A German’s First Time in Britain, by Dan Walker
Originally posted on Dan in Deutschland: A British Expat’s Take on Life in Germany
(Just to note, as per: This article is not meant to cause any offence – it’s purely all meant as a joke, of course!)
Ah, Germans. Aren’t they great? With their Hausschuhe and their Brötchen… I wrote a nice little post about them a few weeks ago which you can read here.
But, what happens when a German is taken out of their comfort zone and placed into Great Britain for two weeks? And what happens when said German is one of those where you’d say: “You can take the man out of Germany, but you can’t take the Germany out of the man.” I mean, Tim is pretty much the definition of a German – loves his Brötchen, wears Hausschuhe, watches Tatort, has some sort of health tip for every situation, and has some sort of deep-down hatred against British food. I was excited to see what the two weeks had in store for him.
The first thing to note is that Tim has a fear of flying. And I’m not going to make fun of that, because it’s not his fault. Due to this, our journey started off with a very early rise, and us catching a train at 6:30am to Brussels. As we sat down, Tim noted: “Oh, it’s really early, isn’t it?”. Yes, Tim, it is. We wouldn’t be awake this early if we were flying. That moment quickly passed as I promised to not compare our journey to flying again. Tim rightly said, “A flight may be an hour long, but you also have to be at the airport early which adds to the time.” He had a point, up until the moment we got to Brussels at 9:30am, and we couldn’t actually check in to our train until 10:30am, which meant we had a whole hour to kill hanging round the train station. What was that about having to be there early, Tim?
When we finally got to London (admittedly without any problems, just a bit of hanging around in Brussels, like we were in an airport), we were welcomed with a million-and-a-half tourists buzzing round St Pancras and King’s Cross. We quickly made our way to the Underground and got to the hotel. All was well.
That day did indeed go well, with a trip to Wagamama with Belinda, with only a few of the question “How much is this one?” from Tim as he searched through his Sterling coins. Then came the first challenge: Give the German good English beer. How was I supposed to know? I’m a cider lover, and I only drink German beer. We went into a small pub near Westminister and I got the command: “Get me a good English beer.” Panicking slightly, I turned to the bar and saw the word ‘London’ in the ‘London Pride’ ale. Perfect. Or so I thought. Here’s a summary of his thoughts on his first English beer in pictures:
So, that one didn’t go down too well. But all was not lost – it was only the first day after all!
Day two – first breakfast. The hotel offered a sort of limited British breakfast. I went to get my things and Tim got his after. He sat down, looking shocked: “Did you see the cheese? I couldn’t find any.” I told him that in England, cheese isn’t really a traditional breakfast food. His reply?
“Oh my God, I’m in hell.”
So that didn’t go down too well either. He also mentioned that he wasn’t a fan of the sausages – Cumberland sausage and chorizo. I assured him that chorizo is also not a standard English breakfast item, to which he replied: “Oh, that was the sausage I preferred.”
Something Tim noted as we left the hotel and headed towards Westminister was a cash machine with “Free Cash” on it. He was quite shocked – “What a wonderful country!” he exclaimed, clearly trying to forget the beer and breakfast experience he had had so far. Then he read the small word “withdrawals” underneath “Free Cash”. Oh well!
The rest of our time in London went really well. We saw all the sights and I caught some Pokémon, so everyone was happy. There was one point in the hotel where we were watching TV: Tim was on his phone, kind of half listening to the TV, until a man on one of those auction programmes said “And that’s why I love being a pawn broker.” Tim slowly raised up his head to the TV until I quickly explained there’s a difference between the word ‘pawn’ and the similar sounding but differently spelt word. It was only 5pm after all!
When I first told Tim about the place I come from, I said it was small and that I didn’t like that everyone knows everyone. His reaction? “Yeah, my hometown is really small, too, and everyone knows everyone.” I asked him where he’s from. His reply? “Cologne… uh, but like a small area on the outskirts.” We looked it up. Cologne-Porz, in 2008, had around 105,000 inhabitants. Gilberdyke, my village, in 2011, had around 3,500. No, Tim, you don’t come from a small place.
As we approached Gilberdyke on the train and there was nothing around us apart from miles and miles of fields, I told him we were nearly there. He laughed in a “good one!” kind of way. His face soon dropped when he realised I wasn’t lying. But we got a good photo of him with the sign at the train station.
In terms of English-German clashes, the next few days were quite quiet, thankfully. We visited my auntie for her birthday and we went to the seaside in Scarborough with my sisters, one of their partners and my nephew, where there were quite a lot of aggressive seagulls. I guess there was the thing where Tim wore a load of layers at the seaside in the blazing heat, too. You know, just in case he caught a cold.
Then it was time to head to Blackpool to visit my cousin. After dropping off our stuff at her house, it was time for Tim’s first fish and chips. And, from what I recall, I think that was the only successful English food experience he had. Though he didn’t put any vinegar on it (then again, neither did I – foul!).
The night saw Tim’s first Wetherspoons experience where we had Magners for £2.69. I’m not sure if that was because it was the Wetherspoons or because we were in the North, or just a mixture of both. But we were happy. We also had some Erdinger so that Tim’s German levels didn’t drop under an unhealthy level.
The next day was time for Tim’s first proper English fry-up. In a nutshell? Not sure it went too well. I said he should order black pudding as an extra to try it (you either love it or hate it, really). He hated it. So much that he couldn’t eat it all (and Tim always eats everything). He also didn’t like the Cumberland sausage again. My cousin had ordered extra baked beans for herself too, which were accidentally put onto Tim’s plate. Oh, how we laughed. Apart from Tim. He didn’t laugh. But he did smile for a photo before scooping about three-quarters of the beans onto my cousin’s plate.
After Blackpool, it was time for Edinburgh – somewhere I have also never been. After a minor problem with our room which meant a free drink for us (apparently the way to do it in Scotland which I’m not complaining about), we had a walk around before calling it an early night.
The next day, we met up with David and went for another big breakfast. The breakfast was, we were told, not typical Scottish and a little bit alternative. Tim loved the fact it wasn’t fatty, and Scotland gained a point against England. David also asked Tim how he was finding the UK so far. There was a genuine 5-second awkward pause before he managed “Yeah, nice”. Oh.
We’d had wonderful weather so far on our journey, but now, half way in, the British weather couldn’t hold it in anymore and decided to open up on us. For quite a few hours as well!
After a coffee and cake in The Elephant House, a spooky tour underground learning about Edinburgh’s past, and generally having a walk around trying to see everything we could without getting drenched, we ended up finding a bar and having some cider – thankfully, Tim approves of cider (I think).
The next day we had a road trip to St Andrews (apparently famous for golf, who’d have thought?) and the British weather well and truly showed us what it’s made of. Though there was an untypical lack of rain, the wind sure made up for it. For lunch, we went to a nice café where I had traditional ‘Haggis, Neeps & Tatties’. Delicious! Tim, in a panic at the thought of more British food, had a burger with chips.
On the next day, it was time to go back to Yorkshire. When we got back, we went for a meal with my dad and his girlfriend, Gilly, at a pub underneath the Humber Bridge. Tim went for a Timothy Taylor beer purely because his name is in it, and he actually liked it! Thank God for that. Then it was time to order some food. On the menu there was Bangers and Mash, Steak & Ale Pie, Fish and Chips… Tim said: “Oooh, I think I’ll have a chicken burger.” Knowing we were there for only two weeks, I had to be a grown-up about it and tell him he shouldn’t have a burger two nights in a row and he should try something British. So he went for a lasagna. Apparently, it was good.
I had Steak & Ale pie. It was so good. Tim tried some of the fluffy pastry with the gravy and he wasn’t a fan. If pie and gravy, where the pastry sucks up all the delicious gravy, wasn’t going to persuade him, I’m not sure what was.
During our second and final week, we went on a day trip with Ellie and Beccy to Bolton Abbey. We wanted to have a typical British picnic – sandwiches, crisps, scotch eggs, flapjack… We were all very excited.
And then, just as were finishing, Britain did what it does best. And the German was not amused.
Oh well, we still enjoyed ourselves!
On our last full day in Yorkshire, we went to York and Tim got excited at all the old buildings. It rained, too. I also showed him fudge and we both bought some each. I’m pretty sure his half-eaten fudge is lying here somewhere. I just couldn’t impress the German with the food. We also went to The House of Trembling Madness with Lucy at the end of the day, where they were advertising Kölsch, which got Tim excited. If only I had got a photo of his face as he returned from the bar to tell me they didn’t have any in stock…
Our penultimate day in England saw us heading back to London for one final night, and we met up with some of my friends and one of Tim’s friends, who is also German. Tim’s face lit up when we saw his friend and he could finally speak German to a native again. Now he knows how it feels! We went for a drink and some food in a really cool pub in Covent Garden called The Porterhouse. I would recommend it! Tim even chose to have fish and chips. I was gobsmacked. He did have a Kölsch though, but one out of two isn’t bad.
It was quite funny listening to Tim’s English in the last few days of our trip. Usually, his English is really good, particularly his rather British accent. However, as the days went on, his accent disappeared a bit, from saying “the” like “ze” and my favourite comment of his: when he wanted to say “The bathtub was rusted”, he said “The bathtube was roasted”. Nearly, Tim. Nearly.
On the last day, Tim took the train back to Frankfurt and I flew (there was no chance I was spending another 5-7 hours on a train). Turned out, my flight was 150 minutes delayed and I got back to Frankfurt about 1:30am. It’s always me.
On a serious note, though, I have certainly made it sound like Tim hated Britain. That’s a lie (if you don’t include the food). He loved it. He said he found the people extremely friendly and the landscape and architecture also really nice. I’m sure I’ll get him to Britain again some day. We might just have to bring a stock of bread rolls and cheese with us though.
Read more from Dan Walker on his blog, Dan in Deutschland: A British Expat’s Take on Life in Germany