Second Generation German
HOW YOU CAN TELL SOMEONE IS A SECOND GENERATION GERMAN IN CANADA
Don’t get me wrong – I love Canada. I was born and brought up here on its soil, water and sun. It will always be first and foremost my home. However, growing up in the 1960’s and 1970’s as children of IMMIGRANTS IN SEARCH OF A BETTER LIFE (sound familiar?) there are some cultural experiences that have been inlayed in many of us – much like decorative art, which contributes to the beauty of the finished object. I think many of you can relate – and maybe not all as Germans, but some as Northern European. At the very least, maybe you will get a chuckle or two.
1) You’ve had it drummed into your head for as long as you can remember to be on time. After all, your Dad was a German Soldier (but not a Nazi, because no one had a Dad that admitted they were a Nazi) and his favourite expression was:
Fünf Minuten vor der Zeit, ist des Soldaten Pünktlichkeit.
This roughly translates as; “To a German Soldier, being punctual means being five minutes early” This can apply to Doctor’s appointments or just meeting a friend for coffee. And heaven forbid if you show up early – you still catch yourselfself waiting in the car in a driveway until your watch reads the correct hour.
2) If you hoist a glass with friends and say “Prosit”, they have to look you in the eye. That doesn’t mean a stare, but our eyes should meet – after all, we will never be as young as this again.
“So jung kommen wir nicht mehr zusammen.”
3) You still judge a person on their handshake. Your mom told you over and over again that if a person only offers part of their hand, it means they are cheap. If they won’t give you their hand, which is free, they will not be generous with themselves in other ways. Some people lay their hand in yours and it feels like a cold clammy fish, and others pump so hard you think your hand will break (and you make your living from your hands!)
In your mind there is nothing ruder than having someone reach out their hand to you to shake it, but they are already looking over your shoulder to see if someone more interesting than you is in the room. You wonder why they bother.
4) You enjoy being a guest in your Canadian friends homes and have had many a good meal and fun times. Everyone is working hard these days, and you especially appreciate the relaxed manner of hosting, and make no judgment calls – hey, you don’t have to cook the meals and you appreciate their generosity and hospitality!
However, when it comes time to invite them to your home, you somehow can’t bring yourself to serve meals on paper plates and plastic cutlery. You have a dishwasher after all, and what good is your fine china if you don’t use it to serve friends? And heaven forbid if there isn’t a freshly laundered and ironed white tablecloth underneath all that goulash and dumplings. You just can’t help yourself! (My parents were Niedersachseners – it’s their fault!)
5) Your idea of heaven on earth is a good sour pickled herring – even better in a cream sauce with apples and onions. Bring up Hackepeter which is raw ground pork on a crusty bun with a raw onion ring, and a raw egg broken over it – your Canadian friends are barfing in the corner just thinking about it, and you are thinking “What’s wrong with that? I don’t get it?”
6) You know how to make soup out of a bone and an onion. Your friends tell you that when World War III starts, they will run to your house because you will know how to feed them.
7) On the subject of world cuisine, American is on the bottom of the list. You’ve been to Oktoberfest celebration in the States where deep-fried Twinkies were on the menu, next to Bavarian Fish Tacos, warm American beer served in (gulp) plastic cups, and you are wondering why everyone makes such a fuss over your good herring.
8) What ever you do, DON’T MENTION THE WAR. For those not familiar with the inside Fawlty Towers joke, go on YouTube to https://youtu.be/yfl6Lu3xQW0
9) You couldn’t understand why all your parents’ friends talked about Bremen, Berlin, and Cologne at home, but talked about Vienna outside. Then it dawned on you at about age 12, that lots of Germans pretended to be Austrian to their Canadian neighbors, who associated Austrians with the cutsey “Sound of Music” people, all Germans as Nazi’s, and didn’t know the difference between Lederhosen and Leberklosse. (My own Mom said she didn’t want to be a hypocrite, because everyone would find out anyway, and she wanted to be liked for herself. Besides, in the German community, all knew each others accents and dialects anyway.)
10) You were brought up to call everyone Mr and Mrs., or at the least Auntie and Uncle, and to this day you stammer through “sie” grammar rather than “du” because all you really learned at home was family German. Then you go to night school and learn there are 7 different ways to pluralize a noun, and you give up. Right there. But then you visit Germany and everyone is really nice about. I mean really really nice.
11) You have a relative that actually worked in a castle. For a Knight. (My venerable grandmother, who lived to be 97, while hoisting a beer and singing naughty tavern songs, told me that she worked for a Knight in a Castle, in the stables). Ok, Oma, I thought, you are in your cups. Then you do your research and find out that when your Grandma was 14, in 1914, living in Essen, there was a castle in town, owned by a Knight, and is still known today for its horse racing, and you realize she was indeed, probably right.
13) Calendars in Germany always start on a Monday – the first day of work, of course. In Canada they start on Saturdays, split half way through the weekend, which makes no sense at all. You find yourself double checking the dates – never mind the 24-hour clock. 21:00? Ok, minus 12, think, think, oh that’s 9:00 pm. Maybe?
14) Back on the subject of beer: you are immensely proud of the 1516 Purity Law Reinheitsgebot, which insists on only water, barley and hops. The idea of mixing fruit juice in your beer makes you shudder. Only Belgians do that. Or Americans.
15) Everyone has always told you German is a harsh, ugly language, and you believe it. Then you meet an Iranian music teacher that tells you how beautiful it is. How, while singing, you have to draw out the consonants and finish the T crisply, because the audience waits for it in expectation. I.E. Lust and Brust are sung Luuuusssss T, and Bruussss T. Then everyone sighs and is happy. I finish off with Mr Bean singing Ode to Joy.
This is a true story.
October 29, 2015
Written by Cora Schupp in New Westminster, BC, CANADA
Cora Schupp Biography
Cora grew up in northern BC but now lives in New Westminster with her husband Hans. She is self employed doing professional bookkeeping and accounting for a variety of clients, and became a published author in April of this year.
Cora and Hans sing in both the Austria Vancouver Club Melody Choir and the Concordia Choir in Vancouver. She speaks a broken “Hoch Deutsch” but has been unable to master a word of “Schwab” or “Bayern”