A couple of days ago I found an E-Mail in my inbox with the subject line: “Funny Book About German Culture”. As a huge bibliophile I was immediately interested in what this could be about, though at the same time I had an uncomfortable feeling that someone might ask me to promote something. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like I don’t want to help other people getting their stuff out there, it’s just that sometimes the offers I receive are so obvious advertisements and so commercial oriented that I have become rather selective about whom I will “promote” and whom not. After all, I have created this blog as a source of information and a free outlet for my thoughts and ideas. If I ever do advertising, I want to make sure that it has to do exactly with what I am talking about on here and something that I myself would actually find useful if I were a random reader coming across this blog.
The book German Men Sit Down to Pee and other insights into German culture (what an irritating title at first, I agree), which one of the co-authors was so kind to provide me with for reading turned out to be a fun source of literary entertainment and pretty much a collection of all the topics I have been aspiring to cover over the course of the existence of this blog. So now I am more than happy to do fellow writers a favor and talk about how this book made me feel and why any novice to Germany and even locals themselves should have a look at this hilarious book . WARNING: This is probably not going to be a standard structured book review but a freestyle expression of thoughts. I am terrible at standard structured book review writing styles. Take it or leave it.
This amusing read is pretty much a user manual to visitors to Germany. In its brief chapters, the book addresses certain parts of daily life in Germany, like “work”, “shopping”, “travel” etc and basically explains how Germans do things and why, which helps readers to understand why Germans are the weird creatures they are.
As someone who has spent most of her life here in Germany, I couldn’t help but take a big liking to this book. Most things mentioned in there were so accurate, I had to stop reading for a moment and say to myself: “Wait a minute…that’s really the way it is. That’s almost ME in there.”
Most people (understandably) don’t like stereotypes and sometimes I have been called racist for mentioning stereotypes or approving of some. But in the case of Germany, some stereotypes are simply true, though there may be slight variations from person to person, because they shape our daily routines.
In the beginning. the book talks about how Germans love rules and how no German will ever cross the street by red. So there I am, thinking back to a day when I find myself at a street crossing at 2.45 a.m. and even though the whole district of Spandau at this time of day is just as dead as the traffic on the road, I can’t force myself to move before the little Ampelmann turns green because, due to so many years among Germans, I will just feel guilty about doing so. Even if I ever do run across the street by red, I don’t do so unless I have made sure that there is no police car nearby, not to mention the fear of being caught by a police officer in civil clothes because in Germany you don’t need your uniform to do your job as a police officer.
Then I keep reading about Germans and their insurance fetish and I can’t stop myself from realizing how, at the gentle age of 20, I already am the proud owner of a medical, a liability, a work inability and a travel insurance. I even went as far as paying for an extra insurance against robbery and physical damage when I bought a new phone this summer.
Rumour has it that Germans like to be extremely punctual and believe it or not, unless you are talking about German trains, that is actually true. I will always remember the day when, upon meeting me in the street in Pristina shortly before class started, one of my teachers made the remark: “So if I see you in the morning on my way to class, I can be sure that I am on time, right?”
Lastly, I identified myself very well with how seriously Germans take politeness and their academic titles. It was only a week or so ago that I spent a whole 10 minutes at my computer screen, wondering whether, in an E-Mail, I should address my university professor as mister professor or mister professor doctor (he is not only a university professor but also has a Ph.D., therefore the doctor). And if I decided to use both of his titles should I write out all of them completely or would it be socially acceptable to make it “Dear Mr. professor Dr. XYZ?
These are just some of the aspects of living in Germany hat this book talks about. There were a lot of things I already knew from living here but also some things that seemed quite new, like the fact that hitting someone with a pillow in Germany counts as assault.
The funny thing is that all of these things are not something you sit down and learn about to do them right. No one has actually told me how things are done here. Once you are in the system, these things just rub off on you without you noticing until you read a book like this.
This is not only a good read for those who plan to live here. Even if you just want to visit Berlin for a few days or if you have a bunch of German friends and struggle to understand how come they are so weird and why they behave the way they do, reading this book will surely clarify things.