Tuesday, January 03, 2006


January 3, 2006

Yesterday I had another unhappy encounter with the butcher at the Biomarkt. She isn’t my usual butcher but mine was closed and I needed something so had no choice. She’s an imposing figure, huge, with a bright red face, gruff and stiff, not at all the touchy-feely “Bio” type, but then she’s the meat lady and the odd person out at the Bio anyway. Using my best intro-level German, I asked for rindfleisch. Now all you real German speakers out there don’t jump all over my spelling – you know what I mean and so would Brunhilde the Butcher if she had just listened to me instead of panicking at the sound of my very non-German German and in a full, loud voice hollering “ENGLISH!” and then turn away from me until the language reinforcements arrived. When gentle Ursula came running over and asked me how she could be of service I repeated my request. Ursula looked up at the Beefy Broad in white and then at me, I was asked how much, I answered 500 Gram and that was that. My food was wrapped and handed to me over the counter.

I am not the sort of person who on first meeting generally instills either fear or loathing, but this isn’t the first, second or third time the word “ENGLISH!” has been broadcast across the room shortly after I uttered a fractured phrase. In time I will learn this language but I don’t think I will ever blend in. There will always be a telling trace of an accent in my speech that will mark me as an Ausslander, an outsider, and that’s ok, I’ll learn to deal with it. But I have created a new column in my ex-pat diary under the heading “ENGLISH” where I will collect my experiences living in the margin. I’ve never lived in the margin before and it’s too early to draw any conclusions, but not to early to know that being recognized as foreign, and therefore somehow odd, isn’t pleasant.