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Amok Mama

Time to say goodbye – but not farewell!

It's the final Amok Mama! But never fear: Jacinta Nandi will be back!

Nixon saying farewell to the presidency. Photo: IMAGO / Everett Collection

“I always think it’s kinda rude, the Polnischer Abgang stuff,” I say to my Germannest German friend, Jens. In case you guys don’t know it yet, a Polish exit is the way Germans describe leaving without saying goodbye. I’ve heard some people call it French Leave in English? Slinking off, sneaking off, sloping off. When Germans do say goodbye, they knock on the table aggressively and nod manly-ly. I have to admit, I have made a Polish Exit a few times. It’s such a relief, that moment when you finally give in and just – go.

“Do you?” Jens asks, genuinely surprised.

“Yeah,” I say. “Why would Germans blame the Polish for their own rude behaviour? I find it mean! Especially since only a few years ago, you decided to say HALLO to their country in a very, very rude way indeed, remember?”

Jens isn’t offended, thank God, and starts googling what a Polish exit is in all other languages in the world, and is delighted to discover that a lot of places call it an ENGLISH exit. He repays me for my Nazikritik with a not-so-subtle dig at Britain’s colonialist past – “That’s fair enough, isn’t it, Jacinta? Your country also said HELLO to a lot of other countries in a very aggressive manner!” and we both agree, really, that after all, as insults go, leaving without saying goodbye is not the worst thing you could ever be accused of doing.

The first time, by the way, I ever heard the word verabschieden – to say farewell, to say goodbye, to take leave – was in 2001. That’s how old I am. A really hot friend of my flatmate’s had been staying with us all summer, I think his name was Jochen. This guy was HOT.


“I want to verabschieden myself,” he said to me, after breakfast.

“What does that mean?” I asked politely.

“Erm, to say goodbye,” he said awkwardly.

“Okay, bye!” I replied. I thought he was going off to work.

That night, watching TV with my flatmate – in those days, WGs had Wohnzimmers in them, can you even imagine? – I asked: “When’s Jochen getting in?”

My flatmate said: “He’s gone back to Bavaria. Didn’t he tell you? His mother is sick.”

“He never even said goodb…..OH!” I answered.

Worse was this one time, years later, when a German friend moved to Kaiserslauten. For some reason I got it mixed up with Königswusterhausen, which those of you who have visited Tropical Islands will know. Königswusterhausen is on the outskirts of Berlin, about as hard to get to as Lichtenrade. Kaiserslauten is, erm. In WEST Germany, somewhere. Not West Germany, but WEST Germany, somewhere. It’s very, very, very faraway.

So my mate Tobi invited me out for coffee to verabschieden himself. By this time I knew the word, I knew this was a big deal – I mean, it’s not every day a German puts their hands in their pocket, is it? I knew he thought this was a big deal.

“I wanted to say goodbye to you properly,” he said. “I’m moving to Kaiserslauten.”

I shrugged indifferently.

“Tobi, we’ll still see each other. You can just get on a train.”

“Not very often,” he said sadly.

“Come on, once a month at least?” I said.

“Maybe once every three months, if I’m lucky,” he said.

I looked at him and didn’t say anything. Inside my head, I was thinking oh for fuck’s sake you lazy cunt.

After he left town, I found out where Kaiserslauten was on the map, and was horrified. It’s in WEST Germany, somewhere – he might as well have moved to Palestine or Ohio or Mexico or somewhere. Worse than Polish Exits, though, are the Facebook flouncers. Now, look, I don’t mind a bit of Twitter flouncing, with all the Elon Musk stuff going on, but there’s no need to announce your Facebook exit with a trumpet with those little flags popping out of it. We all know I won’t get round to e-mailing you before you come back – just leave it out, mate.


All of this is to say: I, Jacinta Nandi, am saying:
Laters, dolls!

And it really is a see-ya-late kinda goodbye, and not a farewell kinda goodbye. I’ll be back with a brand spanking new WTF Berlin column – in print AND online, hurrah – where I will be discussing all those pesky German words which cause us expats so many Schwierigkeiten in our daily lives. So it’s goodbye from me – but also a resounding bis denne!