Tuesday, March 9, 2010

North vs. South: an International Stereotype/Attitude Problem

Trier/anywhere in Northern Germany: Without perfect pronunciation and perfect grammar, the Germans of the North (Trier included) act as if they have no clue what you are talking about (refer to Pronunciation Frustrations). Sometimes, their mouths hang open like what you spoke was complete gibberish and you are a moron (whether they actually understand or not has yet to be decided, but I think yes). If you’re lucky (I guess), they immediately recognize your accent and being as well-rounded as they are, speak to you in whatever your native language is (I continue to be impressed by how many different languages many Europeans speak). Yes, I am so jealous that you can all speak English/German/French/Dutch/Spanish/etc., but for once, please recognize that I am attempting to learn/speak your native language and do not, I repeat, do not immediately speak English to me. Yes, while I can help you practice your already fluent English, I am living in Germany, I want to speak German, and I need to practice my German, not my English! Work with me people.


Bavaria (Southern Germany)/Northern, German speaking Switzerland (in general, the Swiss are just sweet): These Germans are of a different breed. They are generally impressed with those trying to learn their native language. Instead of staring, mouth open when something is mis-pronounced (let’s be honest, this is an every other word occurrence), they give those attempting the language a word of encouragement, some help maybe, but most importantly, errors and all, they (admit that they) understand what you’re trying to say!

This weekend in Interlaken was a perfect example. No, obviously, my German is not perfect and I speak with an “American” accent (imagine that), but boy do I try. I manage to infer about different things, order at restaurants, and meet and greet in GERMAN (yes, all proud moments), “American” accent/imperfect grammar and all. Despite being ignored/laughed at/looked at like a complete idiot in Trier (no give and take there, none), the Swiss, just like the Southern Germans, give me a pat on the back, a word of encouragement, a minor pronunciation correction, and although they can tell I am NOT GERMAN (too obviously American), continue to speak with me in German for my sake (practice does make perfect when talking about learning a language). MAN! I wish the Northern Germans had the same attitude when dealing with foreigners, it would sure help my language skills.

Do differences, other than attitudes, exist between Nord and Süd Deutschland?

Upon bringing this question/phenomenon up to my Southern-born Grandpa Martin, he said, well honey, it’s just like at home in the U.S. too… nice, friendly, pleasant in the South, versus cold, hard, and loud in the North. HA! Although I am sure some (or many) of you would disagree, it IS funny to think about those stereotypes and perhaps, how they carry from country to country (or at least Deutschland and US of A).

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