Lisa's week

lisas week teaser

Lisa's week: Who’s that at the door?

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As I write this (and yes, every week I’m a little late making the time to sit down and write!), it’s St Nikolaus – 6th December.

This day is another reminder to me that I live in a country that is not my “own” but a very much-loved, adopted home with different customs and traditions.

Although there are connections in the UK regarding St Nicolas, we don’t really celebrate anything on 6th December. Saint Nicolas of Myra, who appears to have died on 6th December 343, was one of the very early Christian bishops during the Roman Empire. He is the patron saint of many including children, sailors and brewers just to name a few. Many early Christian saints developed a strong reputation with those who considered themselves faithful Christians at that time and St Nicholas (also known as Nicholas of Bari) was no exception.

It is thought that his love of secret gift giving is the origin of the traditional Sintaklaas who was taken to the US from the Netherlands and became Santa Claus or Saint Nick!

What this short, potted history (of course, there are pages and pages more online regarding all the history of this famous bishop and all the good things he did as well as many reported miracles) shows me once again, is that we are all connected. In Europe, many of our traditions stem from the same source and while the names might be a little different and the celebrations might occur on another day, they are pretty much the same – just jumbled up in a different story!

I remember very clearly that the first year I was here in Germany, a student asked me what I was going to do for my husband for St Nikolaus? My face was blank! Another custom to take on board and follow? Of course, I did what any good German should do and promptly stopped at the shops and picked up a kilo or two of chocolate to leave in his boot outside the door. That first year, I had a steep learning curve and found myself on the back foot many a time and having to rush out to get items to fulfil yet another new tradition that I was suddenly presented with! It was fun as well as quite stressful. I was determined to “get it right”. I took it to a new level the next year and probably a few years after that with gifts to accompany the chocolate and I even sent items back to the UK so that my nephew and niece could also have their own German St Nikolaus!

I think this kind of immersion in the new culture is a normal reaction when one wants to integrate as much as possible. And I was very concentrated on integrating – even if my German wasn’t coming along as fast as it should. I became an accomplished Plätzchen baker, created gift-filled Advent calendars, decorated my home as much as the next person, lit my Advent candles at the right time and made sure we marked Sundays with coffee and cake more than English afternoon tea.

Over the years, I’ve learnt to “calm” down a little on trying to be the “perfect German” – ha ha. I’ve learnt to pick and choose the items, traditions and ideas that appeal to me the most, and fit into my life the best. There’s still plenty of German customs that I follow but I’ve mixed in things that are important to me from my own, British background. It’s all good and we love the mix that these two cultures bring to our lives.

And this year’s St Nikolaus? A very thoughtful student gave me my own St Nick chocolate yesterday which made me smile, but I wasn’t filling any boots in the middle of the night myself. I might get back to that next year ;-)

In the meantime, enjoy the season and keep your eyes open for those typical traditions that you follow in your own home – you’d be surprised how different they might be for those of us from different cultures. Why not note them down in your own December journal?


What is Lisa's week?

"We’ve (hopefully) been entertaining you so far with the meaning and background of a weekly English idiom and now we’ve decided to expand that a little to give me the chance to share some details that come my way in my daily life as a Business English teacher. I hope to find weekly tidbits of information and experience to tell you about such as British traditions that I (or we) celebrate, or typical mistakes made when speaking English, or even some of the funny things I come across in my daily life. We hope that you’ll enjoy the insight into the life of a Brit in Germany!"


Episode 1: The Queen's 90th birthday

Episode 2: What did you do last Sunday?

Episode 3: What's the best way to answer?

Episode 4: The sound of London

Episode 5: Not just a last resort

Episode 6: Quick tip of the week: advice vs. advise

Episode 7: Title talk

Episode 8: The Union Jack

Episode 9: Why Thursday?

Episode 10: Quick tip of the week - Are you watching or just looking?

Episode 11: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

Episode 12: Don't forget to take you handy to the public viewing!

Episode 13: Up in the Highlands

Episode 14: Quick tip of the week - "Popular" false friends

Episode 15: Pie in the sky 

Episode 16: Through the tunnel

Episode 17: Keep left!

Episode 18: Quick tip of the week - Rise vs. raise vs. arise

Episode 19: How do you say that?

Episode 20: Back to School!

Episode 21: Sweet cravings

Episode 22: Can you change a fiver?

Episode 23: Grabbing some "me time"

Episode 24: Typical Mistakes (part 1)

Episode 25: Fancy a cuppa?

Episode 26: Quip tip of the week - Fell vs. fall etc.

Episode 27: Things that go bump in the night!

Episode 28: Remember, remember the fifth of November, gunpower, treason and plot

Episode 29: What's that badge you're wearing?

Episode 30: Bless you!

Episode 31: What are you thankful for?

Episode 32: Where's the larget Christmas Market outside Germany or Austria?

Episode 33: What's behind the door?

Episode 34: The joy of a Christmas cracker!

Episode 35: Does it all fit on the table?

Episode 36: Seeing in the New Year

Episode 37: How are your resolutions going?

Episode 38: Quick tip of the week - "Popular" false friends - part 2

Episode 39: What will the Year of the Rooster mean for you?

Episode 40: Sweet Valentine

Episode 41: A Reminder

Episode 42: I'll have mine with sugar and lemon juice, please!

Episode 43: The joy of golden daffodils

Episode 44: To correct or not to correct, that is the question

Episode 45: The whole world's going green!

Episode 46: Idiom of the week - Raining cats and dogs

Episode 47: The joke's on you!

Episode 48: Left over from the Middle Ages!

Episode 49: More calendar food-based ponderings

Episode 50: We use German words too

Episode 51: Celebrating St George

Episode 52: The perfect start to the day

Episode 53: The tiny apostrophe is actually something big (part 1)

Episode 54: The tiny apostrophe is actually something big (part 2)

Episode 55: The tiny apostrophe is actually something big (part 3)

Episode 56: Holiday season is coming!

Episode 57; ‘Tis the season (of Bank Holidays) – part 1

Episode 58; ‘Tis the season (of Bank Holidays) – part 2

Episode 59: Summer Solstice

Episode 60: Harry Potter turns 20

Episode 61: Quick Tip of the Week - live, life, live

Episode 62: Oh I do like to be beside the seaside

Episode 63:  I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream!

Episode 64: Stick a stamp on it!

Episode 65: Idiom of the week - Water under the bridge

Episode 66: I say QWERTY, you say QWERTZ

Episode 67: Doing your homework and making mistakes! (Part 1)

Episode 68: Doing your homework and making mistakes! (Part 2)

Episode 69: Joking around in Scotland

Episode 70: The first day of school

Episode 71: Let's go down to the Wiesn!

Episode 72: Celebrating language

Episode 73: It's a Harry thing!

Episode 74: My favourite time of the year

Episode 75: TED-Ideas Worth Spreading

Episode 76: Grinning like a Cheshire cat

Episode 77: Enjoying the downtime

Episode 78: Talking Tenners

Episode 79: Do you need anything from the Hight Street?

Episode 80: Just another few minutes!

Episode 81: Counting the cards on my shelf.

Episode 82: What sign are you?

Episode 83: Great if you have a sweet tooth

Episode 84: It's an acquired taste!

Episode 85: New Year's Resolutions

Episode 86: Quick Tip of the week - go/come & take/bring

Episode 87: My Luve is Like a Red Red Rose

Episode 88: Once in a blue moon

Episode 89: Learning by Listening - part 1

Episode 90: Learning by Listening - part 2

Episode 91: This is the travel news!

Episode 92: The "Beast from the East" hits Western Europe!

Episode 93: The flu hits Lisa's Week

Episode 94: Spring forward and fall back

Episode 95: Holy Week

Episode 96: Quick Tip of the Week - prepositons of time

Episode 97: Perfect for dunking!

Episode 98: Part of the family

Episode 99: It's a boy!

Episode 100: Happy Anniversary to me!

Episode 101: To all the mothers out there

Episode 102: Up, up and away

Episode 103: A very British affair!

Episode 104: Getting boarded!

Episode 105: How do you say that?

Episode 106: Ready for departure?

Episode 107: Happy Father's Day

Episode 108: I'm leaving... on a jet plane... (Part 4)

Episode 109: Can football really come home?

Episode 110: A right royal christening

Episode 111: Touch down!

Episode 112: 70 years of public healthcare

Episode 113: The same but different

Episode 114: A long hot summer

Episode 115: Germany through a visitor's eyes

Episode 116: Quick Tip of the Week - question tags (part 1)

Episode 117: Quick Tip of the Week - question tags (part 2)

Episode 118: All the fun of the fair

Episode 119: What's your "thing"?

Episode 120: Imagining out loud

Episode 121: Springing forward and falling back

Episode 122: In Remembrance

Episode 123: Nearly a whole month of surprises