Angry Bilingual Gypsies

I would love to write something deeply meaningful about Argentine culture (because that’s what this blog is about. Serious, meaningful meaningfulness), but, sadly, I don’t have much time to write today. That being said, the archive calendar for this month looks depressingly empty, so here’s a short one about Berlin.

**Original date: July 16, 2013

During my second week in Berlin I discovered a neat little open market near one of the train stations. I wandered around for a pretty long time before getting tired and sitting on some steps to rest. So there I was, peacefully watching the other people, when a woman pushing a stroller came up to me.

“Sprechen Sie Deutsch?” She asked. (Do you speak German?)

This was an exciting moment for me. No one had asked me that yet. So far, people just looked at me and assumed that I was an English-speaking tourist, or they heard my accent and switched into English anyways. My German was actually pretty decent, but nobody outside the school had given me an opportunity to use it. Until now.

“Ja!” I answered proudly.

She nodded, thrust a piece of cardboard in my hands, and then launched into a spiel about her baby being sick and not having medicine in rapid, heavily accented German. I looked down at the card, more to avoid her eyes than anything else, and saw that she had summarized her story on the card: Mein Baby ist krank und ich habe kein Geld (My baby is sick and I have no money).

I shook my head and said, “I’m sorry.” I started to give her back the card, but then she said, “You speak English? Here!” She flipped the card over and put it back in my hand. The same message was written in English. Then she started her story all over again in rapid, heavily accented English.

I shook my head again, more vigorously this time, and pushed the card back at her. She looked upset. “Englisch oder Deutsch?” She demanded, flipping the card back to the German side and thrusting it back in my hands.

I answered, “Ich kann die beide, aber ich gebe dir kein Geld!” (I know both, but I’m not giving you any money!)

This probably wasn’t the most polite way to say it, but in my defense she had been yelling at me in two languages for the past few minutes. I was flustered and I really wanted her to leave me alone.

Yay, being bluntly honest! Without another word she snatched the card out of my hands and pushed the stroller away, presumably to harass other tourists.

The gypsies in Berlin were pretty impressive with their language skills. I heard people get harassed in a ton of different European languages, although I found a way to beat them. None of the gypsies seemed to know Chinese, so eventually whenever someone asked me for money I would answer in rapid Chinese until they left me alone (my Chinese wasn’t terribly good at this point, but I knew enough to make it sound like language. I’m sure that if any Chinese people overhead me, they would have been laughing their asses off at all the made up words coming out of my mouth).

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2 Responses to Angry Bilingual Gypsies

  1. I’m sorry I don’t have any chopsticks!

  2. Pingback: The Fun Factory | Execution Hedgehog

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