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.

Top Twelve Reasons I Love Living in Germany

Like many people who live abroad, I often think about moving back home. But then I remind myself what it is I like about living in Germany, and life isn’t so bad after all. Every wobbly expat should keep one of these lists to get them through the ‘sod it, I’m out of here!’ times. Here are twelve great things about living in Bavaria.

The EidseeClean living: The air that we breathe feels so clean in Bavaria some nights I don’t even feel the need to wash my face. Okay, so I’m a lazy cow at times, but still. The air is REALLY clean here! I can see the difference in my skin when I go back to England. The tap water doesn’t taste of chemicals either. In fact, the tap water in Munich comes direct from the mountains.  No need for mineral water here. If you fancy a detox, come to Bavaria!

Bavarian health food/medicineCheap beer: So maybe a detox isn’t such a great idea after all. Beer is very cheap in Bavaria, and there are over 4,000 brands to choose from.  My Bavarian neighbour starts drinking beer at about 10am. He also looks about 60 when he’s probably only 30, but at least he’s happy. Munich’s Oktoberfest is a great way to pay homage to Bavarian beer. Don’t miss it.

Amazing nature: Germany feels like one massive forest. This is where Forest Not sunbathing weather thenBoy claimed to have been brought up, remember? There are probably another thousand ‘Forest Boys’ living in Germany that no one knows about. The nature here is really beautiful, with lots of rolling green hills (the greenest green I’ve ever seen right now after all the snow and rain we’ve had), snow-capped mountains and emerald lakes.  Deer and storks are just some of the wildlife I see when I walk near our home.  Amazing.

Smack bang in the middle of Europe: France, Italy, Austria, Eastern Europe, or down to Slovenia and Croatia…all can be reached on the same day by car from Bavaria.  If you live here, you literally have the whole of Europe at your feet. This is great news for a travel ho like me. The Germans think nothing of popping down to Italy for a short break. Or driving to Austria to stay in a fancy hotel for the night. Bloody brilliant, like

Woman aircraft worker, Vega Aircraft Corporati...

Even women work in Bavaria! (Photo credit: The Library of Congress)

No recession doom and gloom: Bavarians don’t even know the meaning of the word ‘recession’. Unlike when I go home to England, the crippling financial crisis has barely caused a ripple here. Germany has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the EU. Our local newspaper is full of job advertisements each week. Public services are not suffering from huge cutbacks. People feel secure, even if they are not earning very much. It will be interesting to see if that continues.

Mountain stops to admire its reflection in lakeThe mountains: Not only do they look great, the Bavarian Alps provide plenty of opportunities for a day-trip or more. In the winter months there is of course, skiing and snowboarding, plus sledging tracks, climbing and lots of other things mentalists do on ice. In the summer you can hike on them, or run around in a dress pretending to be Maria from the Sound of Music. Ace.

English: photograph of King Ludwig II of Bavaria

Great Mo! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

King Ludwig: This is the fairy-tale guy who brought us Germany’s most popular tourist attraction, the Neuschwanstein Castle. The late king also called a number of other majestic Bavarian palaces home, all of which are remarkable to visit. But Ludwig was more than just king of the castles. He was possibly the most interesting German who ever lived. Secretive, eccentric and mad (according to some), he was sadly and mysteriously  found dead in 1886 after being declared ‘unfit to rule’. I’m kind of fascinated by him.

Cat Burglar

Photo credit: Feral Indeed!

Safe as houses: Bavaria has the lowest crime rate in Germany. The police must be really bored here. Unlike where I’m from in England, the local newspaper isn’t full of stories concerning burglaries, muggings and rapes. Which is nice! It’s so safe here that when I couldn’t find our front door key recently, I propped the door open with a mat and went out for the afternoon with no worries at all.  Here’s what a Bavarian burglar would look like if they existed:

Bavarian fashionistasFriendly people: Because they are drunk on beer most of the time, Bavarians are extremely friendly and hospitable people (except in Nuremberg). Despite being a dirty foreigner with terrible German language skills, I have been welcomed into our tiny community with open arms. Unlike when I lived in London, I know all of my neighbours, and I could count on them if I ever set the flat on fire etc.  When our son was born, three of them brought presents even though we didn’t know them that well at the time. Wunderbar!

The bread: German bread is so dense you could knock someone out with a loaf on the first wallop. And there are so many different types of bread here you never know what you’re going to get on a visit to the bakery ( of which there are two per every one person in Bavaria). We must have about 20 different types of breads at our local bakery, from round loaves made with potatoes (yes, potatoes!) to long sticks made with seeds and spelt. Delish.

Nice traditional towns: Colourful, historic, and with cute, traditional shops. This is what a typical high street in Bavaria looks like. In England most of our high streets have faced ruin thanks to the likes of huge supermarkets like Tesco and online shops. Not in Bavaria.  Here you can still find toy shops selling real wooden toys nestled among butchers, bakers, and clothing boutiques. Twee.

Good education / health systems: You know you’re becoming old and boring when ‘good schools and hospitals’ become an essential reason for living somewhere above ‘hot men and free condoms’. But it’s re-assuring to know that if the worst was to happen here in Bavaria and we ended up in hospital, we are probably less likely to die, catch gangrene or contract MRSA than if we were in an English one. The education system in Bavaria is highly rated too, even though school kids finish their day well by 1.30pm. With those hours, no wonder every German I meet is studying to be a teacher.

Nuremberg: Great place. So what’s up with the locals?

Nuremberg is  one of my favourite destinations in Germany so far. Yes I know I raved about Regensburg. And I haven’t been to Berlin yet. But read on and you’ll see why Nuremberg must surely be one of the top places to visit in Deutschland. DESPITE THE AWFUL PEOPLE. More about them later.

Nuremberg is Bavaria’s second largest city behind Munich. But I love it so much more. According to a friend of mine, Nuremberg has a higher unemployment rate and more druggies than Munich. Great! This means it is far grittier and therefore more interesting than nice but dull Munich.

But please don’t think that because of that Nuremberg is some hell-hole full of pick-pockets. Far from it. Its centre is a beautifully restored medieval marvel, full of ye-olde-worlde buildings and airy cobbled streets. It is where one of Germany’s most famous Christmas markets is held. Its history is simply fascinating, and can easily be recaptured through the dozens of museums and sights on offer. But it is also lots of fun, with cool clubs, bars and a thriving student scene. It seems to be pretty popular with stag parties too (that’s bachelor parties for you Yanks), as Nuremberg is surrounded by hundreds of breweries, and has a number of brothels. Class!

One of Nuremberg’s most interesting sights has to be the dungeons underneath the Rathaus. That’s the local town hall, not a house for rats. You can take a tour of the old prison, built between 1334 and 1340, and imagine the absolute horror the inmates went through there. The cells were small, cold, stone-walled, and completely devoid of daylight. A pail served as the toilet and the table. Some people were tortured as a way of making them confess to crimes they may or may not have committed, and you can still see these torture devices  today. Some inmates were subsequently sentenced to death by hanging, beheading, burning or burying alive. Don’t go on a hangover, like we did.

In stark contrast to the dungeons was my next favourite attraction – the gardens at the Kaiserburg. The castle’s grounds are a perfect place to catch rooftop views of the city and to laze around surrounded by the wonderful flowers.

Another great aspect of Nuremberg is its fascinating yet harrowing Nazi legacy. It was here that Hitler held his mass party rallies and stripped the Jewish of their German citizenship in 1935. Bastard! More than 6, 000 people were killed and 90% of the centre destroyed during the war. But many of the ruined buildings were rebuilt using the original stone, which is why you can still see most of the old town today. Nice.

A must-see is The Reichsparteitagsgelande (pronounced ri -chhhhhhhhccccchhhhhhrrrrrrr flemmy flemmy spit spit schpart tie tag schhhhcccclrrr geland – e), or more easily known as The Nazi Party Rally Grounds. A visit here is a great way to comprehend the scale of Hitler’s support in Nuremberg back in the 1930s. This was where he held his huge rallies to thousands at the Zeppelinfeld. Today the grounds are used for sports and music events, but you can still tour the old grandstand, and literally stand where Hitler did to address the mammoth crowds. Standing in the footsteps of one of the most evil men in history feels eerie to say the least.

In Hitler's footsteps at the Nazi Rally grounds

In Hitler’s footsteps at the Nazi Rally grounds

Despite its shady past, Nuremberg is now a young, multi-cultural, buzzy place, known as the “City of Human Rights”. We loved strolling down the Way of Human Rights, a symbolic row of 29 pillars and one oak tree bearing the 30 articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. No I don’t know what that is either, but it sounds like a very good deal.

Way of Human Rights

Way of Human Rights

So, if Nuremberg is such a gorgeous place, what the hell is wrong with the locals? We couldn’t help but notice that almost everyone we dared to have a conversation with in the city was miserable, unwelcoming and completely stand-offish. Yes, I know they are German. But still. In Nuremberg they take it to a whole new level. Here I am with one of them.

A Nuremberger and I

A Nuremberger and I

Our first run-in with an unfriendly local was at a sausage cafe, where I was loudly told off by a butch looking waitress in a dirndl for giving some of my bread crumbs to a malnourished pigeon. Yes I know it encourages more of them, but there are polite ways of addressing these things. Then I was accosted by a market stall seller for daring to take photographs of Nuremberg’s famous ginger-bread cookies. But I got a picture anyway bitch, and here they are:

Gingerbread

Gingerbread

We were also made to feel extremely uncomfortable in a cafe where the witch ahem waitress serving us was extremely curt and awful. We almost felt guilty for daring to order a large breakfast each, and spending our Euros there. Mrs Awful then told another member of staff off for a good ten minutes in full view of all of the customers, saying how crap she was at HER job. Professional!

On a night out during our trip, I had a very insightful conversation with one of the lovely Nurembergers.

Him: “Where are you from?”

Me: “England, but we live in the south of Bavaria.”

Him: “Most people who come to Nuremberg from the south of Bavaria never admit it. We hate each other.”

Me: “Oh.”

Man gets up and leaves.

I then had a rather unpleasant run-in with a really cheesed off toilet attendant in a nightclub. I could tell something was wrong when I was sat on the loo doing a number two, and someone started spraying air freshener under the door. Blaming it on a slight drunken haze, I thought nothing of it until I left the said stinky toilet.

Cheesed-off toilet attendant: “Hast du kacka gemacht?” (Did you do a poo-poo?)

Me, pleased that I had finally understood a German speaking German: “Ja!” (Yes!)

Cheesed off attendant, spraying furiously: “Du Schwein! Nein!” (You pig! No!)

I had never been told off for using a toilet as a toilet before. Somewhat surprised, I looked at crazy spray lady as if she was crazy, washed my hands and left the loo. Did my poo really smell that bad? I have pondered that question ever since.

I remember meeting a lovely family once from Nuremberg who were on holiday in our part of Bavaria. We got chatting by the lake, and they explained that they liked to come down this way because the people are ‘much nicer ‘. I can see their point.

Today I visited a Bavarian friend of mine, and told her how much I loved Nuremberg. Before I could mention our experience of the locals, her face turned to angst. “But what about the people there?” she hissed. “They are bloody awful! I lived there for six months. If you walked up to a stranger and said ‘hi how’s it going’ they would look at you as if you were bloody mad. Terrible people.”

So there you have it. Nuremberg. Great place to visit.  Just be prepared for the people and don’t poo anywhere, especially in a toilet.

We’re off to England!

After almost six months of continuous Bavarian winteriness (never again), we are taking a break in England. I have never been so happy and excited to return to my crappy homeland. Because a break from Germany means no more heavy snow! No more resorting to miming actions when I fail at the awful German language! No more being expected to eat a whole cake when we just want to visit someone! No more explaining to people that ‘that was just a joke’! No more naked people at the local swimming pool! No more being considered a hooker when I dare to wear heels! No more ‘it’s Sunday, what the hell are we going to do today – everything’s shut?’ And, no more…..Germans!

Living in Germany has really made me appreciate my own country in ways no one or nothing else ever has. As an Expat it’s the little things you miss about home. I am most looking forward to having a cuppa with my nan, laughing at my dad’s constant sarcasm, having a good bitch with my girlfriends, being crude without offending anyone, and buying a ridiculously huge British newspaper on a Sunday without paying the international price tag. Then of course there are the gorgeous British pubs, cheddar cheese, fish and chips, Cadbury Creme Eggs, (yes, this is as good as British food gets) and the way everyone is so so grateful when the sun comes out. I wonder what other Expats miss most about their own countries?

I am fortunate that home is just a 100 Euro, one-hour plane journey away. Popping back for a week here and there is not that hard. And despite my extreme happiness you know I will be glad to be back after all that constant tea, rain and those bloody miserable Poms. Until then, Auf Wiedersehen!