Comic expectations

Columns | Vienna Review | February 2010

Anyone who has grown up with English war comics knows that all Germans speak in a harsh, barking accent, have a good grasp of English, but tend to pepper their speech with phrases like ‘Hände hoch!’, ‘In Ordnung!’ and of course ‘Englischer Schweinehund’. Ze also tend to pronounce zeir ‘th’s like zis, vitch makes zem sound most evil, ja? You also learn that Germans spend most of their time slapping English people across the face with leather gloves and making sinister threats.

And then, I come to Austria and what happens? Not one person calls me an ‘insolent Schweinehund’, no one has made any sinister threats and NOT once have I been told that if I ‘disobey ze rules, ze consequences vill be….unzinkable.’

Fair enough, I’ve been called a snot spoon, but that really doesn’t meet my standards in evil threats. And I haven’t met one German speaker whose accent is anywhere close to the one you read in the comics. I can tell you, it’s been a serious disappointment.

So, it seems that the comics have lied to me again. But not to worry, I still put my trust in films, which is why I’m off to Russia in summer, where I’m sure people wear furry hats all the time, address each other as ‘Tovarich’ and meet secretly on cold streets with code words like "Spring comes early in Berlin." I can’t wait.

- John Hodgson

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