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The odd ways I’ve noticed myself slowly becoming a German

Maybe it is in my blood, or maybe I’ve just been here for too long. But I’ve noticed myself picking up ever more German habits - and I’m not sure I’m happy about it.

The odd ways I’ve noticed myself slowly becoming a German
Photo: DPA

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It was roughly a month ago that I realized that I’d become more German than British. I’d just changed my name on Facebook so that it was unrecognizable to anyone who I didn't tell about the change.

If Facebook was going to take my information and try and sell it onto advertisers I was going to be damned sure that they were selling it to a person called Gröj, not Jörg.

This thought process wouldn’t have even entered my head before I came to Germany. It is only through three years of living around Germans who would never use their real names on social media that I began to see things differently.

After I saw my strange new Facebook name it dawned on me just how German I'd become. Although I have a German name, I grew up in Scotland to a German father and Scottish mother and only moved to Deutschland in my twenties. When I was younger, I thought that the only thing that was German about me was my name.

But over the past three years, the evidence has been building up that I am becoming less and less British.

SEE ALSO: Curious things that happen when you have a German name but aren't German

For instance, I barely drink tea at all anymore. And whereas the only type of coffee I once drank was dark espresso, soon after arriving in Germany I discovered the wonders of weak filter coffee.

In my first months here, as I dedicated myself to learning the language, I would wake up in the morning to make a pot of weak German coffee and sit down with a copy of the Süddeutsche Zeitung and a dictionary. I discovered that the great thing about the German way of drinking your morning brew is that you can keep filling up your cup for hours, even if you are essentially drinking coloured water.

Another German habit that I took on soon after I arrived was not such much one I adopted as one I had foisted upon myself. It wasn’t long into living in my first Wohngemeinschaft that one of my flatmates sat down opposite me in the kitchen and politely asked if I stood up while taking a pee.

I replied that, of course I do, how else should one take a pee? She patiently explained that it wasn’t so nice for her when she it was her turn to clean the bathroom, and added hastily that it was normal for men in Germany to sit down when they empty their bladders.

Ever since then I have been sitting down every time I go to the toilet. I wouldn’t say, as a man that this is an ideal solution, but it has become so ingrained into me that I even do it when I go back to Britain.

I’ve been house trained in other ways too. Now, even in the middle of winter I’ll throw open the windows to lüften. It even says in my rental contract that I have to air the apartment three times a day. But instead of taking time off work to ensure that my bedroom gets the fresh air in deserves, I tend to give it an extras dose of chilly air in the evenings.

Out and about, my habits have slowly, imperceptibly changed. If I happen across a bank these days, I make sure to take out a big wad of cash, knowing that it could be weeks before I next find a the endangered species that is the bank Filiale. Besides, I’ve been caught out on too many occasions without cash at an establishment that doesn’t take card to risk having no money in my wallet.

Before I moved here, I stood up as soon as the closing credits signalled that the film was over in the cinema. But, after squeezing past Germans reverentially watching they credits on countless occasions, I too have joined the hang. After all, who wouldn't want to know the name of the third grip on the film?

I’ve also become much more comfortable about nudity. Whereas I was once squeamish about being naked in public, I now stride around the sauna with nothing to cover my dignity. And I've also discovered the true joy of wearing nothing as one swims through a German lake.

These days, if I spot a couple of embarrassed looking Brits being instructed by the sauna attendants to take off their swimmers I give a chuckle and think to myself “typical Brits.”

This might be surprising to hear from someone who hails from Scotland, but I think that living in Germany has also made me more thrifty.

I remember looking on in astonishment as my flatmate spent a good hour taking empty bottles around various supermarkets just to pick up Pfand for a couple of euros. Little did I realize the wholesome joy getting €3.50 back on an empty crate of beer would give me three years later. Enough for an expensive bottle of German wine and I'm saving the planet!

Lamentably, there are some ways that I am still hopelessly un-German. Hand me a tool box and I will make the wall of your apartment look like a Swiss cheese. And put me in a supermarket queue at 7pm on a Sunday and you will get some very angry Germans muttering about inefficient bag packing as they try and get back home before Tatort starts.

READ MORE: The German words I want to use, but just don't dare

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For members


Living in Germany: Battles over Bürgergeld, rolling the ‘die’ and carnival lingo

From the push to reform long-term unemployment benefits to the lingo you need to know as Carnival season kicks off, we look at the highlights of life in Germany.

Living in Germany: Battles over Bürgergeld, rolling the 'die' and carnival lingo

Deadlock looms as debates over Bürgergeld heat up 

Following a vote in the Bundestag on Thursday, the government’s planned reforms to long-term unemployment benefits are one step closer to becoming reality. Replacing the controversial Hartz IV system, Bürgergeld (or Citizens’ Allowance) is intended to be a fair bit easier on claimants.

Not only will the monthly payment be raised from €449 to €502, but jobseekers will also be given a grace period of two years before checks are carried out on the size of their apartment or savings of up to €60,000. The system will also move away from sanctions with a so-called “trust period” of six months, during which benefits won’t be docked at all – except in very extreme circumstances. 

Speaking in parliament, Labour Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD) said the spirit of the new system was “solidarity, trust and encouragement” and praised the fact that Bürgergeld would help people get back into the job market with funding for training and education. But not everyone is happy about the changes. In particular, politicians from the opposition CDU/CSU parties have responded with outrage at the move away from sanctions.

CDU leader Friedrich Merz has even branded the system a step towards “unconditional Basic Income” and argued that nobody will be incentivised to return to work. 

The CDU and CSU are now threatening to block the Bürgergeld legislation when it’s put to a vote in the Bundesrat on Monday. With the conservatives controlling most of the federal states – and thus most of the seats in the upper house – things could get interesting. Be sure to keep an eye out for our coverage in the coming weeks to see how the saga unfolds. 

Tweet of the week

When you first start learning German, picking the right article to use can truly be a roll of the “die” – so we’re entirely on board with this slightly unconventional way to decide whether you’re in a “der”, “die”, or “das” situation. (Warning: this may not improve your German.) 

Where is this?

Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Boris Roessler

Residents of Frankfurt am Main and the surrounding area will no doubt recognise this as the charming town of Kronberg, which is nestled at the foot of the Taunus mountains.

This atmospheric scene was snapped on Friday morning, when a drop in temperatures saw Kronberg and surrounding forests shrouded in autumnal fog.

After a decidedly warm start to November, the mercury is expected to drop into single digits over the weekend. 

Did you know?

November 11th marked the start of carnival season in Germany. But did you know that there’s a whole set of lingo to go along with the tradition? And it all depends on where you are. First of all, the celebration isn’t called the same thing everywhere. In the Rhineland, it’s usually called Karneval, while people in Bavaria or Saxony tend to call it Fasching. Those in Hesse and Saarland usually call it Fastnacht. 

And depending on where you are, there are different things to shout. The ‘fools call’ you’ll hear in Cologne is “Alaaf!” If you move away from Cologne, you’ll hear “Helau!” This is the traditional cry in the carnival strongholds of Düsseldorf and Mainz, as well as in some other German cities.

In the Swabian-Alemannic language region in the southwest of the country, people yell “Narri-Narro”, which means “I’m a fool, you’re a fool”. In Saarland at the French border, they shout “Alleh hopp!”, which is said to originate from the French language. 

Lastly, if someone offers you a Fastnachtskrapfe, say yes because it’s a jelly-filled carnival donut. And if you’re offered a Bützchen? It’s your call, but know that it’s a little kiss given to strangers!