Wash and I have encountered an unforeseen, but rather funny (haha funny, don’t worry) if you think about it, obstacle about being a half American here in the States.
You see, even though we’re both fluent in it, speaking English in every day life a lot of times still feels like using some kind of magic lingua. If we speak the right incantation, the bus driver will sell us the right ticket. If we choose the right spell, the waiter will bring us the right order. If we get it wrong, well, we might turn ourselves into toads, accidentally. The trouble is that Wash and I are not yet so erudite in the magic lingua of this particular kingdom. It will happen sometimes that we ask strangers about something that we didn’t understand that is completely self-evident to them and they will look at us as if we were trying to make fun of them.
For example, I’m not very good on vegetables and fruits. I mean at knowing the English words for them, the eating part I sorta get. So when Wash and I went grocery shopping at Fred Meyer today we had to ask for some help at the self-checkout. I’ve only ever gone through self-checkout a handful of times at Ikea, so this is rather new to me, anyway. We’ve been avoiding it these past few days, but you gotta do it at some point, no sense in being afraid of it the whole time. It’s actually a fairly easy and self-explanatory thing to do: You simply scan the bar code of the items you want to buy. Wash and I managed to get through the whole process without help at least that far. Then we got to the produce. They don’t have a bar code to swipe. But like I said, the system is very user friendly, so I just pressed the “search by name” button and entered t-o-m-a-t-o-e-s. And voilà, all kinds of tomatoes showed up and I selected the cheap roma ones Wash and I had gotten. It all went well until we got to the Kohl. You might be laughing now, but I swear, we tried very hard, but Wash and I couldn’t remember the word for Kohl anymore. So we went over to the nice lady attending the self-checkout and asked, rather embarrassed, if she could tell us the name of this vegetable we were holding up to her nose. I don’t know if it was because I was asking such an unexpected vocabulary question, or the fact that I was also holding a stuffed raccoon in my other hand, but she definitely thought us weird, even by Portland standards.
Because, you see, Wash and I barely have an accent when we speak English. If we have a longer conversation with someone, they will eventually notice that something is off about the way we talk and about some of the words we use and ask if we’re British. (I was told that that is the general assumption over here if you speak fluent English that just doesn’t seem to be from around.) But Germany, or any kind of non-anglophone country has never been among them. So in those short, every day interactions, people will hear our somewhat American-sounding magic words and be confused about our confusion with them. I never thought I’d say this, but things might be a bit easier over here, people a bit more understanding, if we had a German accent.
I will never EVER forget the word cabbage in my life.