When I initially moved to Germany, I was amazed on a daily basis. This is what I have come to term “the holiday effect”, that is to say, when you move away from anywhere you have lived for a long time, you continually notice the differences. Obviously when you move to a different country, everything is a little strange and for a long time it can feel like you are simply on an extended holiday. Wandering around the supermarket, you laugh at the funny brand names or spend time wondering why schools seem to finish so early. After five years though, life tends to drive you into weekly, monthly and yearly routines that no longer illicit the same level of excitement. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy driving past a place called Katzwang and allowing myself an audible chuckle, it’s just that after a while everything becomes a little less surprising.
This can cause problems, especially if you want to write a blog. I could simply give up, but then how would I insure my legacy as the foremost purveyor of dodgy German stereotypes. I found the answer, as I usually do, over breakfast a weekend or so back. My wife was complaining that she couldn’t understand what I was saying because I was stubbornly not enunciating and over emphasising my Geordie accent. I wasn’t trying to annoy her, but simply keeping myself entertained until the coffee kicked in. Ok, truthfully I was trying to annoy her, but only because I’m incredibly obnoxious early in the morning. Simply not speaking clearly was not enough though, to truly see the benefit of this frankly idiotic game, you have to first start a conversation normally and then slowly withdraw vowels and consonants and see how long it is before the person you’re speaking to goes insane. I got six sentences. The enjoyment I get from this new hobby is watching my fluent English speaking wife trying to work out if she can’t understand English any more or if I’m having a stroke or both. The moral of the story, as I see it, is that if you find expat life unsurprising, then create some surprises .
Recently, to keep things interesting, I’ve been injecting made up words into conversations with my German and English speaking acquaintances. I would happily do this at work, but as an English teacher, it may do my reputation terrible damage if I start teaching people that skizzle is a device used for measuring how many chips we put in a fryer. I find adjectives and adverbs have the best impact, I’ve been using the word urgeously, as in “I uregeously walk to work every morning” or “ I believe urgeously in life on other planets”. Germans are generally very good English speakers and pride themselves on being able to conduct even a basic conversation in English, while my native speaking friends assume that I’m using some interesting local word. Of course it’s important that you use it in such a nonchalant way they will assume it’s a word that they should know and therefore never ask me what it means. If they do, you have to be prepared to define the word and also field any follow up questions when they attempt to look it up online. Approvides is also a useful one. The game only ends when the person speaking to you uses it in a sentence, it then up to you whether you tell anyone.
If driving your spouse mad or confusing people you know isn’t really for you, I suggest messing with societal norms at the most basic level. Small talk is a good place to start. Germans view small talk in the same way that most British people view dental hygiene, a necessary evil. Therefore, it is all the more entertaining when you attempt to push past the usual ten minute mark reserved for such social niceties. I like to work a system of weather, sport, weather, recent mundane activity, weather etc until my speaking companions eyes begin to bulge and veins start throbbing in their temples. Bonus points if you can use at least five different terms for types of rain or repeat how much you are enjoying RB Leipzig this season.
I happily admit that these games are awful and by admitting to having played them I’m essentially admitting I am at least a little sociopathic, but it does keep you entertained and I would suggest you at least try them out. Variety is the spice of life after all. It’s like they say in the North East “Cromulant times are had by the most decompered”.