Wednesday, June 30, 2010
How do you communicate
with no words to use?
Sometimes living in a foreign country is absolutely frustrating. Everything is different, even if you never expect it to be. The plugs are different, the pillows are different, the public transportation is different...EVERYTHING! But most importantly (and most difficultly) the language is different.
About 75% of the time that I try to communicate with native Germans, I feel like an absolute fool. I know a couple words like "please", "thank you", "one", "I don't speak German", and some food names, but that is IT. I don't know any German, and I feel like a horrible person every time someone asks me if I speak German and I have to reply "no...sorry." I can only order food while pointing at something and saying "one, please", which has incredibly limited my diet because I'm a very picky eater and I have no way of saying "yes, but no tomatoes please!". So I've basically stuck to noodle boxes and pretzels when I'm eating on the run. Otherwise, I can just make food in my apartment (which has no oven, microwave, or toaster...grrr).
I had a very interesting (to me) encounter the other day. I was at the public viewing park for the World Cup games (okay America, we need some of these public viewing parks ASAP...they're so much fun!) and I went to the food tent to get some french fries and beer (sooo healthy, I know) and when I went to check out, the girl told me my total, which of course, I didn't understand. So I kind of smiled at her and looked at the cash register to see what the number was, and handed her my money. She then asked, "Next time should I speak in English?"
This totally surprised me. It's your country and your language, why should you have to change to cater to my needs? It was just kind of funny to me that she was willing to switch to English when sooo many people I've encountered in Germany obstinately refuse to use English, even if they know a bit.
Sometimes the language barrier makes me want to give up on living here and just move back home, but most of the time I see it as a challenge to myself and as a way to improve my relations and interactions with people who live in cultures different from my own!
P.S. Lovely photo of the best World Cup team's flag by The Daily Photo.