Du sollst a Schäuferle probieren

When a Franconian tells you to eat a small shovel you know they like you.

When I first started living with my wife the first thing I did was ask her to translate my resume and drop it off at every business I could think of.

The only words I knew in German were Achtung, Kaputt and a few of the things you pick up from watching too many hours of The History Channel.

I quickly learned within a few hours that Franconians are compulsively honest and it would be unmöglich for me to work there. There being every place I applied.

When I asked what unmöglich meant I would hear a long, painfully, drawn out sucking in of air between the teeth, watch as their faces contoured into an awkwardly apologetic expression and after a brief pause be told “zis ist not possible. Sorree.”

It became a game to me, I called it “The Rejection Game” marveling at how the answer could be so consistent. I later learned people just chalk such things up to a fact of life referred to as “immer das gleiche” or always the same.

Franconia & Florida Flags
The wife’s and my state flags. Franconia & Florida – Franconia is technically a region of Bavaria, but only the taxman and Bavarians believe that.

Eventually, though, a local security company took me on, initially pairing me up with a man everyone called der Labalaba. To this day, I have no idea what his real name is but he is the one I learned German from.

The shifts were long, very long sometimes. Pulling a double shift a day with der Labalaba always there, always by my side.

We’d guard equipment as a Volksfest was set up, while that fest went on for a week and was broken back down, packed up and taken off to the next town.

We’d protect band buses and sound equipment in the morning dusk, in sweltering heat of the midday sun, in the rain, and through brutally cold snow-filled nights.

Der Labalaba was with me through it all, a trooper through and through. Standing, waiting, staring at inanimate objects with no other people in sight sometimes for 17 hours at the time der Labalaba was there. Beside me for all of it.

One of the first phrases I picked up was something I learned from a conversation each and every coworker would have at the beginning of a shift after everyone arrived and we get our assigned partner and locations.

Someone would shout Schohn-ah-sahn! Komm mal her!” (Jonathan, come over here!) They’d place a hand on my shoulder, go very solemn and chortle, growl, bark, and ch-ch away in German.

I’d smile, nod and say “ok” at the appropriate pauses, then without fail male, female, young, old, veteran employee or newbie they’d end the speech with a pat on the shoulder and leave me with these parting words.

Lass ihn Einfach jammern, ok?!”

I’d say “ok” and follow der Labalaba to our assigned location.

Der Labalaba was a nice enough guy, he just had one quirk. The man never. Stopped. Talking.

Never. Ever. Even when the air was so cold and dry that your lips would chap within a few minutes.

He’d just smear on Chapstick like he was born to do it and sip more liquid in between sentences.

I have never met anyone like der Labalaba before or since, truly one of a kind and deserving of a Guinness world record for the ability to talk at all times, under all circumstances, regardless of who or what he was talking to.

It was amazing.

 

All this exposure to nothing but 17 hours of one-sided conversations in German began to take effect and before long I could understand words, phrases and large portions of conversations.

That’s when I realized, people who did happen to cross our paths would… Well, der Labalaba would call them over and shout information for the entire 30-40 seconds it took them to walk over.

After about 2 minutes of being told every possible secret, back entrance, potential ways to sneak past security, how to open a bank account, the best restaurant to visit if you ever happen to vacation in Togo and whatever possible information they might not have realized they could have wanted to know (such as the city Togo rhymes with the phrase “No go”) and where the best gas station to buy smokes at is…

The people who had been called over and were now so well informed were usually just looking for a toilet or cash machine. They would eventually give up on politely ducking out of the longest one-sided conversation of their life and would exclaim “was labberst du!?” As they walked off telling each other to let it go and “lass ihn jammern.”

I still remember laughing to the point of tears and getting a stitch in my side the moment I figured out that “jammern” means to yammer and boy did good ol’ Labalaba earn his nickname.

Labalaba comes from the saying “was labberst du.” Labbern is an onomatopoeia, its definition as nonsensical as it sounds.

Glorious! …Still have to smile about it.

 

It was also around this point that my constant exposure to der Labalaba’s gesprochene sprache sprechen auf der straße had made things fairly easy to communicate in a way that confused me as to how I could understand the words coming out of my mouth.

I should mention that der Labalaba would drone on and on and on about something that sounded like der Glubb it was der Glubb this! der Glubb that! der Glubb before all else, and the more he mentioned der Glubb the more I realized there was a sound connected to whatever der Glubb was. That sound went a lot like this ehff-tszeeh-eintz. This noise seemed to have magical properties that got some of those poor unfortunate souls he called over to actually be interested and stick around for longer than average conversations.

Eventually, it dawned on me that der Glubb was the club and supporters of 1. FCN or first league football club Nürnberg. Suddenly that magically sounding noise wasn’t a sound anymore. People were saying F.C. Eins! …In a deep walrus-like Franconian accent which made alles klar!

Frankenflagge
The Franconian flag can be seen everywhere in the Northern region of Bavaria. In fact, the only places where I’ve seen the Bavarian flag on display is on state buildings. If the state of Bavaria wants to pay for it let them fly their flag but that it.
Even IKEA flys the Franconian colors in this region. I took this picture from the cafeteria in Fürth. IKEA knows better. The one in Wuerzburg does the same. They fly the Swedish flag, the German national flag, and the Franconian flag.
The Franken eat, sleep, think, speak, and do commerce in Fränggisch here and pay Bavarian taxes.
…And compromise from time to time with a Bayrisches Frühstuck or Bavarian Breakfast which is Weißwurst with sweet mustard, a few Weizen Bier, and Bretzel

Der Labalaba spoke dialect, a very deep version of Middle Franconian which is more akin to something out of Middle Earth than any version of the High German you hear on TV, the radio OR in discussions with an insurance salesman.

We weren’t in Germany anymore. Hell, we weren’t even in Bavaria!

Närmburch is the capital city of Frankenland where everyone who’s anyone worth knowing as someone worth knowing knows, eats, speaks, buys, sells, lives and breath Fränggisch. …Gell?

To know, understand, and begrudgingly realize you’ve inadvertently come to love all things Fränggish is to know an entirely different language that even other Germans can’t understand. To eat, love and spread the gospel of the greatness of Schäuferle mit kloß und soße and above any and all else love der Glubb is part and parcel of life in Middle Franconia.

Nürnberger Herz
Live in Nürnberg long enough and you just might catch yourself loving it there. I took this picture because I liked it, but it’s actually the name of a Weinbar (Wine Bar) within the city walls.

Fly der Glubb colors, wear der Glubb colors, bring up der Glubb in every conversation even if you’re just talking about how Oma made a fantastishce super mega lecker Erdbeertorte (strawberry cake) in your daily life, and most sins can be overlooked if not altogether forgiven by the Frankischen Volk.

Repetition is the key….or “immer das gleiche” as they say and I had spent two-thirds of every day for three months with Gods Gift to der Glubb.

1.FCN’s number one fan wasn’t working with me, we were Fränggish lernen, gell! It wasn’t too long before I realized I was forgetting all of my pretty crystal clear High German due to the repeat and constant exposure to conversations pertaining to the unrelenting glory of what was, is and will all way be der Glubb.

Der Labalaba and his Jedi-like devotion to all things 1.FCN had gotten to me.

I had been separated from the herd, indoctrinated, been baptized by fire and a relentless barrage of Fränggische Wörter as a result of der Labalaba’s devout faith and commitment to spreading the gospel of der Glubb.

1. FCN Fan-Shop
The 1. FCN Fan-Shop on Ludwigstrasse in Nuremberg’s city walls is a one stop shop dream come true for der Glubb supporters.

That, and all the Drei im Weggla I had nommed on every time he would jammer on about der Glubb. Probably worked like a Pavlov’s Dogs effect. I love me some Drei im Weggla and just started associating the yummy goodness with the local club.

The only snack better than a Drei im Weggla is a Drei im Weggla mit Eggsdraworschd! (Gotta know how to charm and wheel and deal to get that fourth Broudworschd in the Brötchen though). …There is a huge unterschied between charming someone and being a Schleimer though.

Manchmal Vitamin B reicht nicht.

I didn’t realize it but, at some point I had changed whether I wanted to or not. Something in me was different.

I had unknowingly gone “Full Dances With Wolves” gotten caught up in Fränggische dinge and become a 1.FCN fan along the way.

 

The first fußball (soccer) match I worked where I did more than pat-downs and watch the parking lot for 90 minutes was a match between Nuremberg and Munich.

Munich’s team had the financial backing, track record and kind of confidence that had everyone at the stadium for FC Bayern walking around with a swagger that would make John Wayne seem timid. Gschmarri!

I was put right behind the goal, facing the Munich fans through the glass box, where I stood on the track between the goal and the fans.

We would rotate through every once in a while so each guard had a chance to watch the game then go back to watching the fans.

That match, my first time actually in the stadium for a home game against a team who has far greater advantages than many cities combined.

Nuremberg won, crushing Munich drei zu null (3:0). It was the first time Nürnberg had beaten Munich in years and the fans from my new hometown went mental with pride and joy. Men, women, children cried tears of joy, streamed down their cheeks, shirts came off, one guy inexplicably dove off the bleachers he was so so happy. …Spaß pur!

That did it for me, sealed the deal and I knew like it or not 1.FCN was my team!

…In large part thanks to Labalaba’s brainwashing.

This is basically how der Labalaba would get every single time he brought up der Glubb. Loveable lunatic you liked being around but kept your distance from that he was. He was class. Class all the way. Or, as they say in Frankenland voll der Hammer. voll Krass ey!

 

Flash forward a few years and I had switched to tending bar downtown.

I was working a few “Public Viewings” pronounced Poob-Lick Few-Inkts which, as it turns out isn’t actually a televised politicians funeral, but rather a public screening of live sports events in ein Bier Garten.

Where I learned even your most fancy-pants of Eteptete, Schickimicki, Weißt-du-wer-ich-bin Franconians let their hair down and fanged an mit Quatschen saying things like Komm Älter! Schau ma moll, hier gibts Public Viewing. Krass oder? Schee is’nes. Toll, Toll! …Toll, toll, toll! voll Geil warenes! Ne?

One of the funniest things I’ve heard was a guy speaking Denglisch going between Deutsch and English as he spoke (kind of like this post I’m writing). His team wasn’t doing to hot and at one point he couldn’t take it anymore, stood up in his chair and screamed “Oh mein Gott! I am so disappointed in my Mannschaft!”

The only other time I couldn’t figure out what someone was trying to say and laughed that hard was when I was visiting a family in Dusseldorf. I woke up early and took a shower before breakfast. Halfway through the meal the lady pushed her Musli to the side and asked, “When you Dusch is it warm?”

 

They’d embrace the Franken within, and start barking, growling and making dad sounds like a pack of Franconians tend to do. If you don’t know what’s going on at a Public Viewing, the first impression is that everyone is pretending to be a group of seals at feeding time in the zoo.

Everything is said from the gut and the back of your throat and the Satzmelodi or rhythm with wich you speak requires so much conviction or passionately spoken words said mit leidenschaft that you have to literally lean into, stand up for, step into, rock with, or conduct an invisible orchestra to what you’re saying or gravity of your words will be lost. Making you look and sound like a weichei warmduscher.

Those who are sitting tend to compensate and establish vocal dominance with their eyebrows and facial expression, which can be hilarious.

Here are a few of my favorite sounds I’d hear day to day in und um Närmburch herum. If you only understand Hoch Deutsch well, then, welcome to my life! Schadenfreude!

  • Doch! Doch, doch, doch! …Doch!
  • adee! bleib schäi!
  • edzerdla
  • Hä!
  • Wäs!?
  • Des is mir fei worschd!
  • mir worschd!
  • had a SMS gschriim
  • bin ganz allaans dou
  • ach du, komm! s’war nua a spaß gell?
  • mei oadligs Waggerla, schee gell?
  • fei schäi! des id fei schäi!
  • hald dei Babbm
  • Friss nedd suvill!
  • A Düd’n Bledzla
  • Allmächd!
  • Abbord! Klo? Wo!? Bitte! Bitte! Bitte!
  • bassd auf ne? Mei Gumbbl is ka Debb nua duushärerd, gell!?
  • Ach, ja!
  • Achsööö!
  • Acherla
  • Aweng
  • Tchja!
  • Jein!
  • Gschmarri
  • Oh Godderla
  • Achdumeinergudde!
  • Achdumeinerscheiße!
  • Scheißerla!
  • Passt! Bassd, bassd, bassd! Ökeh! es bascht doch schön! (they say there is a “t” in that word… There isn’t)
  • Bassd scho! (Passt schoen)
  • Häällo!
  • Hällöerle!
  • Sevuserla
  • Aber zackig ne!
  • Zack Zack!
  • Bridschn
  • Öööh fei. is doch fei…
  • Quatcherla
  • Schneckerla
  • Oh wei, oh wei oh wei!
  • Mann-o!
  • Mann-eh!
  • Mann oh Mann, oh Mann, oh Mann!

der Glubb fans were my bread and butter. Every game no matter where I worked as long as they were showing the game on a screen Bier sales skyrocketed and tips flowed in nearly as fast as the Nectar of the Gods flowed out.

Which, of course, gave me an even greater appreciation of the der Glubb and its fans.

As with all things, there is an ebb and flow, up and down, high and low. When der Glubb was doing good the fans and I were doing great. When der Glubb had seen better matches it had a direct effect on the mood of the crowd, which had a direct effect on my take at the end of the shift.

Nobody likes to see der Glubb struggling. No. Body!

A bad game at a public viewing really did feel like my definition of the term. I was disappointed, hardcore fans were holding back tears and everyone would simply set their hopes on getting a tie or that next week’s match would prove much better.

1. FC Nürnberg Seit 1900
1. FCN Since 1900. It’s a “thing” in Nuremberg to print out stickers with personal artwork, political statements or support of der Glubb and stick them on any and everything all over the city.
It’s a unique form of street art. Not something I would ever do, but I like art and thought it was worth snapping a picture of this before the OCD members of society came along a “went full Monk” on the sticker.

 

1. FC Nürnberg Ultras
Wikipedia Article Ultras describes Ultras as “a type of sports fan renowned for ultra-fanatical support.”
I’ve definitely met my fair share of hardcore fans and had fun going to the games.
It takes a lot more time and money than I’m willing to spend designing and printing out stickers to plaster all over the city, but I do like taking pictures of the artwork. #streetart

1. FCN Service Center Max-Morlock-Platz in Nürnberg
Heiliges Schäufele Fledermausmann (Batman)! schnell zum 1. FCN – Mobile! aber zackig gell!?

It’s funny how people are people and all people regardless of where I have been in the world bond, celebrate and have an emotional attachment to food and drink.

Here, when someone invites you to go out for a meal, drinks, or Kaffee trinken the person who pays is the one who invites. So if you invite a group to celebrate your birthday at a restaurant you better be sure that you like them all or aren’t that attached to the concept of money.

A lot of coworkers and people who get along meet up at the same restaurant, bar or café every day for years on end. Pay separately, and call each other “mein bekannter” which is an acquaintance, a person, place or thing you are familiar with.

Some people translate it as “friend” those are loners, sellers of manure buying and consuming their own BS. Bekannt and Friend are definitely, absolutely, in no uncertain terms, not one and the same. If you really, really, really want to push it you could say it’s like calling someone your “Buddy” it’s just in more than a decade of living here I’ve never met anyone use the word as anything more than an acknowledgment of familiarity.

A lot of people just outright call that other moving mound of meat capable of vocalizations that they walked through the door with, sit, drink and break bread with on a daily basis as mein Kollege which means colleague or Mitarbeiter (coworker).

Most people do this for years on end, day in day out, time after time and still refer to one another as a classmate, colleague or acquaintance.

It’s not meant to be mean, it’s not even personal. Germans just tend to be so refreshingly honest and literal that certain parts of life here remind of something Dr. Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory, or Bones from the show Bones would do.

Besides being entertaining to watch, it is kind of nice to really know and be able to literally label the precise level of intimacy you’re at with those you chose to or must spend time with.

The words friend and love are reserved for relationships that go to a much deeper level.

After so many years of marveling at this I’ve concluded it’s somewhat of a defense mechanism and a way of not letting everyone get too close while still enjoying their company.

It is what it is and not really worth overthinking so I say it more as a side note of the fact that matter of opinion.

Still, as I said earlier people are people and people eat, drink and sustain themselves by celebrating with food and drink in the company of others.

When supporters of der Glubb are happy they celebrate with drinks, when they are Nervous they eat like maybe if they eat enough it can change the score.

Each city has a unique dish or something to munch on.

Berlin is fairly well known for currywurst. The Hamburger is from… Well, that’s probably not the best example. My point is (without proving anything) Most major cities have a distinctive dish they claim to be the best because it’s from right there. At home, you eat it anywhere else in the world and it’s just not the same. Back home is always better, even if that’s all in your head.

Nürnberg is known for its Nürnberger bratwurst which are sold as a drei im Weggla, three small bratwurst in a bun. It’s delicious, great for a day out Stadtbummeln ( window shopping) and exploring the beautiful capital city of Franconia.

The sit-down and enjoy yourself while taking your time for pleasure’s sake dish of Mittelfranken is Schäuferle.

Schäuferle means spade or it’s a cute word for small shovel named so because the cut of the meat is pork shoulder and by the time you’re done eating all that’s left on your plate is a shoulder blade that looks strikingly similar to a garden spade.

 genieß es
Schäufele mit Kloß und Sause. …Kloß, the mysterious edible German tennis ball.

 

pig scapula
The Scäufele part of the dish is the bone, which is a pork shoulder blade. Since the shoulder blade looks like a garden spade or small shovel the dish is a cute word for “small shovel.”

A lot of away fans come to Nürnberg to watch the game and I the away team loses, well der Glubb will be nice enough, or just ignore then a party like they’d won the World Cup.

If Nürnberg loses its best just to hold onto your beer and ride out the storm, eventually everyone gets kicked out and the arguments slowly fade off into the distance. Or everyone pays, and leaves, and goes home too disappointed to deal with it.

A funny quirk I noticed from working so many live sports events at bars, though, was that since FC Schalke helped 1. FCN in their overall rankings and all of the blue and white clad Schalke. Fans showed up using their regional begrüssung of “Moin Moin” ( which is dialect for Guten Morgen or good morning), shaking everyone’s hands sounding like of penguins, the 1.FCN fans would smile, greet their allies and repeat the funny sounding begrüssung.

Everyone got along throughout the match, win or lose since overall a win for either team was considered better than a loss to other football clubs.

Because of this little common ground and quirk bond people tended to stay post match and have a mono y mono over the glory, wonder possibilities, could have been, should be’s and might come to passes of (slang for soccer)

As the heart to heart progressed I’d start to hear the older Franconians tell Schalke fans that as long as they were in Franconia they should try a Schäuferle before they go.

And in Franconia, when someone tells you to have a Schäuferle you can rest assured you’re not half bad….. A sympathischer Mensch.

And maybe just maybe could meet up on a regular basis to clink glasses, share a meal and call one another close acquaintances.

 

When my wife saw me writing this she got a hankerin’ for Scäuferla so we had a good home-cooked Fränggische Sonntagsessen this past weekend.

We were at home so we just enforced the basics with the kids.

  • Chew with your mouth closed.
  • Say Bitte and Danke
  • If you make a mess clean it up yourself, right away.
  • Ask to be excused.

 

That’s just our essential household rules, but there is an entire universe of dining etiquette in Germany that, even amongst Germans is a subject of great debate.

A good rule of thumb for learning anything in Germany and learning it Korrekt und Genau So! …Is never ask anyone downtown. Altstadtvolk tends to adhere to a policy of never admit you’re wrong or that you don’t know.

If you rely on what someone that spends most of their time downtown says you won’t be lied to, but you will be misinformed based on a bunch of memories that the person confidently telling you how things are done in Germany kind of remembers from childhood.

My parents noticed this immediately when they visited and turned it into a game. Laughing hysterically every time. A lot of customer service reps would just say “this is not my responsibility” and walk off.

Never ask a question you don’t already know the answer to and you’ll be fine.

If you really want to get a straight answer and properly informed on dining etiquette your best bet is to ride your bike or take a taxi to Verein (Turn Verein – TV / Turn Sports Verein – TSV) with the word Offentlich these are a type of Country Club opened to the public, or find a Gaststatte or Pilsbar two or three train stops outside of the city. Train stops, not U-Bahn stops. You have to go a little further out than the subway system.

Once you get to a Bezirk or Stadtteil out in the suburbs just walking in, invite yourself to sit down at an already occupied table and start talking. It’s not rude, it’s not weird, it’s completely normal and one of the fastest way to get to know people and learn new things in Germany.

And the food is almost always amazing, and better than downtown since they have more time to prep and focus on the quality as opposed to most places in the tourist trap parts of town.

As a general rule, I don’t eat sit down German meals in any city. Instead, I’ll have Spanish, go to a steakhouse (if you like your steak rare order it as “English” or you’ll be getting a medium well slab of beef), or try other themed places like African, Greek, Irish, Italian, Japanese, Turkish, or one of the many other themed restaurants you can find in larger cities. Germany is very multicultural and a lot of foreigners open up restaurants selling what they know.

The best German foods downtown tend to be zu mit nehmen (to go), and I’ll hit up a Bratwurst stand, Currywurst stand, Bretzel stand… There is no shortage of Gut Trucks and Short Order food that is German, tastes fantastic, inexpensive and made in front of you.

Plus, subconsciously your bonding over a meal. Sustaining life in unison.

I’ll admit it feels a little uncomfortable at first, but you just need to get over yourself and embrace the Deutscheit. If you go out anywhere the day will come when a stranger will sit down at your table, strike up a conversation and cheat the system by sneaking their order in the next time the waiting staff comes by.

Here’re the rules according to my understanding, which I need to practice more.

For the most part, everyone in every culture will forgive the big stuff. It’s always the little things that drive people mad. Kind of like ignoring the Check Engine light but raging over a little squeaking noise in your car.

  •  Your fork goes in your left hand, the knife in your right.
    • I’m a leftie so, no issue there. If I had to do it the other you’d think you were watching a blind man eating soup with a chopstick on graviton. Not pretty.
  • Hold on to the Besteck no matter what. 
    • Someone might think you are done if you release the cutlery. I cheat the system sometimes to draw the server over, pick my Besteck back up and order my next drink. You’ve got to be charmingly funny if you do that, though, otherwise you might not see your lifeline until it’s time to pay. …Or the restaurant closes. Charming a German is an artform you are not prepared for, right now your main focus in life is mastering the secret language of your silverware.
      • Never assume your plate is safe from removal. One slip-up with your utensils and that meal is gone! In the bin and the plate is washed and ready of the nexte lieber Gast. At this point if you want to stay you’d better order a Kaffee or more Bier. Try the Tiramisu. When the plate is gone it is gone for good. Kein gespräch!
  • If you think you have to put down the cutlery be sure to leave the knife and fork on the plate like an analog clock with the “hands” open.
    • I’ve met several English people who had worked in the hospitality industry and they always brought this up. Apparently in their part of the world the server will wait until everyone at the table is finished with whatever particular portion of the meal is at and only remove the plates, or bowls and cutlery after they’re certain everyone at the table is ready to move on to next part of the meal.
      • One guy, who tends to get up, go to the bathroom. Order drinks at the bar, go outside for a smoke and generally turns his dining experience into an extravaganza said the first time he went out to eat a nice place in Germany he lost three plates to the waitress until they finally had a discussion and she taught him the German Cutlery Code.
        • Knowing is half the battle
  • Only cut what you’re going to eat as you eat it.
    • You are no longer a child, and don’t need die Mama to slice up your meat into bite-size portions anymore. Besides, that way you won’t accidentally lose you knife because you put it down.

As I said, I’m a little out of practice on keeping up with all of the rules and sub-rules of eating out, and it is debated amongst a lot of people, but if you want to know that you know that you know how to do this right, find a spot outside of the city you’re in and plop yourself down at a table full of people.

You’ll go through a little hazing at first, but by the end of the meal you’ll know how and why people do what they do the way they do it and I guarantee a good time will be had by all before the end of the meal.

 

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

JDWOODYARD

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

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