Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Things That Do Not Translate

Today is the day our parent company has set up for us to go over to their office and get a free Flu Shot. So I called G2 and asked him, "Would you like to get a Flu Shot? We are all going over to X for our Flu Shots. I can find out if you are eligible."
[pause from my end] "Do you know what I am talking about when I say Flu Shot? Die Grippe?"
"No. Is it a party?"
"Okay, hang on, I'm coming back there."

I hang up the phone and approach G2's desk already thinking, yeah, this is not going to go so well. I can see it already. "The Flu is a disease to me," he said.
"Yes, I know, they are going to give you a little bit of the Flu now so you don't get sick later."
"No, I don't want that. I thought we were going to be kissing people."
"Okay, you don't want a Flu shot?"
"No, I thought it was a party to meet new people."
"But do you understand what I am saying? It will help you to not get sick."
"No. I do not need medicine for everything! Come on! I trust my body. Don't you trust your body?" Mercifully, I don't have to answer this question. I put my head in my hands. NewGuy walks by and I say to him, "Okay, this is not translating well. Must be a cultural thing. I do not think Flu Shots exhist in Germany."

G2 keeps going, "We have been around for one million years. We are not outside every day. We will not get the flu."
"Um, have you ever had the flu?" I ask.
"Sure when I was a child. Not now. NewGuy, are you getting this Flu Shot?" Now, NewGuy is the kind of person who is very concerned about the flu. In fact, he's the one who asked me to find out if our company had a Flu Shot policy. So he's all like, 'well, you know, this thing comes in and it spreads and then you're totally wiped out for like two weeks'...

"What about the Avian flu? The Bird Flu? Are you concerned about that?" I asked.
"Ha ha. This is a joke! No. It will not happen. I mean, a bird dies in Great Brittan and in Germany it is on the front page of the news. I mean, a Papagei, ... What is a Papagei?" he turns to me.
"A Parrot," I translate.
"A parrot dies in Brittan and everyone is making panic!"
NewGuy says something like, 'well, it has a fifty-percent fatality rate, you know. 120 people have gotten it and 60 people have died. And birds migrate you know..."

G2 just starts laughing. He laughs so hard he turns red in the face. I laugh a little, because I am nervous. I look at NewGuy. G2's laughter has taken on a creepy and really, there is no other way to say this, Arayan nature. I start backing away.

Sometimes working with Germans is not all fun and games.

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