13 Things Germans Love (And Expats Just Don't Get Why)
Life in a foreign country means that you get to observe some of the stranger traits of the natives. Some of these may be a bit contentious but should hopefully get everyone thinking! And if there are ones which you think I've missed, you know what to do…
1. Dubbed Films
Films in anything other than the original language are simply unbearable. But not for Germans…a trip to the cinema is one of the things Germans love more so than most other European countries. It's an extraordinarily popular social activity and pretty much all movies (and original language TV series) are dubbed into German. Indeed, some of the German actors who do the voice-overs are famous in their own right. Other European countries where English is a popular second language e.g. The Netherlands and Scandinavian countries do not dub original language films and provide subtitles instead. The Simpsons in German just is not the same if Homer doesn't say D'Oh!
One of the more disgusting “delicacies” of German fast food, Fleischkäse translates as “meat cheese” and is known in some regions as Leberkäse (liver cheese). Often seen at the Bahnhof food stands, it is basically a bread loaf-shaped piece of offal which you stare at, wondering exactly what type of meat it could be. Nothing screams “I'm probably eating squirrel” more than a portion of Fleischkäse. Hot food at a German party or work gathering often includes this delight, which disappoints me every time. And then there's Mettwurst, which is possibly even more disgusting.
3. Fancy Car Washes (which cost a fortune)
I often wonder whether German men love their cars more than their wives and girlfriends. The amount of time they spend making sure their wheel rims are shining and the car is perfectly buffed. It's northern Europe…it will probably rain or snow and be covered in crap again the next day. Why bother? And the amount of time they spend talking about their cars too. And then there's the cost. A car wash in the U.K. costs about a third of what Germans routinely are happy to pay. I just don't get it.
Tatort is another one of those things Germans love which baffle us Ausländer. It is the longest running crime series on German TV, and has been going since 1970. Aired on Sunday nights on public broadcaster ARD, it is something of an institution and a cult programme among students, who actually gather to watch Tatort in bars. The thing is though, it's not actually that good. Compare it to any British or US-network detective series such as Luther or 24 and it pales in comparison.
5. Stodgy, hard bread
Ask most Germans who have lived abroad what they miss the most, and you will most likely hear Vollkornbrot, the German wholemeal bread variety which is one of the most popular loaves of bread here. It's healthy, yes, but it's also really stodgy and rock hard. How can you expect sauce or salad on a sandwich to soak into it? For me, bread has to be soft and fluffy to invite you to tear a bit off the loaf. A bit like a baguette I guess, but as an Englishman you won't catch me admitting that I like anything French. So let's just say I tend to buy Turkish Fladenbrot here, which is lovely.
6. Flea Markets
If I want to browse through other people's crap which they don't want any more, I would take a trip to the rubbish tip. I will concede that it smells a bit, but it saves me having to drive around 3 times trying to find a parking space and battle through crowds of people. That's really all I have to say on this one. But it's one of those things Germans love and flea markets are extremely popular here.
7. Outdoor Clothing
Going on a hut-to-hut trek in the Alps? Then you need some proper, warm, wind and waterproof clothing. Popping into town on a windy November day to have a look around the shops? Then you need a normal coat and perhaps a scarf and decent pair of socks. Your grandparents didn't have Gore-Tex jackets.
8. White Asparagus
This one is a contentious one I know. Don't get me wrong, I find asparagus completely OK and non-offensive. But it's JUST ANOTHER BOILED VEGETABLE. I don't see people going crazy for parsnips or green beans. As soon as asparagus season starts though, the whole of Germany literally has an orgasm. From April to June, all you see on restaurant menus is asparagus. Honestly, there are many other great German foods which deserve getting more excited about.
9. Sunday Shopping as a Special Event
For the 5 or 6 weekends in any given city when the shops are given permission to open on a Sunday, I kind of imagine what it must have been like as an East German crossing into West Berlin for the first time. There is an air of excitement…Verkaufsoffener Sonntag…nobody is forbidding me to buy a bottle of fresh milk from my local supermarket today. Let's have a party with fairground rides and Bratwurst stands to celebrate this act of generosity from Big Brother.
The sickly-sweet, chocolate and hazelnut spread is a must-have at most German breakfast tables. It's one of the things Germans love and can't do without first thing in the morning. Good quality cheese and salami, I get it. A ticking sugar-bomb which is marketed relentlessly towards kids is something I can do without though, thanks.
11. Irish Pubs
I absolutely love Irish pubs. In Ireland. Not so much the plastic Irish pubs in Germany. The beer is usually crap, as is the food. Occasionally you'll find one which does a good Guinness. But why would you want one in the land of Doppelbock, Helles, Kellerbier and Kölsch? If only real German Kneipen would expand the amount of beers they offer on draft and have live music which isn't Schlager or John Denver's “Country Roads” once in a while, all would be good with the world.
12. Phil Collins
He was OK in the 80s I suppose and Genesis did some good stuff. There's better classic rock musicians they could choose to play over and over again on the radio though, in fairness. Not that I would begrudge the chap the royalties he probably needs after his expensive divorces.
Now, I love Christmas markets. The smell of roasting chestnuts and the spices which go into mulled wine are two things which make you feel like Christmas is almost upon us. Glühwein itself though? It's OK, but why all the fuss? It's usually a very poor quality, sugary concoction unless you're lucky enough to have Winzerglühwein (from a local winery) at your local Christmas market. Give me a nice, cool glass of wonderful German Riesling over a cheap Glühwein any day of the week.