advice, coronavirus, German culture, Germany, laws, news

Word of advice… don’t call a German cop a “fascist”…

It’s another cold, grey, drizzly weekend in Germany. Christmas will arrive next weekend. I suppose I should be more into the spirit of celebrating the season, but I just can’t seem to find my mojo. I don’t really like going out in yucky weather even when there isn’t a pandemic. The spiking COVID numbers aren’t inspiring me to get out there and mingle with the masses.

But not everyone feels the way I do. My German friend, Susanne, shared with me some news out of Reutlingen. It seems there was a riot/protest there last night, consisting of Nazi sympathizers and COVID deniers, most of whom weren’t masked and ignored the rules against congregating. Things got pretty out of hand in some places, so the Stuttgart police showed up to maintain order.

Germans are usually pretty tolerant of peaceful protests and strikes. They’re usually scheduled ahead of time and announced, so people can choose not to be involved… or, if they’re into it, they can participate or observe. I believe one has to get a permit to protest legally. I have no idea if this group followed the rules. The protests I’ve seen are usually pretty chill… afterwards, everybody breaks up and has a beer or something. But every once in awhile, people do get their hackles up. Such was the case last night.

This video was shared on Facebook by Matthias Kipfer in the public group, 99,99 % (Filder) vs. R.E.S.T.. I’m not sure where this particular incident involving the man screaming about fascists took place. It might not have happened in Reutlingen, although I can see by the photos and videos in the group, there was plenty of action there last night. I see the guy screaming about fascists was originally posted on Twitter by Stadtrand Aktion. As you can see, the cops weren’t amused. This guy was promptly arrested. I suspect he will get a nice big fine, as outlined in the trusty 2022 Bussgeldkatalog. Edited to add: Susanne thinks the fascist cop incident might have happened in Berlin, since the cop has a B on his uniform.

More than once, I have written about how insulting people is illegal in Germany. It’s especially true that insulting the cops is a big no no. All I can think is that this guy took complete leave of his senses, forgot to whom he was speaking, and lost total control of himself. I know how that feels. It happened to me a time or two when I was a teenager. This fellow looks to be well beyond the teen years.

I think it’s funny that there’s a catalog of fines people can consult to find out about laws and fines. I especially get a kick out of the section on the fines for insulting people in traffic. When they are translated into English, they are both hilarious and nonsensical. Below is the list of fines as of 2022.

Some of these insults seem to have lost a little in their translations.

In all seriousness, these protests were pretty bad. Apparently, some people were using children as human shields against the water cannons cops tried to use to disperse the agitated crowds. I was impressed by how the cops managed to keep their cool. German police officers don’t seem to be as violent as American police officers often are. But then, they probably pay better and offer more training.

My German still sucks, but I do find myself picking up words and understanding more, especially when my friend shares interesting German articles with me that include juicy tidbits about current events. If I have gained anything from the past seven years, besides a massive beer gut, it’s a rudimentary understanding of basic German. My Armenian is still better, though. That isn’t saying much.

The above photo basically translates to “People who think vaccinations change their DNA should consider it an opportunity.” Who says Germans aren’t sharp witted? Not I!

In other news… I hope the new blog design is welcomed by the few regular readers who have been keeping up with me during these COVID times. I decided to play around with it a few days ago, and when I went to change it back to the theme I was using, I discovered that the “wandering” theme was retired. So now I have a new but similar theme, and a new color scheme. I think it’s easier to read.

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coronavirus, German culture, German products, Germany, languages

Stuff I’ve learned this weekend so far…

Last night, I became aware of an aspect of German culture of which I was previously unaware. I have a friend living in Stuttgart who is Croatian, but easily passes for German and speaks German like a native. Yesterday, he posted about an altercation he had with a young woman who had a child with her. They exchanged words because he chastised her (which is VERY German behavior, especially in Swabia) for spitting on the sidewalk.

She, in turn, called him a “shit potato”.

My Croatian friend said that this young woman was speaking perfect “Kanaken German”. I asked him what that meant, and he said it was when a foreign person residing in Germany speaks bad German/slang. I was a bit confused by that. Does that include people like Bill, who speaks German poorly and resides in Germany? So I asked my German friend to explain my Croatian friend’s original comment:

“Wenn du von einem ca 19 jährigen Mädchen als “scheiss Kartoffel” beschimpft wirst, weil du ihr sagst, dass sie nicht auf den Gehweg spucken soll. Sie sprach perfekt Kanakendeutsch. Ach so, sie hatte ein Kind.”

My German friend, who is a superstar researcher and enjoys teaching me about Germany and its culture, found this hilarious video. Don’t worry if you don’t speak German. There are subtitles.

These are people from the Middle East– namely Turkey– learning “German”. This would be Kanaken German, though… poorly constructed and full of profanity. Who says Germans don’t have a sense of humor?

Kanaken German is slangy, improperly constructed vernacular German typically spoken by some people of Middle Eastern heritage. Evidently, people who speak Kanaken German tend to be insulting. Like, for instance, the woman calling my Croatian friend a “shit potato”, and the people in the above video using words like “Aaalder” (which means “dude”, although the English subtitles say it means fucker) and “Dutture” (bitch). Well, since he’s not German, he’s technically not a “potato”, but she clearly thought he was German and referred to him as a “potato” as an insult. My Croatian friend sarcastically added, “And I’m the racist!” Clearly he’s not in this case. It’s not nice to insult people using cultural stereotypes, but it sounds like that exchange wasn’t very pleasant regardless!

According to my research, the term “potato” (Kartoffel) for Germans dates back to the 1960s, when Italians were brought in as guest workers. They were known as “spaghetti eaters” and Germans were known as “potato eaters”. Evidently, certain Turkish people have also come to use the term “Kartoffel” for Germans as a whole. As the above video demonstrates, Germans are also called “pig eaters”, which seems even more derogatory since most Turks are Muslims and they don’t eat pork.

I guess, in a weird way, Kanaken German could be characterized somewhat like Ebonics in English, although I don’t think Ebonics is necessarily derogatory. It’s simply “black English”– language patterns that evolved when black people were enslaved in the United States. In the 1990s, Ebonics became somewhat controversial in the United States because certain groups felt it should be legitimized and respected. The term Ebonics dates from the early 70s. It was coined by African American social psychologist Robert Williams, who felt that the dialect spoken by some black Americans should have a name that was less negative than other terms for it, such as “nonstandard Negro English”.

Anyway… I thought it was interesting that I learned a little something more about German culture based on a Facebook post. I’m always grateful to my German friend for being willing to explain these things to me, especially when she finds entertaining teaching examples like the hilarious video above. It definitely drove home the point!

Yesterday, Bill went into Wiesbaden to pick up some Five Guys burgers for us and check out how things are looking as Germany gradually normalizes after the spring lockdown from hell. He said that there were a lot of people out and about, and some people wear masks as they walk around. Most people only put them on when entering a building. People were dining in restaurants. Wait staff wears masks, but if you’re sitting at a table, it’s not required. You just wear them to come in, leave, or use the restroom. And everyone must leave their contact information in case someone is reported ill. After three or four weeks, the information is discarded. I still have no desire to dine out under those conditions, especially as the temperatures rise, but I may change my mind. I’m grateful that people seem to be working together in Germany instead of being polarized, as it appears a lot of people are in the United States right now.

For today, Bill ordered a three course lunch from our favorite fine dining restaurant, Villa Im Tal. He’s going to pick it up this afternoon, and we will dine at home.

I also had occasion to try a couple of Bailey’s liqueur products yesterday. Most Americans know Bailey’s Irish Cream. However, there are a few other varieties of cordials available made by that company. They have the sinfully delicious Bailey’s Luxe Chocolat, which is pretty much like an orgasm in a bottle– Bailey’s mixed with Belgian chocolate. They have Strawberries & Cream. And they have Almande, which is a vegan, lactose free, almond milk drink. All of these cordials can be enjoyed by themselves or as mixers. I have had the Luxe Chocolat many times, so I didn’t need to taste test that.

I enjoyed both the Strawberries & Cream and the Almande, though I would prefer original Bailey’s or Luxe Chocolat to either of them. The Strawberries & Cream, which contains milk and milk products, reminded me of strawberry flavored Quik (Nesquik) from my youth, or perhaps the pink, liquid, antibiotic medicine (Erythromycin) I used to get for ear infections when I was a child. The Almande has a nice, rich, nutty taste, but the liqueur isn’t as rich or creamy. I did put some in my coffee this morning, though. It was not bad at all.

And finally, here are some pictures of our garden. We had a tree die in our yard last fall. It was overcome by ivy. As we’ve cut down most of it, a small patch of land has opened up for a small garden. Since we can’t travel like we usually do, Bill has decided to do some gardening. He picked up some garden boxes, since the plain patch was being ruined by Arran’s incessant need to dig. Now that he has a new box, he’s going to move some cucumber plants. We may have some fresh vegetables this summer. In light of today’s post, maybe we should have planted some potatoes…

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advice, Germany

The high price of giving someone the finger in Germany… part two

In May 2015, I wrote a piece on this blog called “The high price of giving someone the finger in Germany”.  That particular post has proven to be somewhat “evergreen”.  I still get a lot of hits on it, even though it’s over two years old.  I suspect people find it when they hear about Germany’s rules about not insulting people when driving and not cussing out the cops.

Lately, the weather over here has been pretty depressing.  I think it’s starting to get to people.  Over the weekend, there was a very long thread in one of our local Facebook groups about how “rude” Germans are, especially in the Stuttgart area.  A lot of Americans chimed in, agreeing with the original poster that people here can be cold, insulting, and unpleasant.  Quite a few Germans from other parts of the country have also written that this part of the country isn’t like the rest of Germany.  Some have even said that people here… well… they can be assholes.

While I have been yelled at more than a couple of times by locals, I personally don’t agree that people here are any more unpleasant than in other parts of the world.  What I have found is that Germans, as a whole, can seem uncommonly blunt and/or assertive about some things.  The Stuttgart area is part of Swabia, which is apparently considered “different” somehow than other parts of Germany.  Indeed, there is a dialect here that even native German speakers say can be hard to understand.  Swabians, as a whole, have a reputation for being very tight with their money and uptight in general.  However, reputations are really just stereotypes and not everyone lives up to stereotypes.

Trixi demonstrates how different German dialects can sound, even to native speakers.

When Bill and I moved back here in August 2014, I befriended a local on Facebook.  I still haven’t met her in person, but she follows my blog and often gives me useful tips.  One very helpful piece of advice she gave me was to read Your Swabian Neighbors.  Written by American Bob Larson, who once served as a military liaison between German government officials and American military officials, this handy book is all about the idiosyncrasies of life in Baden-Württemberg for those who aren’t actually from this area.  Larson, who married a Swabian woman and lived in Germany for many years, published his book in the early 80s.  Though some parts of the book are dated, a lot of the information still holds true today.  I’m thinking it may even be time to re-read that book as, after three years, I am starting to miss my homeland a little.  At this point, there’s no telling how much longer we’ll be here.

Sometimes Americans in Germany advise others to “flip the bird” to people who piss them off in some way.  I know this is not a good idea when driving or dealing with police officers.  Nowadays, most everyone has a camera on their phones and if it can be proven that you used an obscene gesture, you can be fined up to 4000 euros (although my local friend says this isn’t the usual fine).  It’s probably not a good idea to flip people off even if you’re not driving, though.  Germans like their fines.

I see the original list of insults I included in my first post about this has been updated.  Here’s the translated list for your amusement.  Some of the insults are pretty funny.

I know it’s tempting to fire back at people who yell at you, but you might want to hold back from using obscene gestures or engaging in namecalling… 

 

It’s not always easy living in another country, even when it’s Germany, which has some things in common with the United States.  I know people get frustrated.  I get frustrated, too.  And I will even agree that sometimes dealing with locals can be infuriating.

On the other hand, there have been times when I’ve been very pleasantly surprised by the kindness of locals.  In fact, on Saturday, Bill and I went to a grocery store and picked up just one item.  The lady ahead of us saw that we had a small order and enthusiastically invited us to go ahead of her.  In my neighborhood, my neighbors threw a block party and invited Bill and me to attend.  Every morning when I walk my dogs, I am sure to hear at least one “Guten Morgen” from other dog walkers or my neighbors.  They usually sound like they mean it, too.  Sometimes they even smile!

Even the vet where we take our dogs has taken a shine to us.  I’ve been having some problems wearing my contact lenses lately.  I’ll wear them for a few days with no problem, then one or both of my eyes will suddenly get really irritated.  Last week, I took Zane in to his vet for an allergy shot and she asked me if I was okay.  It was probably because I was wearing my glasses and hating it.  But she noticed I wasn’t myself and genuinely wanted to know if I was alright.  That’s a far cry from the usual “How you doin'” you get in the States where the person doesn’t actually care how you are and doesn’t expect a truthful response.

So… the moral of this post is, assholes are everywhere.  I don’t think there are any more assholes in Swabia than there are in other parts of the world.  It may just seem that way, especially to Americans, due to cultural differences, the occasionally harsh sounds of the German language, and, maybe, even the gloomy weather we’ve had lately.

If you ever feel tempted to flip someone off or call them names, take a minute to consider all of the awesome vacation destinations in and around Germany.  Wouldn’t you rather spend 4000 euros on a cruise somewhere or a first class flight?  I know I would.

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