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Embarrassing Moments in Travel

As a 19-year-old Canadian gal who had never been on a plane or train in my life, I had somehow been given a student exchange trip to Germany. Having been unceremoniously deposited in Frankfurt, and having only one semester of the German language, I was still advanced compared to the girls I was socializing with the night before we were to travel to our respective jobs.

As we strolled through the city, we suddenly realized we had lost our way and were becoming a bit nervous. We were in a residential area but finally came across a gas station where we could go in and ask for directions. Being the pre-eminent scholar of the group, (one semester) I approached the attendant with confidence. Though I had forgotten the word for lost, I thought I would manage by saying, Wir wissen nicht wer wir sind, i.e., we don't know where we are. What I actually said to the attendant was: "WE DON'T KNOW WHO WE ARE" Is it my fault that in German, wer means who and wo means where? I mean, is it my fault that wer sounds like where, right? The attendant looked at us like we had just arrived from another planet and, although it's been over 30 years, I haven't forgotten the embarrassment.

Secondly, on the same trip, I went into a German restaurant for breakfast and, loving my eggs, I ordered zwei eis. I added an "s" like we do in English to make something plural and I knew that an egg was ei. They came with two dishes of ice cream and a cherry on top. A person with one semester of German doesn't necessarily remember that ei is egg and eis is ice cream. I naturally pretended that I always eat two dishes of ice cream for breakfast and I'm sure they put it down to some Canadian peculiarity! (or American as they probably assumed I was).




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