So long, farewell
Auf wiedersehen, goodnight
While studying German, I have learned:
- The Sound of Music is a lie. Germans don't say "auf wiedersehen", because it sounds too weirdly formal. Everyone says "tschüss" instead.
- Germans don't say "nein" for "no", because it sounds too harsh! There is a politer form to use instead.
- Germans don't ask "How are you?" ("Wie geht's?") very often.
Germans don't ask "How are you?"
Earlier today, I ordered my morning coffee in the perfectly normal way that all Australians do.
I said "Hello" and I asked "How are you?". I waited for the barista to mumble something about feeling fine. Their facial expression seemed to imply they were not feeling fine, but I ignored the contradiction. The barista then asked me "How are you going?". Lying, I said "I am good". After this dance of indifference, it was socially acceptable to say, "I would like a cappuccino please".
Naturally, I attempted to do the same in Berlin cafes. I would walk in with my strongly accented German and say "Hallo! Wie geht's?". I thought I was being friendly and polite. To the poor German baristas, I sounded like an absolute weirdo.
I asked "How are you?" hundreds of times before a German friend explained how it was an appropriate question for a close friend, but it was not a question to ask before ordering a coffee. Oops.
I made so many communication mistakes in Berlin, because I was trying to impose my English speaker view on the world.
I thought learning German would involve memorising tough grammatical rules, inhaling a dictionary, and a few umlauts.
Learning a foreign language is actually about letting go of how I see the world and starting again from zero.