As you know, my wife and I live in Hannover, Germany. She is a native German citizen — bright, beautiful and freakishly enthusiastic about her work as a Gymnasium teacher — and I am an American expat; dark and introverted, spinning graphic design projects from my home office like a funnel-web spider tending to its silken trip-lines: “Oh yes, my pretties… come closer. Let me sink my venomous logo into your fledgling business enterprise…”
So normally I’m the hateful side of our little German-American relationship, and my wife is the loving side; she genuinely enjoys people and always looks for the good in them. But after living in a questionable apartment building with psychotic inhabitants and an apathetic management company for two years (See: Arkham Asylum for the Criminally Insane), even she was ready to burn the place to the ground and piss on the ashes.
She checked the house rental listings every night for months until finally she found the perfect opening: A little house in a quiet neighborhood on the outskirts of the city, still close enough to commute to work, but far enough away we wouldn’t be tempted to climb on top of our new roof and pick off our former neighbors like a couple of wildly underqualified Marine snipers.
We got the news our rental application had been approved, and then we started packing like mad. We boxed everything up, hired a moving company and got the hell out of that apartment. As we drove away, gazing at the building as it receded from view, my wife stuck her hands out the window — both middle fingers held high in the air — and shouted, “Adios Amigos!”
Of course, with her adorable German accent, what actually came out was:
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My German wife and I have only been married since 2012, so I’m not an expert or anything, but being a good listener seems to be a pretty important part of marriage. That is, if you want to stay married, I mean. If you’d rather catapult yourself through a sudden divorce, go ahead and let your eyes glaze over whenever your spouse starts talking to you. Hold your thumb down on the TV remote, steadily increasing the volume until the sound of her voice is drowned out entirely. You’ll be on your own in no time.
But being a good listener doesn’t necessarily mean you have to actually do anything. In fact, the less you do while your spouse is talking, the better. When it comes to daily communication — like when you tell one another about your respective workdays — listening is really all about being present. Face your spouse. Keep your eyes open. Nod every once in a while. Maybe throw a grunt or two in there. It’s so easy! By merely being present (in body, if not in mind), what you’re actually doing is allowing your partner to vent. You’re refraining from doing or saying things which might hinder the verbal diarrhea your partner so desperately needs to spray you with. Just square up to that fire hose and take it in the eardrums.
Obviously there are times when you need to actively comprehend what you’re hearing and then offer up some kind of response, like, “Yes, honey, it sounds like that woman on the train was being a bitch. That bitch.” — but those times are pretty rare. On a daily basis, most people just need to unload their emotions onto something slightly more animated than a freshly painted wall. This is why, when my wife comes home and tells me in vivid detail all about her day at work, I just shut my dirty hole and watch her talk. And for this small amount of effort — 9 times out of 10 — my German wife will reward me by wrapping things up with a sigh and saying:
“Thank you for your open ear.”*
*Translated directly from the German saying, “Danke für dein offenes Ohr.”
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Posted in Denglish
Tagged Advice, Denglish, Deutschland, Expat, German Wife, Germany, Hannover, Humor, Language, Marriage, offenes Ohr, Tips
After my wife finished her time as a Referendariat teacher-in-training — AKA: 18 months of stress-induced psychosis — she was faced with the grueling task of applying for jobs in various German cities. We were already living here in Hannover, but weren’t sure if we wanted to try someplace new, like Hamburg or Bremen. One thing we knew for sure, however, was that we did not want to move any further south.
I find the social dynamics between northern and southern Germans completely hilarious; they make fun of each others’ accents, food, weather, soccer teams — even their attitudes toward life in general. Northerners think of southerners as overly conservative, self-entitled brats with too much money and one great big boner for Jesus Christ. Southerners look at northerners as depressing, humorless robots with lumps of coal where their hearts should be. I love it. (Especially because the rest of the world is pretty sure all Germans are humorless robots.)
So as my German wife was applying for jobs back in 2013, she explained her search criteria to me thus: She would only be applying to cities in the north because we are not “Southies.” She went further to clarify why she would be choosing between certain job offers, saying…
“Right now, I want to pick out the raisins where I have a good stomach feeling.”
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