The German in England

After enduring the German in-laws almost every weekend for months, it was time for my German other-half to stomach his British ones on a visit to England. Payback time! Yeah! To make it worse for Markus, where I come from in England is the complete opposite of where he grew up in Bavaria. 
He is from a large rural village populated by clean-living, middle-class folk, situated on a beautiful lake with the Bavarian Alps as its backdrop.

I grew up near Southend-on-Sea in Essex, a large working-class town situated on the murky Thames Estuary, with the industrial works in Kent as its backdrop.

February at Southend Sea front

Photo credit: garyt70

As we neared Southend on Markus’ first visit, I explained that it was a bit of a “sh**hole.” “That is such a strong word!” he replied. “How can somewhere be a sh**hole? That is like…..a hole……full of sh**!” One thing I love about having a relationship with a German is that they take every word you say so literally. Their language is extremely descriptive, which probably doesn’t help matters. (For example, gloves in German translates as hand shoes. Their word for bra translates as bosom holder. I think you get the picture).

I usually stay at my nan’s house when I visit England, as she is getting older, has a nice big house, and a fridge full of food. By Essex standards her abode is very posh. But by Bavarian standards it is a pokey old chaotic hovel full of lots of weird objects called ornaments. A startled horse rearing up on its back legs? Yes she has one of those – in green. A dog sadly staring out into the distance wondering what’s for tea tonight? Yes she has one of those too, in fine cream china. A tea pot in the shape of a man doing the splits? Yes of course! As Markus said on arrival: “It’s like a museum.”

Now we loved staying there and I love my nan’s house. But the German isn’t used to English houses, which usually come complete with – every German’s nightmare – CARPET. “We gave it up years ago in Germany!” Markus quipped. “It’s unhygienic.” And there was worse to come for my poor little German. CENTRAL HEATING. Germans are obsessed with fresh air. Even if it’s -10C outside the windows are open most of the day to ‘change the air’. Despite the cold and the lack of carpet, I have never found the heating on in a German house. Sod that. I’d rather be warm and confused. In addition to the heating on full blast and all of the windows closed, the fire in the lounge also comes on at my nan’s if the temperature outside dips below 20C. Markus almost died.

One morning,  the warmth, lack of fresh air and good old English dust clearly got to the German. I came downstairs to find the front door open, the back door open and all of the windows open. I could smell fresh air! Had my nan been kidnapped? She was nowhere to be seen! I eventually found Markus. He was frantically hoovering the lounge, like a teenager on speed.  “What have you done with my nan?” I  shouted, with visions of her being tied up and gagged in a corner somewhere. Turns out she had gone for a walk, and Markus had taken the opportunity to Germanise her home as much as he could. “The cleaner comes tomorrow, so there’s not much point,” I said.  “Yes!” he replied, all wild-eyed, with sweat dripping down his brow. “And I will tell her where to clean!”

Over the next week I proudly showed Markus around my home-town, trying to make his experience there as British as possible. We had fish and chips. We had a traditional Sunday lunch in a quaint old British pub. We walked along Southend seafront, taking in the colourful beach huts, tacky arcades, and the litter, syringes and dog poo scattered on the beach. We shopped in the high street, which has been taken over by chains like Primark and pound shops and doesn’t appear to boast a single independent trader.

We strolled past the town’s many grey seventies-style office blocks, which now stand empty because of the recession (another British pastime that doesn’t seem to exist in Bavaria). We dodged a lot of fights on a great night out, and read about numerous burglaries in the local paper. By the end of the week I had forgotten about the beautiful, natural, safe Alpine haven that we live in in Germany and I was happy to be in Southend in Essex. It may be a craphole. But it is my home. My craphole full of treasued memories.

What’s more, my family managed to get through the week without cracking a Hitler joke. My pride was immense.

Alas, the time came to leave England and to head back to squeaky clean Germany. Boo!

“So,” I said to Markus, with that glimmer of home-town pride still on my happy little face. “What did you think of Southend?”

“Yeah,” he said with a sorry look. “It’s a sh**hole.”

For once we agree on something.

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26 thoughts on “The German in England

  1. Love it! Hey email me at Oliveritaly@gmail.com I need a favor from you (it’s a supper easy honest.) Loved the S**Thole bit 😉

  2. Southend is my craphole too! I’ve never been brave enough to introduce my Italian wife to the nightlife though… Great blog, really enjoyable reading, and it’s always good to hear about fellow Southendians in exile!

    • Thanks Richard! It’s good to hear from you and I look forward to seeing how you’re doing on the other side of the mountains. Do you go back to Southend much? You mean you haven’t taken your wife to TALK? She hasn’t lived.

      • I know, it’s madness… 😉 I’m sure, deep down, she’d love it! I get back there occasionally as my parents still there, but we never stay for long!

      • It’s not all bad, but the more I travel the more I realise that yes, Southend is a craphole. I still enjoy going back though as that’s where most of my family are too. Look forward to reading about your bit of Italy.

  3. Love this post! Its very funny and I can relate to it in many different ways!!! My boyfriend is German, I’m Portuguese, just moved to Germany after living in the UK for 8 years. Looking forward to hearing your other stories.

    • Hi MyHelena, thank you. You have my sympathies if your boyfriend is also German! I look forward to reading about your new adventures in Germany. Where in Germany are you?

      • Hi again, thanks for your lovely words, I will be definitely keeping up with your posts too. I’m living in a town close to Frankfurt. Not so much the picturesque style here, more like the Bauhaus and art nouveau German kind of place.

      • Well enjoy it up there. I believe it’s totally different to here. I have only made it as far north as Nuremberg so far and even that is still in Bavaria.

  4. Love this post. Quite agree – there’s no place like home – sh**hole or not 🙂 Was just reading a blog about Germany and thought you might enjoy it… http://flyadvisors.com/10-of-the-most-beautiful-places-to-vist-in-germany/ The writer’s use of English is bonkers / delightful / hilarious (although, of course, a damn sight better than my German. Or Arabic, as we’ve already established…

    • Thank you! I will have a look at this link too. Always interested in seeing others view point on Germany. Have you been learning Arabic?

      • And I just checked out that site. The photography is gorgeous and I now have some new places to add to my travel list. And yes, I absolutely love the use of the English language!

      • Ummm… Not really. Trying to pick up some key words… Maybe I should take lessons…

      • Do you plan on staying there long? Can you get by ok with English? I took some Arabic lessons when I was a teenager living in Malta. Lasted two!

      • We’ve been here 3 years already… Everyone speaks English out here – it’s how people get by in restaurants, shops, and generally out and about, so we’ve never really needed to speak Arabic. Still, I feel it would be good to learn a bit…

      • That’s pretty good then. It was the same when I lived in Malta. Most people speak English in Germany too but as we live in a rural area many people don’t as much. Therefore I need to learn!

  5. Aaaah, this is hilarious!! I found myself nodding along all the way through. The lack of carpets… the love of fresh air. So. Very. German!

  6. Did you also give him Marmite to eat?

  7. This the anonymous Nuremberger again …

    Vegemite? Really? I cannot believe this. Let me tell you a story. Some years ago I visited an english friend of mine (who lived in Germany) at his parent’s place near London. In the morning they served breakfast and there was this brown syrup called Marmite standing on the table. It looked like what is know in Germany as “Zuckerruebensirup” which does not taste too bad (is sweet) and so I took this one. I deeply regretted this after having taken the first bite, but being a polite German I ate the toast with Marmite completely. After this I asked this friend whether he really likes Marmite and he said he was very fond of it. So I developed the theory, that somebody must be fed with Marmite right from being a baby to stand it. Now that your Markus is a FAN of Vegemite is really bloodcurdling to me!

    BTW: I found something even more disgusting when being in South Africa on holiday: BOVRIL!

  8. Very nice and interesting post!
    I have written on some other post of you, but after this some question bug me.
    Everything that you described about your husband doesn’t apply to me, my family or any Bavarian that I know of.
    So I ask myself, is your husband German, rather than Bavarian or is my family English? :O
    We have carpets in mostly every room, it’s always warm, we have central heating and so on.
    Also I would like to know, do you try to talk Bavarian with your husband, does he talk Bavarian with you, does he talk Bavarian at all?
    I’m engaged with a beautiful Colombian woman and try to teach her about our culture (I linked your blog to her in fact) and teach her Bavarian.
    Her pronunciation is so incredibly good!
    Of course I try to learn her culture and language too, she says that I have an English accent when I try to talk Spanish though 😀

    • Hello! Thanks for your nice comments. I would say my partner is part German and part Bavarian, although born and bred in Bavaria, the poor thing. To me it is a very English thing to have lots of carpet, a massive fear of the cold (when it is nowhere near as cold in England as it is in Germany in the winter months) plus we’re just not as clean as you guys (or should I say, OCD!) I can only go by what I have seen, obviously not all people are the same. It is a generalisation and on this blog it is a generalisation for humour. Part of the English humour is also to exaggerate. We don’t always mean what we say. But if it gets a laugh, then the aim is fulfilled 🙂 My Bavarian insists he doesn’t talk like a Bavarian. But he is in denial. His words merge into one whereas I find Germans from outside of Bavaria much easier to understand, unless they have been Munich-i-fied. I hope your Colombian partner enjoys reading my blog posts and learns Bavarian well. I think it goes down really well in Bavaria if you speak Bavarian, rather than German 🙂 Unfortunately I haven’t updated this blog for a while as I’m in England and really really busy doing other things, but I hope to return to some blogging here soon!

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