Thursday, December 23, 2010

A German Christmas party: eat, drink and … line dance?

They say the best way to learn a language is by total immersion. While I generally agree, more often than not, Thomas and I stick with English at home. We’ll start off in German, but invariably switch back once my vocabulary begins to stifle the conversation. I guess we just prefer our conversations to go beyond in-detail weather descriptions or me asking for 250 grams of sliced cheese.

But this weekend I got a full immersion experience at Thomas’ company Christmas party. Even though many people there could speak English quite well, I tried as best as I could (after a few glass of wine fortified my courage) to only speak in German. With my vocabulary being limited, I had only a few topics I could speak to comfortably. Fortunately, large parties provide opportunities for dialog repetition. Seven hours later, I could explain my thoughts on the Bavarian accent quite well.

Language barriers aside, the party was quite fun and entertaining. Thomas’s company is more laid-back than most German companies. For example, everyone from intern to CEO addresses one another casually using the informal du-form of “you.” (German, like many languages, has two forms of “you.” The polite and formal “Sie” (always capitalized) and the more familiar, informal “du.”).

So it was no surprise that party felt more like a bunch of good friends celebrating the holidays together rather than a stiff office party where everyone keeps an eye on the clock.  The evening was full of great food, drinks, a band made up entirely of employees, stories of humor and appreciation and even a few cowboy hats and line dancing – something I, coming from the southern half of the U.S., found particularly amusing.

Christmas party in Germany...with line dancing
Why this pinch of country-western culture? One of the employees was moving to work at the company’s U.S. office … in New York. I looked at Thomas, and he grinned. Payback for Americans thinking all Germans wear lederhosen, I guess.