Germany 101: Karneval – Germany’s Fifth Season


Why? Because its Karneval dammit!

Why? Because its Karneval dammit!

If you are living in Germany at the moment, you must have become aware by now that the fifth season is upon us all. It is time for the big carnival season in Germany to draw to a close. In the last few days, I have met people in every conceivable costume from Darth Vader and the Stormtroopers to soldiers to animals.

The Karneval is Cologne's biggest attraction.

The Karneval is Cologne’s biggest attraction.

Carnival season is often called Germany’s fifth season and begins on 11 November each year at 11:11 and ends on Ash Wednesday of the next year. This year the Ash Wednesday will fall on the 18th of February. The biggest celebration of carnival season though is on Rose Monday (called Rosenmontag in German) which is the coming Monday (16th February). Carnival is known by many names in Germany: its called Karneval in the Rhineland where I live, Fasching in the south and east of the country, and Fastnacht in Baden-Württemberg and parts of Bavaria. Each brand of carnival has different traditions associated with it. Since I live in the Rhineland, I will talk about Karneval. Continue reading

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Germany 101: The German Christmas Markets


It’s that time of the year when Christmas cheer comes to Germany. German Christmas Markets are known far and wide in the world. They have gathered a reputation for bringing traditional German cheer to a place near you. Due to their popularity, traditional German Christmas Markets now also take place outside of Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Turns out, German holiday cheer is somewhat contagious. But before you attend your first Christmas Market – known as a Weihnachtsmarkt in German – you need to know what you’re going to face over there. For your first time, I recommend going to the biggest Christmas Market near you.

ffm_weihnachtsmarkt_06_panorama

The Christmas Market in Frankfurt

Continue reading

Germany 101: How to take out the trash


Germans – god bless their souls – love to recycle their trash. Many foreigners not used to this degree of recycling make fun of Germans but I actually find this to be pretty great. Apart from the obvious environmental aspect of this practice, recycled material is also used for electricity generation in the country which is great. Now, let’s have a look at the German take on trash. Continue reading

Germany 101: German Weddings


Recently, I attended a German wedding – my second such experience* – and found the experience to be quite different from Pakistani weddings. While Pakistani weddings tend to be family affairs with huge guest lists and are stretched out over days, German weddings are one day affairs. For those of you with knowledge of cricket, a Pakistani wedding is a test match and a German wedding is a one day match. That of course means that Germans try to stuff everything together into one big fest. Before I go into details of what a German wedding entails, let’s get some perspective on marriages in Germany. Continue reading

Germany 101: Bundes…what now?


Over the years I have been in Germany, I have noticed one thing in particular about Germans. Anything which has something to do with the whole country has the word Bundes associated with it. For those of you not in Germany or unfamiliar with the German language, let me provide some perspective. Germany’s official name is Bundesrepublik Deutschland or the Federal Republic of Germany. The word Bund means federal*. And anything to do with the federal republic as a whole is Bundes…whatever. For example, the German government is the Bundesregierung (Regierung = government), the federal chancellor is the Bundeskanzler for male and Bundeskanzlerin for female (Kanzler/in = chancellor), the president is the Bundespräsident (Präsident = president), and so on. You see the pattern. Continue reading

Germany 101: Ordnung


Germans usually like things to be in order. (Most Berliners are exempted from this because of their participation in the social experiment.) Things have to be done a certain way in this country and any deviation from that is not considered good sport. Of course there are exceptions to this rule. Coming from Pakistan, however, where chaos in every segment of society reigns supreme and people have devised go-arounds, initially this Ordnung (order) seemed like a great thing. But now that I have been spoiled by it, I have earned the privilege of acting holier than thou to the Germans and lecturing them from my pulpit.

There is a calling in Germany for an elite organization. It is not for the faint of heart, and there is no rest for this band of brothers (and sisters). Each day they are on the front lines, defending all that is sacred and holy. They are the ones who stand between order and anarchy. They are called the Ordnungsamt (Code Enforcers). Similar to the Statue of Liberty, the Ordnungsamt training center* has this inscription on the doorway:

“Give me your prim, your proper

Let flow your inner feelings of order yearning to be free”**

Continue reading

Germany 101: German TV


Television in Germany is a sorry state of affairs. In fact, if you ask me, it’s a downright scam. Every household in Germany is required to pay something called the ARD ZDF Deutschlandfunk Gebühr (think of it as a TV licence fee). People are supposed to pay this to fund the public broadcasters. In return, one would normally expect half decent programming. That does not happen.

Germans love their talk shows, game shows and literally any show where they can sit and listen to people talk for hours and hours and hours while the audience breaks out into spontaneous rhythmic bursts of applause. Germans also love repeats of shows and movies from way back when. I guess that makes some sense because the demographic is trending toward old age nowadays.

Let’s have a look at some famous crappy German TV programming. Continue reading

Germany 101: Germans…prepared for anything, anytime


If Germany has a national brand it’s Jack Wolfskin. Almost everyone no matter their age or size has a Jack Wolfskin parka. And this affinity for Jack Wolfskin parkas shows that Germans are prepared for any type of weather phenomenon, anytime. Today it was raining but the temperature was really mild. I was out in the city doing some last minute food shopping and was the only one not wearing a Jack Wolfskin parka. In fact, I was the only one in shorts and flip flops.

Let me demonstrate to you how well prepared Germans really are. A couple of days ago I was at

A woman wearing a Jack Wolfskin outdoor parka.

A woman wearing a Jack Wolfskin outdoor parka.

the train station waiting for the train. It was a bright, sunny day with clear skies. Not a cloud as far as the eye could see. Some Germans walked by wearing outdoor jackets and hoodies. It must be mentioned here that the temperature was a whopping 35°C (95°F) – arguably the hottest day of the year. At first I couldn’t believe my eyes at what I was seeing! I whipped out my cell phone and checked the weather app. Turns out, the forecast was drizzle in the evening. That is the level of preparedness an average German has, folks.

Germans also equate the outdoors with the Amazon rain forest. A simple stroll in the woods* would mean their Jack Wolfskin jackets would need to be whipped out, hiking boots would be worn, flashlights would be packed and any assorted items necessary for eking out a post apocalyptic existence in the woods would be available at a moment’s notice. These guys do not kid around, people.

But jokes aside, the level of concentration and preparedness of ordinary people here is amazing. This is reflected in the day to day things and the work ethic that the Germans bring to their jobs. That is one of the reasons Germans are the most productive workers in the EU**.

*Germany is a really green country with a lot of woods.

**If you are interested in this topic, check out this documentary.

Germany 101: The Hoff


All Germans are born with an inner desire. An unquenchable thirst. A yearning for something. That desire, that thirst, that yearning are for none other than David Hasselhoff aka The Hoff. However, due to some unfathomable reason, whenever you ask Germans this, they’ll deny it to their core.

The Hoff has been credited with many things in his life, such as unbridled manliness and looks so stunning they’ll bring tears to your eyes.

Who could blame the Germans for falling in love with this handsome devil?

Who could blame the Germans for falling in love with this handsome devil?

But perhaps his greatest claim to fame is bringing down the Berlin Wall – single-handedly, mind you – in 1989.

After the Second World War, Germany was divided between the Communist East Germany and Capitalist West Germany. The Berlin Wall – meant to divide the great city – became a symbol of the struggle of the German people. But on New Year’s Eve 1989 the fate of the East Germans was to change forever. David Hasselhoff got on stage during a concert near the Berlin Wall and performed his then No.1 hit single “Looking for Freedom” to cheers and applause from the crowd.

But unbeknownst to The Hoff and the crowd in West Berlin, the East Berliners heard it too. And even though they spoke barely any English, the desire for freedom burned in their hearts upon hearing this song. This event brought down the Berlin Wall that same year and led to German Reunification a year later.

The Hoff’s contributions were forgotten in the media frenzy over the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe which he triggered through his music. But I honor him for it and so do others. For some reason though, if you ask Germans they’ll just roll their eyes and tell you that for the ten thousandth time, they do not like The Hoff nor do they refer to him by that name. Jeez, I wonder why that is.

P.S: If you have a yearning for more from The Hoff, check out “Hooked on a Feeling”.