1. Taking the escalators down to the u-bahn station, two girls on the steps below, one running her hands through the other’s hair and twining it into a ponytail, stroking it with quiet pleasure.

In England, this would be a grotesque sexual provocation, performed by leering drunken chav sluts, vermin who work in a call centre Monday to Friday and give gratuitous blow jobs to all & sundry at the weekend. i call them The Children of Blair, the inevitable products of socialism in England: vile subhuman scum.

In Germany girl-to-girl affection & grooming seems innocently friendly. No one else so much as looked, i seemed the only one struck by both the oddity and the beauty.

2. Taking the elevator up to McLingua, when i’m too lazy for the 6 flights of stairs, i often share the ride with sundry Bosche. They usually studiously ignore me, and i them (since i am English), until they alight, whereupon they nod formally and say brightly: “Auf wiedersehen!” i usually ignore this (since i am English) or, at the most, grunt. Occasionally, elevator-Bosche engage me in conversation; when i understand i offer one-word answers; most of the time i don’t so just nod and smile, understanding nothing.

3. German is a ferociously difficult language though i gather Russian, Arabic, Chinese, Finnish, Hungarian are even worse. i can craft functional sentences but the grammar is invariably wrong; and i can’t understand anything anyone says, unless there is a clear context and they speak simply and slowly. After 3 years, learning German grammar & vocab almost every day, that is remarkably bad.

A lot of what i hear is Bayerisch (Bavarian), which is as far from Hoch Deutsche as pre-war Geordie is from the Queen’s English. i have absolutely no interest in learning Bayerisch.

When i visit my MILF in Kassel (close to Hanover, the geographical centre for the Kaiser’s German) i generally understand most of what i hear on the streets; in Munich – even after 17 months – i understand nothing. i once sat on the s-bahn opposite two women, who i assumed were Polish or perhaps fair-skinned Arabs, from their language. It sounded like the mooing of drunken, brain-damaged cows:

After 20 minutes of this retarded mooing we passed some new apartment blocks and they mooed: “eghhhuwwa uhgghschor zzggzzggh schtzzulnugh nguuuuzzuuuh wohnzzunzgzen ryuuuuuuzznnnnn vzvzazzzulthya nyyyyha!”

And i realised, from the word wohnungen, that they were speaking some form of German, that they were in fact speaking Bayerisch.

4. It is not accidental that English has become the lingua franca, rather than French. It is very easy to learn functional English. Very very hard to learn perfect English, inwoven as it is with our culture, but you can communicate what you need with very basic grammar. From the study hours i’ve put into German, i would be level B2 or C1 in English now; in German, i’m A2/B1 and my most ordinary utterances are chockablock with grammatical errors.

But i don’t regret coming here (see point 1). i actually like the formality of German culture. Kate Fox accurately enough describes English small talk as consisting mainly of embarrassed circumlocutions; i vastly prefer German conversation, where you can simply say “ich gehe” and leave, rather than the long-drawn out “well, see you round. It was nice seeing you. Hope we can get together soon. Thanks for the wine, it was lovely. Uh, yes, uh, so…so you soon. Bye! The sofas were really very nice. And uh, yes, nice weather we’re having, so…bye…we should do it again sometime…”

Perhaps because my father (a doctor) was/is a brutal, 3/4 insane Indian neanderthal and my mother was white trash masquerading as upper middle class, i’ve never had an easy feel for English culture. Some of it i naturally absorbed; other things i didn’t encounter in my childhood and they never felt natural for me. In many ways, i was always German, though not echt Deutsch, never echt anything. At least in Germany nobody expects me to be German and i rarely meet Brits so i can just be an elberry; and even when i meet Brits, i can say “i’ve lived here too long, i’ve become a Bosche.”

5. i feel closer to German than English culture, after 3 years, and living here is changing me, developing latent tendencies. For the last few months, i’ve been engaged in a project with some English Southrons (rich self-satisfied apple-polishing Caucasian golden boys with children & a mortgage & a Volvo). They’ve always disliked me, perhaps because i’m not a part of their belly-patting back-slapping aren’t-we-grand, we-live-in-or-near-London-and-we’re-so-rich world. In my office years i would have tagged them as born managers, self-satisfied patronising bullies. Put them in any office environment and they would naturally apple polish their way to the top, treating their superiors with respectful flattery, their peers with back-slapping camaraderie, and their inferiors with casual contempt and loathing.

They fucked up their end of the work, two or three times. Each time i let them know, assuming they would get it right the next time. Because they think i’m a stupid Northern cunt they ignored me. The fourth time i told them more bluntly, that they had fucked up and should get it right; they accused me of throwing a hissy fit and being “precious”. i didn’t really know what they were talking about, since i was just telling them to do their job correctly. It wasn’t, for me, emotional. i felt, at most, irritation.

i read their dismissal at the McLingua computers, sitting next to Toddball. Toddball is a working man and would never, i think, make a convincing manager – too human, too decent for that. He asked why i looked so bemused.

“This guy says i’m throwing a hissy fit because i asked his cadre of apple polishers to either do their work correctly or not do it at all,” i explained, showing him the email and more or less verbatim quoting him my apparently intolerable communication.

“It sounds like he’s throwing a hissy fit in accusing you of throwing a hissy fit,” Toddball decided.

“i should throw a hissy fit now. No one accuses me of throwing a hissy fit. i feel quite hissy. Maybe i should kill someone. In a hissy way.”

Later, however, i realised i was just being German, i.e. a bit of a cunt. For Germans, it’s normal to say “this is shit, do it again.” It isn’t really personal. The famed German directness is in part to do with a separation of work from worker. They maintain quite strong boundaries between the human being and the work he does, or his work persona (hence they are more likely to just follow orders). After years in Germany i can say “your work is shit, sort it out” and i don’t mean it as a personal insult. i might like a lazy, wholly unreliable slob like Michael because he’s amusing and not an apple polisher; his work ethic – or lack thereof – is just a neutral fact, like his deplorable taste in music.

i wondered if i was being too German, but in general i am too wishy-washy and nice.

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