“Germans are really awesome,” my friend told me the other day. Are we? Being German in Canada means, I, of course, have my “homesick-store” where I can get German cookies, sausages, sauerkraut and Christmas Stollen and Glühwein in the winter. I go to this store at least once a month (conveniently close to my school!) to get a warm “Leberkäsbrötchen” for lunch since one can only stress-eat Tim Horton’s breakfast sandwiches for so long.
When I tell people I am from Germany, the first reaction usually is: WOW, OKTOBERFEST! Well, honestly, having lived in Munich for a couple of years, this is really what many Germans occupy themselves with for the last weeks in September. It seems like everybody loves Oktoberfest. Lederhosen, Dirndls, cuckoo clocks, greasy sausages, sauerkraut and of course hoisting around one-liter Steins of extra strong brewski while rocking back and forth to Schlager.
Outside of Munich, it’s a different story. Fun fact: Oktoberfest originally was a public feast honoring the marriage of the Crown Prince Ludwig to Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen in 1810. I mean, until pretty recently, Germany was a tangled network of Electorates and even today, every region has its own dialect and weird festivals and culture. Does this all sound like “beer” to you?
In Canada, a country at least about 60 times the size of Germany, many people think that Germany seems synonymous with Bavaria/Beer/Oktoberfest and giant steins of Bier. Germany is also pretzels (yum!), Tracht (a traditional German dress which is, thanks to the Führer’s affection for “traditional things” always seems to carry a bit of unintentional or intentional (if you are a member of the AfD) Nazism.
Some German words and traditions
Have you ever heard the word Schadenfreude? (My dad’s favorite!) You know this feeling when the elevator door closes just before your evil coworker can step in? Or seeing a parking ticket on a Porsche? There is a word for this mix of joy and malice and Germans invented it. Schadenfreude means deriving pleasure from others’ misfortune. A good word to know. Here are some more:
- Fernweh: The opposite of homesickness. You have this feeling of desiring a place yo have never been to.
- Wanderlust: Similar to Fernweh. To see new places and not stay in one place. Literally the desire to wander around.
- Zeitgeist: It describes the prevalent spirit of an era.
- Angst: Use this word anytime when you worry, have anxiety or are scared. German Angst!
- Zweisamkeit: Being together. A feeling of closeness. Zwei means two (people) and is the opposite of Einsamkeit (loneliness).
- Luftkuss: You blow a kiss through the air. Joel and I do this every morning when I drop him off at school. We then pretend that we catch the kiss with one hand, put it in our mouths and swallow it.
- Freudentränen: Tears of joy!
- Frühlingsgefühle: This sounds weird but is actually just a word to describe a feeling of excitement for nice weather or literally when spring is around the corner.
- Verzehren: This can describe the process of literal eating but it can also mean that one desires someone so much you almost want to eat them. 😉
- Geborgenheit: This word is actually almost impossible to translate. It is an intensely emotional moment like when someone returns home after a long time and being held by family members for example. Like comfort but more! It basically means to feel intensely in the moment and exist.
- Augenblick: Warte einen Augenblick! (Wait a second). A super short moment, a blink of an eye.
Many times I just receive blank stares or weird looks when I mention certain German traditions. For example a few weeks ago, I told a friend that children in Germany receive a huge paper cone (Zuckertüte, literally: cone of sugar) full of enough candy to diabeticize their entire class on their first day of preschool. It’s a thing. It’s a German tradition. My friend replied that she knows a German word. “It’s Schnitzelbank,” (SHNIT-sul-BONK) she said. “What the f*** is that supposed to be, “I replied. She said, “Well, I cannot tell the difference between Schiller’s and Goethe’s skull but I know that this is a word in German.” Well, I never heard of it but here is her memory of Schnitzelbank:
So off I went thinking about Schnitzelbank (traditional song here) and googled it immediately. I thought the song was schön (nice). To be fair here, the ö- Umlaut is pretty hard to approximate in English phonetics, just try to say SCHOOOOOON instead of SHANE. Joel and I teach my friend some German here and there but honestly, I have to admit, learning German is not easy at all. I tried to make it clear that Schnitzelbank is feminine so you have to add the article “die” in German. Articles in English are so easy in comparison; everything is just the. He tries to speak German but some things don’t sound richtig. But it does not matter. We keep practicing since it is fun. Beer he understands. And Stein. Prost!