The Horrible, Awful, Purely-Evil German Neighbors Downstairs

Funny Old Couple Waiting for Death / God
They may look harmless, but they will not hesitate to drop your puppy down the garbage chute. — Image courtesy of Martin Smith (http://www.flickr.com/photos/23310679@N07/)

The Wife and I live in an apartment building in Hannover, Germany. Our building has 10 units, and the walls are paper thin. We can hear everything our neighbors do — from the units above, below and to the sides — and we have some interesting neighbors.

We’ve got the young married couple upstairs, who get into these crazy fights every 2 weeks, involving apathetic, “you have to stop doing this,” type comments from the husband, and a lot of manic screaming and throwing of breakable household goods from the wife (followed by equally loud and frightening bouts of makeup sex). Then there’s the nice Russian family across the hall, who are actually great neighbors and do a magnificent job of ignoring us when we’re out on our balcony. We even have a unit full of college students on the first floor, who party until all hours of the night and can’t seem to figure out which day of the week to put their garbage out on the sidewalk for pick-up. (Seriously, you idiots, the garbage truck comes Thursday morning, so when Wednesday evening rolls around, put the beer bottle down, step over the Swedish exchange student with alcohol poisoning and throw out that plastic bag full of empty cigarette packs and curiously stained gym socks.)

funny drunk kid passed out
“Dude, is Viktor still breathing?” — Image courtesy of shrtstck | icnt.mx (http://www.flickr.com/photos/thebigo/)

Now, I don’t particularly like living near college students or newlywed couples grappling with mental illness; they’re all nice enough, I suppose, but terribly inconsiderate as neighbors. They genuinely don’t care about anyone around them. However, I would take an entire apartment building full of these crazy, sweaty meatbags over the terrible, old, evil, antichrist neighbors living directly beneath us.

I call them Emphysema Dieter and the Crimson Hellcow. They’re these twisted shut-ins who’ve lived in our building for — I shit you not — 40 years.  Dieter looks like a dried-out tobacco leaf. Hellcow looks like a chubby little troll with flaming red ‘I’ve-given-up’ old lady hair. They smoke all day long. Their putrid stench wafts directly up through the vent in our bathroom and up over our balcony. When they open their door, the entire staircase reeks of filth. It’s like they’ve lived here so long their apartment has become a kind of nicotine hive; its tobacco roots having grown so long and woven so deeply into the architecture they’ll have to tear the whole building down after the two cancer maggots inside finally pupate and fly away.

They both have remarkably bad smoker’s coughs. Emphysema Dieter, in particular. When he’s out on their porch hacking up a little bit of wonderful, I seriously gag and throw up a little in my mouth. He’s so old and decrepit he can barely walk. I almost feel bad for him, but then I hear him coughing up that morning lungbutter and I think to myself, “Yeah… when you die, I’m gonna go out, find your grave and then I’m just gonna piss all over it.”

Wrinkled old man in a nice Sunday suit
“Hey, you’re not smoking! Let me light another one for you… don’t wanna keep the Reaper waiting!” — Image courtesy of SpaceShoe (http://www.flickr.com/photos/spaceshoe/)

Now, Emphysema Dieter and the Crimson Hellcow aren’t just disgusting, they’re also mean. When they babysit their granddaughter, we can hear them berating her for crying. I can’t understand all the German words, but my wife tells me they’re yelling things like, “Oh, you’re gonna cry now? Good! Go ahead, you big baby!” Which, of course, only makes the child cry harder. I think this is how Dieter and the Hellcow reproduce; not through normal, human copulation, but by subjecting young souls to a constant diet of ridicule.

They’re also mean to people outside the family. They lean out their window and glare at people in the street below. They yell at anyone who parks a car in front of the building — even if it’s absolutely necessary because the people are moving in — and even if it’s only for a few seconds. Now, when someone parks a car out front, it affects Dieter and the Hellcow not at all. Like, not even a little bit. I suspect they yell at people not out of respect for building rules or traffic protocol, but because they cannot stand the sight of happiness in others. Smiling makes them nauseous. Laughter burns their ears. When they see two lovers kiss in the shimmering light of a beautiful spring morning, they soothe themselves by microwaving a gerbil.

scary old woman with a headache
“Stop it. Your smile is giving me a migraine.” — Image courtesy of outcast104 (http://www.flickr.com/photos/outcast104/)

Since these two creatures rarely venture outside, I am forced to assume they sustain themselves by sucking the breath from stray cats and gnawing marrow from the bones of orphan children. However, I’ve seen the Crimson Hellcow in the staircase a few times, and she always uses the opportunity to say something vicious to me in German. Luckily, I can’t understand a word out of her mouth and she can’t speak English, so our dialogues go like this:

ME: *Walking down the stairs* “Oh great, it’s you.”

THE CRIMSON HELLCOW: “Hurry up, can’t you see I’m standing here?”

ME: “I don’t care. I don’t care. Whatever.”

THE CRIMSON HELLCOW: “What are you, deaf? You impudent little shit…”

ME: *With a smile and a wave* “Break a hip, you miserable hag!”

Come to think of it, I’m not even sure Emphysema Dieter and the Crimson Hellcow are married; they have different last names on their door and mailbox. Maybe they’re brother and sister. Maybe I’ve finally found Hansel and Gretel, only instead of pushing the evil witch into the oven in order to escape being eaten, they pushed her in because they thought it was funny. Then they ate the candy house, smoked all the candy canes and moved to Hannover in hopes of finding a sassy American expat to devour. Oh God, they can smell the freedom on my skin. They want to crack open my bones and suck out the marrow of liberty. I bet my loins taste just like bald eagle.

Steak and potatoe dinner at a diner
And justice. My spare ribs taste like justice. — Image courtesy of Whiplus (http://www.flickr.com/photos/64785988@N04/)

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

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95 thoughts

      1. I lived in Germany (Köln) for SEVEN years as an artist. Actually the reason I stayed so long was because the horrible people were so inspirational. Since moving away I have lived in Ireland, north England, Australia and New Caledonia and it is SUCH a pleasure to be surrounded by nice friendly people every day! I will NEVER move back to Germany it’s just too serious and unfriendly for me.

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  1. This was by far the best Culture Shock you have ever had :D Well, at first I was a bit concerned about whether I should pity you, but HELL NO, I’m German and Germans don’t feel sorry for anybody! ;)

    However, as a matter of fact you have a good sense of humor and might want to test how German you are to forget about all these “neighbors”. Have fun! I had a great time with it.
    http://www.thegermanquiz.com/

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  2. Just saw a BBC doc called “Make Me A German” where a couple of reporters and their two young kids live as “typical Germans” for a month. The best part was when their neighbor, a fresh-faced policeman, came over to tell them that all the other neighbors were complaining that they were too noisy on Sunday. And by noisy the neighbors meant that they had kids. Maybe you could pull the “Sunday Card” on your toxic neighbors?

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  3. Actually, we bought our family apartment – one large unit in a house of 7. All worked out fine, until one family decided to move out and rent the apartment out. The tenants took an instant dislike to us, the children, the cats. As a very busy working mom with four children who all engaged in some sort of perspiration intensive sports I had to do laundry every day. My system worked out just fine, throw the laundry in at night, take it out in the morning and toss it in the dryer. Until I found out that the washer had somehow stopped during the night, I had then to restart the machine and got behind my schedule. I searched and searched for a technical flaw, but could not find one. After this happened too often, my husband offered to wait in the laundry room (down in the Keller for every party in the house to use) and watch the washing machine. He placed himself on the dryer, but did not bother to turn the lights on. Shortly afterwards, the new tenant lady sneaked in, pulled the plug on our washing machine and was about to leave when my husband said: “Boooooh!”
    Screaming, she ran upstairs, called the police and said that my husband had raped her. When the police arrived, we explained the situation calmly, trying to suppress our laughter (it obviously did not work). To top it off the next door neighbour heard us in the hallway, came out, listened to the “case” and soberly commented: “He has a young woman, why in heavens name would he go for an old bag like her?” Police left with a nice “Good Evening” and without even taken personal details, our washing machine stayed untouched.
    Neighbours in Germany can be sometimes very “besonders”. Have you heard of “Mittagsruhe” yet?

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  4. I almost wrote this blog post once, but my rough draft wasn’t near this good. We had an old man above us screaming at all hours of the night for someone to shut up. It was blood curdeling if you were awake enough to hear it. Every summer we would come back to our apartment hoping he had finally died….but then late one night, when we least expected it…there it was. “Hör auf!!” “Egyptian Grandma” lived below us. Her son lived in Egypt. Hence the name. Luckily she was pretty deaf, so she never heard us jumping on the ceiling. Then there was “Yo Gabba Gabba”. She hung out by the door downstairs in the hope of transporting more gossip or gaining new dirt on the people on floor X. “Knappy Head” had this ok hair do, but it was always smushed on one side from sleep. And then there were the “Creepy Sisters”. They were old…like death old. They would not get in the elevator with my husband. Men terrified them. And they walked hand in hand everywhere. Imagine creepy twins from The Shining but like 90 years old.

    But the nasty, in everybodies business, is a funny German past time. Why do these people insist on yelling at you for the stupidest stuff. They leave nasty notes when you don’t lock the inner inner door of the laundry room. I just walked through two locked doors, the third door, if you get that far, can only be reached by people with a key. Who the hell cares!

    Ok I’m done ranting. I love Germany, and all of our crazy neighbors.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. *puts tongue firmly in cheek*
    Stop berating your elderly neighbours. Hey, they have stood living in Germany longer than you, that deserves some credit, as you yourself admit it is living hell! Besides, if you do not like living in an ageing society go and take your (now) young wife and live in the “eternal youth” country you come from …
    *tongue still in cheek though it starts looking as if it were a lesbian hard-on, but to hell with reputation*
    We here prefer to age disgracefully and use all the privileges being old has to offer with extreme malevolence. (Not having to look beautiful anymore, not having to smell good, not having to pretend you are extremely healthy are just a few them – giving in to vices – talking too loud, never smiling – being unfriendly to your own grandchild – berating other people for violation of rules some more – I am really looking forward to old age!)
    Behaviour like that is what you expect of old people, behaviour like that is what you GET from them – Since the last WW we do not want to keep foreigners disappointed.
    Instead of complaining about them, try to learn some disgruntled curses from them – nothing beats first hand experience – and nobody can offer as much experience as an old person. You might want to use those muttered curses later on, when you are an old disgruntled person.
    *Takes tongue slowly out of cheek now, before she spreads her spittle all over the keyboard*

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  6. Not unusual for folks here to live in an apartment for 40 years. My son’s upstairs neighbor has lived in his apartment since before WW II (briefly leaving Berlin during the nastiness of the early 1940s). My downstairs neighbor is about 60 and has lived in this building since he was born (although in different apartments — first as a child with his parents and then in his own apartment). As for paper-thin walls, next time you rent a flat, look for Altbau — these places can have 14 inch thick walls and floors and really nice, high ceilings (ours is 14 ft). We almost never hear our neighbors (except in the summer time when the windows are open, we sometimes hear folks walking on the sidewalk in front of our Haus. [Of course, being old and half-deaf helps mitigate the noise of neighbors, too!]

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  7. Jayzus bejayzus, I know these people… As a missionary in Austria in the 70’s, I think I met an entire nation full of them. The incredible wretchedness of their lives could provide enough despair even for Housman’s verse…

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  8. HAHAHAHA I’m dieing over here :D Believe me, every street in Germany has at least one of these old couples! The worst thing is that they are in a secret club and call eachother to exchange information about the people and cars passing by their window. It’s insane!

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  9. I’m guessing it felt really good to write and vent about the neighbors. I dream of writing a post like this but I live on a small island and too many islanders read my blog. One day I will lose my mind and who knows what will show up on the blog… Anywoo, it was cathartic to read about your hellish neighbors. I belly laughed over your photo captions. :)

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    1. Right on, Jeanne!

      I was just lucky because I wrote my post knowing these ancient bastards wouldn’t know how to use the internet. Or a computer. Or a cell phone. But you GOTTA write that bad neighbor post. Just change everything to some time before you moved to the island.

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  10. Ha ha, this reminds me of an equally sour neighbor of mine who used to drench us kids in pot-fulls of water thrown from the 3rd floor so we wouldn’t play outside his window. We called him ” grasu’ contrabasu’ ” (literally “fat like a double bass”).

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  11. Haha….this is hilarious….so many of your stories are truly THE german stereotypes…I am laughing my butt off….and the neighbors…oh boy, I do know them…I had them….not sure if I should be proud to be a German or embarassed lol….keep on writing, it’s so much fun to read :)
    Cheers
    Sarah

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  12. Man, I’m so glad I found your website. It really lightens up my day.
    Grumpy old people is one of the reason why I left Germany to start over in your country. Equally bad are grumpy old store owners. The kind that almost makes you feel like apologizing for buying in their store. After living years in Germany who probably know what I’m talking about ;)

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  13. I live in a complex with only four apartments – which is actually pretty cool.
    The last two brainless tenants managed to get kicked out after been loud and I mean loud 24/7 for months. I’m happy to have my peace back.
    LG Anja

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  14. Goeie genade! (that means good grief) I love Belgian neighbours! They mind their own business and follow the rules – completely. They’re very dignified and civil compared to your lot!

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  15. What is it with German neighbors? We have a young couple upstairs who think the world revolves around their two spoiled rotten boys and our whole building should worship their kids (I guess since so few Germans are reproducing, or so the government says) and let them scream and run wild at all hours inside and outside. I never thought I’d have neighbors worse than those I had in Southern California! We’re moving next month after a year of hell in this building, and here’s hoping the new building isn’t worse ;)

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  16. Hilarious!! I love your descriptions – they’re so vivid, I think those two are standing next to me – I can even hear them cough. LOL

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      1. Progresses – but kind of stepping back two steps after stepping forward one… it’s a little weird… I’m still working on it and not giving up! Thanks for asking.

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  17. sound like old 68ers who kept their own surnames after marriage because it was the mode in their Red army-factor,,,,they can be esp. nasty because their disillusioness over east germany breaking up and so they revenge that on everyone. Especially to a succulent american capitalistuc pig. ;)

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  18. Note to self: Phone L.A. German Consulate and advise them there’s no hurry processing meine Dokumente! Great post and comments. Looking forward to my be soon-to-be expat status, arriving Berlin Jan 1st. Thanks for the comment about the benefits of an Altbau, btw…I’m leaning in that direction anyway, having grown up in a NYC brownstone which I remember fondly.

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  19. This is nothing, entire country is creepy. German wife here also, finally convinced her to leave! I had a landlord here try to start a masturbation porn theater in my attic one time. He tried to convince me that it was ok because it was only masturbation and bondage, no intercourse. Silly me!

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      1. Thanks! I’m re-doing mine right now. I previously had a blog from when I lived in South Korea for two years (The culture shock was crazy for me there!)!

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  20. While some of your posts are decently funny for an American who just seems not to get *it* about some things in this country (especially this whole too often something is crap because it is different, maybe the stuff you so used to from the states is not good in first place as your crappy mayo) but this post goes too far.
    I suggest you look up the words ‘Beleidigung’ and ‘Verleumdung’.
    If this post was about me, and with all the info you provided over the months it would be easy enough to figure that out, I would file a complaint against you – you also may not only look up the words but also the paragraphs in the StGb covering these.

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