Ah, Germany. Most of my day-to-day interactions at this point go fairly smoothly. I can get in and out of most normal situations without incident, and only occasionally end up with two extra slices of bread (Brot) instead of two more beers (in that case, Rotbier) in a crowded and loud restaurant.
Tuesday was not one of those days.
When I came up into the Farmers’ Market in front of the Fürth train station, I was already a little bit out of sorts. I’m currently dragging myself out of bed at 6:30am on Tuesdays for one class. Though I do like the group quite a lot, it hardly seems worth it on those cooooold winter mornings. This Tuesday was especially frigid, and so on my way home I decided to go the long way around, taking a bus to an U-Bahn to another U-Bahn to my train back home. My thought process was that this way I would at least be in a vehicle the entire route, rather than taking a bus directly to my train. That would have meant at least 15 minutes of pacing the train platform in order to keep my feet from freezing while waiting for that train.
Got all that? No? Clearly, my overtired self didn’t either, as I completed neglected to realize that would delay my arrival home by 30 minutes. *headdesk*
Anyway. That finally occurred to me as I was ascending the escalator in Fürth and noted the time. Like I said… very tired. This is all a very long way of saying that my head was not functioning at this point in time, and I was already fairly confused (not to mention feeling like a dummy).
I figured the best course of action was to at least do something useful while I had a few minutes at the station, and I headed over to the market. I knew I needed broccoli and cauliflower for dinner that night, and circled around the market until I found my favorite stand. Naturally, they weren’t open.
The next stand appeared to be open, or at least stocked. However, there was still quite a bit of the blue tarp covering up one end, so I tentatively wandered around, wondering if they were still setting up for the day, or if that was just to block out the wind.
I was still in my slight daze when I was surprised to find the woman at the stand talking to me. Sometimes you can just walk in and help yourself, but if they aren’t busy, they do help you collect your goods. She asked me what I wanted and I completely blanked.
What do I want?
What’s the word?
Oh God. Rosenkohl? No, that’s brussels sprouts… shit. What is it?
I stammered and sputtered as I walked closer to the veggies, not even seeing the stupid cauliflower. I spotted the broccoli and though, yes, that too! Broccoli! I know that word!
Of course, what came out of my mouth was a very-American sounding version of broccoli and not Brokkoli, which sounds very much how the Count on Sesame Street would pronounce the word (minus the ha-ha-ha afterwards).
The woman was just finishing grabbing my head of broccoli and turned expectantly to see if I needed anything else.
My head was still rattling through different versions of Rosenkohl when I finally saw the cauliflower. I wasn’t able to read the sign but something clicked into place and Blumenkohl finally flew out of my mouth mid-stammer. But the damage was done.
“Where are you from?” she asked in German.
America, I replied.*
“Ahhh, the best land,” she replied, in English. Knock me over with a feather.
“How long?” she asked, in German again.
Huh? Did she just ask how long? Or did I mishear her and did she ask if I want anything else? Oh God, she’s staring at me and I am such a spaz today what is happening?
“Sechs Jahre,” I venture.
“Sechs?” she looks confused. What?
Apparently I need to speak up… I repeat years.
She then asked if I was in language school, or just learned by speaking. By speaking, I answer. I would hope that actually having had lessons would have avoided this complete brain malfunction. But, who knows?
She wished me a good day, and I did the same, hustling towards my train.
Though she was perfectly friendly, I still spent the whole rest of the day kicking myself for being so tongue-tied over a perfectly normal human interaction. Everyone forgets words, right? In your own language as well as a foreign one… these things happen.
I spend a good majority of my time here trying to blend in. As much as I enjoy visitors, I hate speaking English on the train because I feel like everyone is listening. When BV and I are out and about, we tend to speak a lot more German than we do at home, specifically for this reason. Anytime I feel like my cover is blown, I feel a bit like a fraud. I’m all about pretending like I belong here, and it’s all fun and games until I open my mouth.
Blumenkohl. I had better not blank on that one again.
Have you had a super-simple brain fart? Tell me about it in the comments, it’ll make me feel better. Danke! 🙂
*Also not the best answer, I know. But it’s reflexive and comes out much easier than USA or Vereinigte Staaten, both of which I completely mangle the German pronunciations of.