27 August 2012

Berlin with Baby: Translations

Note: This series, Berlin with Baby, is being written in real time to be published upon our return to the United States.

August 13 – Our second week begins, and despite 3 years of high school German and one of college I feel as lacking for communication as Jane.

Of course I’m saved by the fact that Berlin is a big city full of people more educated than me, many of whom speak English. But that doesn’t keep me from feeling like a nincompoop in all situations requiring the least bit of Deutsch.

I sputter through payment transactions and use single words: Visa? Danke. No chatting. Shawn tells me I’m impolite and cold to cashiers at home sometimes, and I try to work on it. But here I have no choice!

G_20120813_JaneGraffiti
Despite the hassles, we did see some neat graffiti, like this Jane tag.


Today was a peak of embarrassment (nadir?) in that I walked a mile to a kindercafe and was too awkward to go in and leave my stroller outside as seemed to be the protocol.

(In fact one woman left her sleeping baby outside in its stroller – after speaking to her friend inside – and then walked off entirely … OMG! I’m way too helicopter-y for that, especially in this foreign city!)

It’s really most embarrassing, the wasted opportunity to do something fun for Jane. But what is this blog but a place to chronicle my embarrassments? Ugh.

Also on the way to the kindercafe (from a toy store, which was less of a bust despite it not taking credit cards) I knocked a bike over onto a parked car with the stroller. (Some of the sidewalks are very narrow, especially with the addition of café tables and chairs.)

The owner of the bike came immediately and said in English that it was OK as she helped me pick up the bike. The guy who owned the car came across the street to yell at us both in German (Mein Auto!) and give us scathing dirty looks. He walked off when he realized there wasn’t any real damage – and that neither of us seemed to be able to fight him in German. Also, I think scratches are to be expected with street parking in a city.

I apologized in German (at least I think I did – who knows what I actually said in my panicked state). The owner of the bike, an American, laughed as the car owner walked away: “That’s a German. Don’t worry about it.” Near tears I said “American” and kept going. Clearly even my English communication skills have been dampened by this trip.

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