Tag Archives: German names

There is something worse than naked neighbours

The last thing on earth I wanted to see on Tuesday morning was an angry Hildeberta with a pen and paper in her hands. Groan. Was the dreaded cleaning rota finally going to materialise? I ventured a little closer with a cheery “Good morning!”, and peered at what she was writing. “Lieber Nachbar…” Phew, it seemed I was off the hook.

Me: What’s happening? 

Hildeberta: DID YOU HEAR ME LAST NIGHT? 

Me: (backing slowly away) Ummmm… 

It emerged that, in a fit of rage, she’d stomped upstairs in her pajamas to deal with our insanely noisy neighbours. I had actually heard our front door opening at around 1am but as I was nice and warm in my bed, I just thought, “Sod it. Let the bloody burglars come to me. I’m not moving.” I nodded off again a few minutes later.

Meanwhile, Hildeberta had been banging away on the neighbours’ door, determined to have it out with them. She said she could hear them talking in rather coarse German, tiptoeing around for a bit, and then all was quiet. So she came back downstairs and went to bed again. Having got no satisfaction (duh nuh nuh) the night before, she was now writing a note to them in VERY SHOUTY LETTERS.

The truth is, this has been going on for months now but, as Germans are oh so polite, we didn’t do anything about it. I had previously offered to be the short, silent, crazy-eyed sidekick to Hildeberta’s dignified lead – think Joe Pesci and Robert de Niro in Casino – but my flatmates had turned me down.

You see, there are laws against this sort of thing in Germany. Between 10pm and 6am, you’re not supposed to do anything that could disturb your neighbours in any way. This includes, but is not limited to, hoovering, turning on your washing machine, blaring your TV, and revving your car engine. I have even heard of the police being called on a crying baby. And while Berlin is generally rather lax with this sort of stuff, our neighbours are a pretty extreme case.

I put forward several theories as to what could be going on up there, but as my macabre imagination freaked out Hildeberta and Hildegard, I’ve toned it down to what is probably the most likely one. So here it is – Gebhard’s Guide to Driving your Neighbours Crazy:

1. Look at your watch and realise that it’s around midnight.

2. Put on your hobnail boots.

3. Proceed to line dance for 30 – 40 minutes.

4. When you’re good and warmed up, move every piece of furniture in your flat to a new position.

5. Jump off every piece of furniture while still wearing your hobnail boots.

6. Repeat.

Luckily for Gebhard, Hildeberta and Hildegard are extremely well-mannered individuals with the patience of saints. I, on the other hand, am not. This has led to me jumping up and down, banging on the ceiling with a sweeping brush in my hand while roaring obscenities at night, and “treating” Gebhard to my version of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” at the top of my voice first thing in the morning. However, it seems that none of this has had any effect whatsoever.

Hildeberta dropped the note up on Tuesday morning. As I sit here writing this, 2 Unlimited are blaring from on high, and Gebhard is having what sounds like multiple seizures (in hobnail boots) directly above my head. (Although, if I were forced to listen to 2 Unlimited at that volume, I’d probably have a seizure too.)

So it seems he’s not just an inconsiderate moron, he’s an inconsiderate moron with embarrassingly poor taste in music. It’s now around 9.30. At 10.01, I’m going up there. Now, where’s my pen…

 

 

Our German teacher hates us

Or maybe she just hates all people, or life in general – it’s hard to say.

We’re at the end of the seventh week of the course. In that time, we’ve had three different teachers. The first teacher hightailed it to Düsseldorf to get away from us; we had a really nice teacher for one week who greatly helped our pronunciation and seemed genuinely interested in improving our German in general; now we have the hippy from hell. She seems more interested in picking at the holes in her leggings and playing with her “white person dreads” than she is in us.

She seems to forget that while we may not be very clever in German, we’re actually a pretty smart bunch in real life – a scientist, an economist, an engineer… Naturally, she took an instant dislike to the poor Italian, who she treats as if he has the IQ of a baked bean. I don’t think she’s realised that taking the piss out of him in German, which she does frequently, is totally wasted on him as I’m the only one who can understand her.

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Thankfully, I only have two more lessons to go, as I only booked eight weeks to begin with. Frankly, I’m not overly impressed with the school, the teachers, or the organisation of the classes. As a teacher, it’s pretty easy to spot when another teacher shows up with no idea where we are in the book, or what we had for homework, and this is the impression I get here.

However, I do feel that I’ve gained something from the classes, though probably not as much as I’ve gained from my flatmates, Dietmar and total strangers. I’m kind of in love with the German language so I’m constantly experimenting with the few words I do have, believing that I’m speaking Deutsch, when in reality, I’m speaking Denglish.

Me: Hallo, schlaf-y Kopf.

Hildeberta: What?

Me: Sleepy head. Schlaf-y Kopf.

Hildeberta: Ha ha ha! NEIN, that does not work in German. You have to say “Schlafmütze”!

Me: Schlafmütze. Yes, I like that. 

Hildeberta: Just be careful you say “Schlaf” and not “Schlaff”.

Me: What? They both sound the same. What’s the difference?

Hildeberta: “Schlaf” means sleep. “Schlaff” means “limp dick”.

Me: Right. Well, I guess that could come in handy too… 

On Wednesday night, we were out as it was Hildeberta’s last night before she took off for the depths of southern Germany for Christmas.

Me: Hurrah for delicious Glühwein – hoch fünf! 

Hildegard: What? 

Me: Hoch fünf – high five.

Hildegard: Bah haha! No German has ever said that EVER! 

Me: Why not? It makes perfect sense.

Hildegard: Yeah, I guess you’re right…

“Hoch fünf” is now the running joke in our apartment. I’m hoping it will catch on in the rest of Germany too. Who’s with me?

While the girls are sweet and patient, Dietmar treats my German language-learning like German boot camp. Some evenings when I go round there, I feel like I’m being initiated into the German army, rather than relaxing with a glass of Cognac.

Dietmar: What is that in German? (Points at the fridge)

Me: I don’t know. 

Dietmar: “Kühlschrank” – say it. 

Me: Kühlschrank. 

Dietmar: Gut. What is that in German? 

Me: I don’t know. I’m tired…

Dietmar: NEIN! You will learn! Drop and give me twenty! 

Me: Sigh. 

He then instructs me to get various things from various places in the kitchen by giving me directions in German. He ends up with the toaster, kettle, corkscrew, mobile phone, bread… before I finally hand him the glass he was actually looking for. At least I find it funny.

However, bit by bit, I can see that I’m making progress – though obviously not fast enough for Dietmar. Yesterday evening, on my way to the train station, I decided to stop off at my favourite Glühwein stand on Friedrichstraße for a quickie before going home.

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I got chatting to two really nice German women on their way home from work. Their English was pretty limited, so German was really the only option we had. To my amazement, they could actually understand me, and I could understand around 80% of what they were saying. I’m pretty sure I made hundreds of mistakes over the course of what turned out to be four Glühweine, but we muddled through.

So, I’m going to keep doing what I do – entertaining the Germans in my life with my hilarious German, while trying to make my own particular brand of Irish-German a real thing.

Hoch fünf everyone!