Wednesday, April 18

Coffee, Cake and Confusion

I was invited to one of those famous german Kaffee und Kuchen (coffee and cake) this afternoon. There were a number of people out there, both young and old so I have to pay attention about my Sie(formal) and du (informal) way of speaking to avoid embarassment. That means I have to change the form of address and the noun and verb forms when I speak directly to a particular person. So I looked in the group and categorized it to 2 types. Aha a little boy, definitly a Du, my hostess, also a Du and a younger friend of hers who is probably also a Du , the rest Sie (about 5 of them). After I managed to shake hands with everybody (almost a must if you want to leave good impressions) I had my cake. Some sort of joghurt (probably only 1%)cake with 99% of cream in it, well it looked as if it were just cream and not a cake at all. It tasted heavenly and my host asked me if I want to have whipped cream on the side. No thanks! I want to live another day! (of course I didn't say I that, I declined the asian way - "maybe later" - an indirect no as always) So there I was starting to have a conversation when I noticed that some of the Sie people were Du -ing me and the Du person is Si-ing me. I am so confuse, which one is saying the du now or the sie. I lost track of my Sie and Du, ach, it almost gave me a headache. Only one way to solve it -I asked the host for another cake this time with cream on the side. This will take my mind off things. Luckily the people started to go home one by one. Each time leaving me with a firm handshake, goodbye, handshake here, goodbye handshake there.Handshakes are indeed in demand here. ( My boss said this is part of the german life and there is even a really right way to do it, not just the firm handshake sort of stuff, you must even look the person direct, eye contact but not really look at him, something like your eyes should bore on top of his nose, right in the middle just before the forehead starts. This explanation is so confusing however it is certified true by another 3 germans I know, nevertheless not sure if that is competent opinion) I thought my problems were solved but just as they were leaving, new people came again. Good afternoon ... handshake here.. Sie or du that is the question -again! At last all hellos have goodbyes , it is time for me to say goodbye. My hands were aching from the many handshakes so I bid goodbye to all the Toni way --really simple, I just waved my hands and said goodbye to everyone(they all smiled back so I think they forgave me for this). After my goodbye wave the host came to me and asked if I want a take home - I really don't want to, but the stereotyped asian me can't directly say no, maybe later doesn't work now because I am going home so no later and no choice. All in all it was nevertheless a nice afternoon, the cakes were delicious and the conversation was really interesting. Funny this is the first time nobody asked me how long I have been living in Germany and where did I learn my german (to which they will say, wow, and you speak german already so good?- to which I would say no, not really, but deep inside glowing of pride)


Sarge Charlie said...

Hi, You asked about Don Imus, well I will try:
John Donald "Don" Imus, Jr. (born July 23, 1940) is an American comedian, writer, and former radio talk show host. His radio show, Imus in the Morning, aired weekday mornings from 1979 until it was canceled on April 12, 2007[1] following public objections to a racial and gender slur he made on-air, for which he later apologized.

He called the basket ball players
Nappy Headed Hos, a very poor attempt at the black street language,
Hos = Whore.
Nappy Headed = Kinkey hair

I hope that clears it up for you.

Sarge Charlie said...

the following is a Utube of the radio show......

chateau said...

Hi Toni! Wow, german speaking ka na. About that handshake advice- hmmm, I've had German bosses, and in retrospect, they do seem to do that type of handshake with the look between the nose and the eyes.. haha, ngayon ko lang narealize!
I enjoyed this post-very amusing!

kathy said...

Hi Toni. Got here from Ann's blog. I was able to relate to your experience - here in Japan, we also have to keep in mind the proper manner of speaking when talking to someone superior, same-level, or lower (like kids and juniors). At first it was confusing, but later on I got the hang of it - although I'm sure I still inadvertently commit faux pas mistakes from time to time. Instead of handshakes, we have to keep in mind our bowing - the higher the person's status, the lower you should bow. :)

Alternati said...

hi Toni,

I had a problem with Sie and du when we went to Germany in 2002. It was easier for us though cause they were very lenient seeing we were tourists and all. hehehe

I tried sending the pic of Mina to you in the email address you left in my comment box ( but it came back to me with an error message, is the e-mail right?

P.s. I do not know imom personally... I just met her through blogging. :)

Gattina said...

OMG that's not true, these Kaffee und Kuchen tradition still exists ? I was used to it when my parents where still alive and they had their coffee cermonies with their friends but these were people born before world war 1 !!
But I agree that it is difficult for an English speaking person to use Sie and Du. But I think English is the only language were everybody is "you" because in French, Spanish, Italian, Dutch and all other European languages it's done too. Vous and tu for France, tu and lei for Italy etc. Yes and handshaking too is not really typical German because you have it here in Belgium too as well as in France and Italy. Only the UK is easy for that ! I hate handshaking and avoid it whenever I can. To say good bye I do like you waving with a smile to everybody. But be happy that you don't live here (or in France, Italy or Spain) because here you have to kiss everybody on the cheak ! 3 x in Belgium 4 times in France and 5 (!!) in Italy ! That's even worse ! When I have my painting groump on thursday mornings I have first to kiss me through everybody until I can sit down and start ! But the kisses are reduced to one ! In school too everybody kisses everybody. Office, streets wherever you are and know only a little bit the person then kiss !! But of course you say SIE ! The two friends I still have in Germany and their friends don't do the Kaffee Kuchen thing anymore, but the Sie and Du remains ! I learn from you ! I tell you ! And now I have to go over to one of my neighbors, they have invited the whole street for a drink and have to kiss ... wait ... 12 people at least !!!

Toni said...

Thank you all for the visit, wasn't able to blog this weekend because The V. (hubby) said I blog too much and need to have a weekend break from it. Will be blogging more tom.
Thank you Sarge Charlie for the explanation. Kathy and Alternati thank you for the visit! Will be dropping by your blog later.
Hi Gattina, yup I remember in the Netherlands they also kiss 3 times, all these customs just need to get used to. Believe it or not Kaffee und Kuchen is still very in! imom i sent you an email, check it out.

david santos said...

Thanks for you work, have a good week

chateau said...

my children and hubby are complaining as well about too much time i spend blogging!