Banter. Maybe it's a British thing, but I miss it.
I miss making trite and utterly inane observations about the weather just for the sake of it to a stranger at a bus stop, and receiving an equally platitudinous reply with a knowing smile. Ah, Blighty...
When I first moved to Munich, I couldn't help but insert a few little snatches of home-grown banter in bad German into my daily interactions.
You know the score: sometimes in those vacant moments of silent, sullen waiting, you yearn for a few seconds to feel the fleeting vitality of a human connection, however small and pathetic it is.
Even if it's just to point out the bleeding obvious: that it's a cloudy day.
In fact I missed 'weather banter' so much when I first moved here that I thought I'd put it to the test in a supermarket right away (I won't disclose the particular chain, but it's pretty huge and begins with T).
I was in a good mood because my basket had a lot of beer bottles in it and my mind had already begun to lovingly slurp their delicious contents.
This feeling was elevated by the particularly cute cashier (of the female persuasion I should probably add) and I made an instantaneous decision to treat her to some legendary British supermarket banter. (OK, you can be the judge of that.)
Realising that my time to impress her was short, and deeming that we had nothing really in common besides the immediate transaction we were to take opposite roles in, I decided upon a safe enough topic with a stranger - the weather.
The following is a transcript (as far as I can recall it accurately) of our somewhat underwhelming discourse over the till:
Cute Cashier: (Robotically) Gruess Gott.
Me: Hallo there!
Cute Cashier: (Scans foodstuffs in a somewhat indifferent, mechanised fashion)
Me: Good weather today eh? Quite tempted to have a swim in the Isar this afternoon!
Cute Cashier: (Startled look) - Er, also, zwanzig Euro, acht und zwanzig bitte.
Me: Ah, ja, natuerlich. Long day eh?
Cute Cashier: Danke. Also zwei Euro fuenfzehn zurrueck. Naecheste Bitte! (Turning to face the man behind me, who looks equally perplexed at my audacity to attempt a real conversation)
And that, dear readers, is a textbook example of how not to chat up a girl in a Bavarian supermarket.
I can safely say that any aspirations of romance I had were thoroughly clipped by the time I had squeezed the last Dunkeles Bier into my bulging bag. She didn't even look back as I traipsed out the supermarket.
OK, so supermarkets maybe aren't the place for small talk in Germany. But it would be untrue to say there's no place for it in the daily grind.
Just the other day, in fact, I was treated to a good dose of banter in the last place I would have expected it: the U-Bahn. True, it was during the Oktoberfest when normal defences against strangers are temporarily lowered and public tomfoolery grudgingly accepted, but, nevertheless, it almost stopped my heart.
I had unwittingly chosen mid-Oktoberfest rush hour to hoist a large antique chair onto the U2 at Theresianstrasse. Let's just say I wasn't the most popular chap on the tube that day (or so the cacophony of indignant tutting around me seemed to suggest). I half expected to be attacked for my inconsiderate day's shopping.
However, several people (doubtlessly the more inebriated ones) saw the funny side of it as I settled regally into my new chair in the middle of the carriage to read my novel while people crammed and crunched in around me, cursing.
'Eine sehr gute Idee' grinned an elderly man beside me, before treating me to some further Bavarian banter, which was beyond me. And another bleary-eyed festival-goer even complimented me most kindly on my 'schoenen Stuhl' which was at that moment jammed garishly into his groin, as well as a number of other hapless commuters'.
Clearly then, Germans aren't immune to a little injection of eccentricity into their 'Alltag.' Well, as long as it happens during Oktoberfest.