Tag Archives: Expat

My German Wife Is Impressed by a Bagpipe-Playing Lawyer

bagpipes-player-funny-man

“Stop playing that thing or I’ll shove it down your Scotch-hole.” — Photo by Jonathan Stonehouse (https://www.flickr.com/photos/gizmo_bunny/)

Back in 2012, just a few months after we moved to Germany, my wife made me watch all 5 seasons of Ally McBeal. That’s 112 episodes, each one lasting 45 minutes, which adds up 84 hours of total viewing time. (Coincidentally, 84 hours is exactly how long a man can have his testicles squeezed together in a woodworker’s vise before he begs for death’s sweet, everlasting embrace.)

As you probably know, Ally McBeal was a popular television series which ran from 1997 to 2002. It was a surreal comedy-drama, following a young, self-obsessed lawyer named Ally McBeal as she hallucinates her way through a series of romantic misadventures and magically relevant court trials, which hammer the moral of each episode into your skull with all the subtlety of a howitzer.

Ally works for a fictional law firm called Cage and Fish. One of the firm’s eccentric co-founders, John Cage, has a pet frog named Steffan (pronounced Steh-fahn.) After a series of unfortunate hijinks — involving a lot of girlish screaming, frog-tossing and the poorly timed flushing of toilets — Steffan is killed. A funeral is organized around the toilet in which Steffan met his demise, and the entire cast of the show listens as John memorializes his friend by playing the bagpipes. (The actor, Peter MacNicol, actually plays them in real life.)

I watched this scene with the predictable amount of stone-faced apathy until my German wife raised her eyebrows, nodded her head and announced:

THE WIFE: “It’s pretty impressive he can play the doodle-sack.”*

*The word “Bagpipes” in German is “der Dudelsack.”

 


 

 

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My Wife Suggests Long John Underwear to Help Fight Winter Chills in Germany

long-thermal-underwear-funny-winter

“Keeps my junk so warm I gotta smile.” — Photo by Anthony Easton (https://www.flickr.com/photos/pinkmoose/)

We’ve all heard winters in northern Germany can be pretty harsh, right? They’re long, dark, scary and depressing, like a prolonged nightmare or just about any movie starring Jeremy Irons. Winters pass so slowly here, the Germans have constructed a series of traditions and paid holidays systematically designed to keep you from playing chicken with the next subway train you see and screwing up the U-Bahn schedule for everybody.

I don’t mind winter, but even I have to admit the winter of 2012 was a real penis shrinker. In Hannover, winter lasted from October until May. Seriously, it was May when my wife and I were finally able to turn off the heat in our apartment and not freeze to death like a couple of white chocolate popsicles. Luckily, my wife is German and she knows how to deal with these long winters. She’s always telling me to wrap myself in a blanket, drink hot chamomile tea (because Germans think chamomile is a panacea), place a hot water bottle on my lap and wear thermal underwear beneath my pants (known more creepily as “long johns”).

I generally follow her advice, but the truth is I am a profoundly lazy man. Sometimes I cannot be bothered with all 4 aspects of her winter defensive strategy, which is why, back in November of 2012, I wore thin pajama pants while working at my computer and then complained about the fact that my legs were cold. My wife came into the office, put her teacher’s bag on the floor and announced:

THE WIFE: “It is getting very cold. Your pee-jammy pants are not warm enough. Tomorrow we buy you Johnny Long Bottoms.”

Denglish 85: My Wife Reveals A Uniquely German Expression for Beverages of Extremely High Alcohol Content

The night I asked The Wife to marry me — after getting down on one knee, offering her a diamond ring and giving her a picture I drew of a squirrel (seriously) — I took her to the Rose and Thistle Pub in northeast Portland. There, we sent text messages to all of our friends and family members announcing our engagement.

Cute squirrel holding diamond engagement ring

How a ring-carrying squirrel goes from idea to reality.

We also ordered beer, and if you know much about Portland, you know it is the Microbrew Beer Capitol of the United States. (And with this in mind, I once suggested to my German class teacher here in Hannover that the US actually produces good beer. He rolled his eyes, because Germans think we only drink Budweiser and Coors Light. I laughed and played along, but inside I was seeing red, thinking, ‘Oh you poor, naive little man. You don’t even know. You don’t even KNOW,’ and then I used my telepathic powers to make his giant German head explode.)

Anyway, Portland beer is awesome, and it is often quite strong. There are all sorts of ways to discuss drinks with high alcohol content, but translating these idioms directly from German into English is easily the most entertaining. So, as we looked over the menu, my German wife announced:

THE WIFE: “I want a beer, but I don’t want something that pulls my sock off.”

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

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Video: French Team at the 2013 International Fireworks Competition in Hannover, Germany

Team-Frankreich-Intermède-Hannover-Internationalen Feuerwerkswettbewerb

“Woah nelly! Don’t get too carried away there, France.”

On June 8th, 2013, The Wife and I went to the Herrenhäuser Gärten here in Hannover, Germany, to see the 23rd International Firework Competition (Internationalen Feuerwerkswettbewerb). Each month of the summer features pyrotechnics set to music by a different European country. The June show was performed by the French fireworks team (Team Frankreich), and I gotta tell you, it was French as hell.

We were joined at the show by our wonderful friend from North Rhine-Westphalia, whom we shall refer to as “Legs for Days.” Legs for Days is a pretty German woman who is so tall she must squat every time we take a group picture lest she appear flanked by inebriated Oompa-Loompas.

Before the fireworks began, The Wife, Legs for Days and I walked around and checked out the different beer tents and concession stands. Among the crowd were French actors wearing these crazy-ass Alice in Wonderland type costumes, many of which involved stilts, props and various other accoutrement designed specifically to give you nightmares.

Here is a video I recorded of the French circus freaks in action (Warning: mild swearing involved):

Once we’d loaded our subconscious minds with enough creepy imagery to fuel our night terrors for the year, we took our seats and waited for the fireworks show to begin. Last year, The Wife and I saw the Croatian team’s performance, which was wild; a non-stop display of explosions and music, with lots of energy and not a moment of lull. This year, the French team held true to what you might expect of a people who think high art is pointing a video camera at a weeping clown at the beach while he steps on a robin’s egg or something. The fireworks display was very pretty and the music was lovely, but it was sparse. I got the feeling the French were taking a ‘less is more’ sort of approach to the whole affair.

I am an American, and to me, firework displays should be huge. Grand. Larger than life, and so rife with concussive reports and blinding lights my ears bleed and the eyeballs are burned from my very skull. Firework are rock and roll, goddammit, and these Frenchmen tried to class it up with an acoustic performance.

Check it out, but please note — these are the most interesting moments; the rest of the show reminded me I have the attention span of a fruit fly.

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Denglish 84: My Normally Frugal German Wife Chooses Fashion Over Sustenance

The Wife and I lived together for a year in the United States, from the summer of 2011 until the summer of 2012, when we got married and moved to Germany. For her birthday in the States, my wife received — among other things — a gift certificate to Fred Meyer; a major supermarket chain founded in Portland, Oregon, which sells everything from food and beverages to clothing and furniture.

The gift certificate was a generous present from my parents, and one which I thought best utilized to lower our fixed expenses. So, one evening, I suggested my wife use the money to cover the cost of our next trip to Fred Meyer for groceries. She gave it some thought and said…

THE WIFE: “I could use my gift certificate for groceries, but I also need a new purse.”

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

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Culture Shock 13: American Expat Receives Terrifying Haircut at Turkish Hairdresser in Germany

turkish salon hairdresser store front

“Welcome to Turktown, my friend.” — Photo by Will Flavell (http://www.flickr.com/photos/swept14/)

As you may already know, I’ve been having some trouble getting haircuts here in Germany. I’m still learning the metric system, and the fact that a centimeter in length is nowhere near as long as an inch. Also, I speak in broken German, so when I want a ‘high fade,’ it sounds like I’m asking for a ‘lofty shrivel.’

Out of frustration, I asked my wife to write a note describing, in perfect German, the kind of haircut I wanted. This note worked wonderfully at first; I walked into my usual ‘Fast Cuts,’ handed the note over to the goth chick with the bad forearm tattoos, and received a decent version of the haircut described. Unfortunately, because it involved scissors — in addition to the usual electric razor — the price jumped from €9 euros to €22 euros. I felt this was a bit extreme, so I vowed to try a different hairdresser.

funny big hair dork nerd geek man german

“Heeeey Joe, where you goin’ with that note from your wife of your hand?” — Photo by Todd Ordes (http://www.flickr.com/photos/toddomanbot/)

A month later, with my hair so big and puffy I looked like a member of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, I walked into a little hairdresser around the corner from our apartment. Now, this was a Turkish hairdresser, and it was full of burly Turkish men who were doing more horsing around and shit talking than actual hair cutting. You can imagine the blank stares I got when I handed my note to one of the three hairdressers. This particular gentleman chuckled, making it clear he could not read it. (To this day I am unsure if he truly was illiterate in German, or if he was just being a dick.) A young Turkish kid jumped up from the waiting area and proudly read my note aloud to the entire room. Everyone had a nice laugh about it. The hairdresser nodded his understanding, repeated “Funf miiILLLlliiimeters” to dramatic effect, and gestured for me to sit in the barber chair.

What followed was a scary clusterfuck of English, German and Turkish, if you were to translate everything directly into English:

HAIRDRESSER: “So, where you come from?” *Proceeding to attach the appropriate extension onto an electric razor and peel my scalp like a Doner kebab.*

ME: “I come from the ‘ooo-ess-ahh,’ uh, America… Portland, Oregon, correct? It is up, northwest…” *Gesturing upward and to the left with both hands in the air.*

HAIRDRESSER: *With a thick Turkish accent and a hint of mockery* “Ah, oooohkay, Mr. America.”

*Once the sides and back of my head were shaved, he attached a smaller extension and cut around my hairline. That’s when I noticed the straight razor on the counter. Close proximity to weapons any kind send me directly into fight-or-flight mode, so if someone were to menace me with one, I would either break that person’s wrist and stomp on their brain… or run screaming like a little girl in a tutu with a caterpillar on her arm.*

straight razor shave germany

“Sir? Sir… Is this absolutely necessary?” — Photo by Chris Michaels (http://www.flickr.com/photos/chrisamichaels/)

 ME: “So, uh… from where come you, formally speaking? I mean, well then, from come you where?”

HAIRDRESSER: *Gesturing to one of the other hairdressers and speaking in Turkish* “I come from him.” *Everyone started laughing for some reason.*

ME: “I don’t understand… I mean, I understand not.”

HAIRDRESSER: “Turkey.”

*That was when the hairdresser picked up the straight razor, at which point I became visibly nervous, my complexion fading from ‘Ivory Apprehension’ to ‘Eggshell Uncomfortable.’*

HAIRDRESSER: *Smiling and bringing the razor close* “Don’t move, eh?”

ME: “Ha ha… ‘kay.”

*The hairdresser proceeded to shave around the perimeter of my hairline, focusing mostly on the back of my neck. He moved the razor in quick little strokes, handling its edge with feline grace. I made the mistake of picturing how easily he could take my eye out, or how quickly he might give me a Sweeney Todd, and it was then my complexion faded from ‘Eggshell Uncomfortable’ to ‘Chartreuse Sputum.’*

HAIRDRESSER: “You for which president, George Bush or Barack Obama?”

george w bush as monkey ripping up constitution

“Choose wisely. Your life depends upon it.” — Image by DonkeyHotey (http://www.flickr.com/photos/donkeyhotey/)

ME: *Thinking frantically, Which president is least likely to have messed with Turkey? My life is on the line here, and I’ve got a 50/50 chance of survival.* “…uh, Barack Obama.”

HAIRDRESSER: *Shouting* “MOTHER FUCKER!”

ME: *Oh my God, I am going to die.* “What? I don’t know! Who do you like?” *Thinking, Did the President bomb Turkey lately? Why don’t I follow the news back home more closely? Please put the razor down, please put the razor down…*

HAIRDRESSER: *After rattling off some particularly guttural Turkish and gesturing toward the TV in the corner, I understood this man was mostly kidding, but did, in fact, prefer George Bush.* “So, it is ‘Fuck Bush’ then, eh, Mr. America?”

ME: “I… I really don’t know man.” *Now more mystified than terrified, thinking, Why in the sweet fires of hell would a Turkish man support George W. Bush?*

*The haircut concluded in merciful silence, with me in no way comforted, and the hairdresser wearing a shit-eating grin. He showed me the back of my head with a handheld mirror, I nodded my approval and we approached the cash register.*

HAIRDRESSER: “So! That will be thirty euros!”

*I paused, wallet in hand, thinking, That is way more expensive than I had anticipated, but one cannot be frugal when shopping for uncut throats.*

HAIRDRESSER: “I kid! From me to you. It is eight euros.”

ME: “Eight euros, okay.” *Thinking, That is way cheaper than I had anticipated.*

*I tipped him an extra euro (which is actually a really nice tip here in Germany), wished him a good day and shagged-ass right the hell out of there.*

funny running man

“Thankyouseeyoulaterhaveaniceday!” — Photo by FaceMePLS (http://www.flickr.com/photos/faceme/)

When I came home, I went into the bathroom, looked in the mirror and discovered I’d received what was absolutely the best haircut I’d had in Germany thus far. Maybe it was so good because I finally had my hair cut by a man, and who better than a man to understand the subtleties of a man’s haircut? Maybe Turkish hairdressers are just really talented? I don’t know, and I shan’t question my good fortune. However, it wasn’t so long ago I would have laughed had you suggested I might someday move to Germany and switch political parties at the provocation of a knife-wielding Turk.

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

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Video: Expat Bachelor Weekend Ends with Frenzied Housecleaning and the TUI Marathon in Hannover, Germany

Over the weekend of May 5, 2013, my German wife was at an overnight bachelorette party with her friends in Braunschweig, Germany. I had the apartment all to myself, so I did what any self-respecting American male would do when his wife is out of town; I stripped down to my undies, watched porn, ate beans straight out of the can and drank a fifth of vodka.

The next morning, as I emerged from my coma of bachelorhood with nervous bowels and a headache, I left the apartment to go do whatever chores my wife had asked me to do before she left. I had no idea what those chores were because I wasn’t listening, but the point is I was in no mood to find myself in the middle of the goddamn 2013 Hannover TUI Marathon.

What follows is a video of this marathon, which I recorded with shaking hands and thinly veiled contempt.

I retreated from these strangely tribal sounds and dragged myself home. My wife was due to return from Braunschweig very soon, and she likes to keep our apartment nice. Now, remember, for the past 24 hours I’d had the apartment all to myself, so you can imagine how thoroughly its state of order devolved from “Euro Chic” to “Hurricane Pig Grenade.”

Check out these pictures I took 5 minutes before my wife walked through the door, when I was scrambling to clean up everything like a tornado made of panic and teardrops.*

* What has two thumbs and is totally up for the Husband of the Year Award? THIS guy.

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