Wednesday, August 17, 2005



People say the Japanese are polite. Compared to Germans, however, they are barbarians. On trains, buses and trams here, people automatically stand up for older people. This is ROUTINE. Nobody thinks anything of it.

It almost never happens in Japan, and if it does it's a big deal, with the old person feeling obliged to refuse, then thank extravagantly.

Dilemma (Or is it conundrum?)

Yesterday on a bus I watched a mother with her two small boys. One boy was standing (and behaving perfectly - he stood up for an old woman without his mother telling him to) and the other was in a pushchair. The one in the pushchair had a pacifier in his mouth.

The older boy asked for something to eat, and his mother gave him a piece of a bagel. She gave a piece to the baby as well, who took it appreciatively. But he had a pacifier in his mouth, which presented him with a wee problem. He tried putting the bagel in his nose, but found that unsatisfactory. He gazed at the bagel with a frown on his face for a moment, and then his face lit up as he figured it out. He spat out the pacifier and inserted the bagel.

Problem solved. German babies are clever.

How to make a person feel at home

I just had breakfast at a cafe, where, when I asked the waitress to help me with the menu, she spoke to me in PERFECT ENGLISH. I asked her if she had been to New Zealand and Australia, and she said,

"Yup. I spint some time in New Zild and Ostrailya when I was travelling."


When I want to find out if someone speaks English, I say, "Hello," when I greet them, as well as the local greeting, whatever it is. This does not work in Germany. When I say, "Hello," people smile and say "Hello," back, and then speak to me in German. EVERYONE says "Hello." This is not convenient. I have to think of another way of signalling my linguistic incompetence.


lisa/childish said...

you can try the tacky but effective old tourist standby:
hello! English?

Carrie said...

Sounds like you are having a great time in Germany!

You could say "What up, dawg?" Then they'd think you were an American gangster.

fallensnow said...

I laughed out loud when I read of the baby! hehe. Absolutely adorable~

Lippy said...

You got the Kiwi and Ozzie accents down pat. Eggzillint ;-)

carrie said...

very interesting observations on cultural differences. cool stuff.

Ms Mac said...

What about a good old, "Hiyah!"?

Of course, there is a very subtle difference between a German "Hallo" and an English "Hello", but I am quite sure you already knew that!

Cheryl said...

Nice Day...?

Cheryl said...

Pleased to meet you...?

wiccachicky said...

That's interesting -- so the hello trick doesn't work? Hmmm...I don't know what I'd do! The baby story is just precious!