Tuesday, March 1, 2011

PC or not PC

Every now and then I'm shocked by how un PC* life here in Germany is.

Last night I had to endure almost two hours of an 'elternabend'**. I should be used to these by now, afterall with two children in the schooling system for a total of almost eight years (between them) and one elternabend per semester = a possible 24 elternabends I should/could have attended. Yawn. After the very first one when they (the parents) talked about flavoured milk for seemingly half an hour, I gave up attending. But I've come to realise that I should show willing, if nothing else it gives me fuel for my blog.

The agenda last night was pretty innocuous; a report from the parent/teacher meeting (well, the German equivalent) a look back at the previous term's subject matter, a soziogramm, a look at forthcoming themes, the Abschlussfest***, and Karneval. Nothing politically incorrect there you'd think, all quite innocent, and so it was until we got to Karneval****.

On Friday the school will celebrate Karneval, yes, I know I've said the actual date for celebrating is Monday 7th (this year anyway - it's one of those silly church dates that moves with the moon or it it the wind?) but the school is shut that day so they need to celebrate and cancel all lessons on Friday instead. This celebrating of Karneval involves decorating the classroom with streamers and balloons (but ABSOLUTELY no confetti - Herr B made this crystal clear last night, apparently he's still finding bits of it from last year - speaks volumes for the cleaners' work ethic eh?) and probably disco balls. The wearing of costumes is de rigueur, most boys go as cowboys/cops/robbers - anything that requires a cap gun basically, girls tend to copy their friends - thus ensuring that there is two of everything and Herr B, when asked, said he was going as an Indian...the term 'native American' just doesn't seem to have made it here yet.

Then there was the inevitale discussion about food for the Karneval celebration. Clearly it couldn't be normal 'frühstück' because it wasn't a normal day and to further complicate matters it's also one child's birthday which necessitates the bringing of cake. The debate about what to do took some time (cake is a serious matter in most countries but in Germany it can be a matter of life or death) and I lost track of the number of times I heard the phrase 'nigger kuss'. I thought this term had died out to be replaced with the brand name 'Dickmans' (so much better!) but apparently not, and on Friday the children will be competing to see who can eat as many nigger kisses without using their hands as they can - before going onto to play sport (last lesson) - I don't envy the sports teacher.

Word for the day; das Frühstück = breakfast

* PC = politically correct, but you knew that didn't you?
** elternabend translates literally as parent's evening, but this is no parent's evening like in the UK, where you have an appointment with each teacher for your child and then spend five minutes having them sing (or not) the praises of your child (we do get that here, but it's called something else - elternsprachtag, I think.) In the UK you don't get an elternabend (lucky, lucky you) all the parents for the class gather together and crouch on child sized seats, at child sized tables (I'm so glad we're in year 3 now, at least the chairs are almost daddy bear sized) and get talked at by the class teacher and everyone throws in their two penn'orth - it can take a while - the Germans will never use one word when ten will do the job just as well.
*** Abschlussfest = the goodbye party for the departing year fours.
**** Karneval is one of the times of the year when the locals feel legally obliged to go a bit crazy and have fun. But more about that sometime in the next seven days, afterall Rosamontag isn't until March 7, so you'll have to wait.

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