Parole actually means password or slogan, so if you want to talk about being released from prison, you have to say, die Bewährung. (Great. Now I can’t stop thinking about how many of our devoted readers might be ex-convicts…)
  15. Der After
    Yeah, I get it. After. But after what? Well, after my puckering butthole, that’s what. Seriously. In German, der After means anus. Isn’t that awesome? I can’t wait to go back to the gym tomorrow, hit the showers and show everyone what comes after my butt cheeks. “Run, hobbits! The Eye of Sauron is upon you!”

If you would like to read another post about my experiences learning the German language, check out this one: The Absolute Best (and Weirdest) German Integration Class I Ever Had

 


 

Becoming A Permanent Resident of Germany: 6 Tips for American Citizens with German Spouses

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“Those colors. So strong, yet so intimidating…” — Photo by Trine Juel (http://www.flickr.com/photos/tjuel/)

Are you an American citizen married to — or about to marry — a German citizen? Do you wish to move to Germany and live there as a permanent resident? Then congratulations! You have no sense of fear whatsoever! Man, woman or transgender — you have great big balls. Seriously, like 25% of your body weight is pure testicle. (And for that, I salute you.)

Because I have already made the leap myself, people email me all the time and ask for advice on moving to Germany. In response, I have sent fragmented tips, pointers and oblong nuggets of information on the subject all across the internet. My advice has been scatterbrained at best, so with this blog post, I am hoping to mash all my thoughts together like a fat kid sitting on a ham sandwich.

Before I begin, however, I want you to bear in mind the following 3 facts:

  1. My wife is German. If you haven’t figured this out by now, you probably wore a helmet to grade school.
  2. My wife and I got married in the United States and then moved to Germany. My only experience with German weddings has been as an inebriated guest.
  3. We moved from the United States to Niedersachsen (Lower Saxony). Immigration protocols in Germany may vary from state to state.

That said, here we go! I hope you enjoy our tips for Americans on gaining permanent residency in Germany!

1.) Bring your American marriage certificate

Before you depart the United States on your way to Germany, make sure you bring a notarized copy — ideally 2 or 3 — of your official American marriage certificate. (Not the pretty one for framing on your wall. The real one.) It has to be notarized, meaning you take it to your state’s notary public office, where they stamp it with an apostille. I know that sounds like one of the 12 dudes who used to follow Jesus around and tell everyone how awesome he was, but it’s not; it’s an internationally recognized seal of certification, and Germans love it. They love it so much, they won’t accept your American marriage certificate without it.

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“That’s right. You sign that filthy little contract…” — Photo by Mike Goren (http://www.flickr.com/photos/celebdu/)

2.) Get your American marriage certificate translated

Once you get to Germany, you have to have your American marriage certificate translated by a certified German translator. (And no, your spouse can’t translate it for you. That wouldn’t be painful enough.) After you have an officially translated certificate, you’ll need to take it to your local marriage department or courthouse. Once there, you’ll sign some paperwork and receive your German marriage certificate. This document is the key to attaining your initial, 3-year residency permit from the immigration office and getting signed up for everything else you’ll need, like health insurance and German language classes. (The next section is all about this infuriating process.)

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“Fatty pork products can help ease the suffering as you begin your descent into paperwork hell.” — Photo by Stacey Cavanagh (http://www.flickr.com/photos/staceycav/)

SPECIAL NOTE: Figure out your legal name before you go to the marriage department, because the German government hates middle names. For example, my middle name became my “second first name,” and now appears on every legal document I receive. (Not a problem, really, but my middle name makes me sound like a dandy Englishman.) The marriage department is cool with hyphenated last names, but if you ever remove the hyphen, you can’t go back; it’s a one-way street. Also, they’re supposed to give you the option to keep your name exactly the way it appears in your home country, but they will make sure you understand doing so would really break their balls.

3.) Get your sweet ass to the immigration office

Do not wait to go to the immigration office (Ausländerbehörde); go there as soon as you have your German marriage certificate in hand. I say this because the people who work at the immigration office are all functionally retarded. I had to make 3 different appointments and wait in unbelievably long lines because they lost my paperwork after my first appointment. If you know someone who works there, I want you to email me their home address so I can show up at their door and open-hand slap them as hard as humanly possible. I want the neighbors next door to hear it. I want their kids to start crying and their dog to start barking. God damn I hate the immigration department.

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“This place is exactly like ‘The Walking Dead,’ minus the sex scenes.” — Photo by Mark Hillary (http://www.flickr.com/photos/markhillary/)

Anyway, bring every piece of identification you have, along with your marriage certificate, passport photos and about €150 euros in cash. The cash is to pay for your 3-year residence permit, which is actually just an ID card, like your driver’s license. And remember to bring your German spouse with you, because the immigration office employees probably can’t speak English. (They can barely manage to dress themselves each morning.)

SPECIAL NOTE: Before they will give you the residency card, you will have to pass a little test. It’s a quick verbal exam to determine your ability to speak the German language at approximately A1 level. (A1 is for extreme beginners, but they want you to have some knowledge of the language so you can begin your German integration class. More on this later.) My test was exactly 5 questions long:

  1. What is your name? (Nailed this one.)
  2. Can you spell your name? (Blew this one.)
  3. Where do you come from? (Scraped by this one.)
  4. How old are you? (Nailed this one.)
  5. How did you get here this morning, e.g. subway, on foot, etc.? (Stumbled through this one like a drunken toddler.)

In short, I barely passed. I honestly don’t know what happens if you fail, but don’t stress about it; you’re married to a German. They can’t kick you out of the country unless you break some laws and do something super bad. Like, James Bond movie villain bad. And although it’s unfair, you will receive preferential treatment because you come from America. That’s just the way it is. Be glad you don’t come from some evil country where warmongering, corruption and greed run rampant (oh wait…).

4.) Sign up for German health insurance as soon as possible.

When I came to Germany, I was so concerned with playing by the rules I accidentally broke them. I stayed on American travel insurance for almost a year after my arrival, and that pissed the German insurance people right the hell off. They wanted me on the books, in the system, and paying my dividends from the word go.

I was penalized a little for this mistake, but in the end, it wasn’t a huge deal. The real hassle was trying to get my basic healthcare needs met. If your spouse is German and has a decent job, chances are you’re entitled to coverage already — you just have to sign up. You may qualify for the public health option, or you might need a private one, but either way, don’t wait; have your spouse inquire at work and figure out your benefits.

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“Here comes your communist root canal!” — Photo by Conor Lawless (http://www.flickr.com/photos/conchur/)

On a side note, Germany is not exactly the utopia of free health insurance and abundant healthcare we’ve been led to believe; there is a public option for people with lower incomes, but they wait longer for appointments and their prescription medications are limited to the basics. Yes, everyone is ‘theoretically’ covered, but you’ll find a world of difference between public and private insurance no matter the country in which you reside. If you have money, you’ll get doctor appointments sooner, enjoy preferential treatment overall, and have enough pharmaceutical options to kill a rock star. I’m sorry, but when it comes to healthcare, having money is the tits.

5.) Enroll in an integration course as soon as possible

Germany is a popular country for immigrants, and most of them are coming from countries closer than America, so language classes required by the German government fill up quickly. It was the beginning of September when I first arrived, and I was told the next integration class would begin after the first of the year. I returned in the second week of January only to find the class completely full. I had to wait until spring for the next one to begin, so please, do yourself a favor and sign up for your class immediately.

Now, assuming you’ve already attained that 3-year residency permit I mentioned, but you still suck at German, you’ll need to take exactly 3 integration classes: A1, A2 and B1. After you’re done, you’ll then take the B1 exam. It has several portions, including reading, writing, speaking and listening comprehension. It can seem really hard at first, but don’t worry; you’ll be prepared for it after all those hellish hours spent in the classroom. Also, you can find all sorts of sample B1 tests on the Goethe-Institut website (www.goethe.de) — so you know exactly what sorts of things you need to practice.

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“There are 16 articles in the German language. Who’s up for some ritual suicide?” — Photo by Shane global (http://www.flickr.com/photos/shaneglobal/)

After you pass your B1 exam, you’ll probably have to take a month-long ‘orientation’ class afterward. This is where they teach you all about German politics, geography and history… as if you miraculously overlooked every single World War II movie and History Channel documentary ever made. Anyway, you’ll need to take another little test for this orientation course, but then you’re done! Once you’ve lived for a full 3 years in Germany with your initial residence permit, you’ll get a letter from the immigration department telling you to come in and update your visa status. You’ll bring your test certificates and maybe another document or two — along with some cash and a heroic amount of patience — and they’ll submit your application. After a few weeks, you’ll receive your permanent residence permit (though some states will simply extend your permit by 5 to 10 years, but still, you’re golden). They might actually give you your permanent residence permit right there at the appointment, but it depends how long you’ve been married to your German. (I think you need to have survived at least 5 years without killing each other.)

You can take all of the classes I mentioned at your local VHS (Volkshochschule), or anywhere else recognized by the immigration department. I believe your local VHS will be the cheapest option, but remember: Even in Germany, you get what you pay for. (This is a polite way of saying the VHS can be a hit-or-miss experience. Half of my teachers were awesome. The other half can lick my unholy scrotum. Consider looking for a ‘Bildungsverein’ — or virtually any other language school — if you value your sanity.)

6.) Don’t Panic.

I really hope this article helps you feel more prepared for your life in Germany. It can be a scary prospect for an American — I know — but one which will very likely turn out to be the best decision you’ve ever made.

Life in Germany rules; it is a beautiful country, safe, stable and full of wonderful people. However, if you still feel stressed about the big move, remember the following:

  1. You are married to a German citizen and you come from a so-called ‘respectable’ country. You’ll be allowed to stay no matter what anyone tells you.
  2. Most Germans speak some English. In a pinch, you can usually default to your native language. This is a huge advantage, and it’s totally unfair (but totally awesome).
  3. You are going to die someday. I know this is depressing, but it’s also liberating, because none of these little details really matter. Picture yourself on your deathbed, sucking in your last feeble breath before greeting the great void beyond; did it really matter if you filled out that one little immigration form in exactly the right way? Did the Germans throw you on a plane and deport your ass because you turned in that one document a day or two after the deadline? Were you separated from your beloved spouse for the rest of your life because you didn’t ace that stupid language test the first time? No. Lots of idiots have done this before you. You will be fine. Everything is going to work out beautifully.
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“Would it save you a lot of time if I just gave up and went mad now?”
― Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy — Photo by Johan Larsson (http://www.flickr.com/photos/johanl/)