The One Party You Don’t Want An Invite To: The German Work Christmas Party

Fun and games at the German Work Christmas Party.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The British work Christmas party typically involves two things; alcohol and sexual shenanigans between people who shouldn’t be having them. So I had high hopes of finally seeing some Germans shed their inhibitions and – dare I say it – lose control when I was invited to a German work Christmas party last year.

How wrong I was.

The first thing that should have told me this was that I was invited at all. For I am just the partner of someone else who works for this company. Partners, at a work Christmas party? These annoying specimens don’t even get a look in at the English work Christmas party. There are two reasons for this: One is that companies claim they can’t afford to invite partners of employees anymore, particularly after the credit crunch (which never existed in mega-rich Bavaria).  The second and real reason is that there’s no way Fred in accounts could finally get his dirty way with Jane from Human Resources if his wife was there, could he?

The second thing that screamed “this is going to be The Worst Christmas Party Ever” is that there were CHILDREN there. Honestly. Children at a work Christmas party. At that point I guessed there wasn’t going to be any cocaine or strippers either then. Oh God.

All work Christmas parties vary in England. I have been to ones in pubs, clubs, bars, the work canteen, you name it. But in all cases everyone gets rip-roaring drunk, women in slutty, ill-fitting dresses dance to bad music and there is plenty to gossip and laugh about the next day.

English women on their way to the work Christmas party.

When we arrived at the Worst Christmas Party Ever however, there was no music. A small group of people were stood awkwardly around a table in the boss’ showroom, which had been stylishly turned into a pretty winter wonderland. That’s right – no traffic light-style disco lights here.

Whoop whoop!

None of the women were in slutty dresses either. Instead they were wearing Jack Wolfskin t-shirts tucked neatly into khaki-style trousers. And there was to be no dancing around handbags tonight – for these lot had brought their rucksacks. We were going on a hike afterwards or something? I manually adjusted the hem on my little dress by yanking it down a bit, and wished I had at least put a vest top on under the laciness of my dress and over my bra. Then I prayed there would be no hike.

German women on their way to the work Christmas party

The Worst Christmas Party Ever consisted of the boss, Ludwig, a successful young family man with long floppy hair and one of the biggest smiles I had ever seen. Then there was his wife along with their two young children who clearly didn’t want to be there either. Then there was Gert, my partner’s colleague and his wife, both aged in their fifties. Gert is from the former communist East Germany, so you can forgive him for being a bit weird. Then there was the apprentice, Stefan, who stank of B.O. and had the social skills of an ape. Then there was the straight-laced secretary, Hilda, who had brought her nine-year-old daughter along. This was going to be a long night.

Sensing this too, the boss’ children suddenly started acting ill and their mother had to leave and take them home. The rest of us sat down to eat a beautiful meal prepared perfectly by some local caterers, albeit in the quietest and most awkward surroundings ever. It didn’t help that my German at this stage was at the same level of the average German two-year-old’s, which made it very hard to join in any conversation that did dare to take place. No one seemed to speak English because, well, this is rural Bavaria where people speak a funny form of German. As many expats will know, you often feel like a deaf mute in these situations.

One thing that did shatter the awkward silence however was the secretary’s daughter sat next to me. She ate and ate as though she had never seen food before. She pigged out so much that her podgy little stomach couldn’t handle anymore, and she started – wait for it – farting. As she was sat next to me though no one could really tell who had let out the farts, despite my obvious ‘you just farted!’ glances I threw hastily in her direction. She just sat there seemingly oblivious to her torrential gas situation. The little bitch.

After the most excruciatingly long few hours of my life, the Worst Christmas Party Ever was finally over. No one got that drunk, no one fell over, no one made a fool of themselves to YMCA on the dance floor, and on one shagged someone they shouldn’t have. But in typical German style the food and hospitality was amazing and no one lost their dignity, jobs, or knickers down some cold alleyway somewhere on the way home. Boring!

Unfortunately the following day everyone who had been at the Worst Christmas Party Ever came down with a vomiting virus so severe we were all chucking our guts up for two days. The little girls who had been taken home ill by their mum got it from school first, then their mother must have picked it up from them before passing it on to all of us by handling our cutlery before we ate.

And that’s why kids really shouldn’t be at Christmas parties. One because they are farty and annoying, and two because they carry disease-ridden germs most of the time.

I don’t want to sound ungrateful. It was very nice of the boss to invite us and feed us all with such lovely food. But I really hope we don’t get an invite again this year.

Funny Things I’ve Heard Germans Say

One of the best bits of mixing with foreigners is their hilarious grasp of the English language.

And while I commend anyone for learning and having the guts to speak in another language, it’s still really funny when they mess up.

Here are the top ten clangers/laugh out loud things I’ve heard during my time in Germany.

  • “My B.A. smells.” I think the German guy in question meant B.O.
  • “I have pins and nails.” That would be pins and needles then.
  • “Yummy. Lamp!” It’s lamb actually. And on that note, “vegetables” is not pronounced  “veg-e-tables” like the piece of furniture.
  •  A German doctor: “Would you like the anti-baby pill?” A pill that stops you from getting pregnant and repels all other babies? Brilliant!  Ja bitte!
  • Same German doctor, about to carry out a vaginal examination: “And now let’s check the situation in your vagina.” And upon finishing: “The situation is good!”
  •  A woman about to have some stitches in her arm taken out: “I’m going to have my ropes removed.”
  • A typically direct German guy – trying not to be direct – to my American friend: “I don’t know how to say this nicely but I really want to f*** you.”
  •  My mother-in-law when I asked where her son was: “He is outside having a sh**.” She meant smoke.
  • My German midwife, while I was giving birth: “Press! Press!”
  • An inquisitive German: “What’s a muff?”

Awards and shiz.

Me AKA Auds

Collecting one of my awards. Thanks Wikipedia.

There I was enjoying a nice cup of tea as I put away my tweeds following that morning’s hunt when up popped a message: “Brit has won an award”.

In fact, it isn’t just one award, but three. People must like reading about Germans a lot more than I thought.

I only started blogging about life as a Brit in Bavaria 10 months ago, as the harsh German winter plus my first stint as a stay-at-home mum threatened to override all of my brain cells and make me spontaneously combust.

Waaaaaaaa!

Since then I have connected with many other bloggers, travellers, expats and wonderful Bavarians whose support is what makes the effort to blog worthwhile. A big thanks to them all!

The awards I have received are hardly the Oscars of the blogging world. In fact, they have been given to me by other bloggers who I paid a neat sum to say they like me. I in turn have to nominate other bloggers who I feel deserve the awards too (thanks for the cash my dears) and they also pass them on. Some may see these awards as an annoying chain, like those letters you used to get at school in the eighties.  But I like to look at them as one big happy cyber conga that just keeps on growing.

Some may choose not to accept the award and the rules that come with doing so. And that’s fine.  But on the plus point the recognition is about awarding up-and-coming blogs and increasing the number of links to them. Plus I thought I better get my arse into gear and nominate after reading how those who have refused to accept these ‘chains’ have seen their blogs die slow horrible deaths.

Germerican Denglish nominated me for three accolades – The Liebster Award, The Sunshine Award AND the Versatile Blogger Award. WOW. Germerican Denglish is all about an American dad, a German mum and their young son ‘who most definitely speaks Denglish.’ As the mother of a bilingual young one, I feel their pride and pain. Thank you for taking the time to nominate me, not once, but three times!

Meanwhile, Deanna of From Casinos to Castles also thought me worthy of the Versatile Blogger Award. A big thank you to her too! Deanna is a Vegas girl who now lives in Germany with her German husband and their child. My partner is German too (violins please) and we have sons around the same age, so I can really relate to her blog about expat life as a mum (DON’T DO IT).

Definitely give both of those a read if you have a moment.

The rules for receiving these awards include posting random facts about myself and answering a set of questions. To spare you from a long post with too much information about me you can read my answers for each award on this page instead.

So, with no further ado, here are the blogs I would like to pass these awards on to. The recipients will either love me or hate me for it. The first I hope. If not, then just take it as a way of me saying “Thanks for taking the time to create a great blog.” As I said, don’t feel that you have to acknowledge the award. But remember your blog WILL DIE if you don’t.

In line with the rules these are all rising star blogs with less than 1,000 followers. See this page for details on how to pass them on and annoy lots of other bloggers. In all honesty I don’t read too many blogs due to time constraints (a toddler, a home, part-time work, this blog, and a Bavarian to pick beer bottles up after). But the ones I’ve listed here are the ones I look forward to reading when I see they have posted something new. They mainly make me laugh and/or inspire me to travel.

So spread the BLOVE.

Word.

The Liebster Award: (Liebster is German for dearest, sweetheart, kindest, nicest. Yes this is slightly embarrassing. Germans use this word sparingly. Well, no one’s ever said it to me. )

Homesick and Heatstruck For an entertaining, touching, and laugh-out-loud blog on life in the Middle East.

Tricia A Mitchell For a great,  insightful travel blog that really makes you feel as if you are there on the journey with her.

James and Pierre For cycling the west coast of the USA for charity and creating a superb blog to match their efforts.

hayleylyla For being so wonderfully Liebster-like and bringing a touch of glamour into my cold, Bavarian, fashion-starved world.

Germerican Denglish Right back at ya! For a funny and sweet blog about life here in Germany.

The Sunshine Award: (For those who have brought sunshine into my life. I might be sick now.)

Living in the Langhe Funny blog from a fellow Essex lad living in Italy (although he doesn’t admit he is from Essex in his ‘about’ page).

Had a Few Beers For being really crude. That kind of humour is really missing here in Germany.

Observing Hermann For keeping me up to date with Germany’s current affairs in a deadpan style.

Englishman in Italy For being so downright hilarious (English).

Good Day to Live Written by a Bavarian who shows that life enriched with travel doesn’t have to be rich.

From Casinos to Castles For being brave enough to share her struggles as an expat mum in a humorous way.

Versatile Blogger Award: (As it says on the tin.)

Well I have now run out of blogs to nominate. I clearly need to get reading more before I die a slow horrible death for breaking this chain. If you don’t hear from me for a while, you know what happened.

Brit Joins German Gym – Finds Everyone Gets Naked There Too.

Original image description from the Deutsche F...

Workout done. Let’s get naked. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have been living in Germany for almost two years. And in those two years I have seen more strangers’ penises and bottoms than I ever could have imagined.

That’s because life in Germany goes like this:

It’s summer! Let’s go down to the local lake! Get down to the local lake – oh look, there’s an old codger sunbathing with his willy out! And there’s another emerging from the lake, with all his bits on show! And wait! There’s another, changing out of his swimwear with all of his manhood dangling out! In England you would be arrested for this kind of behaviour. But in Germany? That’s just how they roll.

Or:

Let’s go to the local swimming pool! Get there to find that the changing rooms are just one big room. Mixed. No curtains. No dividers. Number of strangers’ penises I have seen now doubles in one go.

Then there was the time we went for a nice family swim only to find that it was naked sauna day and we were the only ones wearing any clothes.

Even when I was on the beach recently in Gozo, Malta – where nude or even topless sunbathing is banned – I ended up having a conversation with a German man whose willy was on show. He was wearing trunks but they were so small his manhood had manoevured its way out of there. Or maybe it was so used to being out on the beach it was like: “Hey, what’s going on? Why am I locked up? It’s so dark in here! Let me out!” And with that it found its usual freedom, pulled up a sunlounger and enjoyed the nice cool breeze.

Swimming trunks

Let me out!  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In short, there’s no avoiding cocks and bottoms in Bavaria, unless you always go out with a big black bag over your head.

So it’s no surprise that Germans get naked at the gym too. I joined a gym in Germany for the first time last week, and with that I took my German cock count up from 100 to 125.

Now don’t get me wrong. From what I have experienced so far, German gyms are amazing. Firstly, they are absolutely spotless. Secondly, when you walk in everyone using the gym turns and says hello to you. When you leave, you’re expected to say goodbye to everyone too. I think that’s really cute. Another difference is that as all Germans have OCD, you are expected to carry a little towel around the gym with you that must act as a barrier between your sweaty self and whatever equipment you are using at ALL times. Forget your little towel and expect to be on the receiving end of some scary German looks. Considering Germans are so frightened of germs, I’m surprised that they are called Germans and not Cleanmans or something like that.

After my very satisfying gym session I decided to pop into the sauna. In England most people wear their swimwear in the sauna even if it’s not a mixed one. That’s because we are prudes who would rather die than let anyone other than a very select few see us naked. However, my previous experiences of German saunas have taught me that wearing any clothes at all is not the done thing, whether it’s a mixed sauna or not.

Deutsch: Keltenthron Sauna

Don’t be fooled. The towels must come off. Photo credit: Wikipedia.

But what about a gym sauna? Surely it’s a bit awkward to get completely naked in front of that old bloke you just exchanged niceties with over the chest press machine? The one thing that got me through going naked in a German sauna once before was the fact I wouldn’t see any of the other people in it ever again. It’s a different story if you use the one at the new gym you’ve just joined.

Reily

After this we’re all going to get naked! Ja! Photo credit: Tulane Public Relations

Holding my towel close to my chest, I opened the door to the mixed sauna, and found a spot right next to the door. There was a man aged approximately in his sixties and two women around the same age already in there, all naked of course. From their conversation I gathered they all knew each other from the neighbourhood, and had probably seen each others bits and bobs on numerous occasions before. There was no awkwardness between them at all, and none of them seemed worried about having boobs down to their ankles, pot bellies, or pubes as long as their noses.

Floating sauna

At least it wasn’t a floating sauna. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In fact, one of the women even got up and did a funny little dance in tune to whatever they were all chatting about, and the others laughed as her big, wobbly bits jangled about and almost knocked me in the face. After she left and everyone fell silent it was really hard to stiffle my massive internal giggles.

This time I decided to keep my towel on, much to the amazement of the other members They were all giving me rather strange looks that said: “Is your body covered in warts or something? Come on, get your kit off!” While I commend the Germans for having the guts to get naked in front of each other without a care in the world, it’s just one culture shock that I will never be able to comfortably adapt too. Especially down at the local gym and in front of men I don’t know.

Nudity will always be associated with sex in my eyes because sadly that’s the kind of society I grew up in. The society I’m more used to is also not as safe as in Bavaria. If a woman went nude in a mixed sauna back at home it would be a risk as unfortunately some might see it as an invitation. When you have been used to certain constraints for most of your life it is very hard to shrug them off when you move abroad and things are a lot different.

And on a less serious note I have yet to see a hottie in the sauna. Maybe I’ll change my mind about German saunas when I do. Until then, it’s just old men’s wrinklies all the way.

Oktoberfest 2013: A Guide for the Lazy and Unorganised

Oktoberfest. The one time slightly uptight Munich actually explodes into a riot of fun, drunken debauchery! Merry people everywhere, girls in slutty dresses, and piles of vomit on every pavement slab. Just like London at 4pm every Friday then.

Last year was my first time at Oktoberfest – the world’s largest beer festival – and I was lucky to experience it with a local Bavarian who has been a lot. I discovered that you don’t need to be a beer drinker to have fun, although the prices of any other beverage there will make you wish you were one. You don’t have to book a table or buy a ticket. Just turn up and get involved. Ja wohl!

The first thing you notice when you arrive at Oktoberfest is the huge fair. It’s hard not to, as it is the largest in the world. The rides seem to go on for miles. They also look positively retro, and they’re great fun, especially after a litre or two of strong Bavarian beer. Word of warning – look out for projectile vomit when standing under them. Really drunk people and fairground rides don’t mix.

I’d like to point out that we didn’t see one female in this state. Just men. WIMPS.

After having a few rides (ahem) get yourself to a beer tent and find a space on one of the many long tables. I’d recommend doing this pretty early, as those tables do get busy and the punters don’t tend to budge much (except for the loo). Avoid being in large groups too. We were a three, and found it pretty easy to slide onto the end of another group’s table.

The social side to Oktoberfest is great. Of course the beer gets everybody chatting, and it’s a great way to meet people who have come from all over the world to enjoy the festivities. Everyone is there to have a good time. We got chatting to a very nice Croatian boxer and also a sixties British hippie who was selling glow in the dark thumbs. Here he is.

And here we are with our massive jugs.

But the real fun to be had is inside those beer halls. That’s where there’s loud band music, people dancing on tables and an all-round amazing atmosphere. They had already stopped admitting people when we arrived that afternoon, but we managed to get into one later on thanks to my cousin flirting with one of the doormen, telling him she had come all the way to Munich from Australia. Which she actually had. Not many men can resist a young, blonde Aussie, and with that, WE WERE IN.

The carnage inside was bloody brilliant. Hundreds of people all high on Bavaria’s finest. Men in Lederhosen, women spilling out of dirndls, and ‘liquid gold’ slopped all over the place. There was a great live band playing pop songs, and when they belted out ‘Hey Jude’ everyone got on the tables and sang along. It was a moment I will never forget.

Get yourself to Oktoberfest this year. You won’t regret it! (Unless you’re one of those guys throwing up in my pictures above).

Oktoberfest facts:

  • Oktoberfest 2013 actually takes place from September 21 to October 6.
  • It has been running since 1810 and is called ‘die Wiesn’ by the Bavarians
  • Oktoberfestbiers are the beers that have been served at the festival since 1818. They come from six brewers and must be brewed within the city limits of Munich.
  • They are strong – 6% alcohol minimum.
  • The fair is held right in the centre of Munich at the Theresienwiese. The underground trains take you right there. Don’t drive unless you’re crazy.
  • A majority of visitors are Bavarian. Be aware of the local guys girls. I have been told it’s a real badge of honour if one manages to pull a foreign female in front of his mates.
  • If you haven’t booked accommodation already, then good luck. Prices rocket in Munich during the festival. Consider staying somewhere outside of Munich, like the Five-Lakes district. It’s an easy commute from there into the city.

Prost!

And Then The Pigs Magically Became….Sausages

On Saturday we went to one of my favourite local spots in Bavaria, a tiny, picturesque village up in the hills with a farm, adjoining restaurant, and a 5-star bakery.

I’ve never heard of a 5-star bakery before and I’m not exactly sure why the Kasprowicz in Gut Kerschlach is one, except for the sign outside saying it is and the exceptionally good cakes.

But at least I can now say that I have been to a 5-star bakery, even if there weren’t any limos parked outside, high-class hookers hanging out at the counter or bread rolls lounging around in tuxedos smoking cigars.

To get to the village you have to drive to another small village in the south of Bavaria called Pahl, and walk 20 minutes or so along a trail through tall forests and rolling countryside with gorgeous Alpine views.

It’s very pretty to say the least.

Once more it’s great for kids, because there’s very little traffic up there, and you can tour the farm with its kids’ park and zoo, with  moo moos, bunnies, baa baas and neeeee-ighs! (This is how I talk now I have a 16-month-old).

Now we all know how much kids love animals. And how much nicer it is to see them on an ‘eco’ farm, being treated all humanely and stuff. It was a lovely family outing, and our hearts were literally singing with joy as we skipped around in the sunshine like characters from a Disney movie, talking to the animals all Dr Dolittle like.

But sadly we were unable to find the oink oinks. The map showed their barn as being at the back of the farm. But they were nowhere to be found.

Max has just learnt how to make grunts like a pig.  When you’re a parent and your child learns to make grunts like a pig, THIS IS ONE OF THE HIGLIGHTS OF YOUR YEAR.  Therefore, we had to find those smelly noisy pink buggers as if our lives depended on it.

After ten minutes of frantic searching, we found what we thought was the pig area. Hooray! Max’s face lit up, and he started making his cute oink oink noises.

We all skipped over holding hands, with grins like the Cheshire Cat (not really but got to keep up the Disney-esque-ness of it all). We had found the pigs!

But instead of the pigs we actually found this….a sausage factory.

Are you having a laugh? Who puts a sausage factory on a farm for kids, right where the pigs are meant to be? That’s the wurst!

There wasn’t even an attempt to disguise the factory of horrors. There’s a whopping great big sign on the sausage factory announcing it’s a sausage factory, explaining to the children what happens to the animals inside. The way they break the news is quite hilarious. The sign is in German, but let me (or Google) translate.

“Kerschlach Factory. Here the animals that come from the farm and from partner companies are slaughtered in an animal friendly-way and are transformed into speciality sausages.”

“Transformed.” What a nice way of putting it.

It was a sad end to a beautiful day. We trundled off, heads bowed,  looking and feeling grim. Damn those Germans for always being so brutally honest and direct. Practicality rules over everything here. Feelings don’t always count. That’s why there was a sausage factory on a farm for kids. That’s why my friend’s nan lives in a sheltered housing scheme for the elderly with great views of the cemetery over the road. That’s why people here still wear Crocs – in public.

Although I have to admit, I have enjoyed a German sausage or two in my time.  They taste amazing. I guess there’s no point hiding the truth of what happens to most pigs in what is the land of sausages. In Britain I doubt this scenario would have existed, for fear of being insensitive and giving children nightmares. Not in Bavaria!

And at least, like whenever something doesn’t go to plan here, we can cheer up over five-star cake.

German Hospitals Rule – There is Beer!

As regular readers of my blog will know (all five of you), I recently spent a week in a German hospital following an unpleasant car crash.

This was actually my second week in a German hospital, having spent a week in the same one last year after having my baby there. (Yes, an entire week! No chucking you out after a few hours here!)

So I wasn’t that shocked to discover on my second stay that German hospitals are very different to English ones – i.e. they are nice.

Or should I say Bavarian hospitals. I have come in for some stick lately for referring to Bavaria as German. Tut tut!  How dare I confuse a German state as actually being part of Germany!

I even took a few pictures to back up my claims. Do all German hospitals look like this or is it a case of mega-rich Bavaria coming up trumps again? If so, I really undersand why the rest of Germany is so jealous hates this state. Take a look for yourself.

Spotlights and polished wooden floors? Ja Danke!

Wards with balconies overlooking the gardens? Naturlich!

Plenty of green space for patients to wander about in? In England this would have been turned into a money-making car park long ago!

An empty bed? Definitely not an English hospital then! Watch and weep, David Cameron.

Fancy artwork on the walls? This would never have made it on to the wall of an English hospital, for fear someone would use it to attack one of the staff then steal some morphine.

And a kitchen for patients with free tea, and use of a coffee machine. How lovely!

However, it was in this said kitchen that I also found someone’s secret stash of beer. Remember this is a Bavarian hospital, where prescriptions for beer are readily handed out. (Americans – that was a joke).

My only complaint of the German hospital was the food.

This was breakfast, and the same was ‘dished up’ for dinner.

Bavarians eat a lot, so I was surprised to find really meagre portions existing anywhere in Bavaria. So meagre in fact that when my little German couldn’t bring me food, I had to order take-away from the pizza place across the road. And I honestly don’t eat that much. That pizza man must make a killing from all of the hungry Bavarian patients! Especially the ones with the beer munchies! The most profitable businesses in Germany must be the restaurants close to hospitals! Open one if you can.

Finally, I couldn’t help but laugh at this poster for the hospital hairdresser that I spotted by the lifts.  It’s amazing what men can get for 29 Euros these days.