Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Deutschsprechen and Laundry

For the first time in years I am carting laundry to a laundromat (washsalon). While I will always prefer a washer and dryer in my own home, there is something to be said for the laundromat. When I lived in Los Angeles (the last time I had to use a laundromat) I would drive over with bags and bags of laundry and get an entire month worth of laundry done in an hour and a half. I would usually go on Sunday morning and bring my most favorite of all periodicals -- The Sunday Paper.

Here in Bonn, I have to walk many blocks with the laundry so I can't let it stack up like those who live in a car world. So I go every week. I tried going on Monday mornings but it seems that everyone that doesn't go on the weekends goes on Monday mornings instead -- very crowded. So I have gone on Tuesday or Wednesday for the last three weeks. I bring my knitting and have a fairly enjoyable time.

What does this have to do with speaking German? I'm glad you asked. It seems that anyone who has a question regarding the operation of the machines turns to me. I'm thinking this might be because of the domestic air my knitting lends. It might also be that I've gotten into the habit of smiling at people as a pre-apology for being unable to understand or communicate smoothly. Whatever the case, laundry has become an opportunity to speak German. You wouldn't think I would need to create these special opportunities since I'm living in, well, Germany but I do not tend to strike up conversations ... I need to be forced into speaking to strangers by commerce needs or by being approached first.

Last week I educated an extremely friendly Polish woman, Agnes, on the mysteries of the washsalon. She is also learning German but is much more advanced that I am. We exchanged phone numbers and I was actually brave enough to call her and set up a Deutschsprach date for this past Saturday. She doesn't speak any English (although she understands a few words) and I know no Polish ... so German and pantomime are our only options for communication. It went well ... exhausting, but really good. We met for two hours after I had already spent 4 hours shopping with my other German friend, Deborah. In the past, I have done well in forcing myself to speak German to Deborah ... but evidentially I can't speak German AND walk on cobblestones WHILE navigating the crazily busy Saturday streets.


Renee said...


Renee said...

Hooray for commerce-needs induced speaking!

I also recommend asking "How do you read this sign?" or "How do you say this in German/Japanese?" It's fun to watch the stranger's looks of incredulity while bolstering your vocabulary list. :)

Anonymous said...

Oh good for you! So impressed that you are taking such effort to learn the language. So many westerners living in another country with another language just don't bother. Makes me sad and a bit mad that they don't. Good job!

wendy said...

I think you're right about the knitting making you look approachable! I think people take someone knitting in public one of two ways - you're either a nutter who should be avoided at all costs or you must be harmless because people's grannies knit :)