Wednesday, July 2, 2008
Guess who's coming to dinner?
Tonight Ryan and I were invited to his boss' dinner party. I emailed my parents to check on gift-bringing etiquette and settled on summery looking flowers. I put on my yellow sundress (dinner was BBQ) and met Ryan at the Passing S-Bahn station. Then the heavens opened, spouting sheets of rain and hail. Ryan mentioned that he hadn't looked up a bus route, just walking. I dug inside my bag to discover sunglasses but no umbrella. Super. We both huddled under Ryan's umbrella, each 3/4 exposed to the elements. My dress stuck to my back and right side. Ryan's shirt went transparent when wet, displaying his dark body hair.
While the whole scene brought on images from Rocky Horror Picture Show's "There's a Light (Over at the Frankenstein Place)" I'm afraid our first impression wasn't impressive. Dieter and his wife, Silke, graciously offered us towels and a blowdryer, but we were still damp and awkward. A few more guests arrived and we began chatting over beers, in English (triumph!). Things were going pretty well until about 20 minutes in when the conversation switched to German-- and stayed there-- for the next 2.5 hours! I was able to catch sentences here and there, such as:
"The hibiscus used to be this small, and 20 years later it is over a metre."
"Yes, he was only 24 and when they came home, he was dead!"
The food was delicious, and the party gave me a chance to meet Ryan's project manager, who looks like someone I'd avoid at a truck stop (70s cowboy-type, balding on top, long hair on the sides, skinny mustache, weirdly long pinky nails). The evening was good practice, I suppose, but it did give me the feeling that I'd rather not live in Germany after December. I really enjoy dinner parties, telling funny stories, making witty comments. But in German I can barely ask where the bathroom is. How long would it be until I am fluent? And beyond that, how long until I can be witty in a foreign language? Are the senses of humor even similar enough? My final stab at conversing came during dessert-- pineapple. During a silence I stated "I read once that there is so much acid in a pineapple that if you were to eat an entire pineapple by yourself, you would have third-degree burns in your mouth." I would call this a good conversation starter, but it inspired only grim nods.
So, Germany remains an enigma for another day. In related cultural observations: why do so many German girls wear halter tops with regular bras? Has this look caught on in the US as well?