I’d like to tell you about a little phenomenon I’ve come to call “The Cold War.” No, it has nothing to do with the Red Scare or the 1950s or communism at all for that matter. Instead it has to do with the German language.
Every day I go out to a new cafe and order something. I say, “Ich hätte gern ein Kaffee.” I know for a fact my grammar is correct, and my accent is not horribly obvious. But they always respond in english every time without fail! After I take a moment to look around and make sure there’s not a flashing “American” sign above my head, I am left to decide which language I should proceed in. We’ve reached a stalemate.
Now I know they’re just trying to be helpful, and are eager to practice their already perfect english, so part of my is tempted to just give in and speak english. Maybe I should just make things simpler for us all and say, “Yes, I would like a small coffee, thank you.”
But the whole reason I’m here is to learn German! So often I’ll reply in German again, stubbornly smiling and attempting to subtly send them a message. But the really awkward part is when, after I’ve implicitly or explicitly insisted we speak German, I make a stupid mistake or don’t fully understand. Then I’m force to swallow my pride and ask again in English. My face be like:
Its quite the experience my friends. I know I sound somewhat dumb complaining about first world problems, and I really am grateful to have help if need be, but it’s just so frustrating! Over all, though, I’m completely in awe that an entire country know a second language so thoroughly. It is incredibly impressive and inspiring. Bravo Germans, bravo.
But the Cold War rages on.