I recently celebrated (ignored) my four-year anniversary as a resident of Germany. Hopefully I’ll still be here in a few years’ time, but who knows. Perhaps I’ll be spirited off to noble Switzerland with its graffiti-free streets, brazen luxury product fetishes and Räbeliechtliumzüge.
Anyway, during my time in the beautiful ‘Schland, I’ve had many, many introductory conversations with the natives, the majority of which follows the same general trajectory once they find out where I’m from. “Oh, you are English!” they exclaim, eyes all aglitter like a Flaming Lips live show. Then they take a deep breath. If I could peer inside their minds at that moment, I’d see golf ball-sized nuggets of misconception ready to be teed up and fired from overcompensating mouths. And then out they come. THWACK! WHAM! MISHIT! I am pelted, and all I can do is grin and laugh and nod and go back for more.
So here’s a severely truncated rundown of topics of conversation that I could do without ever hearing again in a Kennenlernen situation. Try not to see it as me being slightly ungrateful towards a country which has given me financial security and a future and uninhibited girls and a homosocial crush on Manuel Neuer. Just think of it as therapy.
“The food in your country is so bad!” or “Fish and chips! [manic grin]”
Why would anybody think this is an appropriate thing to say to somebody? What’s the best you’re hoping for here, people? For me to apologise? Nod emphatically and hoot with laughter at your incisive cultural commentary? Reassess my childhood, call my Mum and tell her I think her apple pies are like ashes in my mouth? To be honest, German cuisine and English cooking are like long-lost brothers. Stodgy, down-to-earth, unpretentious ballast, that’s all it is. Semmelknödel and dumplings. Wurst and bangers. Ridiculous four-hour-long Sunday German buffet and full English breakfast. And yes, English bread is like the worst kind of sponge cake. Yes, not every restaurant is a gourmet adventure. Yes, we like baked beans. I know this already. You’re not lifting the veil from my eyes. So please stop. Or I will start talking about how I think Germany is “Stefan Raab and Scooter and not much else, really”.
“Ahh, England. Hooligans. Very bad.”
This issue can be resolved by taking a cursory glance at Wikipedia. In the United Kingdom, “From the 1970s, many organised hooligan firms sprang up. In the 1980s and well into the 1990s the UK government led a major crackdown on football-related violence. While football hooliganism has been a growing concern in some other European countries in recent years, English football fans now tend to have a better reputation abroad.” The proof is everywhere.
Sure, there are still incidents here and there, but we are not all extras in Football Factory. We’re charming like Richard E. Grant.
“Look! It’s raining! It must feel like home!”
Oh you joker. Clap me on the back. You’ve earned it. I’ll tell you what: next time the whole of Thuringia, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Lower Saxony, Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg become flooded due to massive rainfall (like in 2013), I’ll be sure to start screaming “JUST LIKE IN ENGLAND!” and then we can be mates.