Sunday, September 7, 2008

Don't Need German

Here we are in Germany and I can not count the number of times I was told “You don’t need to learn German” when we were preparing to move here. We were repeatedly reassured that most Germans under 40 speak a fair amount of English, especially in Frankfurt. Today we decided to go get Colin his new bike as he has outgrown his old bike. We have been to this bike shop before so getting there should have been easy, so one would think.

It all started when we went to the bus stop to get our ticket and the ticket machine did not take bills and I did not have enough change to buy the ticket. Ooops. I guess I will have to ask the bus driver to give me a group ticket. Okay this shouldn’t be so hard because I don’t need to speak German. This is how it went down. Shannon, Colin and I get on the bus and I say to the driver “I need a group ticket” his response was a blank stare. I said again “Group” except this time I added some body language, you know the gesturing with the hand and wiggling of the body. He looks at me and says “Gruppenkarte”. I looked at him and my eyes get really big I look and Shannon and Colin and I say “Yes that’s exactly what I want”. He takes my money gives me my ticket and my change. We are now on our way. I know where we transfer and even to what line. So about 15 minutes later we transfer to trolley 12.

I look around and yep we are going the right way I see things I recognize and start to relax. We make a turn and I think "Hey are we going the right way?" Hmmm... we continue. About 10 minutes later thing are starting to seem very unfamiliar. Ok time to get up and look at the map. “Where did the guy say we were?” hmmm it’s kind of hard matching what is being said over the PA to what I am reading. If fact it all looks German to me. Finally I got it! We are going the wrong way. I look up and lo-and-behold we are now on the 11 trolley. “What the heck!” We exit and go back the other way on the 12 trolley and I hear Colin … “Look, Dad we already went by this place”.

“Yeah Colin thanks for rubbing it in”. Ok I see that we are on the 12 and the destination on the banner is correct. As I am sitting there looking at the banner... boom!!!! It happens! It changed to trolley 11. What @$#%^ !!!! We get off at the next stop and decide OK we will just go the other direction. We cross the track and there is a German man dressed in blue wearing a mister Rogers’s sweater. He says “aksldfjl askfj dsjeid dkjfoie dpetrt” (just make German sounds in your head) WHAT ? I look at him and say “That way” pointing in the direction I wanted to go. He then says “Asdfjlkdsjfl asdkfjlk sdlfkj BUS” and points. Shannon and I go"Ahhhh". The track must be broken and we are going to take the bus. We cross the street and hop on the bus and off we go. One U-turn and one stop later we are there.

We all decide that our stomachs are growling and are in need of food. Look it’s a Burger King. Its right next door to the bike store. I tell Colin look in there... that’s were we are going when we get done eating. He was so excited. We get to the cashier and I say “I would like a number 5” holding my hand up showing five fingers, seeing that hand gestures worked earlier. She walks away and goes to the fry’s. Hmmm, I think. A few minutes later she brings someone else to the register that speaks a little English. And we manage to get our food ordered.

We head over to the bike store and it took Colin about 25 minutes to pick out a bike. It is a nice bike too. I wanted to ask the worker a few questions, but he spoke absolutely no English. He tried and gestured with his hands as he spoke but I still I did not understand him. After I got to the fourth worker he spoke perfect English. He was a great help. He took us to the check-out and the attendant told me the amount and I say “ahhh ok” I knew exactly how much she told me to pay ‘cause I looked at the register. I take out my wallet and hand her my credit card. She looks at me, hands me back my credit card and says “Cash or c-card” hmmm... that puts a cramp in things.

Ok where can I find an ATM machine? Back on the bus, transfer to the trolley and off to the gas station to get money. 45 minutes later we arrive back at the bike shop and pay for the bike and off to home we go.

We get on the bus to take us to the transfer to the 12 trolley and then the 34 bus. So there we are waiting for the 34 bus under a sign that say 34 and it says bus in the street. Must be a bus stop. Pretty soon bus 34 pulls up and stops. The driver watches us go to the bus to get on but does not open the doors. Ok he has to wait. He is hanging out the front door smoking cigarettes and yakking on the phone. He watches us go up to the bus door a few time to try and get on but the doors are still locked. He gets back on the bus and Shannon decides she is going to try the door again. As she reaches to push the door open button the bus starts up and drives off. I tell Colin “Run! We will catch up with you” we run down the street dragging the bike along with us to the next bus stop. The doors are closed and the bus is pulling away. I can see the drivers face in the mirror and I hit the door. He stops the bus to let us on. What a @$#%$& !!!! he knew darn well we were waiting for him. Even if he could not speak English he could have just motioned to us and said “sahjdfkj sdfj dslkfj dfsflkj” we would have understood him. I mean we don’t need German here.

For all you people out there that said “You don’t need to know German”



The Jakarta Rocks said...

Hi David and Shannon. I couldn't agree more. As I said in a comment down the page a bit. When we went there at xmas, I had the same experience, going the wrong way, trying to work out what was what. Getting kicked off a bus (that was Salzburg) because we didn't speak German and were holding up other passengers - the bus driver learnt some choice english words and they understand hand gestures.
The worst part is, mistakes in a country like germany are expensive. At least here in Indo the mistakes don't cost as much.
But you will love it when the christmas market starts. At least for a few hours (and it's freezing).

Tracey (Jakarta)

Terio said...

I have access to Rosetta Stone German...Do you thin I should study ? HEHEHE So, why was Colin getting a new bike?

David said...


Shannon said...

Ouch! I have heard from others who used "the hand gesture" that can result in a pricey ticket. Hopefully your next visit will be better.

Yes I would study something, it will make your visit a lot more fun. The problem with rosetta stone is they don’t get to the important stuff until unit 3 and there is no way to skip past the “das hund” (the dog) type stuff. I don’t care if dog is called “hund” I wanna know how to ask where the bathroom is. I am currently using a free online program from the bbc They also have German phrases you can download to your mp3 player, pretty cool. I will go back to Rosetta Stone after I have finished the BBC course.

Colin is getting a new bike because 1)his knees come up to his ears when he pedals the old one and looks hilarious and 2) his birthday is this month and 3) Grayson is ready for his first bike and we can’t put the training wheels back on the old one until Colin get a new bike. Yes Danny it’s the same beat up old bike that Chris had when he was little.

So when are you coming for a visit??

Jae said...

LMAO! Steve would have said you need to know some German unless you're on base. He knows from years of going over there. I'd love to go, but I know I'll make an ass of myself because I don't even speak ENGLISH well. ;)

Jenn said...

haha, sorry for your complicated day! I"m sure Colin was just ready to get his bike and get home!

Anonymous said...

Oh this cracks me up! I've never been to Germany, but I can really relate to this. We got this in Paris, in Nouakchott, and even in Turin! (We went to Italy and figured since we spoke French and English, we'd be ok, right? Wrong!) People told us, "You don't need French in Mauritania" (former French colony) but they were WRONG!
My favorite part is how they assume you're stupid because you don't speak their language.