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early post
lost in a forest
Mainz is nice. It reminds me of Holland. Middle-class crowd and lots of stores and interesting architecture. I was having a good time right up until i walked into a burger joint and made a fool of myself trying to order. I don't know what it is, but i get utterly mortified when i have to drop back to English, and aside from having "real" conversations i haven't had to do it yet. But here i couldn't even get my words out to order food, and i felt like a complete tool. To make matters worse, the girl at the counter kept asking me to repeat myself, so what little i did say in German (or English) i felt like she couldn't even understand that. It probably didn't help that there were a bunch of surly teenagers around. I was honestly about to have an anxiety attack from the shame and embarrassment. And i know there are a million tourists here who can't speak a lick of German and won't even try, but that doesn't make me feel any better.

This happened when we took a high school field trip to Aachen. We walked into a massive record store so i tried to ask if they had the Immortals' Mortal Kombat album and i just froze up completely. Being on the border they understood my Dutch, but i felt like i could never show my face there again.

I don't know why it's such a big deal for me. It just is. I hate being the outsider, and one of the weirdest things about Europe is that although culturally i was brought up in a similar way to most people here, there's always been a language barrier because i was also brought up monolingual. Ironically i have my mom to blame for that (if i'm to believe my dad). He said he was all for us being brought up bilingual, but mom didn't want it because dad couldn't speak any other languages. Eh whatever. Even if i did speak perfect Dutch i still would've fucked up my German today.

Maybe it also kinda embarrasses me because i spent 4-5 years of my childhood here, but because we were in the British Army we only ever socialized with other Brits. Being a resident who didn't learn the language is so much worse. The funny thing is, i'm not a proponent of a national language. I think it's bullshit they force Canadians to learn French, and i think it's bullshit rednecks want to force Spanish-speaking Americans to learn English. People should be able to speak whatever the fuck they like, it shouldn't matter. But then when it comes to me... yeah, then something runs deeper. Seems i've never really fit in anywhere...

I want to get really fucking drunk, but unlike Frankfurt, there aren't half a dozen tobacconist/liquor stores on every block, so i might have to go to a pub. And make a goddamn fool of myself again. Urgh, confidence shattered. But i refuse to go to a fucking backpackers or an English pub because that would just be complete capitulation.
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I had something similar happen to me, although it wasn't a language barrier.

When Emily was sick with her infection, I went up to Canada for three days to take care of her house and visit. I got food for her, I ran errands, bright back essentials from her house.

Around Day 2, I was really "feeling" it. I'd been working at becoming Canadian for several months at that point, and here I was waslking talking like anyone else in Canada. Not hard to do considering the close ties to the US, but there are subtle differences and I was aware of them, and adapting.

I walked into a Tim Horton's to get Emily a much deserved treat, and I asked "Do y'all have any of the donuts with the Maple Leaf sprinkles on them?" The moment I said "y'all" the illusion crashed not just for me, but for the teller: "You're not from around here, are you?"

I kept it jovial, and there were a few of the usual stilted question "You're from Texas? You must like that George W Bush!" But when I left, I felt like I'd completely failed at a mission I didn't know I had....

In the end, it was all for naught. A few months laters Emily and I were broken up, a few months after that I became diabetic (which killed my chances at Canada) and a few after that, Emily and I weren't speaking...

Ah, well...

"Completely failed at a mission i didn't know i had" sums it up perfectly. I know i'm not German - and as soon as i open my mouth anyone who lives here knows the same thing - but i still feel i should do my best to respect the culture. I think i just don't want to be branded as an ignorant backpacker, which upsets me because - although i'd be that in Thailand or Argentina or wherever - Europe is supposed to be where i grew up.

I just can't piece together your past - the years you spent in which places etc. Would you type it out for a numpty so I can better follow?

Also, I completely understand not wanting to make a fool of yourself. I do think you're being rather hard on yourself, but I do the same thing so I get it.


Of course. Here's the short version: England 1980-1983, Germany 1983-1987, Scotland 1987-1988, New Zealand 1988-1993, Denmark 1993-1994, Holland 1994-1997, Australia 1997-2001, USA 2001-2002, Australia 2002-2009, Canada 2009-2013. I might have a year wrong here or there. And damn that looks ridiculous typing it out.

Wow, what a life. Thank you!

I remember you saying that you aren't a citizen of anywhere. Is that actually true? Could you go back to any of these places, any time and live?

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