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Planet Germany Paperback – 16 Nov 2007
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After a decade of living in Germany, a chaotic British family makes a New Year's resolution to throw themselves wholeheartedly into the local culture. The process is complicated as the mother is founding a business with a German partner who is convinced that all Brits are both dysfunctional and poorly nourished. The year sees them bumbling through local festivals, getting into scrapes with authorities, and falling foul of the law, all aided and abetted by their eccentric neighbours and posse of cats. This book exposes the crazier side of both British and German culture, examines profound mysteries such as German fortune telling and sauna etiquette, and explains why dachshund owners are the most dangerous people on the planet.
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When I could catch my breath that is, giggling from one escapade to another of this mad English family in Germany.
Cathy has managed to capture the essence of the English / German culture clash and show us how this family have adapted and given a little bit of themselves back. All while relating the funniest experiences that make you wish you'd been there.
If you buy only one fiction book in 2008, make it this one - and buy extra copies for whoever lives with you, as your constant laughing out loud will definitely pique their interest!
(I still can't pass a slug without smiling....)
What I needed at the time was Cathy Dobson's Planet Germany. If I'd had this witty, insightful resource I may have understood the Teutonic culture enough to become a captivated learner of the language. If only my school teacher had referred to Cathy's book and explained to our eager gaggle of learners that there was a German word for a person who uses moist wipes when visiting the toilet (Haklefeuchtbenutzer) we'd probably have given up the English language for good.
If you want a real insight into German life I'd recommend this book, if you want to laugh out loud then buy this book (the cat/curry scene made me snort coffee out of my nose), if you want a book that makes you feel slightly queasy in a good fairground ride way buy this book (reference that scene previously mentioned!). I can't wait for the second instalment.
The book only misses one point - one that I was told when living in Germany in the 80s - we Germans are misunderstood. You must make allowances for us.
I read the book in one sitting, so riveting was it. Well done Cathy - what's your next book?
I enjoyed the book so much I bought copies for my mother and my friend - it seemed selfish to keep all of that laughter to myself.
I suspect the book is aimed at people who are ex-pats and can relate to moving to a different culture, or maybe people who are contemplating doing so. However, it makes a fantastic read even if you don't fall into either category.
If you want a few hours escape into a family that may well make your own seem rather dull, this is the book for you. Highly recommended.
There are some areas of real interest: I enjoyed the occasional insights into being a school parent, and I was interested in how the children were dealing with their bilingual culture, but towards the end, it all merged into description after description of parties and festivals (the family enjoy their outdoor parties).
Other reviewers will obviously disagree with me, but this felt like an excellent opportunity wasted in the desire to be funny, and in the end left me feeling I didn't really learn that much about German culture or German people, although my expectations on this may simply come from what was to me misleading blurb. Certainly, the Dobson family come across as very likeable and amusingly accident prone, and the author as able to tell a good after-dinner story, but, in contrast to the reviewer who reckoned this the only book they'd recommend from the past year's reading, I'd have to say this is one of the few that really didn't work for me.
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