A Short List on How to Integrate into Bavarian Culture (For Beginners)

Germans are asking themselves 'what is a German'? The Bavarians are not having an identity crisis. Photo: Wikipedia

Germans are asking themselves ‘what is a German’? The Bavarians are not having an identity crisis. Photo: Wikipedia

With all that’s been happening with the demonstrations for or against immigrants in Germany, I thought now might be a good time to look at a list of ten things I’ve done (or plan to do, if I can ever get a signature from my wife on a few of them) to integrate, and ingratiate, myself into Bavarian culture. The list is long and I’ll add to it and update it often. Since we’re talking about Bavaria, I’ll limit my list to things that men should do.

Food and Drink

  1. Drink beer like a Bavarian. This means drinking beer before 10am, but only if it’s a wheat beer. Drinking Lager or (God forbid) Pils is the sure sign that you have not understood the beer drinking culture in Bavaria. Not drinking beer in Bavaria is similar to not drinking vodka in Russia. Unless, of course, you have a medical issue of some sort which might preclude you from imbibing. If you cannot drink beer, you can make up for it with an overindulgence of number two on this list.
  2. Eat pork often. My dad used to say to me ‘…those Germans (he meant Bavarians-they are what most of the world thinks of when they think of Germans) sure can cook a pig.” Truer words have never been spoken. The ubiquitous “Schweinsbraten (Germans would call it Schweinebraten)” is on every menu in every Wirtshaus (tavern, inn) worth its salt. Do NOT do what I saw a lovely Japanese couple do, take off the crisped fat (pork rind) and put it off to the side of the plate never to be touched again. It must be eaten with the tender, succulent meat. Leberkäse (Bavarian meatloaf) or Leberkäsesemmel (the meat between the sides of a Kaiser Roll) must be eaten once a week, normally on Fridays. Surprisingly, the Bavarians in Munich don’t really have a pork sausage to call their own, but they make up for it with number three.

    Do not attempt to eat these sausages with metal utensils if you entertain any hopes of becoming a Bavarian!

    Do not attempt to eat these sausages with metal utensils if you entertain any hopes of becoming a Bavarian!

  3. Learn how to eat ‘Weisswurst’ with your hands. These plump jewels are made from veal and a few other herbs and spices and are very mild in flavor. Do it right and eat it with Händlmaier’s sweet mustard which comes from Regensburg. They come to the table in a porcelain bowl of steaming water. Never boil them! Real Bavarian men suck the meat out of one end. The skin is inedible, which makes for great comedy if you have the opportunity to watch naive Americans (read the guidebook before you get here!) try and chew the skin. These sausages are normally eaten before the 12 o’clock bells, with a Breze (pretzel) and a wheat beer. That’s it. What else do you need?

Clothes and Costume

  1. Buy some Lederhosen, and wear them whenever you can. The more worn they are the better they’ll feel  and look. Don’t wear underwear. You need nice calves for the correct effect, but don’t let this stop you. Most people think that the only time people here wear Lederhosen (and for women, Dirndl) is during Oktoberfest. Wrong. There’s the Starkbierfest (Strong Beer Festival) in late winter/early spring, assorted holidays like Ascension Day (which coincidentally is Father’s Day in the Vaterland), May 1st, when the Maypoles are raised, any Volksfest or Dorffest (Citizen’s or Town’s Day) usually during the summer months, weddings, funerals, etc…

    I understand COMPLETELY why she appears bored, but as for him? WTF? Photo: Wikipedia

    I understand COMPLETELY why she appears bored, but as for him? WTH? Photo: Wikipedia

  2. This one really hurts because I grew up in Florida, but wear socks with your sandals. Yes, Birkenstocks and socks are the trend, and it’s been that way since the time of Friedrich the Great. Just do it so you don’t look like a tourist from America or even worse, Australia. You can wear this combo the three weeks it’s actually hot in August, just don’t wear them when you should be wearing…
  3. …proper hiking shoes. Take a lot of time in the store, try the shoes on and walk around all afternoon. You’d be surprised how bad a heavy boot can feel after an hour. Spend the money. You want a boot that feels comfortable enough to be buried in, and after your first real hiking tour with a Bavarian that’s exactly what you’ll be wishing for.

Around Town

  1. Buy a bike, and then buy another. The first bike you should buy is known as a Stadtradl (city bike). This is going to be the fastest, most reliable mode of transportation around most German cities. Looks are secondary. Get a bike with a basket on the back. Not for carrying anything, mind you, but every bike in the city has one and you want to look the part. Spend more money for the lock than the bike. The second bike should be your Ferrari. Buy an even more expensive lock, though you’ll rarely leave her (yes, her) out of your sight. If you think you’ll be riding the trails, get a mountain bike — and take a Bavarian with you; they are experts. If you think you’ll be riding the paved paths and roads around Bavaria, I’d suggest a ‘cross-bike’. It’s fast enough for the roads and you can still ride offroad. Choosing the correct bikes might be the most important thing you ever do in Bavaria/Germany.

    Munich is continuing to make the inner city more bike friendly, much to the chagrin of Mr. Mercedes and Ms. BMW!

    Munich is continuing to make the inner city more bike friendly, much to the chagrin of Mr. Mercedes and Ms. BMW!

  2. Get a comfortable, stylish backpack with an endless number of pockets. There are so many free newspapers, culture programs, empty beer bottles and Red Bull cans (they’re worth money) that you’ll need something to carry them all. And take along a few plastic bags so the last bit of swill from the said bottles and cans doesn’t leak in your backpack. Get a backpack that clips firmly to your torso.
  3. Take a few minutes to plan your route before you set off. Remember, in Munich sometimes the longer way is the better way. Take an extra ten minutes and walk through the known FKK areas (nudist areas) during those hot three weeks in August. Show off your sandals and socks, and of course your hot rod. Bike. I was thinking bike.
  4. Get a dog and TAKE IT FRIGGIN EVERYWHERE! Nothing says Bavarian or Munich like a dog or two. Bavarians don’t have children they have dogs. It must be a pure breed, no mutts allowed. It’s OK for the people to be mixed, but not the animals…

    Girls in Munich dig dogs and Lederhosen, therefore they must really dig dogs IN Lederhosen.

    Girls in Munich dig dogs and Lederhosen, therefore they must really dig dogs IN Lederhosen.

Man CAN Live on Bread Alone. In Bavaria.

Bavarian AlpsThere are many things about Bavarian culture that I have embraced. A close connection to the land, hearty food in winter, and an affinity to art and history are but a few. Another thing that fits nicely into my world view is the absolute worshiping of the sun in Bavaria. I was born in San Diego, after all, and did most of my growing up in Florida. Yes, the sun is alright by me.

Now, compared to those two places my general impression of Germany’s weather is it’s gray. It does have countless shades of gray, however. So when the sun makes her infrequent appearance (for some odd reason the sun is feminine in the German language) in Munich, the older Bavarians sit bundled on every available park bench, heads tilted towards the light with slight smiles on their faces. Conversation is limited. They remind me of  jay-hawks sitting on the telephone lines along I-35, on the seemingly endless open prairies of Kansas.

Bavaria is the traditional mixed with the technically advanced; I have no qualms with either. Though ‘laptops and lederhosen’ was first mentioned years earlier, this idea of old and new became the campaign slogan of the former president of Bavaria, Dr. Edmund Stoiber, when he was running for the chancellor of Germany many years ago. “Laptops and Lederhosen”. Yes, that sums up Bavaria succinctly, and makes a great name for a blog.

With the exception of France, Bavaria may quite possibly have some of the most beautiful, diverse landscape in Europe, and therefore the world. From rolling grasslands dotted with many lakes left from the last great Ice Age, these give way to hills and primordial forests that are topped with rocky crags of the Alps. Bavaria has it all.

Bavarians love flowers, nature, and anything outdoors.

Bavarians love flowers, nature, and anything outdoors. It is a bit untidy, no?

Bavarians keep their farms postcard picture pretty. Only the Swiss can call the Bavarians untidy, and they never fail to do so when the opportunity arises.

The infrastructure in Bavaria is excellent, with regular trains supplemented by buses that reach the most difficult corners of this state.

The water in Munich is rated the best city water in Europe (a distinction it shares with Vienna).

These things and more I miss whenever I go away from here for any period of time. But they pale in comparison when it comes to the thing that I yearn for the most upon my return home to Munich-freshly baked Bavarian bread. That’s right, freshly baked whole grain hurts your teeth to chew-brown bread. Bread that you better hold on tightly to as you saw through it with your knife, and watch your fingers!

Bread abounds!

Bread abounds! Most bakeries have between 20 and 30 varieties.

I faintly remember some kind of bread on the table when growing up, a kind of white sponge cake. Couldn’t spread butter on it without it coming apart in shreds  This was not my mom’s fault, in America there are few selections of bread at the local suburban grocery store. There’s just not enough demand for it, though things are slowly changing. You can find good breads in America, but they are usually in the bigger cities of the Northeast or Midwest. In Orlando, it’s easier to get great tortillas or flan than fresh baked crusty bread.

Pork fat, butter, ham, cheese, jam, honey, sunflower oil, gravy, or any other semi-liquidity spread is more than sufficient to ingest this Bavarian bread, anything basically, to keep the crumbs from falling. In fact, I’ve even seen some people eat it plain.

Bavarian bread with pork fat!

Bavarian bread with pork fat!

The best time of the year for me to enjoy this bread is  in October and November, on Sunday mornings. The local bakery is open at 6:30, and since not nearly as many people are out and about on Sundays, I like to take the long way around the neighborhood while the streets are still quiet. If there’s a slight drizzle, even better. The dream scenario is when there is just enough dampness in the air to feel it on your clothes but not your skin, and only empty, dark, quiet streets with few rumblings except the ones in your stomach.

On a final note, and this is very important, the Bavarians also think of beer as bread, only in liquid form. Fresh bread, pork fat, raw onion or radishes and cold beer. Yes, I like Bavaria. Yes, indeed.