German Directness

This post has been a long time coming. After countless instances of being subjected to German directness, it’s finally time to come out and say it, German style. This could be a long’n so get comfy, Schatzis, and get ready for a rant.

British etiquette rules that any angry, rude, or honest thoughts we have should remain festering in our minds, and not externalised, for the sake of politeness. The English language itself is embellished with so many niceties that even when we try to get angry about something, we usually end up apologising somehow. On the other hand, the German language is not at all embellished, which means that what should be a normal statement, is understood by us Brits to be a personally-directed insult.

Think about how many times you’ve been on the tube/train/bus, and some eejit has positioned themselves so that they are stepping on your toe/their armpit is dangerously infringing on your capacity to breath/their stupidly oversized rucksack is completely smothering your face and has trapped you in the corner of the carriage. In England, etiquette dictates that whilst you are inwardly close to exploding with rage, you remain outwardly silent, your only form of protest being a death stare, which is somehow supposed to communicate the unadulterated hatred you feel for this person at that moment. In ze Vaterland, if someone is standing on your toe, you tell them. If their armpit is obstructing your intake of breath, you tell them. If their stupidly oversized rucksack is smothering your face, you tell them (if you can). It’s just more efficient, obviously.

You yourself will probably find yourself prey to this Britishness, when you fundamentally refuse to ding your bike bell at the boneheads walking on the bike path because it simply sounds too aggressive, so instead you find yourself wobbling behind them, every fibre of your being willing them to move, before it all gets too much and you bumble out an apologetic, “Sorry, sorry, excuse me, can I get past?” In the same way, if you’re shopping with your German girlfriends, you can always rely on them to give brutally honest feedback on whatever clothes you try on, so you don’t have to sift through the lines of the diplomatic niceties that your British girlfriends will tell you when they are trying to tell you that the outfit you are trying on looks shit, for example:

English Response vs. German Response

“Oh wow, look at you, those are some short shorts!” vs. “You look like you should be standing on a street corner, take them off now.”

“You have got great boobs!” vs. “Your boobs look cold.”

“Are you sure you’ll wear it again though?” vs. “Never ever wear that again. Ever.”

Just yesterday I had a first-hand experience of this brutal honesty when I went bikini shopping for an upcoming trip to “take the waters” at the thermal baths in Budapest (gloat gloat gloat). I barely had a foot in the door, when the shop assistant came strutting over to me. I tried not to die inside as she yanked my jacket aside, looked me up and down, and informed me that I was this size and should accordingly try these bikini tops on. Any attempts to correct her were quickly shunned and before I had even made sense of the situation, I was being frogmarched into a changing room and had a confusing variety of bikinis thrust towards me. In the safe haven of the changing room, I tried to gather my thoughts and try on the bikinis in my own time. Apparently this wasn’t efficient enough though, because the same shop assistant (who had been lurking on the other side of the curtain the entire time) shoved the curtain aside and sidled in, with what seemed like octopus hands, rearranging my boobs, deciding that this one looked rubbish, so whooshing that bikini off and putting another one on for me, before spinning me round to inspect me. There was nothing left for me to do but stand there in a very British panic about the fact that a complete and utter stranger was handling my bees of the boo variety.

Bikini top finally decided on (by the shop assistant), said breast enthusiast handed me matching bikini bottoms and carted a very bewildered Alex to the cash tills. I still can’t work out whether this was German directness or just an extremely good sales tactic, but in any case once the mortification had worn off and I was in the privacy of my own flat, I made the horrifying discovery that I had in fact bought what can only be described as a nigh-pornographic bikini, which will probably get me barred from the thermal baths of Budapest for the rest of my living years.

So the upside of this German directness is that you’ll end up with flattering clothes, unbruised toes, and a new teeny-tiny bikini. The downside, however, is that your inner Brit won’t be fully desensitised to what is meant to be honest or helpful, but what is actually perceived as hurtful and personal. For example, when you’ve skyped your mum and you’re feeling a bit wobbly-lipped already, a person shouting at you that you’re on the wrong cycle path can be the straw that broke the camel’s back, so you’ll find yourself welling up whilst trying to cycle the wrong way up a one-way street. Moreover, a meeting with your tutor in which they tell you outright that you’re not very good at something will leave you feeling as if your very being has been wounded. In general, the Germans don’t often dish out praise and do often dish out criticism, but this isn’t meant as cruel, it’s meant for improvement purposes: Vorsprung durch Technik, blah blah blah, why else do you think German cars are so brilliant? German directness, apparently.

So although it might make you cry occasionally, German directness is something you will have to accustom yourself to, and understand that it isn’t meant to pierce your soul. Anyway, if it does bother you, then you can always give the Germies a taste of their own medicine and tell anyone who will listen that their shirt looks shit, they have a bogie hanging out of their nose, and it’s their turn to take the rubbish out. So there.

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Bikemares

Heidelberg, like most cities in Germany and Europe as a whole, is a bike-friendly city: spacious bike paths, traffic lights especially for bikes, and bike racks at every street corner, mean that cycling is neither a sure-fire way to an untimely death (as in London), nor something merely to watch half-heartedly on TV whilst slumped on the sofa getting your hand caught in the Pringles tube. Moreover, the prospect of standing in a sweltering tram carriage in the summer months, being smothered under someone’s armpit and being stared at by a granny like you’re the devil incarnate for wearing a skirt is enough to make anyone run for the hills (i.e. the nearest bike shop). So you’ve bought your second-hand bike and your hipster/dick head rucksack to go with it, you’re feeling very smug, and images of you gliding along, looking like a studious earth goddess, with your hair flying in the breeze, and your skirt billowing out behind you are playing on your mind. Stap it. Quash those thoughts, it’s not going to be like that (although quash is a great word: Quash. Quash). Wake up and smell the kaffee.

Resign yourself to the acceptance of the fact that you will not glide, but you will huff and puff your way along the bike path. You will not look like a studious earth goddess, but rather an angry-looking gremlin hunched over a shitty, squeaking bike, swearing like a sailor about the grazes and cuts on your leg that you got as karmic retribution for yanking your bike out of the bike rack and knocking everyone else’s bikes over in the process (“you didn’t see anything…” *backs away*). Your hair will not fly in the breeze but will dangerously obscure your vision, which is great if you’re going for the “bearded lady” look, but it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. Your skirt will certainly not billow out behind you, but will probably get caught in the bike spokes and either rip or expose your buttocks. To top it all off, regardless of the fact that you are doing your bit for the environment, Mother Nature will conspire against you by using the breeze to lull you into a false sense of security that you aren’t in fact drastically overheating whilst cycling, but rest assured that the moment you sit down in your lecture hall, you’ll start sweating like a paedo in a playground. If she’s feeling particularly cruel, Mother Nature will sometimes send a fly zooming straight into your eye/nose/mouth. That’ll teach you for belting out a heartfelt rendition of Kate Bush on an empty street.

On the upside, cycling in Germany will teach you some important life lessons. For starters, cycling in a skirt or a dress is a kind of baptism of fire into body confidence, because you will have fanny-flashed and unintentionally moonied so many members of the public, that after a while it will stop being the most mortifying thing that has ever happened to you, as you attempt – for the gazillionth time – to gracefully mount and dismount (if anyone can enlighten me on how this is physically possible to achieve, please for the love of Mary tell me, so I don’t have to continue sorting my knickers into “cycling-friendly” and “potentially mentally-scarring”). Moreover, your multi-tasking abilities will be refined as you master the skill of riding a bike with one hand whilst wiping off your SULA (Sweaty Upper Lip Alert) with the other. Another skill you will learn is how to fall off your bike looking like you meant to do it. A “friend” of mine (me) may have learnt this the hard way after they tried to relive their childhood years by cycling in the “Look ma, no hands!” style, which inevitably ended in them wobbling for a few metres before anticipating the impending disaster and executing the old “drop off the bike and run with it before you fall” fall. The epitome of grace and physical coordination. Naaat.

In any case, even if cycling leaves you feeling flustered and angry with the world, the smug satisfaction you get when telling people how “refreshing” and “environmentally-friendly” it is will make up for it. Kinda. Or if boasting doesn’t float your boat, then take comfort from the fact that a bike is cheaper than a tram ticket and riding a bike everyday is the only thing that’s keeping those bratwursts/beers/Ritter Sports from making an appearance on your thighs, girrrl, so keep up the pedalling.

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An English Night Out vs A German Night Out

An English night out:

The night begins at around 9pm, once you’ve conjured up enough willpower to confront the prospect of getting out of your warm and forgiving dressing gown and getting into your very unforgiving crop top and shorts. Getting ready is arguably the best bit of the night: you and your girlfriends have got Shania Twain or something equally embarrassing blasting at full volume, you’re prancing around in your undies, you smell like a biscuit from all the fake tan, you’re wearing so much make up you may as well have head-butted a make up palette, but who cares, it’s the start of the night and anything could happen. Speaking of which, your first beverahhhge is normally in order at this point to steel any pre-pre-drink nerves: you’re a 20-something woman but walking into a room full of supposedly cooler, hotter people still makes you nervy, so drink up. Once you’ve conquered the walking-into-pre-drinks-palava and you’ve found somewhere in the overcrowded living room to perch awkwardly, you start to relax (that quadruple vodka-cranberry juice pre-pre-drink has got to work, thank God).

Pre-drinks are the sites of miracles, because in the space of two hours, girls transform from well-mannered darlings, to sloppy, shrieking creatures, slurring out the most sordid details of any secret thing they have been holding in since their last drunken outpouring the week before. Seriously, why don’t advertising agencies just be honest and label alcohol as ‘Truth Serum: blurt out your darkest secrets and innermost feelings in just two hours’? Midnight, and you’re about to get in the taxi: GET YOUR S*!T TOGETHER, emotionally, physically, and practically, girrrl. Emotionally: Don’t you dare text that guy yet. At least wait until later, because that is definitely less desperate. Definitely. Physically: standing up at pre-drinks to get into the taxi is one of the biggest reality checks you will ever get as you realise that having sat down as a fully-functioning person with (some) co-ordination, you are now standing up like a giraffe on an ice rink who’s had local anaesthetic injected into every limb. What’s more, the drunken hiccups/burps that threaten to surprise you at any moment with some free sick have started. Stop it. Practically: keys, phone, money, ticket, keys, phone, money, ticket, etc. This is the mantra that your sober Self has drilled into your subconscious so that when your drunk Self takes over, you still repeat it at intervals throughout the night (if you’re lucky).

Having screamed along to Carly Rae Jepsen in the taxi, waited in the freezing cold either arguing with queue-jumpers or flirting your way to the front of the queue (if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!), you’re finally in the club, which means yet more drinks (because falling sideways out of a taxi definitely isn’t your body’s way  of telling you to please stop). Three in the AM: Drunk texts have been sent, you’ve already thought about cheesy chips at least five times, and the DJ is starting to run out of ideas. It’s at this point of the night that songs like ‘Get Low’ (Lil Jon, ft. The East Side Boys, ft. Ying Yang Twins) get played. This song – like pre-drinks – also has the power of transformation: you’re a white-and-kinda-nerdy, middle-class girl from the home counties who’s still convinced that the lyrics of the chorus go: “Oh ski ski motherf*!kerrrrr, oh ski ski Goddam”, yet for some reason, the growling voice of Lil Jon will make you believe that you are a badass bitch who makes the cast of Step Up look like a bunch of flailing toddlers. You get so cocky that you attempt the famed Slut Drop, even though you know for a fact that the chances of you ever coming back up again are minute. The inevitable crumple on the suspiciously sticky floor, followed by your friends snatching you back up as quickly as they can and assuring the bouncers that, “She’s fine, she’s fine, she’s naaat even thaaaat DRAAAANK”, is the final straw. The only bloody reason you go out is for the cheesy chips at the end of the night, so you may as well cut to the chase. Slumped over your oil with a little bit of chips and fake cheese, you do a bit of admin (drunk texts, booty calls, etc.), before stumbling home and collapsing into bed, having woken up your entire house in the process. Brushing your teeth and taking your make up off is for wimps, anyway.

A German Night Out:

The night begins at around 8pm when you cast a vague eye towards your wardrobe, wandering how you’re going to make jeans or leggings work this time round. No more butt-cheek-grazing shorts, skirts, or dresses, unless you want to be looked at like you’re Satan’s mistress and constantly asked whether you’re cold during the course of the night. Nope, in Germany the look for a night out is basically what you wore during the day, but maybe with a bit of extra make up slapped on for good luck. To begin with this will horrify you, as you will still be in the English student mindset that your physical attraction rests on your showing as much flesh as possible, under the disguise of as much make up/fake tan/hairspray as possible. Wrong. Turns out it is possible to go out, have fun, and feel attractive all whilst actually covering up your body. Weird, I know. The downside to this is that the getting ready part of the night out is diminished slightly, because getting undressed into your undies and prancing around to Shania Twain just feels a bit weird when you know that you’re only going to put the same clothes back on again (doesn’t stop me though, any excuse).

Pre-drinks usually start at around 9pm, another prospect which will initially fill you with dread, because you know that if you drank at an English pace from 9pm onwards then you would probably be unconscious by midnight. However, your saving grace is that it’s time to put down the quadruple vodka-cranberry juice and opt for beer as your choice of pre-drink (beer is sometimes cheaper than water over here!). As a girl, this can be a bit of a nightmare. Even if you are a fan of the odd beer every now and then, you are certainly not a fan of bloating, beer-babies, burp-swallowing, and the dreaded beeriod the next morning. Gross. Shouting down the phone at a taxi driver is no longer on the agenda, because your method of getting to the klüb (it’s not actually called that, BTW) is either by bike or by tram. Either way, all your efforts are required to attempt to look as sober as possible, because falling off your bike/falling over on the tram doesn’t look good on anyone, and the fewer things that contribute to your hungover self-hatred the morning after, the better.

Having pretty much sobered up from your bike/tram ride, the Englishman inside you will tell you that stupid student statement: “I’m not drunk enough” (what does “not drunk enough” even mean??). Never fear, this is where Schnaps has it’s time to shine: Erdbeer Schnaps (strawberry) and Melonen Schnaps (melon) will taste so good that you are tricked into thinking that you are actually getting one of your five-a-day and not in fact pouring shot glasses of poison into your body. You will eventually learn your lesson at some point during your first term, when you find yourself slumped over the toilet seat, feeling very sorry for yourself and marvelling at your own bright pink strawberry vomit (or maybe that was just me…). In any case, even if you have been THAT English girl/guy and overdone it (again), you can rest assured that by 2am, German clubs start to get a bit dead (unless you’re in Berlin where 2am is considered an early start to a night out). On the whole, nights out start and end earlier over here; otherwise the Germies wouldn’t be in a fit state the next day to sort out the rest of Europe’s problems for them. Soz, but it’s true. Your best bet for a wild one is to head to the nearest Erasmus party, where the Spaniards will ensure that you get dangerously inebriated and stay that way until some unholy hour in the morning, when you finally get to make a break for it and wobble your way home on your bike (don’t drink and drive, kids). Finally, try not to be too horrified when you discover that cheesy chips isn’t a thing here, especially not at God-knows-when in the morning. As an alternative, unlike in England, döner kebabs are a totally acceptable lunchtime option the next day and ohhhh meinnn Gott, are they good here. Serious case of “My mind’s telling me noooo, but my body is telling me yeeees.” Always say yes to the döner. Always. Cultural immersion at its finest.

Nailed it

Nailed it

Geil

So, enough of the nakedness and toilet talk, let’s get down to something that will actually be fairly relevant to your year abroad in Deutschland. Yawn.

Since the dawn of sometime long ago, the English language has seen certain adjectives that have gone in and out of fashion. For example, we all remember when “sick” had its heyday, and our parents can remember when “groovy” was actually acceptable (cringe cringe cringe). Some are more enduring than others; it’s still OK to describe someone as “fit” or “hot”, whereas others are short-lived but brilliant in their own right; the ingenious use of the word “quiche” as a descriptive adjective, for instance.

German yoof on the other hand (that’s youth for all you poshos, btw), are so busy recycling and actually working in their fresher’s year (apparently that’s a thing here?!), that the trends in adjectives don’t fluctuate as much, meaning that a single word has prevailed as THE adjective used to describe most things: Geil. What is geil? What does it mean? Who the bloody hell knows.

Pronounced “guy-ll”, it’s a bit of a misnomer in that it doesn’t actually have a definitive definition. You can use it to describe literally anything: “Zis song is geil”, “Her bottom is so geil”, “Zis bratwurst is the geilest”, etc. (read aloud in a German accent for extra LOLs). Trying to look up a dictionary definition of it will only confuse you more, because its original use was to describe someone as lustful or horny, the discovery of which can quickly escalate to philosophical questions such as: “Can bratwursts feel horny? Who dictates that inanimate objects can’t have sexual preferences, blah blah blah, kill me now.” Moreover, it’s easy to assume that geil is an adjective that attributes positive characteristics, but don’t be fooled. I was once ignorantly happy in the knowledge that geil was a good thing, but my faith in humanity was rocked when I spoke to someone who used the word geil as if it were a cowpat that she’d just stepped in barefoot.

If the only way of telling whether geil is good or bad is through vocal inflection and facial expression, then this ambiguity of the word can lead to some tricky situations: What if – like me – your resting face looks so grumpy that people get the impression that you want to shoot everyone within a 10 metre radius of you? How are you supposed to tell your friend that her new haircut is really geil, without her taking it the wrong way and never speaking to you ever again? What if you have a naturally monotone voice? How the hell is Stephen Hawking supposed to use the word geil effectively? These are things that must be considered! Therefore, I implore you lovely Germies to stick to “toll” and “schlecht”, because those are probably the only German words that most English people remember from their GCSEs anyway, apart from maybe “Vater”, because that just never gets old.

All hail Regina

All hail Regina

German Attitudes towards Nakedness

I promise I am trying very hard not to lower the tone of this blog, but considering we’ve already covered the poo taboo, I think we probably know each other well enough to talk about being nakey in ze Vaterland, so here goes…

Having settled into your new country, made new friends, adapted to new living arrangements and a new university, etc., you may find yourself thinking curious YOLO-type thoughts about re-vamping your life in general (try and forgive me for using the word YOLO). You’ve survived a complete unearthing of the way of life you were used to before, so in your first week you suddenly become brave and adventurous and find yourself signing up for extra-curricular activities you would have totally snubbed or cringed at before. African dancing? Why not! Rollerskating club? I have the co-ordination of a giraffe on rollerskates as it is, but yeah! Hatha-Flowing-Something-Yoga? Definitely, I’m sure I’ll be able to get over my fear of farting at a silent bit, anyway. However, once the first week excitement has worn off you will inevitably find yourself on the way to your first African Dancing class at a total loss of what ever possessed you to break out of your comfort zone.

Anyway, let’s get to the point of this post. Having signed up for all these obscure activities and entered the gym full of those ever-present British anxieties, you come across an obstacle you had no idea would ever present itself: the changing room. The changing room itself is just like any other British changing room, but the girls inside it are very, very different. Sheer nakedness is what lies ahead. Boobies everywhere. Girls are standing around in just their pants having a completely normal conversation as if oblivious to their neighbour’s tatas right there in front of them. Head down, you shuffle to the corner of the room, doing that typical British car-crash reaction where you know you shouldn’t look but you just can’t help it.

Nothing will ever equip you to get used to this. As a British girl, your experience of a changing room compromises of making as little eye-contact as possible, whilst getting changed as quickly as you can, underneath as much fabric as you can muster. You’re a 20-something woman and yet you still do the knicker trick when getting changed in front of people, ripping a hole into every pair of knickers you own in the process. Taking your bra off is another skill entirely, where you can employ one of two techniques: 1) the under-the-top switch, or 2) the bra/bikini over bra technique, although the potential for nipple slippage/boob-falling-outage is high here.

The not-fussed German attitude towards nakedness goes so far, that on a trip to a trampolining competition, a lovely British friend of mine was subjected to a Dusch-party in which her team, amongst hundreds of others, literally had a huge party, butt-naked, in the communal showers. In any other situation, this would be described as a mass orgy, but the entire thing was executed in a non-sexual way. Nevertheless, it’s safe to say that my lovely friend was so horrified that she actually had to hold back tears during the ordeal. This attitude towards nakedness is not just the reserve of the younger generations either. This same lovely friend (who seems to attract the naked types) also walked into the toilet of a cafe to find a totally nonchalant woman in her knickers holding her trousers under the hand-dryer as she had just spilt a drink.

On the one hand, our British fear of nakedness is understandable, because it’s what we’re used to, and the idea that your naked body is a kind of secret for you to show to however many (or few) people you want to is quite a nice one. But on the other hand, you’ve got to admire the German frankness towards the human body. It does seem a bit silly that everyone has a naked body, yet in Britain the revealing thereof is somehow always a sexual thing, and not just a necessity to change from outfit A to outfit B. It seems even sillier to be prudish around members of the same sex, who all have the same body parts as you, albeit in different variations. I think if we tried to be a bit more German, and get over our fear of nakedness in front of other people, we’d also help eradicate bodily insecurities that can consume your teenage years and continue on into later life. I’m not saying we should take to the streets wearing nothing but our birthday suits, but we could be a bit braver when it comes to getting changed in front of people or perhaps we could just be a bit less horrified when we see the naked grandma on the beach, with skin so sun-smothered it looks like she’s made of leather. We’ve all got bodies and they’re all wonderful so stop being British and get your kit off. Thank you and goodnight.

The ‘Be my friend’ Face

This post doesn’t necessarily apply exclusively to your year abroad, but can extend to all aspects of life. The ‘Be my friend’ face is a facial expression but also an Ausstrahlung, a brilliant German word that literally translates to radiation, but is used in the sense of what kind of vibes you give off. You might not even be aware that you have a ‘Be my friend’ face, but it has in fact haunted you throughout your life. The ‘Be my friend’ face typically springs up on your first day at a new place. Your first day at nursery, your first day at school, your first day at college, your first day at university (‘Be my friend’ has matured to its prime at this stage and expresses itself at its most obvious), your first day at work, etc., you get ze picture. For all we know, ‘Be my friend’ is such an enduring expression that it may well outlive your earthly Self and present itself on your first day in the afterlife. The Erasmus edition of the ‘Be my friend’ face is particularly discernible because it is combined with the lurching realisation of “oh SH*****T, I’m in a foreign country and I know absolutely no one here”. Butterflies in your stomach doesn’t even cover what feels more like an oversized pigeon having a seizure.

The facial expression itself is a slightly forced, over-friendly smile with the good ol’ windows to the soul giving it all away with the piercing desperation that shines through all the fake warmth and good Ausstrahlung. You remember Fresher’s Week? Stupid question, if you remember your Fresher’s Week then you weren’t doing it right.  Well anyway, unbeknownst to you, you had the ‘Be my friend’ face plastered in place for the entire week, as – for the 136th time – you asked a total randomer: where are you from, what halls do you live in, what do you study, I don’t actually care I’m just trying to come across as a cool-but-friendly-fun-loving-gal-type-creature.

Your Erasmus year abroad is like Fresher’s Week but spread across an entire year. Erasmus parties are the only place where it becomes socially acceptable to go up to a complete stranger who you like the look of and ask them those same mundane questions all over again, except this time you’re likely to get slightly more exciting answers: Juan, from Chile, studying something I couldn’t hear because the music is too loud but I’ll smile and reply “cool” anyway.

The good news is that although it is blindingly obvious that you are desperate to make friends on your year abroad, the chances of you not making amazing friends that you will stay in contact with for a long time afterwards is so slim that the ‘Be my friend’ face is almost redundant. Not gonna stop it shining on though, pesky face.

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German Toilets

ACHTUNG: Gonna go straight in here with the poo talk, so if you’re squeamish, then you should probably opt for a blogger who posts Instagram-ed photos of some rank-looking smoothie with a caption along the lines of “Look how little I’m eating.” Sorry for the hate, but when you’re on your third bowl of hungover pesto pasta, that’s the last thing you need to see.

ANYWAY, anyone who has been to Germany may have noticed that German toilets are a bit different to English toilets (don’t pretend you didn’t…). On a scale of hole-in-ze-ground France to your bog-standard British toilet (geddit), it’s probably a middle ground in terms of the yuck-factor, but there is one aspect of the German toilet that is a little baffling… The Shelf. When you do your doo on an English toilet, it drops straight down into the bowl with a little (or big) splash. In a German toilet, however, there is a little shelf where your turd sits and waits for you to flush it away into the abyss (I did warn you this was gonna get messy!). No one knows why it’s there, or what purpose it serves, but there are some noteworthy pros and cons to The Shelf.

Pros:

  • No splashback. No need to expand on this point, it’s happened to all of us at one point or another, no one likes it, and the absence of it this year has been delightful.
  • No auditory evidence. As a girl, I know only too well the trouble with poo. For some reason, girls need to make out like they’ve never laid a turd in their life because it’s “gross”, and not actually a completely normal bodily function that we have to do in order not to die. This means that what should be a normal trip to a public loo to drop the kids off at the pool, suddenly becomes a traumatic event in which you pray you won’t make any unbecoming noises (the giveaway splash, zum Beispiel) that, heaven forbid, would give away that you are in fact a human. Take exam time in the library, for instance: you’re in there all day everyday and you’re living off coffee, which, as everyone knows, leads to a rather urgent “call”, shall we say. In a blind panic, you rush/waddle around the library thinking of the best poo-toilet, somewhere obscure where no one is likely to think of going. On finding said toilet, you shove a tree’s worth of toilet roll into the bowl in the hope that any sound effects might be muted and you resign yourself to fervent prayer that no one else has the same idea as you and bursts in at the crucial moment. Germany saves you this trouble and trauma by providing The Shelf: no water in which a splash might be heard and a means of dulling any audible Pupser.

Cons:

  • You are forced to confront your own poo for a prolonged amount of time. You made it, it came from inside of you, it shouldn’t be weird, but it just is. Ain’t nobody got time for dat. Yet, I would go as far as saying that The Shelf epitomises the German frame of mind. For a country that is so efficient and forward-thinking, they don’t have time for wimps who are scared of their own faeces. The Shelf is Deutschland’s way of saying “Yep, that’s your shit. Stop getting in a flap about it and go save the economy or do some recycling or something…”

After all, a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta poo.

Apologies, that’s the last time I ever google ‘poo puns’ again.

Vokabeln:

Achtung – warning. One of the most aggressive words in the German vocabulary, especially when yelled at you from behind by an approaching cyclist who then has the pleasure of watching you get your knickers in a twist about which side he’s going to pass you on. Not that I’m bitter about that memory or anything.

zum Beispiel – for example

Pups – one of the best words in the German vocabulary, slang word for fart, pronounced “poops”.

The poo shelf

The Shelf