Germany has been the first place on our trip where we’ve really hit the language barrier. That has meant we’ve had to try a little harder to communciate. After our first full day in Berlin (which was one of the heaviest sightseeing days we’ve had on this trip) we decided to eat a restaurant. In the neighborhood by our hotel there were a lot of cheap places that actually cost less than we had spent on our picnic the night before.

So we walked around for awhile and eventually found a pizza place that was filled with people. I had also seen a lot of locals carrying pizza boxes away from the restaurant during the day, so we figured that was a good sign.

We went in, but unfortunately couldn’t understand much. Instead and to figure it out, we stood in the back and watched as people went up to the counter, ordered, and then received their food through a window near the outdoor seating.

Still, we weren’t sure how much different quantities of food cost, or how to get them. As we watched, however, I suddenly remembered how to say the numbers 1 through 5 in German. I took two years of German in highschool and while I thought I had forgotten everything, after listening at the pizza restaurant for a few minutes I remembered a few words.

From there things got a lot easier. I used a German phrase app on my iPod to figure out how to say what we wanted, and I used my knowledge of numbers to say how much. We ended up getting five pieces of pizza because it was a good deal and because I couldn’t remember any numbers higher than five.

After the pizza place we began using German more. We had to ask most people if they spoke English, but we started asking them in German. Though it’s sometimes frustrating, I’ve been glad we’ve been doing this because a lot of people have been really nice about our language abilities when they see us trying. When we went to order icecream cones later on, for example, we got a friendly and impromptu lesson on ordering from the icecream guy. Several people have also tried to teach us how to stay “for here” or “to go” when ordering, though I’m still working on that one.


Written by Jim Dalrymple II

Urbanism and travel writer. Also a journalist covering the news.

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