Wie man Deutscher wird – How To Be German

When we were in Germany we picked up a hilarious book called “How to be German in 50 Easy Steps” by Adam Fletcher. We had great laughs reading it. With his dry British humour this Brit living in Germany has pinpointed many idiosyncrasies of Germans from drinking “Apfelschorle” to the word “Tschüss”.

Travelling with my Canadian partner and my Canadianized children, different German habits always stand out to me when they express their surprise or dismay:

STEP #1 of How to Be German

Sleep in a Bed with Two Mattresses


Each hotel or family home we stayed in for the night prompted my Canadian husband to sigh with dismay. He still hopes for a miracle. Part of him can just not believe that there are no single mattresses for double beds. Couples sleep in a double bed made up of two single mattresses and two single duvets; in fact, my German relatives shake their heads at how we North American’s can possibly sleep on the same mattress and share only one duvet. Their night sleep is holy and being woken up by your partner’s movements does not awake romantic feelings in them. You certainly have to admit that what the double mattresses lacks “in nocturnal romance, it more than makes up for practicality, the most prized of German possessions.” (Adam Fletcher)

STEP # 2

The Importance of Breakfast

Deutsches Fruehstueck

No stores are open on Sundays with the exception of bakeries! Germans feel very strongly that it wouldn’t be fair for anybody to work on Sundays, yet their desire for fresh bread outweighs that social concern. Every bakery is open for a few hours on Sunday mornings so one family member can run out to buy a variety of fresh Brötchen (rolls) for breakfast.

“German breakfasts are not meals but elaborate feasts. If it’s a weekend, every square inch of the table will be smothered in an assortment of meats, cheeses, fruits, jams, spreads and other condiments. It’ll look like someone broke in and, while hunting for valuables, just tipped the content of all cupboards onto the table.” (Adam Fletcher)

Eszet Schnitten

One of my favourite childhood memories is Eszet Schnitten. My kids stare at me with open mouths when they see me place one of the thin chocolate slices on my buttered Brötchen and take a bite of it as if I was catapulted back in time to carefree breakfasts as a child. “Really, mom? Chocolate on bread?” Yes, really, dear children. Nothing could taste better and chocolate for breakfast is just like eating Nutella—which by the way was created in the 1940s by Pietro Ferrero, the Italian pastry maker and founder of the Ferrero company—and also not less healthy than sugar dripping donuts from Tim Hortons.

STEP # 3

Planning, Preparation and Process


When I read the chapter about the three P’s to my husband, he laughed so loud I though he might not recover. Apparently, the German love of planning, preparation and process explains everything for him, including why we have discussions that go like this “Let’s make a plan for…” with him replying either “What is there to plan?” or “It is way too early to plan for that!” To my slight distress we constantly seem to be having people over without plan and booking last minute vacations. And then there is the stressful habit of buying Christmas presents only two days prior to the festivities! I start putting away things for Christmas in May. By the end of November, I am done with family gifts. According to my husband, that resembles witchcraft and he continue to run out to the mall on the evening of the 23rd.

“Just because it is called spontaneity, doesn’t mean it can’t be scheduled. There’s a time and place for fun, and it’s to be pre-decided and marked in the calendar. All else is frivolous chaos. So sit down now and make a plan for the day, then the week, then the month. Then book your holiday until 2017. To make it easier, just go to the same place. How about Mallora? All the other Germans go there. Must be something to it.” (Adam Fletcher)

STEP # 9 & 10

Drink Apfelsaftschorle and Spezi


“Firstly, you must know, Germans fear any beverage that doesn’t fizz. It brings them out in a cold sweat. It’s a great comedic joy to watch tourists and foreigners in Germany buying water labelled ‘classic’, thinking that since ‘classic’ water—the kind that has fallen from the sky since the dawn of time—has always been still, uncarbonated water, it must be the same here, right? No! Millions of years of water history have been conveniently forgotten. ‘Classic’ means carbonated, of course. (…) Related to this is Apfelsaftschorle. You know the scene in movies when people go to therapy and then the therapist asks them to create a happy place? (…) For Germans that place is a lake of Apfelsaftschorle” (Adam Fletcher)

Germans like to drink fizzy water. Germans like their Apfelsaft (aka apple juice) and one day somebody came up with the idea of mixing them both. Apfelschorle or Apfelsaftschorle consists of 3 parts carbonated mineral water and 1 part apple juice. “Spritzer” or “Weinschorle” is wine mixed with carbonated water. Germans love mixing drinks. They even mixed Coke and Fanta and call it Spezi. You are doubtful? Unless you have tried Apfelschorle you cannot say you know what it is like to be German.

STEP # 11-14

Eat German Food

My husband’s eyes became as big as saucers each time we passed a butcher’s or a meat counter in a supermarket. There is German Wurst. And then there is other Wurst. And then there is more Wurst. “Being vegetarian here is probably about as much fun as being blind at the zoo.” (Adam Fletcher)

An oddity is Spargel (asparagus), not the green Spargel we usually get here but white Spargel, served with ham (there is the Wurst again) and a creamy sauce Hollondaise. “The only notable time of the year is Spargel-Saison, where the country goes gaga as the almighty Spargel is waved around everywhere, like a sort of culinary magic wand.” (Adam Fletcher)

What Spargel lacks in taste and imagination the German potato, which comes in many different dishes, makes up for. Wiener Schnitzel tastes best with Bratkartoffeln and Sauerkraut.

Schnitzel & Bratkartoffeln 2

When we visited family, my sister cooked “Kartoffelauflauf” (potato gratin with no less than 1000 millilitres of real cream for the seven of us) on the first night, Kartoffelpuffer (potato latkes) on the second and Kroketten (potato croquettes made from mashed potatoes and fried on the outside) on the third night.

When we were shopping in the city we had “Pommes with Mayo” (french fries with mayonnaise, which by the way tastes very different from our mayonnaise) and “Pommes rot-weiß” (French fries with mayonnaise and ketchup).

Kartoffelsalat 1

And the only appropriate answer to “Ihr seid zum Grillen eingeladen’ (“You are invited to a BBQ”) is “We will make a Kartoffelsalat”, a real German one of course.

The one thing that cannot be forgotten, just like German bread, is the amazing German Kuchen. When you are invited for German “Kaffee und Kuchen”, you are in for a treat. The hostess might even have baked the cake herself. If not, she has picked a variety of cakes at the bakery, one more delicious than the next. If only it wasn’t for all the wasps as you are sitting outside in the backyard drinking good strong coffee and having a piece of Pflaumenkuchen (plum cake), Erdbeerkuchen (strawberry cake), both with lots of whipped cream, of course, or Sahneschnitte (a creamy roll).

STEP # 50


Greetings are different in different parts of Germany. You can say “Guten Tag” or plainly “Hallo” in most parts of Germany. When you get to the South you will hear the more Catholic greeting “Grüß Gott”. And instead of “auf wiedersehen” the South Germans will say “auf wiederschauen”.

However, one word seems to spread more and more all over Germany like a virus. It’s “Tschüss” which will vary from stretching it all the way out to singing a “Tschüüüüüüüss”, or even the more familiar “Tschüüüüssi”, or the more and more common “Tschau tschau”. It seems a short “Tschüss” or one single “Tschau” is not enough anymore.

So let me end my blog with the von Trapp family: So long, farewell, auf wiedersehn, adieu… and tschüss, tschau, tschau!

If you are interested in the other steps of “Wie man Deutscher wird” (How To Be German), check out Adam Fletcher’s bilingual book.

FOR GERMAN LESSONS contact Claudia Angelika Baum, 905-286-9466



Interesting Facts about Ludwig von Beethoven

(Posted by Tia Baum, age 12)

“German composer who was the dominant musical figure of the nineteenth century-particularly famous for his nine symphonies.”

 -Kathleen Krull

Ludwig von Beethoven

Born in Bonn, Germany, 1770

Died in Vienna, Austria, 1827

 -The “Beethoven House” in Bonn is where Beethoven was born.

-Beethoven started playing piano before is 4th birthday.

-His father made him get up in the middle of the night to plays for his friends that he met at bars.

-By the age of twelve, Beethoven was already playing in court as an organist. This was his first paying job, which supported his family when his alcoholic father could not.

-After a while, he was known as “the greatest pianist of all time”. His listeners cried because the music was so beautiful. When Beethoven caught them crying, he laughed in their faces “You fools” he would say.

-Beethoven insulted everyone. Once, for an overweight violinist, he wrote a song called “Praise to the Fat One”. On his brother’s business card – which should have had “Johann van Beethoven, Landowner” written on it – Beethoven scribbled “Ludwig van Beethoven, Brain Owner”

-Once, Beethoven said this to a prince who was planning on investing in him; “There are and there will be thousands of princes. There is only one Beethoven.”

-One day a police man arrested him because he couldn’t believe that the “great Beethoven” looked as he did. He let his hair grow thick and wild. Beethoven also couldn’t be bothered with clean or stylish clothing.

-Sometimes he worked all night. To keep himself awake, he would pour pictures of ice cold water over his head and flood the floor (leaking through the ceiling and particularly annoying the neighbours down stairs).

-Beethoven started to go deaf in his late 20’s.

-He continued to compose and conduct even after he was completely deaf. When conducting he would leap into the air during loud parts and crouch at the floor during soft parts. Once, a conductor on stage who was helping him had to make him aware of the roaring applause at the end of one of his concerts.

-Unlike Mozart, he was famous when he died on March 29, 1827 at the age of 57. 20,000 people came to his funeral in Vienna.

Information from:

 Krull, Kathleen, and Kathryn Hewitt. “Ludwig van Beethoven.” Lives of the musicians: good times, bad times (and what the neighbours thought). San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1993. 24-29. Print.

Going Shopping for Clothing in Germany

One of the differences you should be aware of when going clothes shopping in Germany is that the sizes are different.

A North American dress size 8 for women is a size 36, a size 10 is the German 38, or a size 12 is 40, size 14 is 42, and so on.

Shoe sizes are also in double digits. A lady’s shoe size 8 is size 39 in Germany, size 9 is 40, and size 10 is 41.

Children’s clothing uses the metric system. A size 140 for children means the child is 140 cm tall. So a size 140 is approximately a size 10 for children.

There are two big sales each year, one at the end of January, the “Winterschlussverkauf” (end of winter sale) and one at the end of July called “Sommerschlussverkauf” (end of summer sale).

However, during the year you can find “Sonderangebote” (special offers) and items marked as “reduziert” (reduced). The sign marking the items might say “ab 20,-” which means the items start at 20 euros. All prices already include the tax.

For information on the German currency, read my post on the euro.

If you just want to browse you can say to a salesperson approaching you, “Ich will mich nur umsehen” oder “Ich schaue mich nur um.”

When you are looking for a changeroom to try something on, find the sign saying “Umkleidekabine.”

Stores close earlier than in North America. Usually, they are open Monday to Friday from 9:00 or 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. In smaller towns, they might close even earlier. Saturdays, stores are only open until 4:00 p.m. On Sundays and public holidays they are all closed. In a smaller town, the banks, the post office, and smaller stores might close for a lunch break of up to two hours.

The German Currency, the Euro

Many Germans still pay for almost everything with cash, unless they are purchasing a very expensive item like a piece of furniture or household appliance. Credit cards (Kreditkarten) or cheques (Schecks) are not used as often as in North America.

20 Euros, 50 Euros, Coins

“Der Euro” (the euro) is the currency used in Germany as well as in 16 other EU countries: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain.

The written symbol is EUR or €.

There are seven euro bills: 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500 dollars.

The values of the euro coins are 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 cents as well as a 1 euro and a 2 euro coin.

50 Euros and Coins

Visiting Germans

Germans tend to be more formal when it comes to inviting people over. Unannounced or casual visits are not common.

If you have been invited by Germans, you can expect that the visit has been carefully prepared. The house will have been cleaned and tidied up. Host and hostess will be dressed nicely. If you are invited in the afternoon, at least one cake will be served with coffee (“Kaffee und Kuchen”). If it is dinner time, the dinner will be ready or almost ready when you get there. Do not arrive more than ten minutes late. Germans are very punctual and it is regarded as rude to arrive late.

In the afternoon, it is customary to bring a bouquet of flowers or chocolates, or both. Remember to take off the wrapping before presenting the flowers to the hostess. In the evening you can bring a bottle of wine which can be purchased in a regular grocery store, or once again, flowers or sweets.

Wait for the hostess to sit down at the table with everybody or to urge you to begin eating before you begin to eat dinner. Children are usually expected to also sit down at the same table to eat dinner and are not permitted to leave until they get permission from their parents to get up.

To find out how the table manners are different, please read my post about “Eating Out.”

“Du” oder “Sie”?

Both “du” and “Sie” mean “you”.

“Du” is the informal mode of address comparable to the French “tu.” Family members always say “du” to each other, children are always addressed with “du” until mid-adolescence and if people are close friends who are on a first name basis with each other, they also use “du”.

“Sie” is comparable to the French “vous.” People who work together usually call each other by their last names and use “Sie”, even after they have worked together for many years.

Germans distinguish between “Bekannte” (acquaintances) who are addressed with “Sie” and “Freunde” (close personal friends) who are addressed with “du”.

Young people tend to use the “du” form much quicker than older people.

When first meeting someone “Sie” is used and there is a formal process of offering the less formal address to the other person. Your age and gender determines who suggests to switch from “Sie” to “du”. It is up to the older person and/or the woman to offer this informal address to the younger person and/or male.



An adult is speaking to Thomas: Wo wohnst du, Thomas? (Where do you live, Thomas?)

Thomas is speaking to an adult: Wo wohnen Sie, Herr Schmidt? (Where do you live, Mr. Smith?)

What time Is It? – Wie viel Uhr ist es? Wie spät ist es?

Germans do not use the a.m./p.m. system in an official context. When travelling to Germany you will have to become familiar with the 24-hour system, especially when dealing with the official language used on the radio and TV, or at train stations and airports.

Numbers 13 to 24 indicate the hours that English speaking people call p.m., for example

14.21 Uhr = 2:21 p.m.

17.45 Uhr = 5:45 p.m.

20.00 Uhr = 8:00 p.m.


Speaking in person to someone, Germans often use the expressions “morgens” (in the morning), “nachmittags” (in the afternoon) and “abends” (in the evening) to avoid misunderstandings. For example, “Wir kommen um acht Uhr abends an.” (“We will arrive at 8 p.m.”)


24 Deutsche Redewendungen – 24 German Sayings

Translated by Tia Baum, 11 years old

Übersetzt von Tia Baum, 11 Jahre alt

Redewendung/ Saying


Schulz, Markus. Sprichwörtliche Redesarten. Köln: Sauros Verlag, 1987. Print.

Bedeutung auf Deutsch / Meaning in German Bedeutung auf Englisch/ Meaning in English
1) Die beleidigte Leberwurst spielen.  Beleidigte Leberwurst Gekränkt sein – wegen jeder Kleingkeit sofort beleidigt sein. To be grumpy – to get offended at every little thing.
2) Sehen, wie der Hase läuft.  Sehen, wie der Hase lauft Abwarten, wie sich eine Sache entwickelt – abwarten und sehen wie eine Sache geht und was aus ihr wird. To wait and see how something develops – waiting and seeing how something is going and what will come of it.
3) Den Teufel an die Wand malen.  Den Teufel an die Wand malen Von etwas reden, was man weit weg wünscht – Angst haben, dass etwas Schlimmes passiert, wenn man nur davon redet. To talk about something that you do not want to happen – to be afraid that something bad will happen if you talk about it.
4) Sich in die Nesseln setzen.  Sich in die Nesseln setzen Sich sehr schaden – in Verlegenheit sein, weil man etwas Dummes gesagt oder getan hat. To hurt oneself a lot – to be embarrassed because you did something stupid.
5) Jemanden sagen: „Rutsch mir den Buckel runter!“  Jemanden sagen, Rutsch mir den Buckel 'runter! Jemanden seine Verachtung ausdrücken – jemanden sagen, dass man mit ihm nichts zu tun haben will. To treat someone with contempt – to tell somebody that you don’t want to have anything to do with them.
6) Jemanden auf den Leim gehen.  Jemandem auf den Leim gehen Sich betrügen lassen – sich von jemandem täuschen lassen. To be fooled – to let someone trick you.
7) Den Kopf in den Sand stecken.  Den Kopf in den Sand stecken Etwas nicht sehen wollen – versuchen, Schwierigkeiten auszuweichen, indem man so tut, als ob es sie nicht gibt. To not want to see something – to try and avoid problems by pretending that they don’t exist.
8) Mit jemanden unter einer Decke stecken  Decke stecken, Zwei Fliegen ,  Baren aufblinden,  Kopf herumtanzen, ein Licht auf,Worte auf Goldwaage Gemeinsame Sache mit jemandem machen – mit jemanden heimlich etwas geplant oder getan haben. To secretively do something with someone – to plan or have done something secretly with someone.
9) Zwei Fliegen mit einer Klappe schlagen.  Decke stecken, Zwei Fliegen ,  Baren aufblinden,  Kopf herumtanzen, ein Licht auf,Worte auf Goldwaage Zwei Probleme auf einmal zu lösen – durch geschicktes Handeln zwei Dinge gleichzeitige erledigen. To solve two problems at once – handling two problems at the same time by being clever – “To kill two birds with one stone.”
10) Jemanden einen Bären aufbinden.  Decke stecken, Zwei Fliegen ,  Baren aufblinden,  Kopf herumtanzen, ein Licht auf,Worte auf Goldwaage (2) Aufschneiden – jemanden etwas weis machen, das gar nicht stimmen kann. To show off – to tell someone something that isn’t true.
11) Jemanden auf dem Kopf herumtanzen.  Decke stecken, Zwei Fliegen ,  Baren aufblinden,  Kopf herumtanzen, ein Licht auf,Worte auf Goldwaage - Copy Mit jemanden machen, was man will – night hören, was jemanden einem sagt, sondern tun, was man will. To do what you want with someone – to not listen to someone, and do what you want.
12) Jemandem geht ein Licht auf.  Decke stecken, Zwei Fliegen ,  Baren aufblinden,  Kopf herumtanzen, ein Licht auf,Worte auf Goldwaage - Copy - Copy Plötzlich klar sehen – ganz plötzlich verstehen, was man vorher nicht begriffen hat. To suddenly understand – to suddenly understand what you didn’t know before.
13) Seine Worte auf die Goldwaage legen.  Decke stecken, Zwei Fliegen ,  Baren aufblinden,  Kopf herumtanzen, ein Licht auf,Worte auf Goldwaage - Copy (2) Seine Worte genau prüfen – bei jedem Wort, das man sagt, genau überlegen, ob es von anderen falsch verstanden werden könnte. To be very careful with what you say- to make sure with every word that you say that nobody can understand it in the wrong way.
14) Jemanden sein Herz ausschütten.  Herz ausschutten, Bank schieben, Kopf Wand, Feuer und Flamme, Geld Fenster, Krokodilstranen, Bock Gartner, Brett Kopf - Copy Sich aussprechen – mit jemanden über die Probleme sprechen die man hat. To share your feelings – to talk to somebody about their problems.
15) Etwas auf die lange Bank schieben.  Herz ausschutten, Bank schieben, Kopf Wand, Feuer und Flamme, Geld Fenster, Krokodilstranen, Bock Gartner, Brett Kopf - Copy (2) Etwas das man tun oder entscheiden soll lange aufschieben – sich lange Zeit damit lassen To procrastinate – to give oneself a lot of time to decide or do something.
16) Mit dem Kopf durch die Wand wollen.  Herz ausschutten, Bank schieben, Kopf Wand, Feuer und Flamme, Geld Fenster, Krokodilstranen, Bock Gartner, Brett Kopf - Copy (3) Trotz unüber-windlicher Schwierigkeiten seine Absicht durchsetzen wollen – etwas unbedingt wollen, obwohl es nicht geht. To stubbornly want to do something despite running into big problems – to really want to do something despite the fact that it will not work out.
17) Feuer und Flamme sein.  Herz ausschutten, Bank schieben, Kopf Wand, Feuer und Flamme, Geld Fenster, Krokodilstranen, Bock Gartner, Brett Kopf - Copy - Copy Sich schnell für etwas begeistern – sofort für alles begeistert sein. To get excited quickly – to be very excited right away.
18) Das Geld zum Fenster hinauswerfen.  Herz ausschutten, Bank schieben, Kopf Wand, Feuer und Flamme, Geld Fenster, Krokodilstranen, Bock Gartner, Brett Kopf - Copy (2) - Copy Geld unnütz vergeuden – sein Geld verschwenden. To waste one’s money – to throw away money – “money down the drain.”
19) Krokodilstränen weinen.  Herz ausschutten, Bank schieben, Kopf Wand, Feuer und Flamme, Geld Fenster, Krokodilstranen, Bock Gartner, Brett Kopf - Copy (3) - Copy Rührung vortäuschen – so tun, als ob man über etwas furchtbar traurig wäre. To pretend to be touched – to pretend that one is very sad.
20) Den Bock zum Gärtner machen.  Herz ausschutten, Bank schieben, Kopf Wand, Feuer und Flamme, Geld Fenster, Krokodilstranen, Bock Gartner, Brett Kopf - Copy (2) - Copy - Copy Den Untauglichsten oder Ungeeignetsten mit einer Aufgabe betrauen – jemandem eine Aufgabe übergeben, für die er gar nicht geeignet ist. To give the most unqualified person a job – to give someone a job even if they are not the right person.
21) Ein Brett vor dem Kopf haben.  Herz ausschutten, Bank schieben, Kopf Wand, Feuer und Flamme, Geld Fenster, Krokodilstranen, Bock Gartner, Brett Kopf - Copy (3) - Copy - Copy Dumm, beschränkt, verbohrt, begriffsstutzig sein – etwas absolut nicht verstehen. To be dumb, narrow minded, slow – to absolutely not understand something.
22) Mit der Tür ins Haus fallen.  Mit der Tur ins Haus fallen, Die Flinte ins Korn werfen, Jemanden einen Flh ins Ohr setzen Etwas ohne Vorbereitung aussprechen – sofort und direkt sagen, was man von anderen will, ohne diese darauf vorzubereiten. To say something without preambles or niceties – to right away say what one wants from somebody without preparing them first.
23) Die Flinte ins Korn werfen.  Mit der Tur ins Haus fallen, Die Flinte ins Korn werfen, Jemanden einen Flh ins Ohr setzen - Copy Eine Sache entmutigt verloren geben – etwas aufgeben, sobald es schwierig wird. To give up – to give up the moment something gets hard.
24) Jemandem einen Floh ins Ohr setzen.  Mit der Tur ins Haus fallen, Die Flinte ins Korn werfen, Jemanden einen Flh ins Ohr setzen - Copy (2) Jemanden auf eine verrückte Idee bringen – jemanden mit einer Idee beunruhigen. To give someone a crazy idea – to unsettle someone with an idea.

Saying hello and goodbye

Even though Germans also use the international “hello” or “hi” when they greet each other, traditional German greetings are more formal.

“Guten Tag,” sometimes shortened to “Tag,” is used all day long for hello. In Southern Germany the respective greeting is “Grüß Gott,” or if you are on first name basis with someone “Grüß Dich.” In Austria, people greet each other with “Servus.”

In the morning, you say “Guten Morgen” (good morning) or short “Morgen”, in the evening “Guten Abend” (good evening) or “Abend.”

“Auf Wiedersehen” means goodbye and literally translates to “until we see again”. A less formal way of saying goodbye is “Tschüs” or “Tschau” and is primarily used in Northern Germany.

Germans shake hands more than North Americans. They shake hands not only when they are being introduced but each time they see each other again. It is part of the everyday greeting and beginning of a conversation, especially for the older generation. Usually, a nod accompanies the handshake. Younger people shake hands less and hug friends instead.