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. 

No comments:

Post a Comment