In case people got the wrong impression

I really did enjoy my trip. I just like talking about the goofy things.

I intend to go back to Sweden in the spring. I'm currently enrolled in Swedish lessons but this trip came far too soon for me to have learned anything useful aside from "tack", "ursäkta" and "Jag taler inte svenska." Though the lady behind the register was exceedingly pleased to see a blatant foreigner buying Swedish children's books. Everybody in Sweden speaks perfect English (it's quite embarrassing, actually), so Swedes are honored when a foreigner actually bothers to learn Swedish. I'm told that one of the factors contributing to astounding English-language abilities in Sweden is that American TV shows and movies are not dubbed into Swedish when imported; they are merely subtitled.

The Øresund bridge is totally awesome.

Amusingly, when you take the ferry from Denmark to Germany, the toll booth agent speaks Danish and expects you to speak Danish. When you take the same ferry in the reverse direction, the toll both agent speaks German and expects you to speak German.

The ferry schedules are published only in Danish. Just our luck, of all the languages of all the countries we were visiting, that's the only one none of us knew. We had a choice of two ferries, and we were unable to determine with confidence what times each one ran, how much time the crossing lasted, and when the last ferry of the day was.

I studied German for five years, but that was a long time ago and my vocabulary has decayed heavily since then. Actually, my listening ability never got very good. On all the exercise tapes, they talk painfully slowly and clearly, whereas in real life, people talk rapidly and don't enunciate clearly. I could usually follow about two or three sentences before the rate of input exceeded my ability to process it. I got around okay, but it was slow going. I've also been told that my German is overly formal and stilted. (Is there such a thing as "overly stilted"? As opposed to what, "just stilted enough"?)

I am myself not a vegetarian, but my two travelling companions are. We discovered the secret to finding vegetarian food: find an Indian restaurant or an Italian restaurant. An Indian restaurant will have an extensive vegetarian menu. ("Scharf" is a good word to know, too.) An Italian restaurant will have a few vegetarian options. We weren't sure about German or French restaurants. We concluded that, while a French restaurant is more likely to have vegetarian dishes or be able to convert an existing dish to vegetarian, a German restaurant would be less likely to be annoyed at the request. (We only tested this theory once: I stopped at a German restaurant and asked if they had any vegetarian entrees; the answer was no.)

It's a good thing the glockespiel at the Marienplatz is so badly out of tune - it sets expectations for the show that follows.

The important lessons at Oktoberfest were not learned by me firsthand, thank goodness.

The Deutsches Museum is ridiculously huge. We spent an entire day there.

We did not get to spend as much time in Berlin as the city deserved. Berlin is a "real city" as opposed to Munich, which is a "tourist city".

Comments (16)
  1. Kelli Zielinski says:

    My husband has family in Berlin, I’d like to go visit some time. However, I don’t think most of them speak English, so that would kind of suck as we’re very bad at other languages. They really should start people in this country to learning languages earlier. Eh.

    I’m glad you had a good trip, I’m disappointed that you didn’t barf at Oktoberfest, yet strangely relieved, ;)

  2. Florian W. says:

    Oh dear, I live in munich 5 years now and I never listen to the glockenspiel. I don’t think, I missed something. I agree that munich is a tourist city, like whole bavaria with Schloss Neuschwanstein and that stuff. But why did you come here? And why are the americans always buying these Kuckucksuhren?

  3. Eyal says:

    I completly agree that subtitling tv programs instead of dubbing contributes to good english skills. I live in Israel and have been in Germany, Austria, France, Switzerland and Spain. I was always surprised by the fact that most people you interact with as a tourist simply don’t know english. In Israel (our language is very different than the latin languages) most people know english very well – and i’m pretty sure tv shows (most are american) are contributing factor.

  4. Peter Torr says:

    One thing that could keep you hungry outside of the US — an "entree" is an appetiser in other countries, whereas (for reasons that elude me) it means "main course" here in America.
    Dubbing movies is the worst thing you can do to them; it’s too confusing when the sounds don’t match the actors’ lip movements. Then again, a lot of people mess up the subtitles and you end up with white text on a white background ("So Close," anyone?)

  5. Mike Dimmick says:

    Slightly geeky question:

    I assume everyone’s seen Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon – it seems to be a popular film among geeks.

    Did you watch it:

    • in Chinese (Mandarin, I think), no subtitles
    • in Chinese with subtitles
    • dubbed into your native language.

    I watched it in Chinese with English subtitles, but found that after about half an hour, I wasn’t consciously reading the subtitles any more. Maybe I was reading them subconsciously, or maybe it just didn’t matter…

  6. Sebastian Wagner says:

    Only 1 day in the Deutsches Museum? I spent 2 days there and barely managed to "take a look" at most stuff. My feet were bleeding, too…

  7. Fabi says:

    "…kind of suck as we’re very bad at other languages. They really should start people in this country to learning languages earlier…"

    Now WHO should learn other languages…?

  8. manilius says:

    When you ask for an "entree" most people in europe think its a starter or something. There are very few restaurants in germany where you don’t get some vegetarian meal. At least I never found one…
    The thing with the dubbed movies and tv shows is true. And its a real shame that in germany or france you can only watch them dubbed. Usually the dubbing is done well and matches the lip movement, but it ruins lots of jokes :(


  9. bryan says:

    Well if you learn Swedish you will be able to read Danish, you will also be able to communicate with Danes, but only if they want to be polite and try and understand your Swedish. So you will speak english to the Danes.

  10. _brg_ says:

    when u say they "speak perfect english because all the american tv programs are subtitled". surely you mean they perfect american english ? :-P

  11. frank says:

    Hey, why not visit Finland the next time you’re around? Learning the language should be challenging to say the least. And you could see where that Linux thing got started. ;)

  12. Sam says:

    Bah, every restaurant I can show you around here got something vegetarian to eat. Problem might only be that a lot of waitresses are not helpful at pointing them out :(
    I usually go for the pizzerias since they give best food to value ratio :)

    Sam (seen c.Tiger&h.Dragon dubbed – no choice here :( )

  13. Johan Thelin says:

    If you go back to Sweden in the spring I would recommend you to visit Gothenburg. It is a smaller "big city" than Stockholm and referred to as "Little London" because of the huge trade between the cities during the 18th-19th centuries.

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