Yesterday Boy Twin and I were at home together and he temporarily forgot to go out of his way to ignore me and protest every time I say something to him. After learning that waving knifes and forks at him and encouraging him to yell their names in English served as some effective bonding, I decided to branch out and try a conversation.
Like one of those fierce machines that launch tennis balls, I fired questions at him surrounding the lunchtime arrangements at the Hort (after school club), using the vast majority of the Wann, Was, Wie (etc) words that you’re taught at GCSE. Since I arrived I’ve been baffled that the kids are satisfied by a few pieces of veg and a slice of bread for their evening meal. I’ve brutally assessed my own eating habits and read up on German mealtimes avidly but now, I’ve got to the bottom of it all.
My reliable source tells me the kids are allowed up to four plates full of food at lunchtime. Oh, and then dessert. FINALLY! It’s all explained. Boy Twin looked completely aghast when I told him we eat our main meal at the end of the day…
So to the point of this post, based on my own recent observations, this is how to be German.
1). Forget charity shops. You aren’t going to find one. If you have stuff to get rid of, then keep your eyes peeled for a Kleiderspende or set yourself up at one of Berlin’s many Flohmarkts. Berlin’s flea market repertoire is second to none.
2). Make an entrance. When people have visited my host family, they’ve brought flowers as a gift. Like we do at home, I hear you say. Nope, a bunch of flowers needs to be wrapped in paper here. When the party is already under way, you need to knock on the table where everyone is sat so that they’ll all greet you.
3). Believe it: socks and sandals are a real thing here. Don’t even bat an eye lid. Thankfully I see it mostly among children, who, for now, are excused.
4). Embrace Whatsapp, it’s pretty much the national app. People in every corner of this country rave about it and value it way more than Facebook and if you don’t have it, you’ll be gossiped about. “Oh but the inconvenience when they said they didn’t have Whatsapp!” I’ve once overheard. Come on, this is Germany. You’ve got to be practical.
5). Bask in the tidiness of it all. Sure, there are grimy areas where all the gaps between cobbles are filled with fags. But when the council cuts the grass here they have the ability to take the cut grass with them, instead of leaving it right where it was, like my corner cutting local council. If you’re out and about with a beer, the chances are that someone less well off than you will want to take it away for you when you’re finished so they can collect the Pfand. It’s working.
6). Marvel at the transport ticket system. It’s really such a luxury not to have to pass through multiple barriers during every journey. Most of the time no one’s bothered about seeing your ticket either. The best thing is that you won’t find a queue or crowd at any station!
7). Plan ahead for Sundays. Unless you’re after beer, water or snacks, you won’t be buying much at this end of the week. When someone tells you the shops will all be shut on a Sunday, they’re not exaggerating. The flagship stores on Friedrichstraße will be open, you presume? Nope! Not even those, so make sure you’re stocked up on picnic ingredients for the park because Berlin will be ghostly if you’re in the wrong corner of town.
That’s all I can think of today. In other news, I’ve toured a nuclear bunker, started YouTube workouts whilst I watch German tv, been picnicking with new friends and found three dead fish on a shelf whilst dusting in Twin Girl’s bedroom. It’s weird and wonderful here. So much to take in.