Monday, 5 August 2013

Adam Fletcher: How to be German in 50 Easy Steps

I don't need much advice on how to be German, seeing as I'm so totally assimilated I even read German books. But someone sent me Adam Fletcher's cute flip-over book How to Be German/Wie man Deutscher wird so I read it. I'm quite obedient.

It's cute because of the choochie little illustrations by Robert M. Schöne. And also because of the content, which I shall come to in a moment. And it's flip-over because you turn it over and get my friend Ingo Herzke's German translation. It's a very good translation, should you wish to read about how to be German in German.

Anyway, the content. The UK seems to be looking to Germany as an economic model - with BBC2 screening a show called "Make Me a German" tomorrow, which looks strangely humourless and makes the BIG mistake of investigating life in Bavaria rather than anywhere else. So there's a clip on the website of a group of mums talking about why they don't work, rather proudly, but no mention of the fact that childcare is actually affordable here (if not sufficiently available), unlike in the UK. Adam Fletcher, however, has more of an insider's perspective, having moved here a few years ago, lived in Leipzig and then Berlin and got himself a German girlfriend. Hooray!

It's based on a blog, which people kept telling me to read but I didn't because I know perfectly well how to be German, thank you very much, and didn't need to be told by some Johnny-come-lately whippersnapper. Also, his blog is a zillion times more popular than mine - even my amusing blog about going Dutch with German writers - possibly because it's funnier. Or just less intellectual. But it turns out it's actually rather good, and better reading for a hot weekend afternoon than Love German Books.

You get fifty helpful hints, going through basics like wearing slippers at all times in your flat (I don't), eating German bread (I do), speaking freely about sex (I do sometimes), recycling (I do), wearing outdoor-equipment-type clothing with zip-off legs (no, sorry) - so you could theoretically give yourself marks out of 50 to see how German you are. For the next edition, they could add little check-boxes. And all the useful instructions are very cleverly observed and witty. My favourite is the one about mixing your beverages. Because it really is a very odd thing, all these mixtures of beer and grapefruit juice, beer and chili and mango, beer and elderberries, for goodness' sake, and the ultimate oddity: Coke and Fanta in one bottle. In case you haven't tried it: no, it's not very nice.

Fletcher has great comic timing but keeps it pretty brief. He spots the contradictions, the two hearts beating, ach! in the German chest. Like watching Tatort religiously but thinking it's rubbish and going ballistic once a year with NYE fireworks (for Germans: that was a pun). And he knows words like shrousers. You should probably buy it, especially if you can't get BBC2.