In this case, you can judge the book by its cover.
I love to read books about other cultures, especially when they are about countries where I have lived. Although Bill and I have spent years in Germany (and Bill has spent more years here than I have), there are still a lot of things I don’t know about German culture. One thing I learned when we lived here the first time is that German men usually sit down when they pee.
I initially learned about German men’s toilet habits by frequenting Toytown Germany, a forum for English speakers that predates any of the Facebook groups in our area. Suddenly, the little sign in our bathroom, probably posted by our old landlord’s ex wife, made perfect sense. I was so tickled about this phenomenon that I decided to write about it on my main blog.
Now it makes sense!
When I spotted a book on Amazon called German Men Sit Down To Pee And Other Insights Into German Culture, I knew I had to read it. This little book, available in printed and online versions, was published in 2015 and written by Niklas Frank and James Cave. Niklas Frank is from Germany, although he’s lived in Sweden and China. Frank noticed his friends and colleagues were amused by his quirky “Germanness” and decided to take notes, which later served as the basis of this book. James Cave is Irish and a writer. He has lived in Germany, France, Spain, the United Kingdom, and Portugal. Cave does not follow all of the German rules, but as an “Auslander“, was no doubt in a unique position to help Frank decide what to include in their book.
German Men Sit Down to Pee is a delightfully fun and quick read. It’s full of information about many of the mysteries of living in Germany. Not only is there discussion about German men sitting down to pee; there are also explanations and anecdotes about other German customs that may seem obscure to people who aren’t German. For instance, did you know that if it’s your birthday in Germany, you’re supposed to bring a cake to work for your colleagues to enjoy? And if you go out for drinks, you’re supposed to pay the check?
Anyone who spends any time in Germany will quickly notice that Germans like to follow the rules. That means you don’t walk until you see the green man at the crosswalk. You don’t make noise or expect to go grocery shopping in German supermarkets on Sundays. You don’t drink Kolsch in Düsseldorf or Altbier in Cologne (or vice versa). However, if you want to get naked in a park, especially in Munich or Berlin, you’re more than welcome to. Germans dig nudity.
Germans are often wrongly described as “humorless”, but this book helps dispel that rumor. I wouldn’t say Germans are humorless. They just enjoy a different kind of humor. For instance, as I read this book, I learned that German parents can and will hire a guy to play Krampus at Christmas if their kids have been naughty. For about 50 euros, a guy will dress up as a Christmas themed satan, show up at the children’s houses, and put the fear of God in them! I had heard of Krampus in a vague sense. I thought it was more of an Austrian thing to do, but no… apparently German parents are not above using Krampus to get their kids to behave. Too funny!
The authors include discussions and rationales behind a number of different German idiosyncrasies. For instance, cash is still a very popular way to pay for things in Germany. Germans are often frugal and prefer not to spend money they don’t have. Always paying cash makes that habit easier to maintain, even if it’s a pain for non-Germans.
I really enjoyed the lighthearted tone of this book. I think Cave and Frank make a good team. I could sort of tell Cave was the one who made the book flow, since it has sort of an Irish feel to it– lots of wit and humor. And Frank no doubt provided all of the context and oddities that Cave would have missed, since he’s not from Germany. There are also a lot of funny little comics included.
I wish I could have read this book before we moved here the first time; however, I must admit that reading about German men sitting to pee on an Internet forum was an entertaining way to blow an afternoon back in 2008. I would recommend this book to anyone who is going to be living in Germany or even just planning a visit. It’s well-written and accurate and would probably make for a fun family discussion… and, who knows? Maybe you might even want to adopt some German idiosyncratic habits yourself. I know Bill and I are now a lot more conscious about waiting for the green man when we want to cross the street. That’s a habit that will probably never go away, even years after we’ve left here.
I give German Men Sit Down to Pee a solid 4.5 stars out of five. Not only is it an enjoyable book, it’s also a bargain at just $4.50 if you download it.