How To German – Lesson 02: Löcher buddeln
Welcome to another lesson of “How to German”, where I teach you everything you need to know to assume a German identity and get a head start once their next attempt at world domination will be more successful (three time’s the charm, am I right?). Just like the German armies marching through your hometown anytime soon, you too need to learn what to do when you’re in another country.
We all behave differently when we’re on vacation. Instead of cleaning up after ourselves, we let the hotel staff deal with our mess; rather than sitting on the couch and watch Netflix, we go on hikes and nature walks; and we substitute feasts at our familiar fast food restaurants with foreign versions of those fast food restaurants. We’re just not the same on vacation. That goes for Germans as well.
I like to think that the “towel reservation technique” is a stereotype most people are familiar with, but I couldn’t call this post an in-depth lesson and not include it. The one thing Germans can’t turn off, even on vacation, is efficiency. They need to get the most out of their relaxation time and can’t risk being delayed by other people. Whenever there is a pool that offers seating, Germans will get up early in the morning to “reserve” seats by placing their towels over the chairs. But they don’t hang out by the pool hours before everyone else is even awake, no, they go back to bed and return later when the pool is already buzzing with people who probably struggled to find seating for themselves.
There’s a lot of trust invested into the courtesy of others not to remove the German’s towel. It is quite ironic that a technique as outrageously rude as claiming a spot despite not using it for several hours hinges on everybody else being polite in order for it to work. But no one stopped the Germans from invading Poland either.
In case you haven’t noticed yet: Germans are rude. Not all of them, not all the time, but most of them and most of the time. The thing is, they don’t try to be chummy with everyone and limit their rudeness radius to only the nations in their close vicinity. The Dutch are one of their frequent victims.
Tessa, a blogger friend of mine who you should definitely check out, mentioned a German phenomenon that always happens on the beaches of her homeland. Apparently every summer the Germans occupy Dutch beaches and…dig holes in them? I was not aware of that phenomenon myself and had to do some research. And by research I mean, I asked my parents who still live in Germany.
In case you couldn’t read that. I explained the situation to my mom and she just replied “no idea”. Well, shit, if my mom doesn’t know, is it even real? At least it made me feel better about myself, since I thought I lost touch with my own culture. But it seems that this hole digging business might be a very specific breed of Germans I haven’t encountered yet. Nevertheless, I have a course to teach, so I went to the internet for help and found images of these hole diggers.
However, I won’t just copy paste google image search results on here, no, I make my own damn graphics. Tessa asked me to dig deeper into the beach of meaning and present a hole of reasoning behind this behaviour.
That was a very bad metaphor. So here’s a better picture:
Armed with my vast knowledge of “being German” I present to you all a thorough explanation for why Germans dig holes in beaches.
Not unlike the towel reservation technique, digging holes in beaches provides the German tourists with a space personalized for themselves. Germans are not a sharing type of people. There has to be a strict line between “yours” and “mine”, and that goes for occupying the beach. Sure, they could mingle with the rest of the tourists, but the beach is a wide, open space where strangers can walk around freely and invade your personal bubble at any moment. It’s not enough to simply put down a towel. This scenario requires engineering, work ethic, and an uncompromising desire for privacy in a public space.
Ask yourself, what would you do if you saw a couple grumpy people, muttering to each other in a language that sounds like a broken radio, dig a circular hole in the sand, just to sit in it? Would you approach them and ask if you could sit with them or would you try to find a space for your towel as far away as possible?
The best thing about this hole digging is that even if other people on the beach decide to copy their technique, the Germans will keep their peace and quiet since everyone would stay in their own holes (just like they themselves should have stayed in Germany if they hate strangers so much).
Besides claiming territory for themselves, those holes have another practical purpose. If you’ve ever been to the ocean, you might have noticed that there isn’t any underwater heating equipment installed. The water may be ice cold but that can be fixed via the German beach hole. If the hole has been dug out close to the ocean, occasional waves will pour into it. In the sanctuary of the hole under the baking sun, the water can now heat up and turn that sandy chasm into a warm bathtub. That’s some well needed relaxation after a hard session of digging.
So you see, Germans on vacation are a bit different. While they maintain their drive for efficiency and labour, they wouldn’t dig holes to create a Jacuzzi in their own backyard. That’s reserved for foreign escapades, where they will let the Dutch deal with the aftermath instead.
Are you gonna dig a hole on your next beach visit? Here’s some useful vocabulary and phrases to adopt for this specific activity:
- Löcher buddeln
- Mir steht das Wasser bis zum Hals
“I’ve had it up to here”. This is relatable because the literal translation is “the water is all the way up to my neck”, which is the consequence of digging your hole too close to the ocean.
- Erst die Arbeit, dann das Vergnügen
“First comes work, then pleasure”, as demonstrated by digging a hole before relaxing in it.
- Fünf Minuten vor der Zeit, das ist deutsche Pünktlichkeit
“Five minutes early, that’s German punctuality”. Which means five hours early is a lunatic’s obsession with reserving a seat at the pool.
DISCLAIMER: If digging holes is illegal in your area, yelling German phrases at the police as they slowly beat you into submission won’t save your ass and I sure as fuck ain’t gonna take the blame for it.
Image by: Aisha Boucher