Saturday, September 10, 2011

Are these people German?

As I began my search into my family's history, I was constantly reminded by people how FORMAL the Germans are.  They don't address you by your first name unless you've known each other for a long time.  They don't smile at strangers.  So I was completely prepared for stiff and formal Germans.  This idea was reinforced by my e-mail exchanges with Matti.  We've probably been e-mailing back and forth for about 5 or 6 months.  I would ask him some question about the town (e.g. the hatmaking industry in the mid 1800's), and he would answer a week later.  He always addressed the e-mail as "Hallo Frau Kerkhoff Wallace!" and would sign his e-mail with his full name.  Then a couple of weeks ago, he asked me to call him "Matti," but this was after I had signed a couple of my e-mails as just "Marti."  My Austrian born friend Herm assured me this would give him the indication that it was ok with  me to be on a first name basis.  Quite a bit of work just to call each other by our first names.  With Americans, it would be weird to call someone by their last name (in most cases).  So, I was completely prepared to be on my best Kerkhoff behavior.

When we got to the hotel and were getting out of the car, an older gentleman came over to me and said "Marti."  I thought he said "Matti" and that this was the man I had been e-mailing for months (he had never sent me a photo of himself).  No, this was Wilfried.  And then once I realized that Wilfried just called me by my first name, I was completely thrown off kilter.  I was so thrown, that I didn't even introduce Trish to the 2 of them.  Where are the Germans I was expecting?  These formal people?

I'm getting a much more complete picture of my Kerkhoffs.  I've now had to add the image of Casper doing shots of "properly chilled" Korn.

1 comment:

  1. My late father was stationed in West Germany for a while when he was in the Army (I was born in West Germany, actually), and I remember his telling me that Germans were serious about EVERYTHING -- including dancing! LOL!

    My late uncle (my mom's beloved brother) married a German woman and adopted her daughter. I remember Aunt Heidi saying how shocked and amazed her family and friends were when they visited her in the States and people would just drop by, casually, to say hello and that Aunt Heidi would often invite them to stay for supper and would just add more spaghetti to the pot, more potatoes to the potato salad, or whatever.

    I think Aunt Heidi got a great deal of pleasure from "shocking" her visiting friends and family that way. ;-)

    It sounds to me as though your "formal" Germans have been loosened up a bit by the familiarity of your e-mail exchanges :-)