Sunday, 9 January 2011

Matters domestic

Matters domestic and the language barrier

Having been assigned the role of Haus Frau by the Kreisburo official, I have been getting to grips with matters domestic whilst Greg is out earning the Francs. Challenges have mostly been linguistic, and point to the conclusion that I Must and Shall Learn German – more on this soon, but I am looking into lessons at the local night school.

Firstly, laundry, specifically deciphering the programme names on the washing machine and tumble drier when faced with many German compound nouns. Undeterred, I jotted them all down in my vocab book, and after about an hour of carefully consulting my dictionary I returned to the laundry room triumphant. At this point I discovered the second washing machine, which has the familiar universal symbols instead of German words. However, I am still stumped by Frottierwรคsche – the closest I got was rub down, but for a tumble drier label this is a little opaque.

Secondly, lebensmittel – groceries. I have never seen such an abundance of everything edible as in our local Migros (a bit like Sainsburys). The food is familiar, and yet also very different. There are about 10 metres of shelving dedicated just to pickles. The mayonnaise comes in tubes, not jars, the mince comes in bags instead of packets, and there are more kinds of yoghurt than you can shake a big stick at, none of them low fat. The language barrier has led to some interesting mistakes and near-misses: coffee beans instead of ground coffee; and, dishwasher rinse aid instead of washing up liquid (I spotted the latter just before the check out).

Thirdly, the cleaner: we have a cleaner, who comes twice a week, which was somewhat of a surprise when she tried to let herself in whilst I was in the bath – knowing the German for ‘hang on a minute’ would have been helpful. She is very friendly, but speaks little English, and my German is still too woeful to manage more than good morning. We have devised an ingenious system of speaking to each other in our own languages, pointing and making gestures, which is working well – I have procured an iron and ironing board, a tea towel, and 2 more glasses via this method. Much to my great relief, she is also responsible for all of our Ablauf (rubbish) and recycling. My attempts to decipher the instructions and collection times have not been fruitful.

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