Thursday, 30 September 2010

Beim Friseur

At the hairdresser's

Today, I went to book a hair appointment. I have been in Germany for almost two months now and felt it was time my hair had some attention as it hasn't been cut in even longer than that. So I asked my flatmates for their recommendations and as I didn't fancy Toni & Guy (too pricey) or C&M (too cheap) I decided to use the power of the Internet to find a suitable salon. After using Google maps and qype it seemed that Barbara Ochs in Bockenheim (10 mins walk away) would be a good bet. A bit cheaper than in the city centre and with excellent customer reviews - brilliant!

I walked to Bockenheim in the drizzle and noticed how cool it seems. 'Will definitely have to spend more time in this part of the city,' I thought to myself as I walked down another cool street. And I found the hairdresser, right where it should have been. 

I went in and asked if I could book an appointment (einen Termin buchen). The lady asked what my name was and started looking through her appointment book. I explained I didn't actually have an appointment yet but would like one. 'Oh, you want to make an appointment (einen Termin machen)!' Er, ja.

She asked when I would like to make my appointment and I asked when there was time available. Then she asked if I wanted a haircut and I said I did, and she asked the stylist if she would be free after the cut she was finishing. She was. So she took my coat and showed me to a chair and brought me a coffee with cream and sugar and I had a little sit while I waited for Steffi to finish styling her client's hair.

Then Steffi came over and asked how I wanted my hair. I said I would like it a little shorter and so on and used some hand actions to demonstrate how I would like my fringe (Pony, auf Deutsch). I was also very proud of myself for remembering the word 'Stufen' and hence being able to explain I would like some layers. Steffi suggested a 'Bob' and I was very impressed she had somehow understood exactly what I wanted, and somewhat disappointed I didn't think of just saying 'bob' with a German accent to start with.

I had my hair washed and cut and the receptionist (ok I think she was also a hairdresser) blow dried it for me. She asked if I wanted 'Shaumfestiger' which totally threw me. If you are ever offered this, it means hair mousse so don't be alarmed. Unless you are offered said Schaumfestiger by someone who is not a hair stylist, of course. That would be alarming.

While my hair was being styled, another woman went to the counter to pay. She couldn't find her purse. She looked all over. She went out to the street to check. I was somewhat glad this did not just happen to stupid English people in post offices. She left her address and was going to come back tomorrow to pay.

I paid without any hassle at all. I felt slightly bad I didn't leave any Trinkgeld (tip) but when I realised I had been charged 13,50 EUR for blow drying I felt quite justified in my decision. I am also offering free advertising to Barbara Ochs Friseuere via this blog which I think more than makes up for it.

Receipt No. 19/Salesperson: 3, Operator: 3/Women's Cut & Go medium - 26,00 EUR/Women's Cut Go Blow Dry  medium- 13,50 EUR/Total - 39,50 EUR/Net amount - 33,19 EUR/Taxable amount - 33,19 EUR/Incl. VAT @ 19% - 39,50 EUR/ VAT @ 19% - 6,31EUR/Cash paid - 50EUR/Change - 10,50 EUR/Thank you very much

Monday, 20 September 2010

Heute ist nicht Ihr Tag

"Today is not your day"

Today after I work I "quickly popped" to the Verkehrsinsel (transport island) in town to buy a rail card and some train tickets. I did not think it would take very long. I was terribly mistaken.

I arrived and joined the queue for the Deutsche Bahn counter, rather than RMV. There were four people in front of me. An older lady sat on a chair and explained she was waiting too. The woman in front quipped she had been waiting half an hour longer than the seated lady. She was getting pretty stressed. There was a couple at the counter already who did not speak German and were taking ages. I thought to myself "I will be quick, I shan't become those people." I probably don't need to tell you this, but I became those people.

I finally got to the front of the queue after half an hour of waiting. I asked for tickets to Munich and my mangled pronunciation of München caused the man at the counter to start talking to me in English. But I didn't relent and continued in German, the good student that I am. So I explained I wanted to go to Munich and he sucked air through his teeth in an expression of "expensive!" and then I explained when I wanted to go and he seemed even more alarmed.

So then I said I wanted a railcard if he thought it was worth it and he suggested a BahCard 25 which costs 25EUR for 25% off all fares for four months. I had filled in a form for a BahnCard 50 already so asked if I could use that. I couldn't, and I didn't even need one of the photos I had paid 6 EUR for at a photobooth (and apparently made me look like a 1970s West German terrorist - thanks Mum). He also told me never to put my bank details on a form as anyone could read that and steal my identity! He warned me about this at some length and I started to become more aware that an elderly lady had been waiting all this time.

So I finally decided which train I would take. And I had bought my rail card, after filling in a new form. I said I wanted to pay by card. So I gave the man my card. And he put it in the machine. And I entered my PIN. And it was wrong. So I treid again. And got it wrong again. So tried a thrid time. And still didn't get it right. "Credit card?" he suggested, so I used my British bank card and tried not to think about the commission.

So finally I had managed to pay and I pulled the seat out for the elderly lady who had been waiting all that time. I apologised profusely. I went to the other counter to get my free timetable book. It is over 1000 pages long. And then I asked to buy tickets to the Buchmesse. And while I was buying them, who needed to buy something from the counter? The elderly lady who had been waiting all this time! I could not apologise enough and offered her my seat but she said she would rather stand. So I said I would pay cash and half my coins fell out of my purse and over the counter. I started to apologise again and the woman on the counter remarked "Today is not your day."  "Genau." I replied. "Exactly."

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Bei der Post, 2. Teil

At the post office, part 2

Mitarbeiterin: Hallo
PO worker: Hello

Ich: Hallo, nur diese Postkarte und eine Briefmarke für Großbritannien, bitte.
Me: Hello, just this postcard and a stamp for the UK please.

Mitarbeiterin: Ist das alles?
PO worker: Is that everything?

Ich: Ja, danke
Me: Yes, thanks.

Mitarbeiterin: Also, Euro fünf und zwanzig, bitte.
PO worker: So, 1 euro 25 please

Ich: Ok (wühlt die Handtasche durch). Verdammt! Ich habe mein Geldbeutel vergessen!
Me: Ok (Rifles through hanbag). Damn it! I've forgotten my purse!

Mitarbeiternin: (starrt mich an)
PO worker: (staring at me)

Ich: Es tut mir so Leid, ich habe mein Geldbeutel vergessen, dass ist so peinlich!
Me: I'm so sorry, I've forgotten my purse, this is so embarassing!

Mitarbeiterin: Kommen Sie zurück?
PO worker: Are you coming back?

Ich: Ja, in ungefähr...dreißig Minuten?
Me: Yes, in about...30 minutes?

Mitabeiterin: Aber Kommen Sie zurück?
PO worker: But are you coming back?

Ich: Ja! Ich bin gleich da! Es tut mir so wirklich Leid... (Gedanken: Ich bin Idiot)
Me: Yes! I'll be right there! I'm really sorry...  (thoughts: I am an idiot)

I really don't think I can show my face in this branch of Deutsche Post ever again.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Adventures by telephone

Talking to Germans on the telephone is not quite as easy as I had hoped. After nine years of learning German, I was hoping that such a simple thing as answering the phone and asking what the problem is would be simple, but this has not always proved to be the case. 

The first challenge is, er, answering the phone. In Germany, it is not enough to say "Hallo", as you might have thought. People like to know who they are talking to. So most people answer with just their surname. I felt that a bit too ridiculous and answered with "Guten Tag, wie kann ich Ihnen helfen?" (Good day, how can I help you?). But then irritated Germans would start to tell me their problems and halfway through a sentence ask who I was.

So now I answer the phone with the company name, my surname (doing this still makes me feel ridiculous) and then Guten Tag. This stops Germans asking who I am two minutes into the call but doesn't make it any easier for me to find out who they are.

As soon as the German at the other end of the line has found out your surname, they return the favour and tell you theirs, very quickly. However, this always catches me by surprise. I am never prepared to be listening for and writing down a German surname, so several rounds of "wie bitte?" are likely to follow. Usually when they ask to speak to someone and I realise that person might like to know who's calling.

After the identity confusion things are usually fine. I have explained to people how to copy and paste, how to change settings on their computer and possible reasons for their IT problems. I have also explained that no, we don't offer building work and told a caller to my mobile they must have the wrong number. 

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Missent to Vancouver, B.C.

I sent my parents a postcard on Tuesday. It arrived in the UK on Friday.

My parents sent me a card on 25th August. It arrived on 4th September.

It was delivered via Vancouver, B.C., Canada.

Deutsche Post 1 - Royal Mail 0

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Beim Flohmarkt

At the flea market

As I crossed the Eiserner Steg (iron bridge) to the Sachsenhausen side of the river yesterday, I was confused by how busy it was. People everywhere! Was there some sort of festival on I didn't know about? Was the Dieter Rams exhibition really so popular?

Well, no was the answer to both of those questions. It was the time of the weekly Flohmarkt (I say flea market, it was basically a car boot sale, with fewer actual car boots). The variety and variation in quality of goods on offer was amazing, here are just some of the items to be bought*:

A selection of oil lamps and cutlery

A portrait of Jackie O

Second hand bicycles in various states of repair

Hats from every region of Germany

And of course, a novelty plastic deer head

The Flohmarkt takes place on the Sachsenhausen bank of the River Main every Saturday morning. If you like retro clothing and accessories, dog-eared books, candlesticks, toy cars or even plastic replicas of hunting trophies, then this is the place for you. Arrive early for the best picks, that deer head won't be there next week!

*if you want a closer look at the wares, just click on the photo and you will be shown a larger version - the wonders of technology!

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Bitte nicht berühren

Please do not touch

Today I hit the Museum für angewandte Kunst (Museum of applied art) to see an exhibition about Dieter Rams. It finishes tomorrow so I thought I had better take the chance while it was still there.

The exhibition began with a wall with biographical details about Herr Rams (born in Wiesbaden, studied there and later in Frankfurt). To read the details all the visitors ended up in a line, moving along the wall; the woman ahead of me translated the odd word into Spanish for her boyfirend. After reading details of Dieter Rams life, you moved into the exhibition space. One of the first things you encountered was a Thonet bent wood chair above your head. There were numerous examples of design classics and the egalitarian dreams of designers were quoted on the walls in a sans serif typeface.

The majority of the exhibiton was dedicated (this may not surprise you) to Dieter Rams' own designs. As well as camera flashes, pocket and desk lighters, hair dryers and electric shavers, there were also the revolutionary turntables and radios which were designed to not seem designed at all. They were simple and easy to use and there was no fuss. And it was a thrill to see in real life what before I had only ever seen in books and television programmes about design.  However, something spoiled the exhibition for me.

The 'Please do not touch' labels on everything! Everything was so well designed, the first thing you wanted to do was turn the dials, pick the items up, turn them over in your hands and appreciate what had gone into them. But you couldn't. I accidentally tried to pick up a travel hairdryer and was glad I realised what I was doing before anyone noticed. I didn't want to get thrown out of a museum, that would have been simply too embarassing.

After enjoying the Dieter Rams exhibition (to an extent) I decided to have a look around the museum. Er, it wasn't great. I might not have taken the best route, but I only saw a room on the middle ages (yawn), the Renaissance (there was a nice silver bowl) and a room about modern and hi-tech design (a bit better) which had a lot of chairs. I wasn't sure if you were allowed to sit on the chairs though so didn't take the chance and kept on walking.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Becoming German

A few things have happened to me recently which have caused me some concern.

In the supermarket, I actively sought out the salami aisle and then took some time to consider which type of salami I would like. When I got to the checkout, I paid efficiently with my Sparkasse card and did not try and enter my PIN, but waited to be asked for my signature. I had also packed my groceries into the bags I had brought with me very efficiently and did not have to fuss around for five minutes after paying to sort out my shopping.

When I was making my salami sandwich on vollkorn Brot (wholemeal bread), I thought it could really do with a slice or two of gherkin to finish it off.

At work, I received three rubber stamps for my desk for stamping letters and felt a thrill of excitement I would get to do something bureaucratic and involving rubber stamps.

In a bar, I ordered a Weizbier (wheat beer) and then, without being prompted, 'Prost'ed, and made eye contact, with everyone at the table before having my first sip.

I think I'm becoming a bit German.