Love auf Deutsch

One of my first steps toward becoming more German involved the striking of the word love from my daily vocabulary. It’s not that Germans don’t love or don’t say the word love. They just, I was told by more than a few, don’t *lurve* everything all the time.

That skirt in the window? A German doesn’t love it. It’s cute, beautiful, sexy. Not loved.

The band playing on Saturday night? Great, awesome, fabulous. But not loved.

One of the stereotypes that Germans hold about Americans is that we’re shallow and superficial (oberflächlich, which literally translates to just on the surface) and by using the word love so often, we’re showing just how promiscuous we are with our feelings (though not with our bodies — another stereotype being that Americans are prudish). So right after I got to Germany, I stopped loving things. I started referring to nice clothing as Sugar Sweet and talking about good meals as delicious and flavorful; in essence, I began expanding my vocabulary, giving more dimension to the feelings I was expressing.

But then I had a kid. And of course I *lurved* everything about her. I love love love(d) her. There was no other word to express what I wanted to tell her all day, every day. I wanted her to feel loved and so I would tell her I loved her at dinner, at breakfast, before bedtime, after bathtime. I would take her to kindergarten and say, “love you” when I left. As the days wore on, though, I grew self-conscious; I realized I was the only one doing this. The other moms and dads would say their farewells, tell the kids they’d be back later, wave goodbye. “Why do I have to say it?” one of the moms asked me one day. “My kid knows I do.”

Typisch Deutsch, I thought, so cold, embracing the stereotype of Germans I have long struggled not to hold.

And then, just a few days ago, I took the babe to school, kissed her goodbye, gave her my love. She turned to me and said, “No mama. No love here.”

Well, then, I thought. My girl’s typisch Deutsch. Love has once again been relegated to the banned-in-public list, right alongside other four-letter words. Good thing I have no problem with cursing. I’m not integrated enough yet to ban love, at least not the maternal kind, completely.

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2 thoughts on “Love auf Deutsch

  1. san July 27, 2012 / 1:32 am

    I am sure you’ve also in this context encountered the difference between “ich liebe dich” and “ich hab dich lieb”. “Ich liebe dich” is reserved for romantic relationships only. Everybody else, including family members and friends, are told “ich hab dich lieb”. (= I hold you dear?).

    Anyway, I agree, Germans could be a little bit more generous with the use of the word “love”. I’ve definitely learned (and come to appreciate) that in the US.

  2. GinBerlin August 1, 2012 / 3:34 am

    My German spouse “loves” his kids (and me) vocally, at drop off and at bed time and whenever else it would be normal to say it. My German kids “love” me too. But they (generally) all use English for the words.
    I’d keep using it with your daughter:I think it’s healthy. And there’s a reason the stereotype f Germans is coldness- I’d rather err on the side of warmth (I wonder if my husband was born to be an American?).

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