Sprechen Sie Deutsch?

Dearest Reader,

Over the course of my life I have travelled to many places and lived in different countries. I love meeting new people and I love to hear their stories, but sometimes, the human species also puzzles me with some really strange introductory conversations.

The thing is that some people people try to connect with you by saying isolated phrases to you in your language or about your country. The following is a really typical example:

Where are you from?
– Germany.
– Ohhh! Sprechen Sie Deutsch?? (=Do you speak German?)
– He he, yeah..
– Bayern Munich!! 
– Mhm..
– Nein, das ist mein Hamburger!! (= No, this is my hamburger)
– Right..
– Do you know Rammstein??
– I do.
– I have to send you this video where this guy compares how words are pronounced in different languages, and then he makes fun of German! It’s so funny!
– Can’t wait to see it!
– Hehe but maybe you won’t laugh because Germans have no sense of humour!

So, there are some interesting points to be made here.

Firstly, asking me if I speak German appears to be a redundant question seeing as I am from there, and what is more, they don’t speak German so I am not sure where this conversation will lead us. But nevermind, I get it, I guess it was meant to be cute. So I smile and play along.

The second question isn’t really a question, but it is a German football club. I appreciate this knowledge about a German sports team they know, also seeing as I enjoy football, why not? At this stage, I don’t have the heart to tell them that I hate Bayern Munich, in fact if there was one German team I always hope loses, it is Bayern Munich. But I shall play along with this little sporty banter as well, I do not want to be difficult.

The third phrase appears to be from some sort of phrasebook every English native speaker has somehow been taught with when they had 6 months of German lessons in primary school. Astonishingly, it is the one and only phrase everyone remembers and I still don’t quite comprehend how this was one of the key sentences a beginner had to learn. I wonder how often in life one finds oneself in a situation where there were a number of hamburgers and there was overall confusion as to which hamburger belongs to whom, and someone was about to snatch away your hamburger. I feel like whichever book this was from was written by some Germans trying to make fun of Americans looking for their burger. And we do that sometimes, making fun of Americans. So I smile and play along with this too, because it’s not their fault for liking and losing their burgers.

Rammstein is also a common icebreaker. Of all the German bands out there, it saddens me that Rammstein has become iconic. It is a band that is probably more popular outside Germany than it is inside the country. Probably because outside nobody understands the disturbing lyrics.

And then ahhh, the video. The video that shows you how ‘butterfly’ and ‘hospital’ are pronounced in some European languages, and then at the end there is some guy shouting the German version in a Hitler-like manner to demonstrate its harshness, perhaps its strangeness or simply that the words are very long. Needless to say, I have been sent this video hundreds of times, by many of my friends and acquaintances who forgot my answer to the first question, which is that I do indeed speak German and that I already know how to say butterfly and hospital in my language. But it’s always good to get a refresher I suppose!

Finally, I am confronted with my lacking sense of humour, after all the bad humour I have just endured politely in this preceding conversation. It has been firmly established worldwide that Germans have no sense of humour, and some memo went around to remind everyone that they must advise Germans of this fact when they meet them. The same memo also says that should the German person in question deny to have a bad sense of humour, they must prove their funny-ness by laughing at a joke about Hitler and his disciples that usually follows. Should there be no laughter, the absence of a sense of humour is officially confirmed.

One wonders dearest reader.
Do Americans laugh about slavery? Or the way ‘butterfly’ sounds in English? And if they do, are those truly the prime specimens to judge humour by? But what to do, it is a burden every German must carry.

But perhaps in order to understand this better, let me turn this conversation the other way around, dearest Reader. In this example, let’s pretend that you are from Australia, and I am from Germany.
So here it goes.

 Where are you from?
– Australia.
– Ooooh! Do you speak English?
– Ehm, well yes..
– Sydney Roosters!!!
– Right..
– Hehe good
– Do you know ACDC??
– Mhm..
– I have to send you this link. It has a list of all the really funky sounding names of Australian cities and suburbs! Like Woolloomooloo and crazy shit like that!!
– Ah yeah? Hehe sounds great.
– Oh but you probably don’t know how to use the internet yet seeing as you’re still busy hunting crocodiles, right?



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