I guess it was more of a “House Warming Party” though the house in question was a one room flat in the south western quarter of Munich. As I understand it the German term for both of these parties is just the English term. Just brought over wholesale. I got laughed at when I ask if it was an “Abendessen Fete.” Fete is an outdated term for party, but I learned it 15 years ago, and it has stuck.
Johanna’s friend, Agnes, has just gotten settled into her apartment, and so Johanna said I should come to the party. I’ve read a lot of strongly worded articles on what you would bring to a German’s home if they invite you. I think a lot of this information is more useful fora slightly older crowd or perhaps it’s bit outdated, but it was ground into me that one should always bring a gift of some type. I had hoped to arrive with Johanna and sort of hide behind her as we entered, but she was called over early to help in the preparations. So I had to arrive alone. She warned me NOT to arrive on time, she advised me NOT to feel obliged to bring anything, and she failed to give me clear directions to this flat that was actually quite hard to find. The advice to forgo punctuality was the hardest to follow. I was ready to head out a full hour before the party started, just sitting here, twiddling my thumbs. I put on some Todd Terje, and the hour went by easily.
So I had bough a bottle of wine, I had even gone for one of the more expensive bottles at the Supermarkt. 5 Euros! I had it tucked in the bottle cage of my bike, and I pedaled off. I had decided to bike because it was either a 15 minute lateral ride, or a 30 minute affair of 3 trains to get there. I got a little lost, because the actual building was hidden in an inner courtyard, it was dark, and I didn’t know what I was doing really. My phone stopped working for a bit, so I couldn’t ask for help, and Johanna had failed to give me her friend’s last name so I couldn’t even find the bell for the apartment. Finally my phone got service again, and I texted and was given enough information to find my way up. I arrived at 8:45 for an 8 pm party. I was the last to arrive. There was a lovely spread on the table, bread, cheese, meats, grapes, wine, and around the table 9 Germans chattering away. I hung up my coat, I took off my shoes, and I saw that the only open chair was at the head of the table, with Johanna, my life line, all the way across at the other end.
I don’t know if the term “Scheiße Essen Lächeln” exists in German, but Johanna definitely had one on her face. I was left adrift, but I would not be so easily embarrassed. I introduced myself to the table, spoke some bad German, and the social wheels began to slowly turn as I got my first glass of wine. Agnes asked if I had come by bike, and she said she’d heard that I’m always on my bike. Quickly the entire table started talking to me about my choice to ride my bike to the party that night.
Now this seemed odd to me. The bike infrastructure is great here, and it was easy to ride over. I ask how did all of you get here tonight and they all said they took the train. I sensed there was something I was missing. I had the impression that it was odd that I had come by bike, but, in fact what was strange to them was the I, the American, had come by bike. The expected me to be more inclined to drive or take the train andbe not so oft Unterwegs (often on the go). I chose to see this as a point of pride. Agnes asked what I would do in the winter, and I told them I had all the necessary silly clothes to stay warm and pedal on.
We kept talking, and I followed as best I could, there was one guy at the table that I couldn’t understand for the life of me. Later his friend confessed to me that no one has an easy time understanding him, he speaks remarkably fast.
The musical entertainment was a radio tuned to some station playing all the hits. A random jumble of popular American and English songs from the last 40 years, I couldn’t help but quietly keep track of what I was hearing, and after a number of glasses of wine I finally asked, “is it odd that there’s no German music being played at all?” Quickly they rebutted, “Name some German musicians.” Quickly one girl added “…and don’t say Rammstein.” The fast talking guy threw in “…or Kraftwerk.” I asked about Laserkraft 3D and Roman Flügel, I asked about Die Ärtzte or Die Fantastichen Vier or Fettes Brot or Herbert Grönemeyer. Other than the first 2 I felt like I was just naming obvious ones, and I wouldn’t expect to hear many of those on the kind of pop shuffle this radio station was playing. A few faces lit up as I named bands that they liked, but there was never a moment where they thought it odd that this bicycling yahoo from Texas was able to rattle these off. Not that I was disappointed, but when I got into a similar situation with one my German teachers she jokingly said she was going to home and give up teaching when I name checked Grönemeyer.
After the wine was done some digestifs got served around as we ate cake. It was closing in on 2 am, and I was pretty done for. So were most of the other guests. I thanked Agnes and congratulated her on her lovely little apartment. Johanna went off to wait for the infrequent night trains, and I pedaled home. I didn’t expect us to go separate ways, but we did. I’m starting to suspect what I first attributed to the German relaxed towards relationships attitude as being a being a mild indifference to me. I may be headed for my first European break up.
All in all, I was extremely pleased to have made it through that dinner party with only a reasonable amount of embarrassment, and a full enjoyment of the awkwardness of it. We talked about my obsession with rhyming words, and had a long talk about “Sauber Zauber” why it doesn’t sound right, and also why “Mr. Clean” is “Meister Proper” here. Apparently “Meister Sauber” would sound weird and kind of off-putting, but “Messier Proper” implies the muscles of the Mr. Clean we’ve all come to enjoy in the USA. I also learned that saying someone is “Proper” in German means they are bulky, either due to muscles or fat. I’d go to a dinner party like this every weekend.
There’s been new developments in the Visa, and I have a new patron, but that’s going to be a longer story, and will probably have a better ending after I meet on Wednesday. So, until then, look at this: