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31 Days: Ten

Well, that one bombed. No more gory stories about urban wildlife, I promise.

Today's prompt: Most embarrassing moment.

I traveled to Europe for the first time in December 2001. I first visited a grad school friend in the Netherlands, then hung out in Rotterdam and Brussels for a few days, then met up with another grad school friend in Amsterdam and took the train to her home in Berlin. Wonderful, wonderful trip. But it was my first time outside North America, and the only foreign language I knew at all was Russian. Not so useful. Still, being the language geek that I am, I loved bilingual Brussels and how I could read almost any sign or display by looking back and forth between the two languages (which are like the two components of English, the Latinate and the Germanic).

The first embarrassing thing was in visiting my Dutch friend and staying at her house, one of these tall, old, three-story Dutch houses with steep staircases. My first day there, utterly jet-lagged, I napped in the afternoon. When I got up and went to go down the stairs, my feet slipped out from under me, and I went whump whump whump all the way down the stairs on my ass. I picked myself up and pretended nothing had happened, but when I asked my friend about it later, she said she had heard the sound but thought it was the washing machine being out of balance. (!)

The worse one was when I was in Brussels, at the main train station, examining the posted schedule. A man came up to me and asked a question. I had absolutely no idea what he was saying. Instead of asking him to repeat it in English, or saying, "Sorry, I only speak English," or something that would make it sound like I had a brain, I looked at him blankly and then blurted, "No French!"

He switched to English and asked to borrow a pen, and that was that. I facepalmed the rest of the day.

Got any stories like mine, esp. travel-related?


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 11th, 2013 08:01 am (UTC)
Why yes, I do have similar anecdotes I could share! In reverse order to your telling...

I took a trip to visit WWII obscure sites with a friend a few years ago. Our deal was that my friend would do the driving, and I would do the navigating and be responsible for the French (although it had been 25+ years since I'd studied it.) We also (very daring for me!) resolved to not book hotels in advance but play it by ear. One night, we stopped in a Belgian hotel and I boldly asked for "une chambre, avec deux lits, s'il vous plaît." And apparently my accent was so bad that the innkeeper tried to help me out by switching to... Flemish!

And in the category of most memorable falls abroad, I must limit my scope to Canada and the victim was my sister-in-law, not me (although I was on the trip with her). She tripped in the parking lot of a McDonalds in Toronto and broke her ankle. And the helpful EMT (Canadians are so friendly) looked up at the golden arches as he strapped her onto the ambulance gurney and said, "You deserve a break today, eh?"
Jul. 11th, 2013 09:35 pm (UTC)
Whoops! This is why I doubt that I will be any better at speaking Spanish the next time I go to Spain, even after taking a year's worth of college classes: fear of actually speaking to people. /o\

And that second one is pretty funny.
Jul. 11th, 2013 10:10 am (UTC)
Not embarrassing but: the summer after my buddy and I studied abroad in Denmark we traveled to Paris and creepy guys kept trying to hit on us (cluing in that we were Americans and thus must be Loose Women). So we'd insist, in broken Danish-accented French, that we were from Jutland didn't speak English. Totally befuddled them! :)

As for embarrassing: on that same trip, in Madrid, after a long night at some club, it was my turn to buy the next round of drinks. I wove my way up to the bartender and asked him sweetly, "Dos cabezas, por favor." (cabeza/cerveza... it's an easy mistake after your 4th one!!!)
Jul. 11th, 2013 09:36 pm (UTC)
Hee! I imagine they've heard "cerveza" pronounced many, many different ways.
Jul. 12th, 2013 06:21 pm (UTC)
hahahhahahaha that's so cute
Jul. 14th, 2013 10:26 pm (UTC)
I aim to please. :)
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )