For the past eight months I have lived with two German girls (commonly referred to as "the Germans"). They look like this:
Prior to this experience, a German to me was somebody who was always on time and never laughed at my jokes. But now I know that Germans can be so much more than that. For instance, Germans can be late and they can also laugh at my jokes.
I found out that speaking German is relatively easy too. You just turn your v’s into w’s, and wice wersa, put on a German accent, and you’re away laughing.
For example, Volkswagon is pronounced ‘Woltsvagon’. It’s basically back-to-front English.
However, like any language, you have to be prepared to make mistakes.
For instance, when we first started living together (but before I had learnt how to speak German properly) I only had a few German words up my sleeve. So as my flatmates were leaving the house one day, I called “achtung!” cheerfully after them (this means “attention!”, but if you say it in a friendly tone I like to think it also communicates something like “farewell!” or “hello!” or even, “yes please!”). They looked a bit confused.
“Is this Japanese?” one of them asked (I can speak Japanese too, you see). I must say I felt indignant. It was then I learnt that you have to put on an accent when you speak German.
As we got to know each other, I built rapport by striking up conversations about things that Germans like. We talked extensively about apple strudel. And because I know that Germans respond to directness, I asked if they could make me some for my birthday. They did. I found out afterwards it was the first time they’d ever made apple strudel. I was shocked! What do they do on Sunday afternoons if not bake apple strudel in a well-insulated kitchen that smells like cinnamon?
Germans are full of surprises.
Living with the Germans has been wunderbar (that means ‘wonderful’, don’t forget that ‘v’ sound). Every now and then I tell them how much I like Germans. Sometimes they ask me to start calling them by their actual names, but I think that’s just a German way of brushing off a compliment.
(Achtung Annika! Ich vermisse dich!)