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Five Times I Made a Fool of Myself

Before you get too excited, this is not the top five times I’ve ever looked like an idiot. That is a hotly contested list that I normally catalogue when I can’t sleep at 3am. This, instead, is a very short list of things I did over the Yuletide that proved I’d been in Germany for three months. Which equauted to me looking like a prat. Enjoy tales of my foolishness.

1. Having to think before I said pounds.

It took me a long while to get used to saying euros and cents instead of pounds and pennies, so when I cam back to England I thought it would be easy to slip back into saying pounds. I was wrong. The amount of times I went “It’s five eur- … I mean, it’s five eur-… Money, it’s five money” was stupidly high. Thankfully, I eventually got used to saying pounds instead of euros. Just in time to come back to Germany and have to start saying euros and cents again. If England would just switch to the Euro, I would never have had this problem. (Yes, that is my sole argumemnt for us switching to the Euro – what of it?)

2. Ja, ja, klar.

Being in a foreign country, speaking a foreign language, has made me a god at showing that I understand everything you’re saying to me and yes, I am listening. Even when I don’t and I’m not. But this has spilled over into my English. I found myself listening to friends and family talking and to show I was listening I found myelf saying “ja, ja, klar.” My cousin found it greatly amusing.

3. Time difference

Whilst I’m in Germany, I’m often very conscious of the time in England, because apparently people don’t appreciate it if I text them to say the sunrise is pretty when in England it’s 5am. So whenever I’m talking to people in England, in the back of my mind is the English time. So when I was in England this continued. I’d be messaging one of my friends and think “It’s 1am here, so it’s only midnight for them…Hang on…” Thankfully, my idiocy was kept a secret because I didn’t voice this to anyone. Until now.

4. Not saying thankyou to the bus driver

A cardinal sin in England I know. But in Germany the buses open half way down so you don’t even go past the driver to leave the bus, and I forgot, okay? I was so shocked to be back in my home town with it’s spaceship bus station that I was halfway off the bus before I realised I hadn’t said thankyou. I’m sorry. Please don’t revoke my citizenship.

5. Trying to pay with euros.

I left my euro coinage in my purse while I was in England. And yes, I do appreciate that this was all my own fault. But I kept trying to partially pay for things in euros. I mean, I was using the right amounts but euros are not legal tender in the UK. I think the best time this happened though was in a pub in London, where the girl behidn the bar, who was from a Euro zone country, had to explain to me that I couldn’t pay with euros. I was convinced it was a pound coin. Worst part of that story is that I was trying to buy my first drink. Wasn’t even vaguely tipsy.

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The Revelry Continues

Happy New Year! Long time, no blog, huh? I do apologise, I was busy trying to cram as much as I could into a two week visit to the motherland. I hope you had an excellent Christmas time, where ever you were. Mine was pretty darn fantastic, so I’ll run through the edited highlights.

  • Going to Birmingham Christmas Market with Dad on my first day back in England. It wasn’t as good as the actual Christmas markets, but I’ve been going to the Brum Christmas market annually for about 9 years now. And wandering round comparing it to Germany was a lot of fun.
  • Getting to help in the Christmas carol service at my grandparents’ church. During the service, the figurines get taken down the aisle to be put in the crib. And guess who got to carry one of the shepherds? Yes, that would be me. Thankfully I wasn’t in heels, because I didn’t want to trip and be responsible for breaking a figurine that I’m pretty sure is older than me.
  • Christmas dinner at Wetherspoons. Like many students, me and my friends have a local wetherspoons and we decided we should have Christmas dinner there. Because why not? With the only table decorated with tinsel and crackers, we kind of stood out, but it was so much fun.
  • Seeing my family. This one kind of goes without saying, but Christmas Day and Boxing Day were spent with my family and it was great to see them without a pesky computer screen getting in the way of hugging them.
  • Meeting up with uni friends. Some of my mates braved the terrible weather and delayed trains to hang out in a pub in Birmingham for a few hours. Catching up was awesome and it was great seeing them again.
  • London, baby. So I have the misfortune to be friends with quite a few southerners so I spent a few days in London, hanging out with them, having my accent taken the mick out of, losing at Tekken. The usual really.
  • New Year’s Eve. Usually we take over someone’s house in order to play Mario Kart and drink whilst ringing in the New Year. This year we went out. To Birmingham no less. Dancing in the New Year was a lot of fun and I would wholly recommend it. Especially when the DJ busts out Queen.
  • And finally, the TV. Sherlock, Doctor Who, catching up with S3 of Castle. So much good TV, so little time.

I am now back in Deutschland, so the blogging will be more regular. Though at the moment I am without laptop cable, so until that reappears in my life, it might not be back to usual once, twice, thrice when I’m super bored, times a week. But I hope the New Year brings you happiness and does not punish you for being unorganised by taking away your laptop charger.

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Ten Things You Need to Know About Germany

So I’ve been living in Deutschland for three months and week now. That’s 13 weeks.  Thirteen whole weeks. I’m pretty sure this now makes me an expert on Germany, so I have compiled a list of things you need to know about life in this great nation. They’re probably not the ten most important things to know but they are still good things to know about. So without further blather, let’s head to the list.

1. Inefficiency on public transport.

There’s this stereotype that German are efficient. I would like to call lies on this. Lies and slander. The breakdown of German efficiency is most clear on public transport. When picking a seat on a bus or a train, the majority of Germans will choose to sit in an aisle seat whilst dumping their stuff on the window seat. Fair enough when the bus is relatively empty, but when it starts to fill up, they never move over to the window seat and stow their bags on the floor. This means that despite the fact that ten people are standing down the aisle there could well still be twenty free seats. Don’t get me wrong, if you ask, they’ll move. But it just seems super inefficient to me. At least I can now ask “Is that seat free?” in perfect German.

2. Ordering McDonalds is a minefield.

Speaking as an English person, I find it impossible to order in McDonalds without giving away my foreigner status. Despite the fact that all the food has the same name, the pronunciation always screws me over. For example, Big Mac is pronounced Big Mek. And I find it inordinately hard to call fries ‘pommes frites’. I have given up on trying to sound German in McDonalds because it’s not worth it. If anything, ordering in English and then surprising the cashier by asking for mayonnaise rather than ketchup does rather make up for my obvious Englishness. (Mayo mit pommes frites is way more popular over here than ketchup is. Ask for ketchup and you might as well wear a sign saying ‘I’m not German.’)

3. Punk is not dead.

So this point may be more relevant in the East than in the West, or maybe it’s only relevant in Thüringen. But punk is alive and kicking. Tartan trousers and brightly coloured mohicans are not an uncommon sight round here. And so many people have plugs in their ears. As in the ones that give you a huge hole in your ear lobe, not the kind that makes it hard to hear. There’s also more non-natural hair colours than you can shake a stick at. Which is super cool. I want to bring all the people who go ‘oh, you’ll never get a job looking like that’ to Ilmenau, and introduce them to the teachers at my school with pink and purple hair.

4. The parent method of knocking*

When you knock in Germany, you then immediately go through the door. Which seems to make the whole point of knocking redundant.  But I have been reprimanded for waiting outside offices after  knocking, so I’m getting used to it. Even if it did mean I walked in on a colleague getting a dressing down from the Head teacher.

5. Wie gehts =/= you alright?

‘Wie gehts?’ means ‘how are you?’. Which to my mind makes it a suitable alternative to ‘you alright?’ I am wrong in this regard. If you say ‘wie gehts?’, you will get a proper response, not just ‘yeah, fine thanks’. The fabulous Mae Martin said that ‘hiya, you alright?’ was a purely British thing, but I didn’t believe her. Silly me. (You can find her thoughts on the three most British phrases at 01:58 in this clip. Warning: may contain swearing. I can’t remember and don’t have the internet data to check.)

6. Don’t jaywalk.

This is a fairly standard thing to be told about Germany. Tales of foreigners being fined abound. However, that is not the real issue. If you jaywalk, you have to be prepared for every German around to judge you. Judge you long and judge you hard. If they were British, they’d tut. Only jaywalk if you can cope with the stares.

7. Baskets in supermarkets, or the lack thereof.

Supermarkets in Germany are a lot smaller than those in Britain. There are no multi-storey leviathans where you need to leave a trail of breadcrumbs to find your way back to the exit. So you would have thought that baskets would be the perfect thing. No. No, you can have a trolley or nothing. And the trolley is going to cost you a euro deposit. I once foolishly went to the supermarket without checking to see if I had a euro coin. I did not. Trying to balance cheese, milk and pizza is surprisingly hard.

8. Casual nudity.

I went to a girls’ school for seven years. While this does mean I have a tendency to hoik up my tights in public, this does not mean I’m completely at ease with women stripping off around me. In fact, thanks to the five years of compulsory P.E and the communal changing rooms, we all became good at changing clothes without ever actually undressing. So when I went into the changing rooms at Zumba in Ilmenau and everyone was casually wandering round in their underwear, you can imagine my shock. And uncomfortableness. (The longer I spend in Germany, the more I realise I am a walking English stereotype.)

9. Never complain to a German about getting up early for school/university.

My school here in Ilmenau begins at 8am. I have friends who are working in schools who start earlier than that; in some cases, a whole 45 minutes earlier. Therese, my flatmate, often has lectures for university that start at 7am meaning, that despite the fact that we live two minutes from campus, she is still up earlier than I have ever been for university in England. One of my German friends used to have to get up at half 5 to get to high school on time. So seriously, never complain about 9am starts to a German. They will have you beat.

10. Ja wohl, mein Herr.

Ja wohl is a phrase that is used. I did not realise this. I thought it was one of those German phrases that British war films had latched onto. Like calling every male German Fritz. But no, ja wohl is very definitely a German phrase that is alive and well. I dare you to try and use it and not feel like you’re taking the mick.

*  While I have called this the parent method of knocking, my parents never did this. Because they’re awesome.

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A corner of this foreign field that is forever England

This week people kept asking me if I was homesick. And I wasn’t. Not at all. Not until people started asking me if I was. And then I watched ‘East Is East’ (the film) which made me even more homesick, though I’m not sure why given a) my family is nothing like that, b) I’m not from Manchester or anywhere nearby, and c) I wasn’t even thought of in the 70s.

But anyways, have a list of things that I miss about England that doesn’t include people. Or fish and chips, because I’ve discovered I can get it in Erfurt, which made me ridiculously happy.

  1. Buses running a hundred times an hour
  2. Indian takeaways
  3. Playing Quidditch
  4. Buses that go ding when you press the stop button.
  5. Wifi
  6. Big supermarkets

S’quite a short list really. There’s probably other things that I’ve missed off, but if I didn’t think of them pretty much straight away, I can’t miss them that much, right?

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Little Red Riding Hood and other tales.

The title of this blog post is a reference to the fact that I went a-wandering in the woods whilst wearing my red hoodie, and the reference amused me for at least 15 minutes. But yes, things that I have done during my second week in Germany:

  1. Walked in the woods. Lots. It always feels weird coming back out ‘cause it feels like I’ve been gone for ages. Maybe I just read too much Narnia as a kid.
  2. Figured out how the buses work. Shockingly, they’re surprisingly similar to English buses, with a mix of nice and surly drivers, stop buttons that say stop and old people who talk to you even when you have no idea what they’re talking about.
  3. Watched the entirety of S1 of Dollhouse, the complete S3 of Being Human, half of Alice by the Syfy channel, all of the episodes of Firefly with commentary, the entire S1 of 2 Broke Girls (some of it in German) and 9 films.
  4. Read ‘The Girl who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making’ by Catherynne M. Valente (who is just showing off with the spelling of her name), ‘The Stupidest Angel’ by Christopher Moore, ‘Going Underground’ by Susan Vaught, ‘Timeline’ by Michael Crichton, ‘Turning Forty’ by Mike Gayle, and ‘Maximum Ride’ by James Petterson.
  5. Started to read ‘The Secret Life of Bees’ by Sue Monk Kidd, ‘Neverwhere’ by Neil Gaiman and ‘Harry Potter und der Feuerkelch’ by Joanne K. Rowling.
  6. Phoned Tesco mobile about 500 hundred times to top up my monthly tariff. Not because they were inept, but because I was.
  7. Actually met and talked to one of my flatmates. Her name is Lisa, and she’s the most helpful person I’ve ever met.
  8. Wished I had internet access roughly five times an hour.
  9. Tided my room, just for something to do, about ten times.
  10. Wished Mom was still around because I keep seeing birds of prey and not having a clue what they are, and for the first time I care whether it’s a kite or a hawk or a falcon or whatever.
  11. Eaten my bodyweight in Haribo and Kinder chocolate.
  12. Negotiated with a guy over the washing machine room key auf deutsch, and quite possibly have either made an almost friend or a complete fool of myself. One of the two.
  13. Introduced Lisa to English tea with milk. She likes it.
  14. Pronounced William as Villiam because I was concentrating so hard on German pronunciation whilst talking about the royal family.
  15. Failed to register with the town hall because I have no proof that I’m at uni with me.
  16. Made an appointment to open a bank account.
  17. Purchased a German sim card (I’m on O2 now. Can call other people on German O2 for free. Yay. Though currently I have no credit, so I’m still using my English number.)
  18. Discovered that there’s a severe lack of girls wandering round the uni here. I mean, boys are great, don’t get me wrong. Some of my best friends are boys. But it’s a little unsettling to only see packs of boys. And I know it’s a science based university, but I mean, some of my best friends are female scientists, so what gives? (I’ll stop with the overuse of ‘some of my best friends are-’. Promise.)
  19. Learnt that, apparently, mp3 format was invented here.
  20. Realised that Germans talk about the weather just as much as the English. Especially when it rains.
  21. Learnt that apparently the dialect in Bayern is unintelligible.
  22. Had one of the most awkward introductions ever, with Theresa’s (she’s the other flatmate) boyfriend, in which he went to shake my hand, and I was in the middle of washing up. And then I explained who I was, he explained who he was, and then we stood there in awkward silence till I went back to washing up and he left the kitchen. Almost beats the awkwardness of meeting Lisa for the first time at night while I was half asleep, and stumbling from the bathroom in my pyjamas.
  23. Learnt that everyone shakes hands.
  24. In my excitement at having internet that didn’t cost a bomb, used up nearly 200MB in about an hour.
  25. Had the promise of internet and then had it snatched away three times in one day.
  26. Learnt the vital difference between ‘ein(e) Freund(in)’ and ‘ein(e) Freund(in) von mir’. James and Maddie, my apologies. For a few brief moments, people were under the impression I was dating you two.
  27. Cursed whoever thought putting help for device which connect you to the internet on the internet to an eternity of stepping on legos and getting papercuts between their fingers and walking in wet sugar while they’re wearing socks.
  28. Successfully arranged having the washing machine room key over next weekend.
  29. Met Theresa, the other flatmate, who’s doing Biotechnology or some such impressive type degree at the uni.
  30. Successfully asked for and received a key so I can actually check the post box.
  31. Wondered several times why whoever lives upstairs decides to rearrange all their furniture at one in the morning.
  32. Nearly been run over 4 times because I looked the wrong way down the road.
  33. Discovered that the town shuts at 1pm on a Saturday.
  34. Wondered at the madness of the town shutting down at 1pm on a Saturday.
  35. Thought my bank account had been suspended, had a bit of a panic, had a chat with a lovely person at the bank, and discovered my card was fine.
  36. Bought a copy of ‘Das Bild’, ‘Thüringer Allgemeine’ and ‘Freies Wort’. And massively felt like I was back in the “Media in Germany” module.
  37. Bought a copy of Glamour auf Deutsch, because that’s more my speed.
  38. Found out that couples cooing at each other in German are just as annoying as couples cooing at each other in English.
  39. Found out that three people trying to cook on two hobs is a lot harder six people trying to cook on four hobs, two ovens and a microwave.
  40. Realised that basically everything I cook is centered around toast or pasta or garlic.
  41. Danced round the kitchen to rap then realised I should probably not, in case one of my flatmates walks in and thinks I’m crazy. (I mean, they’d be right, but there’s no need for them to know that this early in the year.)
  42. Created a music playlist called upbeat which features early 00’s pop almost exclusively.
  43. Realised that when I’m really really bored I start to pontificate about Harry Potter.
  44. Had to remind myself that internet access is not a human right.
  45. Bought a Brave themed colouring book and after painstakingly colouring in Merida in proper colours once (it’s a lot of orange and blue) gave up and gave her green hair, blue skin and a yellow and pink dress. Yes, I’m a child.
  46. Tried to figure out if the company I’d kill to work for does internships. (If anyone from The Writer is reading this, that’s you.)
  47. Packed for the three days of training I get to go to next week.
  48. Worked out that, as my train leaves at 8am, I have to get up at a time that although seems super early now, will most likely become normal when I start working at the school.
  49. Started to watch ‘Real Humans’, which is a Scandinavian TV show that looks like ‘Orphan Black’ meets ‘Stepford Wives’ (‘Stepford Wives’ the book, or the original film. Not the remake.) Oh, and I’m watching it in German.
  50. Realised just how long this blog post is.
  51. Worried that this is a boring blog post.
  52. Decided that I’d rather cook tea than worry about this blog.
  53. Cooked tea.