Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Next Person Who Says Germans Have No Sense of Humor Gets a Kick in the Teeth

I was just dying laughing, because one of my co-workers was describing the backroom where two of our German colleagues sit, "God, it was like a U-Boat back there today. One of them was reading numbers ... the other one was repeating the numbers back", he mimed looking around with a periscope.

"Oh my God," I said. "We work in Das Boot!"

Last night I went out with Frau Foxtrot and some young German women who had come to New York as tourists. Frau F was doing a family friend a favor by taking them out and she invited me so that she could produce a real, live New York American for their entertainment. "It will be fun, " she said. "I'm sure they would like to practice their English."

Now the phrase 'she really wants to practice their English' is a lie along the lines of 'the check is in the mail'. No one wants to practice their English when they are in a group where the majority of people speak the same mother-tongue. Hell, I never feel like 'practicing my German'. So predicatably we all chatted mostly in German. At one point I tried to say something profound about September 11, 2001. The girls just looked at me. I asked Frau Foxtrot, "Can you understand me?"

"No," she said.

"Oh, Klasse. 'Du sprichst totalen Unsinn aber wir sind alle zu hoeflich etwas zu sagen'. " (Oh Great. 'You speak total nonsense but we are all too polite to say anything').

I did get to learn some great new German words including "Arschgeweih" which means the same thing as the American Tramp Stamp but translates literally as "Ass Antlers". Also, I asked, "What do people say to get you to smile when you take a photo? We say, 'Say Cheese!'" They told me several answers but the best by far was "Ameisescheisse" which means "Ant Shit." What a fun-loving people!

I recommended that we take the girls to Ellen's Stardust Diner which is a tourist trap, but it's fun and it's loud, so I wouldn't be expected to carry on lengthy conversations of substance. If you don't know, Ellen's Stardust is a 50's style diner with a waitstaff who sings and dances on the tables. It's a great place to get some bad food, especially if you enjoy watching Broadway hopefuls belt out "These Boots Were Made For Walkin'" and "Suddenly Seymour". FF and I were singing along- no doubt if we had been drinking alcohol we would have been up on the tables too. FF shocked me by pointing to a giant screen showing "I Love Lucy" and asking me, "What's that?" You cannot explain how great "I Love Lucy" is to a non-American. Cannot be done.

While we were in the diner, someone was having a birthday, so the waitstaff made a big deal and sang Happy Birthday. I asked if they did that in German restaurants even though I already knew the answer to that question. You may be presented with a complimentary dessert, but there is no singing. A German would rather tear his own skin off than have an insincere stranger sing to them in a public place. We have a lot to learn from that culture.

4 comments:

Schwelmo said...

Thought you might be interested

http://service.spiegel.de/cache/international/0,1518,k-6896,00.html

http://service.spiegel.de/cache/international/0,1518,k-6903,00.html

Might help you to understand all those Germans in NY

Cupcake said...

Thanks Schwelmo, those articles are great. They've inspired me to write a piece about Gummibears. It's not clear if Spiegel pays for those submissions, but if they do, I'm all over it.

They also have an article about the German Sense of Humor. Imagine an American children's TV show where the main character's catchphrase is "My life is hell." Right.

Joshua said...

That is the worst diner in the world. No wonder everyone hates America. I went there once with my aunt and all her tween dance students.
Oh the awfulness. I liked my chicken fingers though.

Cupcake said...

I hadn't been to the Ellen's Stardust since I was 19 and my neurotic ex-boyfriend asked me to meet him on the top of the Empire State Building during our first year of college. I thought that place might be a good place to take some German 17-year old girls, and I stand by that. I thought the food was pretty bad, but it's a scene. I do sincerely believe that if I were consuming alcohol there is a good chance I would have climbed onto the table and started singing as well. I'm that kind of person- but only when drunk.

There is a diner in Chicago called Ed Debevic's that is also "50s Style" where the waitstaff specializes in insulting the clientele. They are also known to break out into song. I watched one waiter get particualrly agressive with a six year old boy. "Do you ever make people cry?" I asked my waitress.

"Oh, all the time," she said.

They also serve the World's Smallest Ice Cream Sundae in a glass about the size of a shot glass. I went to this place on the advice of my Mom's gay hairdresser who told me it was "a riot". That pretty much sums it up.