Saturday, December 22, 2012

To use English, or to not...

I went to a fancy-schmancy shoe and clothing shop in the Viadukt shopping area yesterday with the express intent of buying some proper boots for winter.  As I was browsing the wingtips from England and marveling at how astronomically expensive they were to my hubs in English, a saleswoman chimed in (also in English), 'just let me know if you folks need any assistance'.  I responded with a 'danke'.  I marveled at how good her English was.  -barely an accent!  I found her use of 'folks' entirely appropriate and much like what I would say were I in her position working somewhere back home.

As I've stated here before, I didn't come to Deutschschweiz to practice my English with the natives.  Also, I figured that the sales lady spoke better English than I speak German, so she didn't need to practice her English as much as I need to practice my German, so beim Schuhkaufen wird Deutsch gesprochen!  (-just a wee clarification: I speak a ton of English with my partner, with some of my work mates, with others who aren't so conversant in German.  I'm not a total freak about language, but I do try to 'blend in' while out and about by speaking something that may resemble to a degree what others around me are speaking.)

Recently, I was in a Starbucks here in town having a coffee and trying to figure out the NY Times crossword puzzle for that (Wednes)day, when a family of Americans came in and stood near my perch at the window.  The mom was holding a persnickity baby who was wriggling around in her arms and crying a bit.  The dad, a grandma, I presume, and some other offspring queued up for a snack.  The family was greeted in the customary 'Gruezi', but didn't respond.  Dad moved up to the cash register to ask for a 'croissant'.  No, 'please', no using the native word 'gipfeli' (not a major offense at Starbuck's I'd imagine), no nothing other than the one word order of 'croissant'.  The young man at the till tried to oblige by speaking English and going through the litany of croissant choice on display in the case between them.  The dad kept repeating 'croissant' and pointing.  It was going nowhere.  The baby was crying a bit more by this point, so I thought I might jump in to speed things along, so mom and baby could get moving to a seat or the ladies' toilet.  I reiterated what the man wanted in German and expressed to the mother that it must be a bit fatiguing for her to have to stand there and that I hoped that I'd helped in expediting the ordering process for them.  As it turned out, the dad had wanted a croissant with ham and cheese.  It was either that, or he gave up as the young man offered the meat croissant and just settled on it to be done with the transaction.  -dunno.  I do know that my 'help' really wasn't help at all and I probably just should have stayed out of it. 


  1. I would consider so lucky to have someone like you jump into the line and help me out in a situation like that. I hope the dad said a 'thank you', at least?

    1. No, the dad may have been either too overwhelmed or too annoyed to say 'thanks'. The mom, however, thanked me although I wasn't much help. :)


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