Birthdays in Germany

I have now witnessed the phenomenon of having a birthday in Germany a few times, sufficient that I can report as to the particulars of how they are celebrated over here. Well, ok, these particular rituals and customs may be limited to people having birthdays in the house I am living in, but a larger testing body was not immediately available.

As you may have imagined, the customs of celebrating another year of passage around the sun (a pretty amazing feat in itself) are not too dissimilar. A card is created, in this case by my girlfriend, who has a lot of talent with both glue and words. Flowers are always procured and presented to the birthdayee; yesterdays batch were a fine and upstanding bunch of sunflowers. Then there is much singing of happy birthday (which is sung in English for some reason, except the “dear” bit is sung as “liebe”) and cake is cut and eaten. A present is usually bestowed also. Then beer or other beverage is consumed. All in all, pretty nice.

In conclusion though, they are not that much different. You probably didn’t expect them to be. Although it is always nice to get everyone together for any reason. In this case the person in question was 33, a number which is referred to in German as a Schnapszahl. Seriously, they have a word for everything in German. A Schnapszahl is a number which is made up of the same digits, for example 11 or 22. I felt that we couldn’t be missing out on this term in the English language, following the earworm debacle, and after a small amount of internet research later, I learnt that we have a name for this sort of number in English too, it’s called a repdigit. I think I prefer the German version, it sounds vaguely alcoholic.

Speaking of numbers, and moving on from birthdays, I notice this week that Facebook have cruised past five hundred million users. That is a lot of people. I have no idea what made Facebook so popular when others fell tragically by the wayside (myspace / bebo / orkut anyone?), but popular it has certainly become. Almost invasive in fact - it’s hard to go anywhere on the internet without the Facebook logo appearing somewhere on the page. This site included. It does seem to be a handy way of democratizing the internet, in terms of finding popular content that your friends like (assuming you have similar tastes to your friends of course), and it works for sites too in terms of being free marketing, assuming your content is of sufficient quality to interest folks. It’ll be interesting to see if this is just a fad that fades away, or if the facebook juggernaut will continue to roll onwards to a billionth user. Check back in 2011.

Finally, for today at least, another English lesson has been scheduled in for Monday. Clearly the experience was not as bad as I had thought. I have more time to prepare at least. Which, knowing me, will not happen, I will just look about as confused as usual come Monday. Wish me luck!

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