Halloween for Trick-or-Treaters in Germany

Halloween and its custom of going trick-or-treat came to Germany in the late 90s. Since then, among some of the expat children out for trick-or-treat, there had been some unpleasant experiences. Not all Germans know or recognize Halloween, and if you do ring a stranger’s house, he might chase you away and then you are the one who’s scared. Angry German can sound pretty scary. 🙂

I have been asked “How do I know it is safe and OK to ring the doorbell?”. It is safe and OK, if you see a Jack O’Lantern in front of the house. This is the sign you are welcome to ask for treats.

This information was given to me by a German mom for the Oberursel area.

Jack O'Lantern

Of course, I would always advise to go only to friends’ homes or other expats’ homes. Living the international school life, they are familiar with the custom.

Father’s Day in Germany

My German niece has just reminded that German Father’s Day is only two days away (9 May  2013).  I had only thought of our upcoming trip to London, where we will spend part of the German Mother’s Day (second Sunday in May) at a Sri Lankan wedding.

Father’s Day in Germany is always celebrated on the religious holiday of Christi Himmelfahrt (Ascension Day), which is also the 40th day after Easter. Some relate to this holiday also as Männertag or Herrentag.

In 1936, Christi Himmelfahrt became a national holiday.

Here in Germany, this holiday is always on a Thursday, with schools closed on Fridays and families get to enjoy a four-day weekend.

There are quite a few get-togethers with only males roaming the countryside with lots of beer on board. Hence, Männertag oder Herrentag.

Father's Day in Germany

Father’s Day in Germany

Because of the increased alcohol consumption, this national holiday ranks #1 (yes, number one!) in alcohol-related accidents and fights. This information is from the German Statistical Office, also known as Statistisches Bundesamt (StBA).

Third Culture Kids or Where are you from?

Thomas, a freshman at the University of Nottingham, packed up his suitcase to leave Germany once more this morning. He wrote the following post about his experiences as an international student. He’s not quite a Third Culture Kid (a person whose personal culture is a fusion of two or more cultures exposed during childhood), but lives within the frame of one.

Where are you from?

That is one of the first questions I get asked upon meeting somebody for the first time, and it has given me headaches time and time again. I tell them: “It’s kind of complicated. Well, I was born in Japan, have lived in Germany for most of my life, but consider myself American”. And they inevitably look at me with a mixed expression of puzzlement and amusement. Or they just nod, and I remain in their mind an American. The accent fits, so the nationality should as well, right? Some ask me what citizenship I have. As I am a dual-citizen with both a German and US passport, this doesn’t really resolve things, either.

Sometimes I don’t want to say I’m either American or German at all and simply say I’m “of an international background”. But in my experience, people aren’t satisfied with that. I wish I could say I was either one or the other. The fact is, though, I am a mixture of both. The way I’ve thought of it most recently is that I’m German at mind and American at heart. I think in an analytical and methodical way (the German side), and I am quite open and empathetic (the American side). I know that these are qualities that are applicable to citizens of any country, yet for some reason I still associate them with those countries.

I am generally more hesitant to admitting my German heritage, especially now that I am studying at the University of Nottingham in the UK. I had a very uncomfortable experience in 2010 at a summer school program in Scotland. Once people knew that I was half-German, the name-calling wouldn’t stop. Now that I think of it, I got an impression of what the Jews must have felt like in the Third-Reich. I was first that “f@*king Nazi German”, then Thomas.

At University, however, my experience has been much the opposite. Only once have I been teasingly referred to, by a (inebriated) friend, as a “Nazi”. What I’ve gotten more is that they’ll do impressions of my American accent. As long as it’s not malicious, I don’t mind. I do a decent English accent myself! They probably wouldn’t agree – to them it sounds Australian, if anything.

I’m still not completely sure how to handle this question about origins. However, I don’t let it bother me too much. Once people actually get to know me, the nationality thing no longer matters anyway.

Halloween in Germany

Halloween, a pagan celebration, is celebrated on the same day as Reformationstag. It is the day on which in 1517 Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg, critizising certain aspects of the Catholic Church and thus starting the Reformation in Germany.

It is a bank holiday mainly in the eastern part of the country. Click here to hear a simple explanation in German: http://bit.ly/uZTni0

In our western part of the country, namely the Rhein/Main area, which is more international and commercial, we also celebrate Halloween at the international school and at private get-togethers among expats.

Forget the religious part, we are only interested in the campfire and mulled wine, and talking with friends.

German schools do not have any Halloween celebrations as this would be in conflict with their mandatory Religious Instruction lessons. Students without a confession have to sit in Ethics class instead.

Our Jack-O-Lantern, carved by my husband, last night.

The meaning of “Wie geht’s?” in German

Last night I was out with a German friend. Somewhere during the conversation, she remembered a question she had stored for me for a while.
She leaned towards me and said, “Do you remember my American neighbors, X and Y? For some reason, every time they see me, they ask me how I am doing. Do they think there is something wrong with me?”

I had a good laugh about it and then proceeded to explain that a simple “Hello, how are you?”, when spoken in English, is mostly meant as a greeting. The proper reply would be “I’m fine, thanks. And you?”.

The neighbors’ try at German by asking her “Hallo. Wie geht’s?” is seen as a true inquiry by most Germans. A true question deserves a true answer, and sometimes a rather lengthy one. My friend also saw this anywhere from being inquisitive to downright nosy. She had to laugh too, when she realized she had given them a straight answer, and much more, every time.

I had to learn this one myself, too. On the way to the supermarket, I often encounter elderly neighbors, and being the friendly sport I am, I asked them how they were… Then the time for grocery-shopping was gone, lunch break was over, and I had to return to work. But I learned about their lives spent in the last six months.

By now you might wonder how do you greet Germans without having to say “Wie geht’s?”. You can say it if you are absolutely bored or want to practice your German listening skills.

If you need to avoid this time-consuming pastime, then it is best to bite your tongue after the initial hello saying. Or you could add “Guten Morgen!”, “Guten Tag”, etc.,  but then do not forget to lower your voice on the last syllable. This indicates the end of the communication.

If I don’t hear from you soon, I know you did not adhere to my suggestions.


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