Celebrating Germany’s Fifth Season

© picture alliance / Geisler-Fotopress

Germany is celebrating its so-called Fünfte Jahreszeit (“Fifth Season”), which is a reference to Carnival! The Fifth Season officially began on November 11 at 11:11 a.m., but in actuality, Carnival’s events take place during one week in February with highlights including Fat Thursday and Rose Monday.

On February 28, Germans celebrated Weiberfastnacht (Fat Thursday), which marks the last Thursday before Lent. In the Rhineland – which is where Carnival is celebrated most intensely – work often ends before noon and people wear costumes out on the streets and in local bars.

But men who wear ties on Weiberfastnacht need to be prepared: one of Germany’s unique Carnival traditions is that women cut off men’s ties with scissors on Fat Thursday, leaving them with nothing but a stump. After all, Weiberfastnacht means “women’s carnival night”, and this ritual allows them to symbolically strip men of their statuses. Even at the German Embassy in Washington, some of our colleagues had to say goodbye to their ties on Thursday.

But the biggest celebration of Carnival takes place on Rosenmontag (Rose Monday) – a day marked with large parades and street parties. An estimated 1.5 million people watch the Rosenmontag parade in Cologne each year.

Although Rose Monday celebrations take place in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Belgium, the region with the heaviest celebrations is the Rhineland, particularly in the major cities along the Rhine. The southern part of the Rhineland, however, has its own unique tradition called “Fastnacht”, which comes with its own unique customs. Wherever you may be in the Rhineland, we’re sure you’ll have fun during Carnival season!

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Do Germans have a sense of humor?

You might have heard the stereotype: Germans have no sense of humor. A 2007 survey of 30,000 people ranked Germany as the country with the worst sense of humor. We are not amused!

But perhaps German humor is simply misunderstood. Many German words – especially compound word constructions – are lost in translation, simply because there is no equivalent in other languages. Our “Word of the Week” series should help you understand words as complex as Backpfeifengesicht (“a face in need of slapping”), Honigkuchenpferd (“honey cake horse”) and Kabelsalat (“cable salad”). The more you understand Germany’s strangest and most unusual words, the more humor you will find in the language!

British comedian Stewart Lee agrees. In an op-ed he wrote for The Guardian, he said it took him a while to understand German humor – but once he did, he couldn’t stop laughing. Much of English-language humor, he said, stems from words that have double or triple meanings, thereby creating humor that thrives on confusion. Since the German language has so many compound words and specificity, “it provides fully functional clarity”.

As a result, Lee writes, the German “sense of humor is built on blunt, seemingly serious statements, which became funny simply because of their context.”

He writes:

“I looked back over the time I had spent in Hannover and suddenly found situations that had seemed inexplicable, even offensive at the time, hilarious in retrospect. On my first night in Hannover I had gone out drinking with some young German actors. ‘You will notice there are no old buildings in Hannover,’ one of them said. ‘That is because you bombed them all.’ At the time I found this shocking and embarrassing. Now it seems like the funniest thing you could possibly say to a nervous English visitor.”

But despite the differences between English and German humor, there are plenty of German stand-up comedians, some of which perform their acts in English! Notable German comedians include classics Loriot and Karl Valentin and modern comedians Dieter Nuhr, Anke Engelke, Eckart von Hirschhausen, Oliver Welke and Tom Gerhardt.

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The 69th Berlinale showcases a record number of female directors

The 69th Berlin International Film Festival (known as the „Berlinale“) kicked off this past weekend, beginning an 11-day program that will include hundreds of films and film screenings. As one of the largest public film festivals in the world, the Berlinale attracts tens of thousands of visitors from all around the world, including many celebrities.

This year, there are 17 films competing for the famous Golden and Silver Bear awards, 16 of which are world premieres. This year’s spotlight is on female directors; in fact, 40 percent of all its competing films were directed by women, setting an unprecedented record for such a major film festival.

And this year’s Berlinale jury president is also a woman: Oscar-winning French actress Juliette Binoche will head the 69th Berlin International Jury, which will decide who receives the Golden and Silver Bears. This weekend, Dieter Kosslick, the festival’s director, will sign a pledge that “calls festivals to commit to gender parity in its management and requires data transparency surrounding film submissions and programming committees,” Deutsche Welle reports. At a time when Germany is celebrating 100 years of women’s suffrage, this festival is a welcome showcase of female accomplishments in the creative arts.

The Berlinale was founded in West Berlin in 1951 – at the beginning of the Cold War – as a “showcase of the free world”, according to the event organizers. The very first festival was opened with Alfred Hitchcock’s movie Rebecca, which was a romantic psychological thriller that has won two Academy Awards. While the Berlinale often showcases highly anticipated films and A-list celebrities, it also brings new talent to the stage, sometimes kickstarting the careers of young filmmakers.

This year’s festival runs from February 7 to 17.

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

 

Never Look Away [Werk ohne Autor]: A Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck Film

On January 30th, almost 100 people joined a German Embassy-organized exclusive screening and discussion of the Oscar® nominated film “Never Look Away” [Werk ohne Autor] by German director and screenwriter Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck in DC’s Georgetown neighborhood. In addition to being nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, the movie’s American cinematographer, Caleb Deschanel, received a nomination in the Cinematography category. A perfect example of Wunderbar Together!

German Ambassador Emily Haber with Florian Henkel von Donnersmarck

German Ambassador Emily Haber, who has now seen the film twice already despite its length of a little over three hours, welcomed the guests. And even with his busy schedule—being invited to film festivals spanning multiple continents—director Henckel von Donnersmarck himself was there to introduce the movie. After the screening, he wrapped up the event with a conversation with Bilal Qureshi, an award-winning NPR journalist and culture writer.

We don’t want to spoil the content of the movie as you really should watch it yourself, but Henckel von Donnersmarck has called the film “a love story, a family drama, a biography of Germany in the 20th century, and a stroll through modern art.” Quite impressive!

For anyone interested in watching a wide selection of top-rated German films in the comfort of your home, you’re in luck: As part of Wunderbar Together you can log on to www.kanopy.com/goethe and find “Wunderbar: A Celebration of German Film”—a great selection of classics and cutting-edge films for your viewing pleasure.

But now, we are all waiting with anticipation for the envelopes to be opened on February 24thin Los Angeles. Viel Erfolg!

By Alina Burkholder & Jacob Comenetz, German Embassy

The Leo House: a refuge for German immigrants

© Leo House

When German immigrants came to the United States in the late 19th century, many of them entered through New York, seeking a new life in a world that promised endless opportunities. But the transition to a new life was not always easy. A New York based guesthouse called The Leo House took many of these immigrants in, guiding them on their journey in an unfamiliar land.

The Leo House is a Catholic guesthouse on West 23rd Street in New York. Today it serves as a nonprofit budget hotel for travelers, but it played a significant role in lives of German immigrants in the late 19th and early 20th century. Between 1865 and 1900, 35 percent of all immigrants who arrived in the US came from Germany. But after a difficult 4,000 mile journey, many of them found new hardships in the US.

German immigrants arrive in New York in 1850. © dpa

“They didn’t speak English. The gangs of New York were ruthless – they saw Germans who just got off the boat as ‘easy prey,’” says David J. Smith, executive director of Leo House. “And many Germans lost their faith.”
German businessman Peter Cahensly became concerned about the plight of German immigrants and founded the St. Raphael Verein in 1883, an organization dedicated to ensuring the safety of German travelers. In 1887, immigrants connected to the society started a fundraiser to further help incoming immigrants. Pope Leo XIII had recently received money in honor of the 50th anniversary of ordination, and the pope took that money and in turn donated $50,000 to the St. Raphael Verein. This money was then used to purchase a building in New York that became known as the Leo House, named in the honor of Pope Leo.

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How German settlers created the traditions behind Groundhog Day

© dpa / picture alliance

This weekend we find out if we’ll have six more weeks of winter or if spring is around the corner! When the world’s most famous groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, wakes up each year on February 2, tens of thousands of people gather around the furry creature in Gobbler’s Knob, Pennsylvania. Will the groundhog see his shadow or not? The answer to this question will determine the future of our weather patterns. Or so they say.

© dpa / picture alliance

Groundhog Day brings forth a unique wintertime tradition, but the roots of this strange celebration can actually be traced back to German settlers. As many of you know, many of the early settlers from Germany built their communities in Pennsylvania, bringing their own traditions with them to the New World. Many centuries ago, Christian Europeans commonly celebrated Candlemas Day, which is a religious celebration marking the midpoint of winter (and also involves blessing and distributing candles). Germans added their own touch to this celebration; in Germany, it was believed that if the sun came out on Candlemas Day and an animal (usually a hedgehog) would cast a shadow, there would be six more weeks of cold weather. Germans called this the “Second Winter.”

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Germany ranked fourth in annual “Best Countries” report

It’s that time of year again: the time that we discover Germany’s place in various world ranking studies.

This week marked the release of the 2019 US News & World Report Best Countries rankings – and Germany came in fourth! The study ranks countries based on a number of factors, but Germany scored particularly high in the categories of entrepreneurship, power and quality of life. When looking at individual categories, Germany ranks second in the world for entrepreneurship (following Japan), fourth in education and sixth in the category “forward thinking.”

Overall, Germany received 9.6 out of 10 points, following Switzerland (10), Japan (9.8) and Canada (9.7).

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10 great places for winter sports in Germany

1. Bobsled and Skeleton in Kleinstadt

Okay, if this video doesn’t terrify you, I don’t know what will. If you happen to be in NRW, you can visit the Winterberg bobsled track, the “Bobbahn”. The truly brave can even take a ride down the 5,250 foot track at 60 miles an hour.

No thanks.

2. Skiing in Garmisch-Partenkirchen

There are plenty of runs to choose from in Garmisch. One day isn’t enough to explore everything wintery Bavaria has to offer!

© dpa / picture-alliance

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The benefits of learning German in 2019

We’re two weeks into a new year – a time of resolutions and planning. Why don’t you make learning German one of your intentions?

About 130 million people worldwide consider German their native or second language. It is the most widely spoken native language in the European Union, the third most widely taught foreign language in the US and the EU, and the third most widely used language on websites. It is the official or most widely spoken language in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Lichtenstein and several other regions such as South Tyrol. Plus, one tenth of all books worldwide are being published in German. It is no secret that learning German makes you more employable (while also allowing you to read the works of Kant and Hegel in their native language – another plus!).

For many, learning German might seem like a daunting task. After all, Duden states that there are 23 million words in the German language. But an average German speaker only uses 12,000 to 16,000 words in his or her everyday life, which makes learning German a little more manageable! And even with a small vocabulary you can create bigger, longer words. For those of you who know a little bit of German already, we’re sure you know what we mean! German words are like chemical elements: you can combine several of them to make something entirely new!

Germans are also the single largest ethnic group in the US (with almost 50 million Americans claiming German ancestry), and 1.38 million people in the US speak German, according to the US Census. A 2015 study also found that interest in German is growing at a particularly high rate in China, India in Brazil, and that 15.4 million people worldwide are currently learning German.

At GermanyinUSA.com, we regularly post a German Word of the Week to share fun, interesting or unusual German words with our readers, and also provide information to help you learn German wherever you may be. We invite you to take a look at our latest words and feel free to suggest others in the comments!

Word of the Week archive

Garmisch-Partenkirchen: The Aspen of Germany

Aspen, Colorado and Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany have many traits in common: both are picturesque towns built against the backdrop of some of the world’s most beautiful mountains, attracting hikers, explorers, and winter sports enthusiasts who seek an escape from city life. Although Aspen has multiple sister cities across the world, its partnership with Garmisch-Partenkirchen dates back to September 23, 1966 — the first of its sister cities.

Garmisch-Partenkirchen is located in Bavaria, near the Austrian border and close to Germany’s tallest mountain at 9,718 feet tall — the Zugspitze. Thanks to its proximity to the Alps it is one of Germany’s major resort towns, but it also has a turbulent past.

© colourbox

For many centuries, Garmisch and Partenkirchen were separate towns. The original Roman road passed through Partenkirchen and was first mentioned in history in the year A.D. 15. From the 13th century until the early 19th century, the prince-bishops of Freising ruled the region, and governed from the nearby Werdenfels Castle. Like much of Europe, during the 16th century the towns of Garmisch and Partenkirchen were subject to hardships including the bubonic plague outbreaks and witch hunts. Those accused of witchcraft were tried and burned at the stake at the Werdenfels Castle. In the 17th century, the castle was seen as a place of terror, and was abandoned. Today, only ruins remain.

During Adolf Hitler’s ruling in the early 20th century, the region was chosen as the site for the 1936 Winter Olympics. In preparation for the games, Hitler decided to unify the two towns, calling the new city Garmisch-Partenkirchen. After World War II, the town was used as a recreational center for the U.S. military. Some long-term residents still consider themselves loyal to either Garmisch or Partenkirchen and refuse to recognize the name change.

© colourbox

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