Monday, 23 October 2017

Don't Mention the Weather

Have you ever commented about the weather in Germany? It's tricky that - and full of potential pitfalls.

Let me explain: Say, on an ordinary October day, you remark: "Bit blustery, isn't it" or, in German, as of course you'd be politely speaking the local language: "Ganz schön windig heute".

The automatic reply you'd get would be: "Ja was denkst du??! Es ist Herbst!!" (Well, what do you think?! It's autumn after all!") Thump.You fall flat on your face and wonder what you did to engender such a strong reaction to an ordinary remark.

Whereas in Britain, you'd be getting any response from polite, distracted affirmation "Isn't it just" to spinning the conversation on "It really is . I even had to take my washing in this morning" or any other way of making  something of the opening gambit. In contrast, the German response is automatically challenging, personal, and in attack-mode - querying your sanity that you're clearly not aware that it is indeed autumn, and what else would any sane person expect, so why on earth comment? Conversational effort rebuffed, speaker called sub-intelligent and openly put in their place. End of conversation. Best to say nothing in Germany. Which of course is the German way: If it's not "meaningful", it's best to say nothing,  they argue. What could posssibly be meaningful, say arriving at the work place on a Monday morning? Angela Merkel's immigration policy?

Consequently, silence is a major part of...German conversation (1). But back to our example, as there's more to it  than the sheer rudeness of speakers.There's also a complete intercultural breakdown: People in Germany aren't aware that seasons aren't so clear-cut everywhere as they are in continental Europe: Spring: Mild - Summer: Hot - Autumn:Windy - Winter: Cold. The "4 seasons in a day" concept for example, so prevalent in Britain and Ireland is totally unknown to them. Therefore, a rather bovine attitude towards the seasons is preordained. It is as it is. No need to comment. Es ist halt Herbst! Ja. isso.

(1) I shall be wrting about silence -"Schweigen" in a separate post. It is of immense importance when understanding German society, history, and even current political events.

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