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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

That’s Not What I Meant!

I don’t speak very good German, let me be the first to admit. But I do know enough to get by, and even to have a good time in this very interesting country, where I’m temporarily stationed, and which happens to be full of fine and proud German people. But sometimes communications problems are more fundamental than the simple task of translating words and phrases.

(in the Kaufhof department store, looking for the restroom, speaking in German)
Bruck: Where is the bathroom?
Kaufhof Salesperson: Bathroom?
Bruck: Yes, the bathroom, the toilet, the WC, where is it?
KS: (with other salespeople) Do we have bathroom appliances? (To me) We don’t sell plumbing and bathroom appliances in this store, but you can find (something I didn't understand) on the 3rd floor toward the back.
Bruck: Okay, thank you very much. (looks like I’ll just have to find it myself, which I did, on the 6th floor, adjacent to the restaurant)

(at a hotel desk in Stuttgart, trying to get back to Sindelfingen, speaking in English)
Bruck: what is the best way to get to Sindelfingen?
Desk Clerk: will you be going by car or train? (a reasonable question)
Bruck: By car. (actually it was kind of a stupid question, as I had just paid for parking in the underground garage.)
DC: Yes, by car, I think that’s the best way to get there. (nodding agreement with the other desk clerk)
Bruck: No, what I mean is, what road do I take back to Sindelfingen?
DC: Oh, now I understand (laughing, gives directions).

So anyway, not exactly The Rise and Faill of the Third Reich, but a couple of snippets to demonstrate that more than just language barriers separate us. Good oceans make good neighbors!

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