Aber etwas hat gefehlt …

After staying in Germany for some time, I see that I can never have a comfortable life here unless I speak good German. English is not working here well.

Some weeks ago, I had to see a doctor and I called several doctors’ offices. Receptionists on the phone did not speak English. I had hard time to understand why I was refused to be seen in one of the doctors’ office. I only got the first part of the message, saying that because I was a new patient there was a problem. What kind of problem? This is still a mystery to me.

I met people who were helpful and listened to my imperfect German carefully. They were able to understand me and helped me. Then, I met people who did not appreciate me trying to speak German. I felt stupid, as if I was illiterate.

At the doctor’s office, where I got an appointment, only a young receptionist talked to me in English and helped me to fill in the forms. Lucky me, I am familiar with medical terms in Latin. When the receptionist could not translate a word into English, she said some of them in Latin or gestured. A nurse came after I filled in the forms. I was ‘glad’ to find out, she spoke no English, but she could speak French. ๐Ÿ™‚ I managed to answer her questions, but it took a lot out of me. After all, the doctor ‘made my day’. I came into an examination room and asked her if she spoke English. The answer was ‘Yes, I do’ and then blalalalala… All in German! She did not even try to speak English. lol

Another time, a neighbor said something to me. I had to ask her to repeat her words. She gave me a look as if I asked her to give me some money. haha That hurts sometimes. I am not a person who never studied. I did not deserve those superior looks people gave me here when I genially tried to speak German. It seems that if you speak broken German, people automatically assume you cannot even read. They do not care that you can speak many other languages. They do not care what you are doing in Germany. They just give you this look as if you are inferior to them. They do not smile, they are not understanding. Despite the fact you sound affable, they look at you as if they do not see your embarrassment and friendly smile.

Once, my husband saw the following scene: A young man asked a bus driver (in English) whether the bus went from the airport to the neighboring city or not. The bus driver answered nothing and closed the doors. Next bus came. The man repeated his question again. This time, a female driver angrily pointed out at the bus window (there was a sign in German). She shouted something in German and left. Why?! Why on earth, a person cannot get an answer in English in Germany? Maybe, that man came to visit his friends. He does not need to speak German. He is not staying in Germany. Why is he treated as if he did something wrong? What kind of impression a well-educated man will get about the country after being treated so rudely at the airport?

I am not talking about situations when people go abroad and ask questions in their native languages. I am talking about English, that has been considered to be the universal language for many years. I wish, people from European countries, which attract many foreigners to study/work, were more open-minded and were willing to speak English.

I am not planning to stay in Germany. I am studying the language, though. I want people to respect that. I am making an effort to be a better, more well-rounded person. I show respect for Germany and its citizens. I am trying to integrate, even though this is only for a couple of years. I believe the respect shall be mutual.

P.S. I understand that Germans I met do not represent the whole country and its people. I also met helpful and friendly Germans. Nevertheless, I wish, one day, everyone will keep these words in mind: ‘Do to others as you would have them do to you.’

4 thoughts on “Aber etwas hat gefehlt …

  1. Ever tried to speak German to an US-American busdriver? Or to a police officer? I dont think you’d fare any better. Ok this Doctor was an idiot – to say it politely. But have you tried to bring him to speak English to you? “Ich verstehe Deutsch nicht genug – kรถnnten sie das in Englisch wiederholen?” I hope you meet more open minded people in Germany to make it easier on you.


    • Thank you for your comment and good wishes! I somehow felt it was not polite to interrupt the doctor and I tried my best to understand what she was saying in German. I am studying the language, after all! Perhaps, I should not be such a shy idiot myself. lol


  2. That is really too bad. I wonder if it is for the same reason that some people in the US are so against anyone speaking Spanish. It is fear and ignorance. Your words cause me concern. I will be in Germany in a few months. I am doing my best to learn as much German as I can before than and will go to German language school when I arrive, but we can only do the best we can, right? The world is becoming smaller all the time. There is no way that everyone can speak all languages. As you said, just because someone doesn’t speak one language doesn’t mean they aren’t fluent in 3 others. Reading your post caused me to reflect on my own attitude when I speak to people in the US who have another primary language. I come across this often in my work as a nurse. Of course I would never be rude to anyone and I try my best to help….but I do get internally annoyed at times when I can’t understand and now that I think about it I probably do view them as knowing less. That is a prejudice I will try better to work on. Thank you for pointing it out to me. ๐Ÿ™‚


    • Hello! I hope my words did not scare you too much! As far as I understand, you are going to stay in a bigger city. For example, I had no problem visiting Berlin and Hamburg. People in your area might speak better English or be more open-minded.
      As for the other point, I think we all do that from time to time. That is unfortunate. Putting yourself in somebody’s shoes help. ๐Ÿ™‚


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