Author, journalist, translator

Today's chip paper / Schnee von gestern - heute

Read old news here! / Hier geht's zum kalten Kaffee...

Frankfurt in Financial News

(09 November 2015) If you work in the City - or know someone who has a subscription to Financial News - then do take a look at this week's edition, which carries a piece by yours truly on the role of Frankfurt in the history of banking and finance in Germany and Europe.

Frankfurt book now in stores (i.e. on Amazon)

(10 September 2015) Just 10 weeks after the slated release date, my cultural and historical guide to Frankfurt is now out and available in stores near you (i.e. on the Internet, courtesy of a certain Monopolist, I'm guessing...).

So what to expect? Signal Books has produced cultural travel guides about the history and culture of many major world cities over the years, and my work draws on the successful Innercities model, with twelve essay-like chapters on topics such as the historical development of Frankfurt, its importance as a financial and banking centre, and its role in the development of the written word and the academic discipline of critical theory.

If you're looking to a guide to Frankfurt - one of Europe's most important and yet most underrated cities - that is about more than just expensive restaurants and plush hotels, this is the one for you. Holy Roman Emperors, Bismarck, Theodor Adorno... the Frankfurt Innercities Cultural Guide has got it all!

Landesverrat: die Streitfrage in der TAZ am Wochenende

(10 August 2015) Für die Rubrik "Streitfrage" in der TAZ am Wochenende wurde ich gebeten, ein paar Sätze zum Thema Landesverrat zu schreiben. Das habe ich auch gemacht - und einer davon ist hier erschienen. Allerdings unter einem bislang auch mir unbekannten literarischen Pseudonym.

Brits just grin and bear bad dentistry

(29 July 2015) As anyone who works (or just chats) with me on a regular basis will know, I do love a good Simpsons reference. So it was an obvious choice for me to begin writing about just how much better dental care is in Germany than in Britain by referring to the nightmarish "Big Book of British Smiles" shown to coerce a frightened Ralph Wiggum into telling the truth about his laziness when it comes to brushing his teeth...

Frankfurt book gone to print

(06 July 2015) To all of you out there who've pre-ordered my book about Frankfurt and are wondering when "25 June" is, it was two weeks back and I'm sorry that we didn't get it out on time.

However, the good news is that the book has gone to print and should be with people in the course of this month.

Food in Germany: a cult-like devotion to aphrodisiac asparagus

(03 June 2015) If there's one suggestively shaped thing all Germans love to eat, it's a... sausage? Wrong! Vegetarians wouldn't touch them, after all.

No, the giggle-inducing foodstuff that really unites the country is asparagus, consumed in a two-month marathon during its short growing season in a ritualised meal that - for reasons I explain for the Telegraph here - bears more than a passing resemblance to the Great British Roast Dinner, albeit with a Dionysian twist...

The Tuareg or Kel Tamasheq, and a history of the Sahara

(26 May 2015) From Tuesday 2nd through to Saturday 20th June, the Royal Geographic Society will be showing an exhibition on the Saharan nomadic Kel Tamasheq - or Tuareg people.

It has been my honour, privilege, and occasional curse to translate texts and subtitle videos to accompany the fascinating photographs that will make up the centrepiece.

I hasten to add that I was not translating out of the Tuareg languages (Tamasheq), but out of French, as much of the territories inhabited by the Tuareg are in Francophone Africa.

British people in Europe and the 2015 General Election

(29 April 2015) Over recent weeks, I'd been wondering whether I was the only Brit in Europe losing sleep over the outcome of next week's General Election  and decided to do this round-up on the topic for the Telegraph.

One thing seems to be clear: expats both temporary and permanent want continued engagement with UK politics, but can't be bribed with the prospect of it. And - obviously enough - no-one wants a Brexit.

Bizarre German birthday traditions explained

(01 April 2015) Since 1st April is typically a day for pranks, I thought I'd proffer a text including a reference to one: bachelors turning 30 in Germany are by tradition required to sweep the steps of their local town hall wearing women's clothing.

I recently had my 30th birthday in Hamburg - but managed to avoid both the town hall and women's clothing. Read more about my lucky escape, and German birthday traditions generally, here.

New book on Frankfurt out in June

(25 March 2015) Following the publication of my anthology of writing about Germany, in May 2013, Signal Books decided to keep me busy and sent me to Frankfurt to write a cultural and historical guide to this important-yet-under-rated city.

The result of several research trips, some enjoyable visits to friends, and a few failed attempts to grow accustomed to the local tipple (a particularly astringent cider) later, and I've handed in the manuscript.

So if you regularly frequent Frankfurt or otherwise have an interest in getting beyond standard guidebook fare, look out for the Signal Books Innercities biography of Frankfurt this June.

Debatte: Brauchen wir Paywalls? Social Media Week Hamburg

(24 February 2015) Am kommenden Donnerstag (26.02) im MakerHub, Große Bergstraße 160, moderiere ich eine Debatte zwischen zwei Journalisten zur folgenden These: Wir brauchen digitale Wälle, um Onlinejournalismus zu finanzieren.

Für diese Position spricht Lisa-Marie Eckardt (u. a. STERN); gegen sie tritt Mark Heywinkel (Vocer, Urban Journalism Salon) an. Da die Debatte in der Tradition des britischen Parlamentarismus abgehalten wird - also mit Pro und dann Contra, Erwiderungen, Einsprüchen, und Zusammenfassung - moderiert sie euer Lieblings-Brite-vom-Dienst.

Hier mehr Infos sowie Anmeldung. Hashtag wird sein: #SMWPAYWALL

The country where renting is a dream

(18 February 2015) Two things of interest to me happened on the Telegraph website today: first, there was a gallery of Famous British Brians (in which I was, inexplicably, not mentioned).

Secondly, and more promisingly, an article by me went live about renting in Germany and how much more secure tenancies are here as against in the UK. Read about the absurdly generous German agreements I've come across here.

Germany, land of the cheerful chimney sweep

(23 December 2014) It's that time of year again: Germans are stockpiling fireworks with enough explosive power to launch several missions to Mars and are generally preparing for a few weeks of exceptionally dangerous festivities: molten metal, dry wood, flaming rum (and that's just inside the home).

Good job that the country still has a strong force of professional chimney sweeps who keep an up-to-date list of all gas-burning stoves - and keep up the style and swagger of generations gone by. Unsurprisingly, these cheerful chappies are considered good luck for the new year.

Netzfilter: Kein Anschluss unter dieser URL

(19 December 2014) Was haben Deutschlands bekannteste Hacker, Großbritanniens berühmtester politischer Blogger, und der Pfadfinderinnen-Verband der britischen Grafschaft Essex gemeinsam?

Hört sich zwar wie der Anfang eines schlechten Witzes an: Die Antwort ist aber alles andere als lustig: Alle drei waren in Großbritannien von Netzfiltern betroffen. Weiteres von mir aus der wahnsinnigen Welt der "Pornowall" auf ZDF Heute.de.

No green bottle is ever left hanging on the wall in Germany

(07 November 2014) For approaching 15 years now, Germany has had a bottle deposit system. The aim is to motivate thrifty Teutons to return their bottles for recycling rather than just to chuck them, and it certainly achieves that.

There are, however, unintended consequences to turning bottles into what is essentially a low denomination form of tender. Read my sally into the mechanics of "professional bottle deposit collecting" in German cities for the Telegraph here.

Why Bavaria is Germany's Scotland

(26 Septenber 2014) Greetings from a country with lots of castles, mountains, lochs, a strong independence movement and a love for national costume worn by men without underpants. Yes, that's right, it's... Bavaria.

Yes folks, Bavaria is Germany's Scotland: just replace lochs with lakes, kilts with lederhosen, and whisky with beer. Also, subtract a referendum and replace financially vulnerable with economically invincible...

The Need for Speed in Germany

(22 August 2014) Kraftwerk, that epitome of German techno, were sparing with words. One of their only refrains of any note, however, was "Wir fahr'n, fahr'n, fahr'n, auf der Autobahn". Reason enough to examine the role of these "auto tracks" on the national psychology of the world's greatest car-producing nation for the Telegraph Expat pages.

Let's Own the News: Crowd-Kampagne will Murdoch "Times" abkaufen

(19 August 2014)  Eine brillant-benebelte Schnappsidee, wie sie allabendlich in Londoner Kneipen ausgeheckt werden - und die das Zeug hat, das Korkenknallen unter britischen Medienbaronen zum Erliegen zu bringen... 100 Million Pfund zusammenbekommen und Murdoch das Filetstück seines Medienimperiums abkaufen.

Tja, warum eigentlich nicht? Bei heute.de vom ZDF stelle ich die Macher hinter der Kampagne vor.

Remembrance of the First World War in Germany

(04 August 2014) I've just returned from a nice long holiday back in Blighty featuring London, Bath, Bristol, and Cornwall. Since I travel by train, my journey there and back took me through Liège, where European leaders have gathered today to mark the start of the First World War - Liège being the first Belgian City to have been attacked by the advancing German armies.

I feel exceptionally lucky to be a British person living in Germany able to pass through Belgium without seeing so much as a handgun, let alone columns of artillery. As such, I was very pleased to have the opportunity to writing about how Germany is commemorating the start of the Great War here.

Slow Travel Hamburg

(18 July 2014) Are you ready to experience Hamburg the Slow Travel way? Here's your introduction with an itinerary for your first 24 hours in town - in proud association with the hugely successful Slow Travel Berlin network (now also featuring Slow Travel Stockholm).

Amnesty Internetional stellt britische Überwachung in Frage

(14 July 2014) Bislang liegt der Fokus der öffentlichen Aufregung über Ausspähen unter Verbündeten auf die Aktivitäten der Amerikaner. Dabei ist das Vorgehen der britischen Geheimdienste nicht minder skandalös.

Die Datensammelwut des britischen GCHQ wird aber diese Woche in London vor dem Investigatory Powers Tribunal - einem Sondergericht für Schlapphüte - von international agierenden Kläger aus der Zivilgesellschaft in Frage gestellt. Dazu habe ich für den ZDF ein Gespräch mit Amnesty International geführt.

Need a holiday? Move to Germany!

(01 July 2014) "Summer time, and ze living is easy!" There's nothing like a look at a German calendar stuffed full of public holidays to make your average British office worker (and all freelancers, like, anywhere...) jealous. Ascension Day, Whitsun, Corpus Christi, Assumption Day, Presumption Day: every obscure Catholic holy day is transubstantiated into a German holiday. Want to go green with envy? Read more here.

Marcel l'Herbier: Veille d'Armes, La Route impériale

(17 June 2014) Ladies and gentlemen, we have the very great pleasure of inviting you to join us for daring maritime missions and amourous adventures in the desert. Mysterious military men, femmes fatales, masked terrorists: all this and more is to be found in these two forgotten films of the 1930s by French director Marcel L'Herbier, Veille d'Armes and La Route impériale (subtitled into English by yours truly).

Mesdames et messieurs, vous êtes invités à nous rejoindre pour de dangereuses missions maritimes et d'aventures amoureuses dans le désert :  militaires mystérieux, femmes fatales, terroristes masquées - il y a de tout dans ces deux oeuvres oubliés de Marcel L'Herbier, datant des années 30s. Et si vous voulez bien pratiquer votre anglais, c'est moi qui a fait les sous-titres...

I'm no fare dodger, but I am forgetful

(02 June 2014) It's a constant source of amazment to people visiting me here from more mistrustful countries: Germany doesn't have ticket barriers on any forms of transport. The two most frequent questions are: 1) why does anyone actually bother buying one? Then, after seeing lots of people voluntarily purchasing tickets: 2) What happens if you don't? Read more in my column for Telegraph.co.uk about the difference between "travelling black", as fare doding is called, and "travelling grey..."

The Populist Networks: Panel discussion about euroskeptic online activity

(28 May 2014) If you were one of those people who assumed that social networks were populated exclusively by the young and cosmopolitan, think again! Reactionary political groups are hugely active on the social internet, and to coincide with the European elections last week, the Bertelsmann Stiftung released a very interesting pan-continental study about just how networks of eurosceptic and right-wing nationalist groups coalesce and interact online.

This innovative and detailed study is available here. If it sparks your interest and you're in Berlin on the evening of Monday 2 June, then register for a panel discussion with yours truly, Benoît Thieulin (La Netscouade), Mayte Peters (Publixphere e. V.) and Benjamin Zeeb (Project for Democratic Union) about how populist politicians work online.

Lost in Deutschland 4ever!

(26 May 2014) Gefühlt weit weg ist es her: Als ich neu in Deutschland war und versuchte, meine Eindrücke und Entdeckungen mittels wöchentlicher Videos und gelegentlicher Artikel unter dem Titel "Lost in Deutschland" einzuordnen.

2010 gipfelte dieses Projekt in Form eines Buchs mit dem PONS-Verlag. Da war ich schon fast drei Jahre im Lande und folglich bot es sich an, dieses Druckerzeugnis als krönenden Abschluss anzusehen und Neues zu wagen. Denn wirklich orientierungslos war ich nicht mehr.

Hin und wieder bin aber wieder so "lost" wie am Anfang. Als ich zum Beispiel vor einiger Zeit vom Bezirksamt einen "Freizügigkeitsschein" bekam und dachte zunächst, dies könnte etwas mit FKK zu tun haben. Da freut es mich natürlich zu sehen, dass "Lost in Deutschland: Ein Brite über Currywurst und Pünktlichkeit" - lange Zeit nach Abverkauf der ersten und einzigen Auflage nur aus zweiter Hand erhältlich - nun als Kindle-eBook zum Verkauf steht.

LiD stirbt nie.

ZDF Hyperland: Social Media als gefährliche Trumpfkarte der Euro-Gegner

(10 May 2014) Wer dachte, die Anhänger von euroskeptischen Parteien vorwiegend älter und ländlicher und deswegen weniger Internet-affin wäre, täuscht sich.

Vielleicht war das mal, aber heute bedienen sich antieuropäische Parteien wie die britische UKIP des Internets, um ihre Stammklientel bei der Stange zu halten - und um am Rand des rechten Sumpfs nach Wählern zu angeln.

Ein Ausflug von Hyperland aus ins ungemütliche Online-Territorium der UK Independence Party.

German Easter: chaos, acrid fumes and buns fried in butter

(18 April 2014) Let me just make it clear that I'm not an Easter humbug: it's just that, as an atheist, about the only worthwhile bits of it are currant buns and chocolate eggs. Luckily, Germany at Eastertime (whenever it may fall) is a promised land for both!

Germans love minced meat just a little too much...

(25 March 2014) I once heard a story about a German man buying 50 kilos of minced meat and fashioning a sex doll out of it. While it may well be apocryphal, it strikes me as telling that this sort of urban myth gets coined and spread at all. All the more reason to examine the German love of all animal flesh chopped...

Why do the Germans bottle out of drinking tap water?

(26 February 2014) Commentators on Germany from Tacitus onwards have invariably commented on Germany's rainy skies - second only to Britain and Belgium in the global list of "countries where visitors always talk about how crap the weather is". So it might come as something of a surprise to know that the water-rich Germans harbour an almost pathological fear of tap water.

ZDF Hyperland: Zoopla schafft totale Wohntransparenz

(20 February 2014) “An Englishman’s home is his castle.” Hat der Brite doch schon immer seinen Wohlstand in Form eines Eigenheims zur Schau gestellt. Wie praktisch, dass heute jeder über das Internet herausfinden kann, was die eigene Immobilie Wert ist (oder die des Nachbarn). Ein Besuch auf Zoopla schafft totale Transparenz. Mehr lesen auf ZDF Hyperland.

ZDF Hyperland: Das Fräulein vom Amt spendet für Sie

(30 January 2014) Der britische Mobilfunkanbieter The People's Operator bietet Telefonieren und Internet-Flat mit gutem Gewissen an, denn 10% der monatlichen Rechnungen dürfen Kunden an eine Organisation ihrer Wahl spenden: Jetzt will Wikipedia-Gründer Jimmy Wales den spendablen "Volkstelefonisten" in andere Länder bringen. Allerdings lässt sich das wohltätige "Fräulein vom Amt" in Großbritannien auf brisante parteipolitische Partnerschaften ein. Mehr von mir darüber im Hyperland von ZDF.

Why the green man is king in Germany

(28 January 2014) I'm certainly not the first to remark on the German respect for traffic lights and correct road crossing, and probably not even the first to link this to the semi-philosophical jingoism of Jerome K. Jerome in so doing, but - hey ho - that's life. It's an interesting comparison because it's so tempting, but when Germans are waiting for the green man, it's not cowering obedience that's keeping there, but a simple respect for cherished societal rules. Read more on the Telegraph website.

Au revoir, Paris-Madrid

(16 December 2013) I was saddened to learn that the Paris-Madrid and Paris-Barcelona Talgo-Trenhotel night trains would be disappearing on Saturday 14th December and took this opportunity to take an overall look at the generally parlous state of international sleeper services in Europe for the Telegraph Travel pages. Read more about which services have disappeared - and which ones look most likely to hold out against the triple-whammy of high costs, competition from the air, and a non-functional European rail "market".

Ici mon article sur la disparition des trains de nuit Talgo-Trenhotel entre Paris-Austerlitz et Madrid/Barcelone (en anglais).

Aquí mi artículo sobre la desaparición de los trenes de noche Taglo-Trenhotel entre Madrid-Charmartin/Barcelona-França y París (en inglés).

Granny Gerda and her mobster scrilla

(06 December 2013) There's a lot of talk in Germany at the moment about the lack of investment; even if the Grand Coalition agreement with its promises of infrastructure modernisation is accepted and implemented, it will be drop in the ocean (or "on a hot stone", as the German phrase goes). Which doesn't surprise me: there won't be any investment in Germany until the Government has the cash (and I mean that word quite literally) reserves to make it. Read my piece about the German love of cash and fear of credit for more on that.

The German Election - the beer was not decisive

(08 November 2013) So we're approaching the two month mark after the German federal elections and the country still doesn't have a government. This feels pretty weird for a British guy with phrases like "the markets will go haywire if there's a hung parliament" ricocheting around in his mind, but it's standard procedure for the Germans. Read about the advantages of long, drawn-out coalition talks here.

Talk at Merton College, Oxford

(28 October 2013) On 18th October, I had the immeasurable privilege of returning to Merton College almost exactly 10 years after I went up as a student to give a talk as part of librarian Julia Walworth's admirable History of the Book initiative. My research on writing about Germany had turned up several incidences of publishing firsts, and I was delighted to be able to share these with scholars interested in written communication.

Julia keeps as many sessions as possible open to all, so if you are in Oxford and have an interest in anything and/or everything from old Shakespearean manuscripts through to digital word processing programmes such as TeX, do try and catch a History of the Book event.

Oktoberfest 2013

(01 October 2013) This was my fifth year at the Oktoberfest, and I thought it was time for an all-out confession of my love for lederhosen. I never would have guessed that I'd ever wear them for anything more than a dare or for work purposes: yes, being a freelance video journalist in Germany can lead has led to conceivable situations in which it is a professional necessity to wear lederhosen.

So get your Stanley Kubrick anoraks on and come join me for: The Oktoberfest - Or how I learned to stop worrying and love lederhosen.

Und wenn ihr keine Einführung auf Englisch in die wunderbare Welt der Wiesn, der Dirndl und der Lederhosen braucht, könnt ihr bei den Freunden styleranking.de zum Wiesn-Quiz 2013 vorbeischauen und sehen, ob ihr wirklich alles über das Oktoberfest wisst.

Eine Frage habe ich zwar dieses Jahr ausnahmsweise nicht gestellt, aber hier kriegt ihr die auch beantwortet.

The German Election 2013 - the beer will decide

(12 September 2013) When the SPD came up with their long-awaited new election slogan this Spring, I was momentarily disappointed: Das Wir entscheidet. In a way, it's clever, saying both that "we (as a collective) make decisions" and that "together, we hold the power to decide"; it made a nice change from the me-me-me tax-cutting rhetoric of the liberals or the "I'm voting for Merkel" propaganda produced by the parties in government.

Then I took another look at it and realised that it doesn't really mean anything; at the head of a manifesto filled with redistributive and socially-progressive policies, it might have done, but as essentially the only accompanying words for a political campaign, it's little more than a statement of fact: of course the collective decides everything - we are a democracy after all.

This slogan is half-baked at best, especially given that almost everyone who hears it unanimously mishears it as Das Bier entscheidet - the beer decides. All in all, the German electoral campaign is dull and unimaginative: which is a shame, because the stakes couldn't be higher. My rant on the matter is available here.

ZDF Hyperland - Das britische Internet soll sauber sein

(26 August 2013) Ich habe mal wieder was für die Kollegen in Hyperland geschrieben: Und zwar geht es um die Initiative des britischen Premierministers David Cameron, Internet-Verbindungen in ganz Großbritannien mit voreingestellten Pornographie-Filtern auszustatten. Hört sich kontrovers und umstritten an? Ist es auch.

Where the old timers play bowls in the birthday suits

(09 August 2013) Heading off on holiday? Well, don't forget your swimming costume. And if you do, just try and get to Germany and find an "FKK" - or naturists' - beach. There are plenty of them and, as I found out, all are welcome regardless of shape and size.

ZDF Hyperland - Britischer Humor bei Twitter

(01 August 2013) Wer dachte, ich würde nichts mehr auf Deutsch veröffentlichen, dem sei hier auf ZDF Hyperland hingewiesen! Ich spiele zwar immer noch den Briten vom Dienst, sozusagen. Was euch bei diesem hervorragend witzigen Thema allerdings überhaupt nichts ausmachen soll: Britischer Humor bei Twitter. Die Recherche? Ein einziges Lachfest! Majestätsbeleidigungen in verschiedenster Form sowie Persiflage und schlichtweg Sinnloses: Have fun!

School's out for the summer - or is it?

(16 July 2013) Reading about Michael Gove's plans to reform school holidays in the UK got me thinking about how the Germans do things - namely, the same way as they do a lot of things: on a complicated, regional system that is so fiendishly complex that just about everyone manages to get what they want out of it. Here's my two pfennigs on it for the expat section of the Telegraph.

Why the Germans never go Dutch

(24 June 2013) There's a great buzzfeed or Tumblr or similar going around at the moment called "British People Problems", and one of my British people problems is extreme embarrassment when it comes to paying in restaurants in Germany. Not only are tips accorded with a form of that preserve of the Burk in the Merc, "keep the change", but even good friends are unlikely to split a bill by the number of people at the table: cue toe-curling reconstructions of who had what and how much it costs...

Then again, as I realised while thinking more deeply about the reasons behind this seeming pedantry for the Telegraph's expat section, it has more upsides than down.

La Dame de pique - cinéma français

(30 May 2013) Voici un incontournable pour les adeptes du cinéma français classique (ou pour ceux qui - pour des raisons esthétiques - veulent le devenir). La Dame de pique de Léonard Keigel, filmé en 1965, basant sur une nouvelle de Pouchkine adapté par Julien Green, et inexplicablement négligé dornévant malgré ces grands noms - et sa qualité indubitable. Dès maintement à commander par la boutique des Documents Cinématographiques, société Parisienne qui l'a restauré. Et qui m'en ont confié le sous-titrage anglais.

Here's a must-have for all you classic French film buffs (or those of you who like the idea of being one and would like to start somewhere) - La Dame de pique, directed by Léonard Keigel in 1965 and based on an adaptation by Julien Green of Pushkin's short story The Queen of Spades. Despite the big names involved and its doubtless qualities, it had been rather inexplicably neglected: until now, restored by Paris' Les Document Cinématographiques, who are selling it online (and who got me to do the English subtitles).

London book launch

(02 April 2013) After two years of hard, enjoyable work, Germany: Beyond the Enchanted Forest - A Literary Anthology is finally on its way to a bookstore or online monopolist near you.

That's more than enough reason to celebrate with a glass of sekt or two, so a book launch event has been arranged on 25th April 23rd May at a lovely little location in W11.

If you would be interested in coming along and have something half-approaching a good reason to do so (you're a journalist interested in *maybe* reviewing the book; your dad's first cousin once removed was German - or, wait, was he Dutch? etc.), please use the contact function on this website to get in touch and have yourself put on the guest list. ("Mum, I've told you, I don't want you coming along and embarrassing me... No, not even if you use the contact form... Oh, alright...")

Germany is linguistically stuck in the 1880s / Sprachlicher Chauvinismus in Deutschland

(04 March 2013) The last few months in Germany have seen a range of debates about the use of language in the public sphere. In late 2012, the minister for families and women Kristina Schröder set the ball rolling in an interview with Die Zeit by mentioning two areas in which she would like to see a more politically correct attitude to language.

Firstly, she complained that many classic children's books still contained outdated racist vocabulary which she would feel uncomfortable reading out loud to her own toddler. Secondly, she pointed out that, although German has grammatical gender, this should not be seen as an excuse for neglecting to speak and write in a manner inclusive of women: why, she asked rhetorically, couldn't people say "das Gott" rather than "der Gott"? After all, went her reasoning, "der" is masculine while "das" is neuter, and assuming God is male is something that even most theologians no longer do.

Schröder had, until that point, been accused by most commentators in Germany of being too conservative, too willing to pander to the hard-right of her CDU electorate. Suddenly, most were of the opinion that she was being too radical.

I found the debate very interesting - and most of the anti-progressive reactions slightly depressing. Die Zeit disappointed by accusing a publishing company which decided to re-issue a popular children's book without the word Neger in it of Orwellian censorship; others showed a complete lack of understanding by claiming that there is absolutely no link between grammatical and biological gender in German, and that grammatical gender cannot be changed (both arguments are absolute nonsense from a linguistic point of view).

Which is why I was delighted to see this protest from scholars receiving money from Die Zeit's charitable foundation. My contribution to the debate came in the form of a piece for the expat section of the Telegraph.co.uk: the viscious, usually personal tone of nearly all of the (at the time of writing, 101) mostly anonymous comments clearly show that not only Germany, but Britain too, still has some way to go in terms of a considerate use of language in the public realm.

Asides the from the slightly more odd-ball variants à la 'Germany is dominating the world economy because it is investing its energies in industry, not wasting them on debates about political correctness', the syllogistic structure of the arguments is always the same: I like to use language the way I already do; therefore, language cannot be changed; any attempt to ask me to use language in a way not hurtful to others in public is akin to censorship.

The most telling comment was "Call a spade a shovel if you like and be-damned to the trowel that complains." I do just wonder if the commenter by the name of "auntiepodes" would be happy to see the same principle applied at a school where her "nephewpodes" was being called names by bullies?

I was certainly amazed that by simply calling for the rough equivalent of good manners in language, so much by way of discourteous bile could be drawn. From reading the comments alone, you'd think I'd called for a 1984-style manipulation of linguistic history and chips being implanted in everyone's brains to make sure they're always on message, rather than simply drawing attention to hurtful or thoughtless patterns of speech that would best (and could easily) be avoided in the public sphere.

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Im Zuge der von der (bis dahin eher als wertekonservativ aufgefallenen) Kristina Schröder im ZEIT-Gespräch angestoßenen Debatte über sprachliche Gerechtigkeit, habe ich meinen Beitrag zur Debatte auf Englisch für das Blog der Telegraph geleistet.

Auch ich bin der Meinung, das Wort Neger ist eindeutig Fehl am Platz in Kinderbüchern, die heutzutage gedruckt werden. Auch teile ich die Bereitschaft Schröders, über die Koppelung von grammatikalischer und biologischer Gattung zu sinnieren. Denn es ist mitnichten so, dass es keine Verbindung zwischen den beiden gibt, nur weil es 'das Mädchen' oder 'das Opfer' heißt: Im deutschen Sprachgebrauch wird in vielen Bereichen reflexhaft zum Männlichen gegriffen, wo das nicht grammatikalisch notwendig ist (siehe ihre Anmerkungen zur Variante "das Gott"). Hier plädiere ich auch für eine kreative Ausschöpfung des erheblichen Potenzials der deutschen Sprache, ohne diese in irgendeiner Weise zensieren oder zwangsumbauen zu wollen.

Deswegen bin ich darüber sehr erfreut, dass die reaktionäre Antwort der ZEIT auf diese Debatte auf etwas Widerstand gestoßen ist seitens der Stipendiatinnen und Stipendiaten der ZEIT-Stiftung. Denn ein ganzes redaktionelles Paket über den Gebrauch des Wortes Neger in die Welt zu setzen, ohne mal einen in Deutschland lebenden Menschen mit Migrationshintergrund (oder einfach nur einer dunkleren Hautfarbe) zu Wort kommen zu lassen, ist für meine Begriffe eben der Beweis dafür, dass sich etwas ändern muss.

Auch gehört in die Debatte eine schärfere Trennung zwischen der Bitte, im öffentlichen Raum auf diskriminierenden Sprachgebrauch zu verzichten, und dem Ruf nach Zensur. Keiner will jetzt durch die Bibliotheken und Bücherhallen des Landes gehen, um alte Druckwerken nachträglich zu säubern. Keiner will Mikros an jedem Stammtisch unterbringen, um die Ewiggestrigen aufzuspüren, die noch nicht von Schwarzen ohne das N-Wort reden können. Die Verweise auf Orwell und Heine, auf 1984 und "Wo man Bücher brennt..." sind völlig überzogen.

Ich bin stolz, zu denjenigen zu gehören, die sich Gedanken über die Gefühle anderer macht, wenn ich mich in der Öffentlichkeit zu Wort melde.

"Nothing but a bunch of Krauts..."

(04 February 2013) Ever fancied your prejudices confirmed for once? Well, look at German winter eating habits: cabbage, cabbage, and more cabbage, rounded off with pork, potatoes, beer and schnapps.

Also, if you want your prejudices about supposedly typical Telegraph readers and weird internet trolls confirmed, just scroll down to the comments box!

New Year in Germany is full of suicidal charm

(01 January 2013) So I survived it! "It" being the (surprising) German propensity to celebrate the arrival of the New Year by making every conceivable effort to seriously injure oneself and bystanders. For details on the terrifying Teutonic traditions for the transition between the years, feel free to refer to my article for the Telegraph.

And, to add to that, here's a quick round-up of yesterday's hairiest experiences in Hamburg between 4.00pm on 31st and 4.00am on 1st:

- children throwing firecrackers at the wheels of my bicycle;
- a friend's bottle-rocket firing straight at the building opposite his and exploding a matter of inches over the roof;
- said friend's second bottle-rocket failing to soar upwards and spinning under the chassis of a nearby BMW, where it exploded;
- a drunkard trying to light a Roman candle with a cigarette and then getting the fag and firework momentarily confused;
- said drunkard throwing the Roman candle at the closing doors of the underground carriage we were sat in.

Next New Year's, I'm so out of here!

The Truth about Christmas Markets

(29 November 2012) It's odd to see my home country falling so deeply in love with German Christmas Markets just as Germans themselves are starting to get sick of them. Not that they're about to die out here or anything like that (and not that there aren't some great yuletide fests at say Nuremberg or Dresden), but the general opinion is that your average cluster of mulled wine stalls and crappy merchandise is overpriced and overrated.

Read more about why they're "Not magical, just naff" on the Telegraph's expat blog.

Book news

(02 November 2012) For those of you who were wondering what had become of my book, there is exciting news. Firstly, the title has been slightly improved to Germany: Beyond the Enchanted Forest: A Literary Anthology; secondly, it is available for pre-order on Amazon (UK); and, thirdly, I will be offering more taster extracts on my Lost in Deutschland blog through until publication, which will be in April 2013.

Oktoberfest 2012

(28 September 2012) September just wouldn't be September without... well, the Oktoberfest! This year's started on 22nd September and goes through until 7th October and, as ever, I was there with my lederhosen and my favourite camera-lady to film the traditional mayhem for Styleranking.de. Try this if you want a quick introduction to the "Wiesn" in English.

Der September wäre ja irgendwie unvollständig ohne, äh, das Oktoberfest! Dieses Jahr ging der Wiesnspaß am 22. September los und geht bis zum 7. Oktober weiter. Wie immer war ich mit meiner Lieblingskamerakollegin unterwegs um für Styleranking.de den üblichen Wahnsinn in Bewegtbild festzuhalten. Die neuesten Beiträge: hier, und die Klassiker hier, hier, und hier.

SlowTravelBerlin - Slowlympics

(23 August 2012) It might seem a little odd to count an event that happened on 4th August as "news", but, hey, it was the "Slowlympics", a tongue-cheek counterpart to the London Olympics 2012. Where real athletes have "stronger, higher, faster", we - under the visionary guidance of the man behind the very excllent SlowTravelBerlin - used "weaker, lower, slower" as our motto. And what a lot of fun it was! Thanks to all the people who took part and all my fellow journalists who reprinted the DPA newswire piece erroneously titling me as the organiser without checking their sources.

Wer sich fragt, wieso ein Event vom 4. August noch unter "News" aufgeführt wird, der ist noch nicht mit dem Konzept der "Slowlympics" vertraut. Als ironischen Gegenpart zur Londoner Olympiade 2012 veranstalteten wir um den visionären Gründer von der wundervollen Website SlowTravelBerlin diese Spiele. Statt "stärker, höher, schneller" war alles bei uns "schwächer, niedriger, langsamer": Und was für ein herrlicher Spaß es war! Danke an alle Teilnehmer und an alle Kollegen, die die DPA-Meldung, in der ich fälschlicherweise als Organisator aufgeführt wurde, ohne Rückfragen übernahmen.

Si vous vous demandez pourquoi j'ai mis en "news" un évenement du 4 août, c'est que vous connaissez pas encore les "Slowlympics". Découvrez-les alors en français chez Ouest France!

Title for new book

(27 July 2012) After months of word lists, spider diagrams, association games and all sorts of other nonsense during my odd moments to spare, I have agreed with my publisher on a title for our collection of English-language writing about Germany. The book to look out for in early 2013 will be called Germany: Beyond the Forests - A travellers' anthology. More news on the authors included and the exact date of publication to follow.

Britishness - ARTE.tv

(25 June 2012) After two exciting weeks, right between the twin madnesses of the Jubilee and the Olympics, my series of ten videos about typically British objects went live on ARTE.tv, accompanied by ten blog pieces about the idea of Britishness by a variety of gifted authors. If you missed it all, catch up here and here (German versions; also available on same site in French).

Über zwei spannende Wochen zwischen dem doppelten Wahnsinn des königlichen Dienstjubiläums und der Olympiade ging meine Serie Videos über typische britisch Gegenstände online auf ARTE.tv, begleitet von zehn genialen Autorenstücken zum Thema Britishness. Verpasst? Keine Sorge: alles steht noch hier und hier.

Pendant deux semaines chargées entre les folies de la jubilée royale et les jeux olympiques, a été mise en ligne sur ARTE.tv ma série de vidéos sur des objets typiquement british, accompagnée de dix textes sur le britishness par dix auteurs géniaux. Pour ceux qui l'ont raté, le conseil est simple : rendez-vous sur cette page-ci et cette page-là.

"So British..." - ARTE.tv

(01 June 2012) What will you be doing every day at precisely 16:00 from 9th to 20th June? That's right: enjoying a nice cup of tea and a sit down with me while I explain the fascination behind some of the most typically British objects there are. There's only one problem: I don't actually like tea that much, as you'll find out when you watch...

Was macht ihr jeden Tag um 16:00 zwischen vom 9. bis zum 20. Juni? Richtig: Schön eine Tasse Tee mit mir trinken, damit ich euch einige der am typischten britischen Gegenstände aller Zeiten erklären kann. Da gibt es nur einen kleinen Haken: Ich mag eigentlich keinen Tee, wie ihr beim Zuschauen erfahren werdet...

Et vous, qu'est-ce que vous avez de prévu à 16h chaque après-midi du 9 au 20 juin? C'est clair - vous buverez une tasse de thé avec moi pour que je vous explique quelques uns des objets les plus british du monde. Seul hic : je n'aime pas tellement le thé, comme vous allez voir dans les vidéos...

British Things - ARTE.tv

(27 April 2012) During the first two weeks of June, the Franco-German television channel ARTE will be featuring a range of programming about Britain. And every afternoon, Monday to Friday, ARTE.tv will be putting a web-video about Britain, produced by yours, truly online. Each of the ten videos will look at a traditionally British object and examine what it has to say about British society in a tongue-in-cheek yet informative way. All the videos will be available in English, German, and French.

Während der ersten zwei Juniwochen bietet der ARTE einen Sendeschwerpunkt zum Thema Großbritannien an. Und jeden Nachmittag in der Zeit montags bis freitags stellt ARTE.tv ein Webvideo über Großbritannien online - von meiner Wenigkeit produziert. Über zehn Beiträge knöpfe ich mir zehn typisch britische Gegenstände vor und prüfe augendzwinkernd aber informativ, was sie jeweils über mein Heimatland aussagen. Alle Videos werden in Deutsch, Französisch und Englisch angeboten.

Au cours des deux premières semaines de ce mois de juin, ARTE présente un programme sur la Grande-Bretagne. Ce qui sera complementé chaque après-midi, du lundi jusqu'au vendredi, par des vidéos mis en ligne sur ARTE.tv, produit par votre humble serviteur. Dans les dix vidéos je propose d'examiner dix objets typiquement british et de rentrer par ceux-là dans un analyse du mon pays d'origine - avec plein d'informations et un grand clin d'oeil. Tous les vidéos seront disponible en français, en allemand, et en anglais.

New book for 2013

(16 March 2012) I'm very happy to announce that January 2013 will see Signal Books publishing of an anthology of English language writing about Germany edited by me.

Covering 500 years of European history and over 80 different authors, this anthology will not only to show how the area now called Germany changed in that time, but also how the expectations and prejudices of people from the English-speaking world changed with it.

Most excitingly, it will also capture some of the same prejudices as they developed, providing answers to a question asked by one author featured: "When did these visions (of the typical German) reciting the Hymn of Hate among the sausages and the beer-mugs (...) replace the (...) stereotype of picturesque principalities exclusively populated (...) by philosophers and composers and bandsmen and peasants and students drinking and singing in harmony?"

And hopefully it will also capture the recent revival of more romantic, less jingoistic views about Germany, depicting relations between English speakers and Germans at their best for many a long year.