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To the outsider German may appear as an ugly mess of overly complex rules, and indeed it is until you find someone who can break down the grammatical systems to something manageable to auslander brains. For example, German nouns have genders of male, female and neuter for no reason that will ever be adequately explained to me; and an attendant definite, indefinite and plural article. According to one magical tome on my bookshelf there actually an easy way to determine a noun’s gender based on the final syllable of said noun, plus a reasonably manageable list of exceptions to these rules. This is far easier to digest than than “just memorise all the nouns. All of them.”

At a recent lunch with the in-laws, who are downright tickled that I’m finally being forced to learn German, I mentioned the rules for determining noun genders and watched the consideration begin with long lists of nouns discussed among those who knew of such things while I spent the time studying the aged framed photograph of the Nofratete on the wall. I imagine this wasn’t unlike my initial months in Germany where I had to relearn and actually start speaking my native English instead of grunting it. By the end of the day I had the homework assignment of providing my in-laws with a way to watch the NFB’s animated short of Roch Carrier’s “The Sweater,” which they have no hope of understanding without a translation but at least the animation was done entirely by hand and the colours are nice.

landedcard

To update: we committed matrimony successfully, if the lack of red ink on the documentation the officials handed back to us was any indication. I never saw myself walking down the aisle to The Beatles, although in this case it was more like quietly shuffling along the side of the room as the last two guests who couldn’t find the place hurried into the back row and looked as casual as possible after the officiator had already started playing “Here Comes the Sun” for the second time because Mr. Dreamer and I had already missed our first cue. Our ceremony almost inexplicably included a quote from Albert Camus, but thankfully Germans know the proper pronunciation of “Camus” so I didn’t actually need to bite my nails. The reception was as uneventful as a reception attended by two toddlers and one shockingly quiet post-toddler could get, and people seemed to like the food (apparently rice and bread constituted an acceptable substitute for potatoes and bread).

German bureaucracy is a many-headed hydra in which you will often be asked to procure and provide more to the destination agency than they would even ask for. Some official at some agency, bureau or office whose name I can’t remember said that we had to register our marriage at the embassy. The Canadian embassy is smack in the middle of Potsdamer Platz, probably the most American of the Berlin tourist areas (you can see the Dali museum from the front entrance). When the mister and I got to the embassy we impressed the guards at the metal detectors by leaving our cell phones at home. Of course, the lady on the third floor who we were referred to knew nothing about any requirement to register our marriage, but it was nice seeing Adrienne Clarkson’s name in bas relief on the building’s dedication plaque.

At the first post-matrimony visit to the ausländerbehörde my fingerprint was taken without the mess or prison romanticism of actual ink and I had to surrender a biometric photograph and eighty Euro for my subtly holographic visa (which has an impeccably understated design and my photo could have been worse), but I was given another surprising and unexpected mandate with the new sheaf of documentation.

I will be taking the German integration course provided by Berlitz and subsidized by the federal government for twenty-five hours per week of German language instruction, with a sixty hour “German culture and customs” chaser. My visa and my Canadian passport are set to expire on the same day. I did not expect to get tracked for citizenship this quickly.