Austria and Germany: Worlds Apart


Billy Wilder (1906-2002), the noted Austrian-American film director (Double Indemnity, Stalag 17, Some Like It Hot), as famous as he was, used to complain about how he was frequently misidentified as German. Americans often get Austria and Germany mixed up. Sometimes they even confuse Austria with Australia! Thus the joke T-shirts and signs found in Austria with a “no kangaroos” logo. Silly Americans!

Salzburg

The Hohensalzburg castle seen from the padlock bridge in Salzburg, Austria.
PHOTO: Hyde Flippo

Never really that good at geography, Americans, even if they can find Austria on a map, also tend to be ignorant of the many great and subtle differences between the small Alpine republic (population 8.4 million), known as Österreich, and its much larger neighboring republic to the north, known as Deutschland (population 80 million). Austria is only about the size of the US state of South Carolina. Germany is slightly smaller than Montana. In some ways, the two countries can be compared to the United States and Canada, or the US and Great Britain (with the sizes reversed): They both speak the same language, but with significant differences, and they share a common history that has made them friends, yet has also left them worlds apart.

More at The German Way
Austria (culture/history)
Austria for Tourists (travel info/sights)

Even English-speakers with a modicum of German can hear the difference between the lilting, almost musical tones of Austrian German versus the less lilting, more crisp sound of standard German (Hochdeutsch). Bavarian, on the other hand, is very similar to Austrian. (Bavaria being a state in Germany, yet not quite part of Germany. Rather like Texas in a way.) The difference between Austrian German and standard German is similar to the difference between the drawling language heard in the US South versus the more standard English of the US Midwest or West. Continue reading

How to tell when Germans are really being rude versus just being German


If you want to confirm the fact that the internet is not improving people’s IQs, just type “rude Germans” into your favorite search engine. Boom! You’ll get over 1.9 million results, most of which were written by morons. (But “rude French” pulls an amazing 39.1 million results!) Few of these online commentaries run counter to the usual “rude Germans” rant and the negative stereotype that so many Americans, Brits and others have of Germans. Even fewer of these web articles, forum posts and blogs offer any useful, helpful information on the topic of “rude” Germans, French, or other Europeans.

The Rudest Countries
I recently saw a CNN online article that listed the “10 Rudest Countries” in the world. As usual, France took first place in the rudeness race. Germany only came in fourth, right behind the UK. The USA placed seventh. But a survey like this, by the skycanner.com cheap flights travel site, is subject to all sorts of distortion, including cultural biases, language difficulties, personality differences, and ignorance, to name just a few.

What a person perceives as rudeness may only be a cultural misunderstanding. What is considered rude in one country or culture may not be regarded as rude in another. But every culture has people who are rude, no matter which culture it may be. Certain impolite behaviors are unacceptable in almost any culture. Sometimes an expat or traveler is actually right to consider someone rude! Continue reading

Hollywood Movies in Germany – “Krieg der Sterne” becomes “Star Wars” and “Moana” turns into “Vaiana”


These days, many Hollywood movies screened in Germany keep their original English title. But it was not always that way. In the past, especially from the 1940s to the 1980s, there was almost always a special German title created for German audiences. Often the German title simply reflected the film’s story, as with The Caine Mutiny (1954), which starred Humphrey Bogart (voiced in German by O.E. Hasse) as Lt. Commander Philip F. Queeg. The title that Germans saw on their movie screens was Die Caine war ihr Schicksal (The Caine was their fate).

Moana and Maui

Disney’s Moana (left) became Vaiana in Germany, while Maui got to keep his name. Why? See more below. (Also see the Vaiana movie trailer below.)
PHOTO: Walt Disney Animation Studio

North by Northwest

Cary Grant was a victim of “the invisible third man” in Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest (1959). This is the cover of the German DVD version.

In Germany, the Hitchcock classic North by Northwest (1959), starring Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint, is called Der unsichtbare Dritte (The invisible third man), which is only a little less vague than North by Northwest. The classic Bell, Book and Candle (1958), with Kim Novak, James Stewart, and Jack Lemmon, bore the rather prosaic title of Meine Braut ist übersinnlich (My bride is paranormal). But Vertigo, another Hitchcock film released that same year, also pairing Novak and Stewart, kept the “Vertigo” while adding the German tag line: Vertigo – Aus dem Reich der Toten (Vertigo – From the realm of the dead).

But it’s another, earlier Hitchcock picture that has one of my favorite German titles. Rope (1948), Hitch’s first color film, is about a murder committed in the New York City apartment of two college students trying to commit the perfect crime by strangling a fellow student with a rope. To create an alibi, they throw a dinner party in their apartment – with the dead body of their victim hidden literally under the guests’ noses inside a wooden chest. The German title: Cocktail für eine Leiche (Cocktail for a corpse). Continue reading

Mahlzeit!

MahlzeitFor the first time since we moved to Berlin over five years ago, I am required to go (most days, at least) to an office with lots of German people. Up until a few months ago, I’d either worked from home or from a small co-working space. But now, from behind computer screens and over the kettle in the shared kitchen, I see Germans at work – a novel and culturally enlightening experience for many reasons, not least because of “Mahlzeit!”

Have you ever heard a German say “Mahlzeit” and wondered what it meant – sitting down to a meal perhaps or some time around the middle of the day? Why should they be reminding me it’s a mealtime, you might have thought, if you’d understood the word but not really grasped what they were getting at. Continue reading

For All Expat Job Seekers: an Interview with Chris Pyak of Immigrant Spirit

Have you newly arrived in Germany with years of substantial professional experience hoping to continue doing what you are good at to find that it’s not so easy to do? Do you feel like there is more than one Mount Everest standing in your way to convert your professional training to a recognized credential here? Perhaps right after learning the German language, finding a job in Germany is one of the top challenges of expat life here.

I took a moment to interview Chris Pyak, Managing Director of Immigrant Spirit, a recruitment firm based in Düsseldorf which specializes in placing job candidates with an international background with employers in Germany. Chris offers his tips on what every job candidate, especially those with a non-German background can do to get hired.

Chris Pyak, MD of Immigrant Spirit  Photo credit:

Chris Pyak, MD of Immigrant Spirit
Photo credit: Moritz Trebien/Copyright: Immigrant Spirit GmbH

Continue reading

8 Things I Learned About Giving Birth in Germany

give birth in Germany

Newest Berliner BY: Erin Porter

I am 4 hours out of the hospital and already posting about giving birth in Germany. When anyone gets on the internet to write about an experience this quickly it could be because it was outrageously bad or overwhelming positive. Lucky for me (and other soon-to-be expat moms in Germany), I feel compelled to share 8 things I learned about giving birth in Germany because it was simply awesome.

I also feel a certain amount of duty as I am the recipient of some seriously good karma. No sooner had I announced I was pregnant in Germany without a clue then I started receiving advice on what to expect. People shared their experiences – the real nitty gritty – and general messages of support. When I felt truly freaked out I would go back and refer to their stories and feel stronger, knowing that people (like our German-Way team) had been here and done that. In an effort to pass it along, I am sharing a picture of my brand-new Berliner and a little bit of what I’ve learned . Continue reading

Fluent in Denglish

Denglish: If you are an expat in a German-speaking country, you’re probably pretty fluent at it. It’s the combination of the two languages of Deutsch and English, and your fluency doesn’t really depend on how good your German or English is. Or even how committed you are to improving your German. Or how disciplined you are speaking one language with your kids, if you have kids. The fact of the matter is is that you often might not be able to to think of the passendes Wort for whatever you are trying to say quickly enough. Then both languages start to collide into one another in your brain and maybe oddly enough a latent language that you might have once spoken or learned like your high school French unhelpfully pops into the mix, and then the easiest way to express yourself is to just use the German word you were just trying to übersetzen. Akin to what Hyde has written regarding the Death of the German Language, employing Denglish certainly doesn’t do your German any favors and leads to the deterioration of your English, encouraging a lazy linguist. Continue reading

(In-) Convenient

A few years ago while chatting with a friend who, like me, has a German spouse, I had a mini-revelation:

“There is no German word for convenient,” I said.

After a pause, my friend the English teacher says, “Well that explains a hell of a lot.”

Both fluent German speakers but without a dictionary in front of us, we racked our brains for a potential German equivalent to the English word convenient. Or convenience. Or conveniently.

Fitting to our search, we brainstormed the antonym: Inconvenient = Umständlich. My go-to translation website leo.org gives this word circuitous, cumbersome, laborious and involved, which are all certainly inconvenient, but it does not mention inconvenient as a translation. This is interesting, and perhaps an example of different usage of the word. Or perhaps an example of misunderstanding by a foreigner! Continue reading