Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Something happened today that happens all too often: while ordering a latte macchiato to go at Barcomi's, the waitress heard my accent and started talking to me in English. There are two groups of people who do this. Group A, the jerky people who want to show off how good their English is (and it rarely ever is all the good) and/or assume that, since I am American, I am far too stupid to have actually learned German (sadly, this is a stereotype I've heard expressed sometimes by arrogant younger people...) Group B, friendly people who think it will be a nice way to connect with me. The waitress definitely fell into Group B, so I did chat a little bit with her in English, but then switched quickly back to German. Normally, I will just ignore the English and keep on talking in German. Why? Because I hate it when this happens.

I'm not the only person who hates it when Germans start talking to me in English. Every single expat I know doesn't like it for the same reason: It makes us feel exposed. Vunerable....

It's as though the person is going out of their way to point out "You are different and we know it." I know this isn't their intention, but that's how it makes us feel.

So if you are a German-speaker and you hear someone speaking your language who has an accent, unless they obviously are a tourist and can only say Danke and Auf Wiedersehen, please don't start talking to them in English.

Ich danke euch im Voraus. ;)

(photograph of woman with skeleton is a self portrait by the artist Marina Abramovic)


Jen said...

We seem to have the same two categories of people in Turkey too! This happens to me frequently as well, and prompts much the same annoyance. Not that I could hide even if my Turkish was completely fluent and accentless -- my appearance would still make me stand out.

Schaufensterbabe said...

Yeah, that's true. It's easier for me to blend in here at least by looks. I wonder if these traits are universal in every culture?


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