Ryan Hellyer
Berlin, Language, Life in Berlin, people

Creative in Berlin: Ryan Hellyer

Ryan Hellyer is a former chemist, software developer and creator of Comic Jet, a fun and colourful site that enables you to learn German from comics.

Ryan HellyerIntroduce Yourself

I’m a Kiwi who somehow made his way across the globe to wonderful Berlin. I work as a software developer, and can usually be found working from a cafe some place in Berlin.

What is your favourite place in Berlin?

Herman Schulz cafe. I regularly go there to meet friends, get work done and experience their yummy cakes and soups.

Tell us about Comic Jet

Comic Jet is my attempt at helping people practice their German skills. It doesn’t actively teach, but allows readers to begin reading proper stories in German (or English) and when they get stuck, they can simply click on the comic to switch into their native language.

Where did the idea come from?

I had been trying to improve my German by reading comics, but it was driving me nuts having to constantly look things up in a dictionary. I ended up scanning both the English and German versions and putting them on my phone so I no longer had to take the books with me, and could easily switch between the two. This was useful, but it still took me a second or two to switch languages. So I set about working out how to switch languages quicker, and the basis for Comic Jet was born.

What is your favourite comic on the site?

The XKCD comics are my favourite for reading in English, but for learning German I prefer any of the Gaia comics, as they use much simpler language.

What is your favourite German word?

My favourite German word is “duh”. Most people use der, die or das, but I prefer to just say duh, as it makes the language a whole lot simpler! If you say it fast enough, people don’t even notice.

What other projects you are working on?

I have a whole fleet of open source projects on the boil. Most of them are posted on my geek blog. The most popular one is my Disable Emoji’s plugin for WordPress which is currently installed on over 50,000 websites.

What are your future plans for Comic Jet?

My main goal is to add more comics. There are very few comics which are available in both English and German and have licenses which allow me to use them on Comic Jet. If the site becomes popular, I will look into having existing comics translated.

For more, check out Comic Jet, or follow Ryan on Twitter, Instagram or his blog.
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Berlin, Humour, Life in Berlin

Tinder in Berlin

IMG_20160617_182853_165The Bavarian and I have split up so for the first time ever, I am open explore Berlin’s modern dating scene. This can be summed up in one word: Tinder.

For those of you who have been trapped underground or in a relationship for the last few years, Tinder is an app that almost everyone who is single (and a quite a few who are not) is on. It’s like flicking through a catalogue of men in your vicinity on your phone – swipe left for no, thanks, and right for yes, please.

If it weren’t for Tinder, I have no idea how the Germans would hook up. They all either meet in school and stick to each other for life, or through friends later on, which is a pretty limited model. German men, unlike the British men, would never dare chat you up in a bar, or club, or hell, even on the street. As a woman, this is kind of nice because it means you never get bothered or objectified. On the other hand, it makes meeting new people difficult.

There is one subtle thing the Germans do do – so subtle, in fact, it took me years to notice: they look at you. Yes, that’s it. They look. And what the hell are you supposed to do with that? The German government should probably throw Tinder some support, because the app might just help raise the population’s happiness as well as poor birthrate.

Anyway, all this to say, in this exciting new world, I’ve noticed 5 curious things about Tinder in Berlin.

1. Height

Almost every guy on German Tinder specifies his height in centimetres. Apparently, it’s something they get constantly asked about by women, which why they list it.

Conclusion: height is pretty important to the Germans.

2. CEOs

If you were to believe everything you read on Tinder, you might conclude that there are a disproportionate amount of CEOs residing in Berlin. Curious, since Berlin is hardly a business or financial capital. Even more curious; these CEOs are often in their 20s, kinda scruffy-looking, and incapable of writing a sentence without using emojis. The only possible explanation is that we are a city of start-ups, and these men with their over-inflated egos and sense of accomplishment think they can call themselves CEOs because they secured enough funding to spend on ping-pong tables or whatever.

3. Open Relationships

A lot of men list themselves as being in open relationships. In real life, I interact with many different types of people, but I don’t know anyone an open relationship. So either a disproportionate number of Tinder users are in open relationships, or they are lying. In more than a few photos, you can glimpse wedding rings or the cropped off body of a partner. Come on, people.

4. Bathroom Selfies

Why oh why are so many photos taken in bathroom mirrors? What is attractive about that? And it’s not even private bathrooms. Most of them are taken in public bathrooms. How does that work? So you’re out for dinner, or in a bar with your friends, and all of a sudden you decide to go to the toilet, take a photo of yourself in the mirror and post it on Tinder. Why don’t you use literally any other photo of you in the world? Can someone please explain this to me?

5. Sebastians and Christophs

There are a lot of white men in Berlin, and most of them are called Sebastian and Christoph. From the point of view of someone who has had it with German men, this is kind of disappointing. I would love a little more diversity, which I would get in another city such as (my hometown) London. To be fair, of all the cities in Germany, Berlin is probably the most diverse, but it’s still pretty hard to find someone who is not called Sebastian or Christoph, 190cm tall, a CEO in an open relationship and likes taking selfies in random bathroom mirrors…

Here’s to hoping.

Berlin, Language, Life in Berlin

Learn German the Berlin Way

I always say there are two types of expats in Berlin; the language people – those who have a real interest in German, have studied it at university or work as translators – and the rest of us.

The rest of us take the occasional course, figure out the language as best we can and muddle along constantly fuddled by the dative and TeKaMoLo. At some point, our learning stops, and this happens at level B2.

B2 is the optimal point at which we can say everything we need to say and use the language in a way that doesn’t involve reading Goethe. Don’t get me wrong, we all feel bad about this, but let’s face it, part of the blame falls on what Mark Twain wrote an entire essay on: The Awful German Language.

But here’s a solution: Krimi in Berlin.

 

Krimi in Berlin v.2 cover

This mini e-book is long enough to challenge B2 German learners, but short and exciting enough to keep you engaged. It is comes with an audio track and explains key phrases, but doesn’t feel textbook tedious.

It starts, as all krimis should, with a dramatic shooting. Blood turns the wooden Berlin floors red. Merc, a hilariously Berlin type – leftie, vegan, hacker – has just been shot. As her friend Hercule takes this in, we pick up some colloquial German phrases, like Trick auf Lager (a trick up one’s sleeve), null Komma nix (very fast) and in der Scheiße sitzen (to be up shit creek without a paddle). These little phrases are useful and fascinating to learn as we figure out how and why Merc was shot, and wonder whether everything will turn out alright in the end.

A snappy, entertaining read.

Krimi in Berlin v.2 is available now on Amazon, and is currently free for a limited time.

Berlin, Germany, Humour, Life in Berlin

Will Arnett on Wetten, Dass…?

Wetten, dass..? is Germany’s biggest Saturday night entertainment show, attracting around 10 million viewers (at its high point, it drew 23 million – in terms of figures, it remains Europe’s most successful show). It’s been on air since 1981, runs from between 2 and 4 hours, and centres around celebrities betting on outrageous stunts performed by ordinary people.

The first time I saw it, I thought, “The Germans are crazy.” I remember the show – it was this one, in which one of the bets was whether these lovely people could guess the animal by smelling its faeces:

So when I stumbled across this clip of Will Arnett talking about his recent experience on Wetten, dass..?, I could sympathise:

Wetten, dass..? is due to come off the air soon, due to a number of reasons, among which is falling ratings since the show’s popular long-term host Thomas Gottschalk resigned.

Read more about ZDF pulling the plug on Wetten, dass…? at The Local.

Berlin, Humour, Life in Berlin

Things My German Husband Says

I occasionally tweet random things that the Bavarian says to me under the tag #ThingsMyGermanHusbandSaidToday which I thought I’d collect under one blog post for those of you who don’t follow me on Twitter (why not?!)…

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ear

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on chocolate

the longer stick

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little animals

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Join the fun @madhviramani

Berlin, Life in Berlin, music

Top 10 Berlin Songs

Lots of songs are about or feature Berlin. Here are my favorite!

10. Kaiserbase – Berlin Du Bist So Wunderbar

Berliner Pilsner used this for their advertising campaign and it’s a real Ohrwurm (which literally means ear worm, but also a tune that you can’t get out of your head).

What’s particularly nice is that if your name has two syllables, like mine, you can replace the word Berlin with your name and go around singing how wonderful you are.

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9. Peter Fox – Schwarz zu Blau

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8. Zarah Leander – Berliner Luft

So apparently, the air in Berlin – the Berliner Luft – has a particular quality. Maybe you can smell it, or sense it when you breathe it in – personally I can’t tell the difference. However, it’s a thing. There are many songs about the Berlin air, and this is the most famous. Written by Paul Lincke, it is considered to be the unofficial anthem of Berlin.

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7. Franz Meißner – Im Grunewald (ist Holzauktion)

The Bavarian sings this uplifting little number every time we get on the S7 towards Grunewald. He sings it a lot…

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6. Rainald Grebe – Brandenburg

This song makes fun of the difference between Berlin and the surrounding, depressed area of Brandenburg – unfortunately you have to understand German to get it!

 

5. Nina Hagen – Berlin

I don’t know what it is about Nina Hagen, but I love her. Sorry, but I can’t help it!

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4. Amit Chaudhuri – Motz

Amit Chaudhuri lived in Berlin for a few months, which inspired some of his music. My favorite is Motz, which is the name of a paper sold in Berlin by unemployed and homeless people.

You can listen to it by clicking on the link below.

http://www.amitchaudhuri.com/music/clips/motz.mp3

3. Leonard Cohen

Having seen Cohen perform this at the Waldbuhne twice, it brings back brilliant memories…

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2. Lou Reed – Berlin

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1. Marlene Dietrich – Das ist Berlin

For more, check out Wikipedia’s list of Songs about Berlin.