Dear 20 Percent,
The other morning, I received a spammy email from an “SEO specialist” who offered his services to our “media brand”. As my sleepy eyes searched for the “mark as spam” button, I noticed a hashtag in the guy’s signature: #gerneperdu
Gerne per Du translates roughly has “happy to use the informal Du form”. Instead of the stuffy old Sie. I perked up. Wow, Germany is changing! I thought. Somebody wants to make communication more casual, less distanced! About time. For me, Sie belongs in the garbage can of language, along with PhDs putting “Dr” on their doorbell.
Turns out, #gerneperdu was launched by some BMW employees in 2018 as an attempt to make Germany’s corporate culture more compatible with the casual tone of Anglo-American business communication. #CallMeByMyFirstName is also a thing, apparently.
Ikea (in its ads) and many regular Berliners were lightyears ahead, though. Since I can remember, certain local types — left-wingers and Greens, waitstaff, bartenders, start-up and media people — have been duz-ing me forever. It’s not always in the spirit of friendship, though. When Berliner drivers berate other road-users for hesitating at a traffic light for three seconds, the barked insults always have a “Du” attached.
Now that I’m deep into middle-age, the instances of people calling me “Sie” have increased. I know it’s supposed to be a sign of respect, but for me it’s just an unnecessary barrier between people. But maybe it’s just about fear of ageing.
What’s your take on duzen and siezen? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.
Some local news below!
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A pro-Palestinian rally in Neukölln caused widespread indignation because, according to observers, some participants shouted anti-Semitic slogans. The Berlin police received several complaints. A Polizei spokesperson said Monday that investigations were underway for “incitement to hatred”. The Jewish association WerteInitiative criticised the Berlin police for not stopping the demonstration.
The traditional Easter peace march wove its way through central Berlin Saturday. Participants demanded an end to weapons shipments to Ukraine. This year, the event had a different vibe to it: signs reading stuff like “NATO is the aggressor - peace with Russia” were abundant, according to Tagesspiegel. Hmm.
Brandenburg, that leafy state the completely surrounds Berlin, grew faster than traditional German economic motors Bavaria and Baden-Wuerttemberg last year thanks to Tesla. The state saw a 3.3% jump in gross domestic product (the value of everything produced in Brandenburg), according to the Berlin-Brandenburg statistics office, compared with a 1.8% national average for the country’s 16 states. Only Hamburg, Bremen and Berlin outpaced Brandenburg but they’re essentially just cities masquerading as states so they only sort of count. Bavaria (think BMW) grew 2.1% last year and Baden-Wuerttemberg (Mercedes) 1.4%. The figures are adjusted for inflation — without, Brandenburg grew 10.4%.
The Brandenburg town of Beelitz kicked off the asparagus season this morning with a press conference about how they’ll be mechanising the industry to keep prices down in inflationary times. Since the pandemic, farmers have had trouble attracting seasonal labour from Eastern Europe. On Thursday, the old-timey tradition of the Beelitz Spargel queen continues, when property management trainee Charlotte Schmidt, who grew up amidst the asparagus fields, kicks off the harvest. Her mother Nicole officiated as Spargelkönigin in 2000. If it was my colleague Andrew’s turn to write the newsletter, he’d make a snarky joke about Germans and Spargel, but since I am German, I love Spargel — even the local white kind that has been grown under white plastic and is verboten to photosynthesise (making it white not green).
BVG is best
Just in: Timeout has ranked Berlin’s public transport as the best in the world, calling it a “delight”. Credit where credit it due, but surely the Timeout people have never taken the U8. They also apparently don’t speak German: 270 BVG employees recently signed an open letter to management complaining about the inconsistent enforcement of policies at Berlin transit stops, according to BZ. The employees have concerns about their safety and want more security to combat the open drug abuse and urination, as well as tourists behaving as though “they’re in a rule-free zone”. BVG says the complaints are often the result of societal problems (addiction, homelessness) but the government told the paper they would have a chat with BVG about the problems.
The most local film festival
Berlin-centred film festival Achtung Berlin begins tomorrow and runs through next Wednesday. If you speak German, there’s a vast programme of movies about Berlin or produced in Berlin. If you need English, there’s a select crop of movies with English subtitles, like Piaffe (above) or Goldhammer - The Retired Whore. All showing (with the directors present) at the intimate, tiny Lichtblick Kino. The info.
On April 14, 1953, West Berlin opened an emergency refugee reception centre in Marienfelde. It first housed people leaving East Germany, but later welcomed thousands of Spätaussiedler, ethnic Germans from around Eastern Europe who had the right to settle in West Germany after the war. More than 1.3 million people passed through West Berlin’s version of Ellis Island, according to RBB. Nowadays, part of the facility houses 700 asylum seekers from around the world.
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It's a DU for me ...
I absolutely HATE it when my doctor insists on calling me "Frau Beldotti". I'm not here to open a bank account, lady! I think the insistence upon using the formal "Sie" is just an easy way to keep people at arm's length and avoid having empathy for others.