Dixie Peach: Auf Brüderschaft

Cooler than the other side of the pillow.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Auf Brüderschaft

On yesterday's entry I made the comment that not everyone you're friendly with in Germany is someone you call a friend. You can see the person often, work with him, live next door to him, even see him on social occasions but bestowing the title of "friend" to someone isn't as common as one may be used to in another country.

This isn't to say that Germans aren't friendly or don't make friends easily. My MIL is an example of this. She can and will talk to anyone. Get in a taxi with her and within three minutes she'll have a lively conversation started with the driver. She's lived in her new apartment for a little less than three weeks and she already knows a good portion of her neighbors. It's very seldom that I can be with her in the city shopping that she doesn't run into someone she knows and it doesn't surprise me when it's someone she first met forty years ago and hasn't seen them in thirty - she still remembers them and they remember her.

But with all that she has maybe three or four people she calls friends. The rest? She would refer to them as her neighbor or a former co-worker or simply an acquaintence. Unlike in English, calling someone an acquaintence doesn't mean that you know them only in passing. While it does cover that event, an acquaintence also covers those who you know well but don't share that close bond that ties you to them for life. To be called "friend" by a German takes it to another level - a level that says this relationship is for life and that there's a loyalty there that doesn't apply to acquaintences.

Changing from acquaintence status to friend status in Germany used to be a serious matter - so serious that it demanded a ritual - the Brüderschaft trinken - literally, the brotherhood drink. The people involved would decided that their relationship was one of actual friendship and one or the other would suggest that they drink on it. A drink is poured, the two link arms and each would say "My name is____.", drink, perhaps exchange a peck and that was it - you're friends for life. Of course this was common back in the day when you didn't call anyone by their first name ever unless you were invited to by this little ritual. Now it's not so serious. Often times the Brüderschaft trinken is only done when everyone is drunk and being silly and you feel uninhibited enough to profess your loyal friendship to your buddy.

Else, how do you know that the person you hang out with is your friend and not just an acquaintence? It's a little like love - you just know it. Often times when it's a person you see often, you're very involved in each other's lives, and they're someone you'd call if you opened the trunk of your car, found a dead body in it and didn't know how it got there. If they'd bring over a shovel and didn't ask questions, they're someone you'd call "friend".

And after all that you're definitely going to need the Brüderschaft trinken. A lot of them.


Blogger Marshamlow said...

Thanks so much for sharing the German culture with us. I find it facinating.

12:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My reaction exactly. That's so cool...

4:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Miss Dixie you really are a peach :D

That is so facinating how formal this culture really is. I'm reminded every day of course but I never knew it was THIS formal.

I'm really quite general and loose with the term friendship. I mean there are levels of friendship just not so set.

Like, work friend, friend friend, best friend, family friend and so on.

Ok enough blah blah from me- back to packing!

9:08 AM  

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