Some observations

German fashion:

9 out of 10 German women wear fashion scarves. (The other woman is probably a Muslim wearing a headscarf.) I must get a fashion scarf to fit it. Was this happening in the States and I never noticed? The U-Bahn is packed with stylish women in scarves!

No one wears business attire. When we’re on the public transportation at rush hour, there are no suits or business skirts. In the offices, like at the Citizens Office, workers dress like they’re going to spend the day drinking beer and watching the game.

 Small differences:

Have you noticed that all doors in the U.S. open out? Not  so in Germany. Maybe you have seen the Far Side cartoon that shows the kid trying to enter the School for the Gifted? The sign on the door says “Pull,” and the kid is earnestly pushing. Now you have a perfect image of me every time I try to enter or exit a German building. It’s hard to recover one’s dignity after that and order one’s döner kebab.

 Things that are not simple to say in German:

“I like…” Depending on what it is you like, you must express yourself differently. If it’s a verb, like “to swim,” or “to dance,” you do them “gladly” or “with pleasure.” So you have to say, “I dance with pleasure.” Food is not “liked,” rather it tastes good. A song “sounds good;” you don’t like it. You don’t like people either. You find them nice, or whatever other pleasant  attitude applies. I only know how to say “nice,” so I have a small repertoire of compliments.

“I think that…,” “I wonder…,” “I guess…,” or other expressions of uncertainty. Either it  is or it isn’t. What do you mean it seems? (This has been somewhat resolved by moving in with a West German family. They express uncertainty where our East German hosts never did and had no idea what we were talking about when we asked.)

 East vs. West

Our East German hosts never asked us any questions and never confessed to not knowing something. Exactly the opposite with our West Berlin family. We wonder if Easterners had to stamp out those tendencies in order to get by. Our sample size of one of each makes this observation inconclusive.

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3 responses to “Some observations

  1. I used to crack up at Doner Kebab stands — I didn’t realize Donner had two N’s. It was an inappropriate type of humor. But oh they are wonderful!

  2. I have many fashionable scarves. I will bring you some to choose among. Then, people will not recognize that you are not a native.

  3. Since one of my frustrations about American expression is the insistence on hedging every sentiment, I would find the German mode refreshing. Clarity requires commitment.

    All the doors of our house, internal and external, open inward. Is it more hospitable?

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