Sunday, November 25, 2007

Speaking German

Jan makes dinner.

After making me a traditional German meal of egg noodles served with a meat that had the consistency of Spam, Steffi and Jan invited me out on the night on the town with their friends Toby and Tom. Steffi wore the new coat we picked out together at Zara. She bought a "serious" coat to make her look older. Now instead of 18, she looks 19. She's 24. The two boys added an element of fun to our group.

Toby is the type of person that walks around with a smile pasted on his face. Throughout the night, Toby was verbally abused by his friends for not liking animals, for only being interested in money and because he had recently cut his hair very short. Toby took the insults like a man and kept smiling.

Tom looked like an Angelic choir boy with little bangs and rosy lips, but his posture and demeanor said Benjamin Franklin. I couldn't figure out why until I realized he was wearing bifocals, which were propped in the middle of his nose, his eyebrows cocked when he was looking at someone, peering over his glasses with a suspicious look in his eyes.

He gave me such a look when he addressed me for the first time: "Did you see The Simpsons movie?"

"No," I said. His face fell.

"How can you not like The Simpsons?"

"I don't hate them, but I just don't watch them." I answered. "I hope it doesn't make you think any less of me."

He paused for a minute, as if considering. "No, it doesn't," he said finally.

"Well, why do you ask me if I have seen it?"

"There is this one part where Homer and Bart are on the roof," he explained, "and I have always wanted to know what Homer says to Bart in English and if it different than what he says in German."

"Have you been asking every American you meet about this?" I inquired.

He paused again. "Well, you are the first American I am asking, so yes, I am asking every American I meet." He smiled. He is planning to come to New York for an internship in the Spring and so I told him that I could ask some of the Simpson fans that I know to answer this question.

"Maybe I will ask them myself," Tom said.

I liked this guy immediately. He told me about terrible condition of the Germans, that they really were funny, but no one else in the world thought so.

Then we went on to talk about what German words I know.

"Do you know what Schadenfreuden means?" Steffi asked."You know, when someone is happy when something bad happens to another person?"
"Yes," I answered, "There is no English translation, so we use the German term. Maybe because Germans come up with words like this is the reason why no one thinks you are funny."

Jan told me that the German language is so precise that instruction manuals in English might be twice as long as if the same text was written in German. Then they told me about "mind-mapping" which is a type of brain-storming where you create a circle graphs to link your ideas together. They acted like Germans do this mind-mapping stuff all the time, but I think it's because they are students and they have to do it.

We walked back to the tram only to find we would have to wait an hour in the cold. So we did what every other person waiting for the tram did: Go to McDonald's. Eating some hamburgers at 1 in the morning; maybe Germans and Americans are not so different after all.

Me and Steffi.

Toby, Tom and Jan.


Squeen said...

I like the funny Germans.

Jacey said...

totally ben franklin...

Annette said...

Pan-fried Spam. My favorite. NOT!