Saturday, December 10, 2016

So Your Character is From Germany ... Featuring Fraise Fruitrouge

It's time for this month's So Your Character is From Another Country! This is a monthly or bimonthly segment where I interview lovely volunteers from around the world to give you a firsthand account of being a citizen of their respective country. I'm hoping to encourage international diversity, break stereotypes, and give writers a crash course on how to write a character from these different places on our planet. If you haven't checked out last week's So Your Character is From Belgium ... be sure to hop on over there and give it a read!

I've grown up knowing a lot of German people. My best friend as a child was of direct German descent. She, her eight siblings, and her parents could speak fluent German visited Germany on a regular basis, so I heard the language spoken pretty regularly. My piano teacher and her family was also German and they also spoke German semi-regularly. I'm also of German descent, so I have some of the facial features and ridiculously pale skin color as characteristic of Germans. I go into this knowing a lot about Germany, but I'm always in for learning more!

Disclaimer: The content below may be culturally shocking to some. Each of these posts are as uncensored as possible to preserve the authenticity of the cultures of each of the interviewees.

(None of the Images are Mine)

Hi, I'm Fraise. My name is French because I'm half French but I live next to Munich, the third biggest town in Germany (and the best, in my opinion). I've finished high school in 2015. I took some time off to travel and write before going to university in September 2016. Munich lies in the south of Germany. I have been to Berlin and a few other places in Germany, but I'll mostly refer to how it is here. 

What do you feel is unique to your country? Landmarks? Celebrations?
What most people think of first when they hear Germany is the Oktoberfest, our annual beer festival. It takes place in Munich every September and yes, it's big and very popular. There's always a lot of visitors from all over the world, but locals enjoy it too. Oktoberfest is not only about beer (but it's a big part). There's also a lot of rollercoasters and basically, makes for a good and fun day out.  But the Oktoberfest isn't the only thing we have.

Other celebrations include:
  • Germany is known for the great Christmas markets (Christkindlmarkt or Weihnachtsmarkt). 
  • Especially here in Bavaria (The state in the southern Germany where Munich lies), we have a Maibaum (Tree of May) which gets put up the first of May every five years.

Tree of May
A few landmarks: (We have loads, seriously, if you're interested in that, read a tourist guide.)
  • Neuschwanstein is very very popular, built by the mad king Ludwig II and inspiration for the Disney Castle.
  • Rathaus München (Munich city hall)
  • Brandenburger Tor, the Wall and the Fernsehturm (in Berlin) 
Rathaus München 
Brandenburger Tor
Tell me about your country's environment. What are some of your favorite places?
There are so many places to see I can't talk about them all. The Alps are south of Munich. You can get there in about one hour, which means a lot of people use the weekends to go for walks in summer (or rock climbing our mountain biking for the really motivated ones) or for skiing and snowboarding in winter. Between Munich and the Alps there's a lot of lakes which are nice for swimming or sailing. Germany has a lot of old/medieval towns and buildings. If you write about one specific place, make sure you do some research. Nothing easier than that with Google!

Germany Alps
Tell me about your country's food. What are some of your favorite dishes?
Germans like to have big breakfasts. Bread, jam, muesli, same as everywhere else, but often there's also cheese, ham, or sausages (what I personally don't like).

Dinner in many families is no hot meal but "evening bread" (Abendbrot or Brotzeit in the south): bread with sausages or ham or cheese, sometimes a salad or something to accompany. 

German Breads
We also have sweet dishes like pancakes or Germknödel or Rice pudding or ... which we don't have for breakfast but actually as a meal.

Tell me about any different speech patterns in your country. Slang? Idioms? Words for things such as “biscuits” instead of “cookies”?
We have a few dialects differing from region to region. People around where I live tend to speak a bit like Austrians, people around Stuttgart tend to speak a bit like Swiss people, then there's the Berlin dialect, the Cologne dialect and so on. But everyone understands and speaks standard German.

Describe briefly a regular day in your country. 
School for Kids starts around eight. Homeschooling isn't allowed in Germany, so every kid goes there. I'd say most people start to work about the same time. School normally finishes before lunch (kids go home to eat), except in higher grades. Dinner is relatively early, around six in the evening.

German Classroom
How does your country compare to others, especially the States since my audience is primarily American? Environmentally? Politically? Culturally?
I've never been to the States, so I'll just state a few random things that come to my mind:
  • There's a lot of public transport like trams, buses, trains in towns, which means a lot of people use these instead of driving. 
  • Germans are conscious about the environment (generally). A lot of people get around by bike, we recycle a lot (it just feels natural to separate my waste into glass, paper, organic, recyclable plastic and so on... I'm always surprised when I get to other countries and there's just one bin for everything!) We also have a lot more organic food than other countries.
  • Bread! I've been to Australia and there's nothing else than burger buns or sandwich bread here! I really missed German bread...
  • Drinking age is 16 except for "strong" alcohol (includes things like liquors or wine etc, which you can buy at 18). 
  • We can drive at 17, but only after a lot of lessons and a test and only accompanied by a parent. Without parents it's 18.
  • Football (soccer) is the main (and basically only) sport everyone watches and gets excited about.

The YouTube channel Wanted adventure! It’s an American woman living in Germany and talking about her experiences. Might be helpful and it's really accurate!

If you're writing historical fiction, especially about Nazi Germany and WWII, make sure you do a lot of research. We spend almost a year and a half at school to study only this subject, just to tell you there's a LOT to know, way too much to explain it in this post. Also I don't really want to do it because I feel so much information would be missing and that could lead to misinformation on many aspects. I hope you can all understand that it's a difficult subject and I don't want to put wrong statements out there. Just keep in mind that most Germans are well aware of what happened, and also what role the German population played.

Nazi Germany
Another big difference between the States and Germany is how much less patriotic Germans are. This has a lot to do with our history, being proud of Germany and showing it too much can still be seen in a wrong light, and things that would be absolutely normal in other countries, like having flags everywhere, are just things we don't do. 

This doesn't mean we're not proud of being  German (and with everything this country has achieved since WWII and the reunification, there are many good reasons to), we just don't show it much. One big exception are times during big soccer events lice the world cup! That's the only time you'll see flags in every window. We do get very passionate about soccer.

German Football
Briefly describe three historical events of your country’s you feel are important.
  • World war I
  • Nazi Germany and World War II, which is a very sad chapter of our history, but obviously the one people think of most.
  • Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) and German Democratic Republic (East Germany) and the German Reunification: After WWII, the Allies (France, GB and USA) and the Soviets occupied Germany. With the cold war, Germany was divided into those two nations, East Germany being the part that Russia occupied, West Germany being the rest of it. The same thing happened to Berlin, that had been divided, too. A lot of people tried to flee the regime in eastern Germany. To avoid this, the Berlin wall was built.The two states reunified in 1990 to become the Federal Republic of Germany we live in today. To commemorate this, the 3. of October is our national holiday (German Unity Day), even if it's not celebrated as big as the 4th of July in the States.
German Unity Day
What are some stereotypes about your country that irk you? What media portrays your country badly be it a movie, a book, or a TV show?
  • Beer is the most important thing for Germans. That's not true (but I'll be fair... It's a big thing).
  • Germans are very efficient and like everything to be neat and in order. There's some truth in this one though. We especially like everyone and everything to be on time.
  • One thing that really annoys me in fiction is how the Germans are often the bad guys, and often for no reason. Of course, if you're writing historical fiction, it's mostly what is accurate historically (though not always). But to me it seems that the Germans being the bad persons is also a bit cliché, e.g. in Pitch Perfect 2. The bad guys could have been from any nation, the story would have worked just as well. So maybe ask yourself if the antagonist being German does really add to the story or if it's just the first thing that popped in your mind.
Doctor Erkstine who was a German who opposed the Nazi regime in Captain America: The First Avenger and is personally one of my favorite German characters
Thank you, Fraise, for this very informative post! I hope everyone enjoyed reading it. Fraise will also be returning in April for So Your Character is From France! Come back next month for So Your Character is From The Netherlands ... Featuring Arlette @ Arlette Writes!

Are you interested in participating in this project? Slots for Australia, Canada, England, Scotland, New Zealand, the Philippines, Liberia, Algeria, Thailand, Peru, China, Slovakia, Belgium, and Germany have been filled, but if you are from any other country, shoot me an email at howellvictoriagrace(a)gmail(dot)com.

Do you have any German characters? Did this inspire you to write a German character or set a book in Germany? Are from this or been to this country and you have further input? Feel free to share! Do you have any questions for Fraise? Be sure to thank them!

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