Friday, July 08, 2011

In which I gather material for a riveting ex-pat novel

For reasons too fascinating to get into here, I just had to pay at a bakery with a 50-euro bill. Heading over there, I was, of course, concerned. It's one thing when someone in a Parisian store or café gives me a hard time, because I'd at least know which coins they preferred, and be able to gauge, on a pain scale of 1 to 10, how tragic it would be for them to break a 20. German for Reading, plus Flemish by Osmosis, mean that I might understand what the other person says, but responding's another matter.

So I'm delighted to report that I was able to get the Bretzel I wanted, a sub-euro purchase that's the bagel equivalent of Heidelberg and, with Austrian cheese (and, today, spicy mustard! Jo, take note), the basis of my lunch most days here, with the bill in question. No dirty looks, no German sentence that I might have guessed meant, 'got anything smaller'? As Britta suspected, the change thing is not a thing in these parts.

The only problem was that I'm apparently so incomprehensible in German that, after having summoned all the relevant politeness and soft-pretzel words I could come up with, my order was repeated back to me as "Latte Macchiato." How the baker/cashier got that from what I said, I'll never know, but I suspect it had something to do with my having been profiled, for any number of reasons, some more flattering than others, as more "Latte Macchiato" than "Bretzel."


Britta said...

Not to reinforce ethnic stereotypes, but the natural anal-ness of Germans makes me think I would like living there more than the US. People who don't accept legal tender drive me crazy, because I am pretty sure you are legally required to. People who also don't make exact change drive me crazy, because while you're allowed to be careless with your own money, you need to be exact with others' money.

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...

Stereotypes... When this room - which is, let me remind, a room in a guesthouse, with a shared kitchen outside, not a luxury estate - is cleaned every weekday, like vacuumed and everything, and the dorm I was at in Paris had obviously not seen a good scrubbing since well before Sartre was a student at that school, I'm thinking the whole 'Germans like cleanliness' thing might have some basis in truth.

Agreed, though, re: change. No one wants to be the one to make a fuss in that situation, especially when with friends, especially-especially when on a date, so the non-exact-change-giver wins 99% of the time.