With about a week to go before we leave our house in Colorado for a year and begin our journey abroad to Basel Switzerland, we are busy packing our bags and figuring out how much we can fit on planes, trains and cars in between Colorado, Los Angeles and Zurich.
We are also thinking about how we might fit in to our new city when we arrive. Basel is in the German speaking part of Switzerland, so we have been learning some German words and practicing our accents. Listening to my accent, I realized that void of any friends with German accents, the main influence on how I sound speaking German has been Hollywood.
Do me a favor. Close your eyes and name the first 3 movie/TV actors with German accents that pop into your head. I’ll wait. Here are mine:
Hans Gruber (Die Hard): Ruthless, cold, calculating German terrorist.
Raiders of the Lost Ark Nazi: Relentless, sadistic, ruthless, uses nunchucks as coat hangers.
Frau Farbissina (Austin Powers): Dr. Evil’s German henchwoman and founder of “the militant wing of the Salvation Army.”
It is no wonder that I can’t speak German without ending every sentence with a question mark and sounding like I am planning world dominance (did your list of actors include any heroes/heroines?). I have been watching too many movies where James Bond fights conniving German masterminds and (hilarious) SNL skits where characters named “Hans and Franz” want to “Pump me up” or “Dieter” dances awkwardly after exclaiming “Now iz ze time on Sprockets vhen ve dance!” Hollywood certainly has its stereotypes of people with German accents that it likes to cast. I have to admit that I have been influenced by these and am anxious to meet other German-speaking people and (hopefully) dispel the common American notions that they are overly disciplined, lack emotion, love to make rules, wear socks with sandals and love David Hasselhoff’s music. Who knows – I may come back next year with a new-found appreciation for The Hoff.