Moin Moin meine Lieben!
What a week it’s been! Last week was my 21st birthday, and I had a wonderful time celebrating with my lovely Mum and Dad, who travelled over from England by air, and Bonn, Germany, by train, respectively, to spend a few days with me here in Hamburg.
As it was my 21st, I think that deserves its own post, so keep your eyes peeled for my next blog entry in the not-too-distant future! But while I’ve hopefully got your attention, I just wanted to say a huge thank you to everyone for all the well-wishes and cards and presents and so on and so forth- I’ve tried to thank you all individually, but if I haven’t yet, then please bear with me! I’ve not quite yet reached the famous ‘level German’ in my admin efficiency skills, but I’m working on it.
I’ve now been here for over two months, and a part of me was sure that by now I’d be absolutely au fait with the ebb and flow of this beautiful city. Not quite, dear Reader. Not quite.
In fact, most days I am still surprised by something or other, and the launderette continues to be the arena in which unfortunate happenings occur. You may remember that, not long after I moved here, I had an interesting encounter in the local launderette (Waschsalon auf Deutsch), which concluded in a proposition to head off with a man in his car for some ‘fun’.
Although this offer was conveyed in a casual manner which was somewhat at odds with what he was asking me, I politely and stutteringly declined. Last week, however, I had another interesting moment while waiting for my washing.
I looked up at one point and spotted a man staring at me, and this happened a couple of times. I had said I’d call my Dad while I was out, and so I did. I sat there blabbering away happily in English, trying to ignore the man, who was still looking at me. Once I was off the phone, however, he seized his opportunity.
‘Where you from?’ he asked in accented English.
Now, dear Reader, it’s time for a little story. You might think that this is a good and perfectly normal way to begin a conversation, and usually, I would agree with you. However, a holiday with two friends in Taba, Egypt this last August has taught me to sound the alarm bells when I hear this question uttered.
While on holiday I decided to go for a swim in the water. I was happily paddling away, when a man swam up to me in the water. ‘Where you from?’ he asked. ‘England,’ I said (I have since learnt to bend the truth when talking to people who I don’t really know). He informed me that he was a Jordanian artist, and that I was free to stay with him if I ever came to Jordan. I nodded and waded away from him.
I did run into him again a few days later, and he asked if I had Facebook, and gave me his name should I want to add him. I hope you’ve guessed that I haven’t taken him up on that offer. As much as I love Ancient Egypt and the country itself, I have to say that that week in the resort was a difficult one; my Jordanian friend wasn’t the only problem I had, not by a long stretch. My friend Hattie and I had even bought fake engagement rings at Gatwick on the way out, on the advice of some people we know, to avoid male attention.
Didn’t work. Not even a little bit.
Anyway, so there I was in the launderette, alarm bells pounding in my ears after I heard this phrase, and a monosyllabic conversation ensued as I was taking my clothes out of one of the machines.
‘You are very beautiful,’ he said. I need to get out of here, I thought. He then asked for my name (personally I would always ask for someone’s name before harassing them in the launderette, but that’s just me). At this point I cast my mind back to the lessons I learnt in Egypt, and that is the art of bending the truth in favour of keeping a bit of distance.
Unfortunately for me, however, my brain wasn’t quicker than my mouth, and so I said, ‘Uhh, Charlotte’.
‘Asharlet,’ he said, ‘that’s a beautiful name.’ I let it be.
And so Asharlet gathered her things and fled the launderette, bearing in mind to bring pepper spray next time, just in case.
I fled with such speed that can only be matched by running for a plane you might miss. This leads me on to my next point, and that is travel. I have learnt that PEOPLE DO NOT KNOW HOW TO USE TRAVELATORS. Excuse the capitals, but this is one of the many things that really annoys me.
Surely, the sheer point of a motorised walkway is to make travel faster. FASTER. So why, as soon as you step on a travelator, do people stop? I don’t understand. Also, the people who stop tend to be massive families, who are unaware of the traveller’s etiquette of standing on the right, to let others pass on the left.
I would like to add at this point that I haven’t found this problem at Hamburg airport, but it really got to me when I touched down in Gatwick a few weeks ago. People who stand still on travelators should be banned from airports. By their own logic, I’m sure if they just stand still for a while they will be certain that the wind will eventually carry them to their destination.
Speaking of etiquette, one of my fave topics, as I’m sure you will have gathered by now if you’ve been keeping up with The Brezel Diaries, we come to my final point. That, my good friends, is till etiquette.
You may remember that I have a slight issue with the abandonment of those little dividers at the supermarket, but we’re moving up in the world, to paying for things at department stores or high street shops, where that little conveyor belt isn’t a part of the experience.
So imagine, dear Reader, that you’re standing in front of the counter, adopting your best German and using all the little phrases you’ve eavesdropped natives using when paying for things. Then, imagine someone else in the queue behind you coming right up next to you, personal space entirely eliminated, and plonking their items down on the counter next to yours, which haven’t even been scanned yet. This, my dearest Reader, happens all the time.
We’re all busy people, I get that, of course I do. But in the interest of maintaining some sort of social code, can you not wait two minutes before approaching the counter? Maybe Germans, or more specifically, the people of Hamburg (yes, Hamburgers) just like counters, and I’m just extending the wait before they can be with their beloved counters again.
Either way, it wouldn’t happen in House of Fraser or Debenhams, of this I am certain.
That’s more or less it from me for now, but I will leave you with an appeal. If any of you are budding entrepreneurs/inventors/just want to meet Peter Jones off Dragon’s Den, then perhaps consider channelling your efforts towards creating a clutch bag which doubles as an umbrella. Hamburg is a rainy, rainy city, and far too many people have seen my heat-abused hair turn to its natural afro state.
Thanks very much.