the_tacky_one (the_tacky_one) wrote in bad_service,

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ph34r the language barrier

Hi, my name is Jo, and I am an American foreign exchange student living in Germany. This entry is NOT about culture or race or whatever, so nobody get freaked out.

I'm learning German. German is my minor. I have a fascination with other countries and their languages, so I wanted to travel and put forth an honest effort to broaden my horizons and become bilingual (and also learn to type on a German keyboard. It's hard!!)'s been two weeks, I'd say it's coming along fairly well, but I am FAR FROM BILINGUAL.

I went with one of my classmates to a travel agency to ask about train ticket prices to different parts of Europe. My classmate went to the desk for flights, and I went to the desk for trains. Where I met his highness, Evil Bitter Travel Agent.

I was just asking him about bahncards and the cost of Interrail tickets, but he was a complete buttmunch until my (male) classmate came back and sat down next to me. I mean, he typed out the price and threw the calculator down in front of me!! Yes, seriously, he really did toss the thing onto the counter in front of me. I KNOW my question was phrased very very simply, I said before, my German is limited. I told him I understood very little German!! So it takes me a minute to phrase my question. Do not assume I am stupid!!! There's nothing wrong with my brain, just my language capacity. Switching languages has been particularly hard for me, because when I speak English I have a very large vocabulary. Shrinking my words down so much to the limits of my German vocab can be very frustrating.

I still had questions but in the end I just said that was all and we left, because for the life of me I could not phrase the question in German specifically enough for him to understand what on earth we wanted to know.

I know there is probably a very valuable lesson to be learned in this, for an American to know how it feels to be mistreated because they for once don't speak the local language. I'm from a southern border state, and I've worked in customer service, I KNOW about people who don't speak English, only Spanish. I believe a person should learn the language of the country they live in, but I also believe in the locals being PLEASANT and UNDERSTANDING during the process. Luckily most people here have been quite patient with me, so I know it's not a characteristic of the culture to fling office appliances about.

I'm sure this guy just assumed I was another rich student on vacation, wanting to frolick about Europe on my parent's money. But I guess that's another reason why I'm here, to hopefully disprove some of the stereotypes...Meanwhile I think I'll just go to a different travel agency.
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