Franken Plants …And Everything Else

One of the first things I noticed about living in northern Bavaria was that no one calls themselves Bavarian.

My wife is Franconian and like every good Franconian seems to genuinely love all things Fränkisch or Fränggisch like it’s actually pronounced.

She’s from Nuremberg which is considered the capital of Franconia.When I first started learning German I quickly realized no one sounded like what I was hearing on TV or learning in my integration course. The dialect is so different it sounds like a different language.

Franconian pride is so very strongly instilled in people from the district that a lot of local businesses will include the word Franken on their product so there are Franken port-a-potties, Franken water bottles, Franken you get what I mean. If it’s a product a Franconian will more than likely slap the word Franken on it.

In predictable American expat fashion I found this hilarious the first couple of years because I couldn’t help but think of Frankenstein and how everything I saw, bought or used had the potential of monstering-out like something in a black and white flick from the 50’s.

Still whenever I see some giant plant I’ll call them Franken Plants or anything that is abnormally oversized for that matter gets the word Franken attached to its description.

When I first started learning German I quickly realized no one sounded like what I was hearing on TV or learning in my integration course. The dialect is so different it sounds like a different language.

In Nuremberg the moment you leave the tourist version of the city and step outside of the walls High German goes out the window, the language changes and all of those pretty German words I learned from watching TV, listening to the radio and in my integration course sound almost unrecognizable.

After living in Franconia for nearly a decade I’ve realized I actually prefer to hang around the people who stay true to their Fränngisch roots, they have a way about them that can seem rough around the edges.

I haven’t met a full on Franconian yet who doesn’t love a bit of trash talk. This used to drive me nuts when I first started living here. The trick is giving as good as you get and reading body language, listening to the tone of voice and not paying any mind to what is said and more to how they say it.

Embracing the Fränggisch and all of their Franken nuances is ultimately the key to happiness living here in Frankenland. The Franken Schlumpf says it best in a seemingly rude but endearing way that is typisch Fränngisch.

Even under the most serene and professional circumstances German grammar can come across as ruthlessly blunt. A common phrase I’ve heard is “falsch verstanden” meaning misunderstood. A lot of Germans misunderstand one another often. Especially when it’s someone from a different part of the country accustomed to communicating in his dialekt with someone else used to say the same thing in a totally different way in their dialect and they’re trying to communicate in High German.

It reminds me of when I was in the army one guy in my platoon was from a fast-talking to the point part of New York and another was from Texas. They both communicated the way they would with people they grew up with, but when they spoke with each other there would be tense moments of misunderstanding that provided endless entertainment for me.

There were times we were a platoon divided by a common language. The would eventually be resolved, usually because the Texan had more rank and as long as we were in uniform and as long as it was work related  everything he said was technically a lawful order.

I also experienced falsch verstanden the first few months I worked at a pub where most of the staff were Irish. I realized my American English was not expressive enough, so when I said something a lot of the times when I said something it was understood as something totally else.

A good example is one time I moved all of the kegs around in the walk-in freezer on delivery day. It’s a long process switching out empties, putting the new warm ones below the cold ones, ensuring all of the dates are right. Sorting out the new crates of bottles and cans, then thoroughly sanitizing all of it after while juggling the simultaneous tasks of delivering food, helping a customer or figuring out what one of the delivery guys needed help with throughout the process.

Depending on how busy business is that can a very physically demanding part of the job, and once in the beginning when I had first started someone asked if everything was okay to which I gasped “yeah, tired.” Focused on work. An hour later I had 10 different Irish co-workers saying things like “Jaysus! I heard about what happened.” Is everything alright at home? I had no idea where the confusion came from until it dawned on me I had to elaborate and be more specific that I had merely physically exhausted myself but as far as my well being goes I was grand and up for a bit of the craic.

Part of getting to know a Franconian in Middle Franconia (Nuremberg is considered the capital city of the Franks) involves a decent amount of initial verbal hazing and blatant insults, but once I realized it’s just how they get along with each other as well I had a lot of fun with meeting new people.

I love how YouTuber FRANKENSCHLUMPF plays off some of the endearing stereotypes of  German and Franconian culture, and if you ever go off by yourself into a Gasthaus, Pilsbar, Biergarten, or Sportsbar (dedicated to Der Glübb 1FCN. of course)  all by your lonesome in the parts of town or villages where there are no city folk or business Germans the way the Franconian Smurf speaks is pretty dead on. The channel also has a few FrankenRider episodes where The Hof is a Franconian Knight Rider which is… Excellent.

I used to work a lot security, bar tending, and general hospitality events around football (soccer) matches in Nämberch (Nuremberg) most of the time the away team fans and the local 1. FCN hometown supporters had a friendly go at each other and at times the tension during a close match would elevate to the point where it was time to step in and occasionally escort the less than cordial off to another area (which always got the adrenaline pumping and was more fun than I’d let on).

One thing I noticed while working through all of these matches was that Nuremberg fans seem to get along great with the Schalke fans regardless the final score the fans of those two teams rarely show much if any animosity to one another.

The older fans from Nuremberg are great, once they’ve decided they like their new-found friend and run out of small talk they recommend the Schäufele

Schaeufele or “Schäuferle”, “Schüfeli”, “Schäuferla” or “Schäufelchen” is pork shoulder, the bone in the middle looks like a garden spade or small shovel which is where the dish gets its name from.

Here is a nice cleaned up “reportage” on Schäuferla involving an expat and how the traditional dish is made. They speak in crystal clear Hoch Deutsch and the moderator or narrorator explains everything with hushed tones bestowing knowlege and understanding (you know a German is teaching you something important and significant to your quality of life when EVERYTHING is said in a loud whisper).

It’s a nice video about a good dish, but it’s been as touristed-up and varnished to the point that everything about the video is barely recognizable as Fränggish. Yeah technically it’s been filmed in the most tourist friendly way possible it’s like watching a Disney movie after reading the original Brother’s Grimm stories.

Similar, but in no way the same…

The cook never growled des is fei schäi about everything he just did. No one randomly barked Gschmarri! He didn’t once contort his face, stick out the tip of his tongue and go Hä?!! After she said or asked something. No one said is fei worschd and a weng or a bisserla of Etwas was never added to anything. And miraculously no one got called a Zipfel.

If  none of that made any sense whatsoever to you don’t worry, those are the easy Franconian words that you can figure out within an hour or two.

I love Schaufele, love it and this video of Franken Animals on YouTube does a pretty good job of how most conversations about that dish and many other traditional Franconian meals usually goes.

The unrestrained passion people in this part of the world have for their favorite meals is what won me over to my wife’s culture. I learned most of the German I know in Biergartens or having a meal with a stranger who sat next to me at the only empty spot in a busy restaurant.

It’s impressive how easy it is to bond with someone you just ate a good meal with.

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American expat in Germany, novice blogger, amateur artist, rehabilitated couch potato, smartphone addict, full-time father, husband and terminal nerd.


American expat in Germany, novice blogger, amateur artist, rehabilitated couch potato, smartphone addict, full-time father, husband and terminal nerd.

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