The Badger is in fact a bit crook with hayfever and headaches and is having blood tests. So he is not really up to wrting a Blog. This is a Blog I wrote last week for a guest spot on warsawmommy
We arrived in Vienna from Australia in August 2008. My wife Cate works for a US company and was offered a job here as the Regional Legal Director for Russia, Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Vienna is sort of in the middle of all that (well – it’s closer than Australia).
I am the designated ‘Hausmann’ with the job of looking after Cate and the three cats. My duties are not onerous – and Cate travels a lot – so I have time for bike riding, photography, drinking coffee and improving my culinary skills. These have improved markedly in the last 18 months…and I am told that my Hungarian Goulash soup is to die for.
With the benefit of hindsight I would have spent a lot more time than I did learning German before we came to Vienna – and should be doing more now – but life is so short! This would have meant that I would not have had quite so many horrendous experiences in shops and would not have bought quite so many things without knowing what they really were, or really wanting them.
My most famous inadvertent purchase was a pair of Hugo Boss underpants which cost me €29 (it’s a long story). They are, of course, much too expensive to wear so I have had them bronzed and they hang like dice from the car rear view mirror.
As it is, after 18 months my German is like a train wreck. It consists of shattered verbs, smashed adjectives and badly injured nouns. I am frequently stuck for a German word so am inclined to use a French one, or – as my French has now deteriorated so badly as to require life support – an English one, or even a colloquial Australian expression. I also wave my arms around a lot. This makes my conversations quite animated and often entertaining for onlookers – but still fundamentally incomprehensible.
It is not all my fault. The people who invented the German language had serious social problems and clearly suffered from chronic depression during the long European winters.
They have managed to make it almost impossible for a non-German to learn (and this may well have been their plan!). I mean, there are perfectly good German verbs that have been rendered almost unusable by the device of making them separable. This means that sometimes you put one part near the beginning of the sentence and another part (usually the smaller part) right at the end. What madness is this?
The insanity has no bounds. There are more than two ways to say ‘because’ in German. If you use one possibility the verb goes in one place and if you use another it goes somewhere else. Sometimes I just freeze mid-sentence trying to slot the verb into the right place and the other person just wanders off and does something more productive.
The locals don’t have to look at your passport to know that you are an ‘Auslander’: they just listen to what you do with their verbs, and smile knowingly.