Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Panic! At the Bakery

I'm a week and a half into my stay. I haven't been given a strict timeline for it, but our orientation booklet included a handy section on "transition trouble," which is given different names by different  psychologists/travel professionals/study abroad organizers but is generally as follows:
  1. Enchantment ("Everything is so new and charming!")
  2. Disenchantment ("Everything is so annoyingly different!")
  3. Retreat ("Everything I need and want is right here at home, I refuse everything else.")
  4. Adjustment ("I know I can't get everything out of one culture or another, each one has positives and negatives, and it's up to me which I choose to dwell upon.")
I keep waiting for stage 2 to hit me. I'm about a quarter of the way through, there are four stages, shouldn't I be hating everything by now?

Curse you, Germans, and your delicious bread!

Quite honestly, though, I seem to have skipped from Stage One to Stage Four With a Generous Helping of Panic. Which is to say, culturally everything is fine, but without being able to understand things, I tend to panic and then my mind goes into a death spiral.
I want to eat lunch at this cafe. Do I seat myself out here or go inside and order? If I seat myself, do I have a menu somewhere? If I go inside, can I eat here or do they expect me to leave? Can I sit by myself? As a single, am I supposed to share a table? Has my wallet fallen out of my bag since I had it five minutes ago? If I mess this up will I start a major international incident?
Then I took the bus home and got a sandwich from the closest bakery. I still made a fool of myself.

This is on top of the fact that while I actually know enough words to make myself understood (whether said words are gramatically correct or not), unless I have about five minutes beforehand to check every single syllable I want to use all German flees my head the minute someone talks to me, to the extent that I can't remember how to say "I only speak a little German."

Completely accurate representation of my reaction. I'm sorry, random German ladies who probably only wanted to know how late the market was open.

So technically, this might be Stage Three Fueled By a Complete Inability to Communicate Without Looking Idiotic Minus Any Resentment Toward This Culture.

Since I'm blogging this rather than, say, posting angsty Facebook status updates, you might assume I'll end by showing you how to not do this. Unfortunately, I haven't found a way to save my dignity, but a good plan is 1) having someone else with you, because everyone knows that group embarrassment is less embarrassing that individual embarrassment, and if dragging your roommate along with you at all times isn't your favorite idea, 2) just ask someone who knows. If not a local, then a student who's been here longer. So far they've all been good sports about it, probably because they've all been there at some point.

1 comment:

  1. Oh my brave girl! Accept the embarrassment!
    Own the embarrassment! Enjoy the adventure anyway!!love you,Mom
    (and Mom typed that all by herself)



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