Planet Germany

If you live long enough in another country, then you inevitably gather a whole collection of experiences in dealing with the people and the culture there.

It may be that you have to handle lots of bureaucracy, or cope with unusual customs, or it may be just plain getting used to driving on the other side of the road.

For many ex-pats, these tales of living in a strange land can often form the basis of conversations with friends and family back home, but seldom do they get published as a book for a wider audience.

Planet GermanyCathy Dobson, who we talked to last year, took this brave step and wrote “Planet Germany” which, as she puts it, documents how “one British family bungles being German”.

In the book, she takes us through an entire year in the life of her family and business as we discover how they cope with living as British ex-pats in Germany.  Many readers will be familiar with the situations that she describes, such as the first knock on the door of the Sternsinger, the madness of the Karneval season, or just the amazement at the end of each year that, after telling their fortunes by dropping molten lead into cold water, most households sit down on New Year’s Eve to watch the same little-known sketch in black and white as the previous year.

Add to this the fact that her business partner tries to help her with such traditions as the correct use of Du and Sie, whilst at the same time forming her own opinion of the simple British customs that have travelled with the family.  Stuffing a turkey, for instance.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Planet Germany.  It is a book that you will not want to put down!

Introducing the “KinderCone”

When my daughter started school in Germany, she was given a traditional Schultüte – a cone which is filled with useful things like stationary and books, and also some less useful things like sweets.

Time seems to have flown by since then, as that was 200 days ago!

When I first blogged about this particular tradition, I received a comment from a company called KinderCone in the USA that sells the same type of cones there – bringing the tradition to America.

Renewing the contact a few weeks ago, I found out that the cone is not just delivered empty (as in Germany), but also contains amongst other things a KinderJournal called “Me, Myself and First Grade”, and Vivian from KinderCone was kind enough to send my a copy to look at.

"Me, Myself and First Grade" Cover (Courtesy of www.kindercone.com)“Me, Myself and First Grade” is a journal of a child’s first year at school.  It starts by introducing Karli the Cat, who accompanies the child through the book.

Each page contains an activity for the child to do, which in turn documents that precious first year.  The text is kept simple, and there is a mixture of spaces to write in, boxes to tick and pictures to draw.  I particularly liked the idea of the space for writing your name – one box for the beginning of the year, and one for the end so that you can compare how the handwriting has improved.

So not only does a child practise writing in a book that will be special for the rest of their life, but it also gets them to think about their time at school: what are they good at?  What do they like best at school?  Everything that they read and do is positive.  There is even a special page to celebrate the first 100 days of school.

It’s the sort of book that I would like to see available in Germany, except that I’ve never seen anything like it here.

A word of warning to British readers: the book is obviously written for the US market, so expect words like “grade”, “recess” and “candy” (for school year, break and sweets).  I would also point out that the story about how the Schultüte came into being is not something that everyone in Germany agrees on, and the book – understandably – only gives one version of the story.

But all of that probably doesn’t matter to the children.  For them it is a nice surprise on their first day of school, and it’s nice to see a local tradition spreading to another part of the World.

Remember, the book is included when you buy a KinderCone, so if you want one you’ll have to go to the KinderCone shop.

Would you pay for information on blog building?

After I recently purchased a WordPress plug-in to automatically add affiliate links to my blogs, I was offered a further product from the same author: the $365K Blog Traffic Formular.

It is the sort of e-book that I see advertised so often, and I always wondered what sort of “secret” information these books contained, that I did not already know.

Until now, I had not even contemplated actually buying one, but this time my suspicion got the better of me.  I wanted to know what all those professional bloggers had said and was prepared to take a gamble, after seeing the quality of programming that had gone into the plug-in.

My first reaction was one of disappointment, because after making the payment I was forwarded to a screen, which told me that the e-book contained all the interviews with the bloggers, but it did not contain the tools needed to carry out the steps that they recommended.  This was going to cost me another $67 (apparently the tools are worth over $200) and this time I declined, feeling rather cheated.  Then I was offered a slighly smaller package for $47.  Again, I declined, and was finally able to download the e-book.

Now, the book itself is actually rather interesting.  There are some interviews where I felt, that I did not know anything new, and others where I actually gained a few ideas and even some links to tools that I had previously not been aware of.

Therefore, I would say that it is probably just about worth the $37, and anyone who has been running a blog for a while should consider buying it.  It is not a guide on blogging if you are just starting out.  And you will need to decide for yourself, whether you want to invest in those tools that will inevitably be offered after the initial purchase.

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