Tag Archives: German Language

My German Wife Compares Me to a Feral Child Raised in the Jungle by Apes


“Look Ma, I can swing all by myse-OHSHIT!”– Photo Credit: BillBl (https://www.flickr.com/photos/billbliss/) — Subject to CC Attribution 2.0 Generic Copyright.

Back in March of 2012, my wife and I were in the kitchen cooking chili. (And not just any chili, but ultra spicy, bowel shivering, anus puckering death chili.)

During the course of the food preparation, we struck up a conversation about German vocabulary. Specifically, she taught me how to say the word “television,” which is “der Fernseher.” Literally, “Fernseher” translates into English as “far seer.” I nodded and stroked my chin, and we both took a moment to enjoy the blatantly obvious logic behind this discovery. Then my wife smiled and gestured with a large wooden spoon in her hand, swirling it in the air like a magic wand of knowledge, declaring:

“I like when we speak German together so that we are both learning. Like Tarzan and Jane.”*

*Guess which one of us is the cultured debutante, and which one is the talking monkeyboy in a loincloth…

If you would like to read another post about my German wife’s wonderful talent for unique articulation, check out this other gem: Coastal Breezes at the Oregon Coast Affect Exactly ONE Part of My German Wife’s Body



Culture Shock 8: How to Out Yourself as an American in Germany (In 2 Seconds or Less)

Sometime in November of 2012, The Wife and I ventured into the university district of Hannover known as Nordstadt. Nordstadt is home to Leibniz University, where watery-eyed nerds go to study science and engineering. (And I bet they eat a ton of Döner Kebabs too. German nerds love Döner Kebabs.)

We found several pubs around the university and settled into one called Gaststätte Kaiser. The word ‘Kaiser’ immediately brought to mind Keyser Söze from The Usual Suspects… and also a round, soft bread roll with a crisp crust. (Delicious!)

The waitress approached our table and I attempted to order beers for myself and my wife. What follows is our interaction if you were to translate everything — directly and literally — into English:

ME: “A pretty evening to you. We here… I mean, the us, would very gladly have two massive pilsner beers.”

WAITRESS: *Smiling* “Two, one-liter beers?”

ME: “Oh God. Um… yes. Stop. I meant one, one-liter beer to me, and a half of a one-liter beer to my German wife.”

WAITRESS: *Giggling* “Okay.”

*The waitress then turned, very obviously, toward my wife.*

WAITRESS: “Would you like anything to eat with that?”

THE WIFE: “Not just yet, thank you.”

Now, the waitress understood me just fine, yet she asked my wife if we wanted anything to eat. Clearly I had outed myself as someone not fluent in German. Perhaps I’d even identified myself specifically as an American, with my accent and proudly displayed ‘Oh God, My Wife Is German.’ t-shirt acting as indicators. But what I really wanted to know was, at exactly what moment — which word or gesture — had given me away.

So, I marched my sweet Yankee butt cheeks right up to the bar and asked her. She replied in English, and explained I had ordered ‘pilsner'; the students in Nordstadt simply order ‘pils.’ Nice, I thought to myself. It was a cultural outing, not a linguistic one.

I returned to our table and shared this bit of insight with my wife. She agreed with the assessment of the waitress, but went on to further explain the reasons for my outing:

THE WIFE: “You pause before you speak German. Like, you take a deep, long breath, and hesitate. Then you speak very deliberately, very slowly, so people think, ‘Is he retarded, or just foreign? Oh, foreign.’ “

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

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