Friday, January 4, 2008

Sunday Scribblings - "New" - 1/6/08




Sometimes my blog can reveal how stupid a man with a 145 IQ can actually be.
New things and foreign concepts confuse me. I usually end up falling back to that which is familiar and comfortable. Having traveled much of the world, this shortcoming can be magnified. My last blog discussed my failings as an Italian. We will now move on to my experiences as a German.




On my initial visit to Germany I was experiencing my first Gasthaus and after drinking several of the largest beers I had ever seen, needed urgently to visit the restroom, which they call a water closet (WC) or wasserklosett. The signs on the two doors said Damen and Herren, with no pictorial help. I used my innate faulty reasoning ability to figure that Damen was like Da Men, therefore the men’s room and the Her in Herren must mean woman. It may be apparent that I am not Sherlock Holmes. I am certain that the beers added to my illogic. I was so very wrong, even with a 50 percent chance of being right. There were indeed Dames behind the door I chose. By the way, why is the Oktoberfest in September? I missed it my first year there.

That was not my only Teutonic blunder. Some of my friends were discussing whether the largest city in Germany was Berlin or Hamburg. I interjected that I thought it was Ausfahrt. I had seen signs for it everywhere I went. For those challenged in German as I was, Ausfahrt means exit. The fahrt should have given it away. Think about it.


After a few similar incidents, I purchased pocket-sized a German-English dictionary. It was not convenient for conversation, but it came in very handy for getting the gist of what someone was saying or writing.


My landlord’s mother stopped by one day and seemed very distraught. What it sounded like she said was “Mein Ehemann ist Tute.” I had her repeat it several times to make sure. She seemed impatient. I knew some simple words at that point. I verified what I suspected, that Ehmann was indeed husband. But when I looked up Tute what I came up with roughly was that her husband was a doggy bag. I, of course, as is my nature, broke into hysterical laughter. She probably did not get the joke as she was telling me that her husband was DEAD. She was saying “Tote” not “Tute”. Simple mistake. I later satisfactorily explained to my landlord, Werner, who had become my friend. His mother never did. Come to think of it, she never “Sprechen” to me again.




Even though Germany tries to take over the world from time to time, it is basically a very religious, Christian, country. Martin Luther (no, he is not Superman’s archenemy. OK, I was confused on that too.) was a German Monk, who rebelled against the Pope and formed the Lutheran Church. Anyway, in small German villages, such as the one we lived in called Queidersbach, Sunday is a quiet time. At least in the 80s, when we lived there. No stores are open, no Gasthaus serve, and nothing is allowed that disturbs the peace. I wonder if they stopped bombing Britain on Sundays. I will have to research that. I learned that one Sunday when I was washing my car with “Sledgehammer” by Peter Gabriel cranked up on the stereo. My landlord, Werner (Yes the same one that forgave me for laughing at his father’s demise) came by and calmly related to me in his broken English that my activity was against the village laws. He explained about quiet Sunday and that he was ordered by the village to get his American under control. I immediately had a vision of the scene in Frankenstein where mobs of townsfolk are approaching the monster with torches and pitchforks.



I adhered to their customs during my years there to include sweeping the sidewalk every Saturday, but I drew the line at sitting down to pee. Yes, many German men do. Most American women are content to have their husbands put the seat back down when they finish or at least aim in the vicinity of the bowl.



I also tried my best to learn the language, which I think is the responsibility of any immigrant or long-term visitor to a country. That is the only political statement I will make in this blog.

17 comments:

Lucy said...

You're one funny bastard! (smart too, 145?!)

myrtle beached whale said...

I may have read that wrong. It might be 45.

tumblewords said...

Touristing is tough duty, even with an IQ. Reading your writing is easy and fun.

forgetfulone said...

That is funny! I think I will just stick to home rather than have new experiences. The thought of learning a new language and adopting new customs is daunting.

Herb Urban said...

You crack me up! Hilarious post.

myrtle beached whale said...

Tumblewords:

I am nothing if not simple.

Herb:

But could I make it in Herbsylvania?

sandierpastures said...

I enjoyed this post immensely. I have studied German in university and the Damen and Herren cracked me up!!

BTW, many men in Japan sitzen to do their stuff in the toilet.

-Dubai's Grace-

gautami tripathy said...

Try visiting India..:D

sister AE said...

ah, the challenges of restrooms in foreign countries! my mom, who speaks only English, spent two weeks in Austria and told us of her difficulties. she went to the ladies' room and after finishing went to the area for washing hands and was quite startled to see men there. when they didn't seem surprised, she just quickly washed her hands and left, and later discovered that although there were separate rooms of men & women to do their business, the hand-washing area was shared - whew!

i am enjoying your stories, by the way.

Sassy Lucy said...

I learned plenty of new things reading this delightful entry.
This is my first week doing Sunday Scribblings, hope you will pop by: http://wannabeawritersomeday.blogspot.com/2008/01/sunday-scribbles-edition-1.html

carsonsmom said...

Haha!! That is so funny! I can remember thinking how cool I was that I knew how to curse with one word meaning crap in German and thinking I knew something you didn't. I quickly found out, you knew it too. :)

Robin said...

What a great post. Traveling is definitely not without its pitfalls, but in the end it's those you remember best of all.

PS On a trip to Jordan we stopped at a roadside stand for a cold drink. I had to use the bathroom, which turned out to be a pit toilet out back. Two plywood "doors" - one marked with "something in Arabic" and the other with, you guessed it, "something in Arabic". My friend and I just split the difference - we figured one of us had to be right!

myrtle beached whale said...

I like the toilets that have male and female figures to indicate toilet gender. I realize that does not totally nail it down for everyone, but it helps.

thetonguetiedmuse said...

I loved this. I lived in Germany for a large portion of my life and I just found your experiences hysterical.

Cynthia E. Bagley said...

Oh, oh

I spent five years in Germany and learned some of the language. I laughed so hard. And, I did better with the language when I was in the hospital taking chemo and prednisone. I wonder what that means? I do better with language when I only have half a brain?

Cyn

LittleWing said...

laughing is a good thing...and agree with your political statement...on both sides of the world...it might even build a bridge beyond our current understanding...

Anil Jagalur said...

Great! My family thought that I had gone mad. I laughed so much when I read the Ausfahrt incident.

Actually, I have a similar story about that. I will post it one of these days and add a link to this one too.