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Saturday, June 25, 2011

Oh Österreich

My time in Europe is coming to a close, and while I realize I haven’t posted nearly as much as anyone would’ve liked, I figure my trip here in Bregenz was essentially like a novel you have to read for English class: I can give you the book, but we all know you’re going to head straight to Sparknotes for the abridged version anyway. No skin off my nose, I got to spend a month admiring the Alps and eating gelato while you sat in a classroom/office and YouTubed Jason Aldean songs wishing the adult world would pump the brakes. Sucks to suck!
I’ve found Austria and its geographic cohorts incessantly entertaining throughout my stay. Not just middle-school-humor entertaining (fahrt = ride, puppenhaus = dollhouse…I’m sorry, some things just aren’t worth the trouble of growing out of), but knee-slappingly, goshdarnit-they-don’t-know-how-hilarious-they’re-truly-being comical. Here are a few of my favorite incidences that made me want to plant a wet one on every unsuspecting Franz, Johann, and Wolfgang on the street:

People Assuming I’m British – “Kann ich Ihnen helfen?” “Oh, ich spreche nicht Deutsch. Spreche Englisch?” “Ja! You are from London?” ß I can’t tell you how many times this exchange occurred. I like speaking in a British accent as much as the next person, and on more than one inappropriate occasion an overzealous “’ELLO GOVNAH!” has escaped my mouth, but I’m pretty positive that at the end of the day and/or in typical conversation, my accent is made in the USA. It got to the point that even if I had been having an English conversation with someone and they finally asked if I was from England, I would switch to a British accent, if only for a sentence, to see if they would catch the change. If there were grounds for me to take offense to this, I probably would have, but their assumptions weren’t based off of terrible oral hygiene or lack of culinary ability so I’ll just chalk it up to my very articulate pronunciation and move on.

German-Speaking Asians – Asians doing anything cracks me up. That entire continent is fucking hysterical. Perhaps it’s the intense overpopulation or all that violin music that make them so wacky, but regardless, these people secured a special place in my heart long ago. One can only imagine my irrepressible delight when I overheard a lively conversation in German, turning to find that it was being held by two Korean men! I had died and gone to heaven! The blend of both accents was something I wish I could save to my iPod and replay for eternity because it was just that spectacular, and while I couldn’t quite understand them, I roughly gathered that they were in a disagreement about something, so obviously throwing a little fury into the mix REALLY set the whole scene off. It was like that Starburst commercial, it didn’t make a wee bit of sense but the situation was so satisfying in its own right that I couldn’t help but giggle a little. Put them in a Tyrolean hat and have them perform a Buchaechum and you just might have me weeping with joy.

Children with Accents – Anyone could tell you how much I love little kids. Whether it’s their adorable mispronunciation of the word “spaghetti” or the fact that we’re on the same psychological wavelength, I would take hanging out with a group of kindergarteners over the goons I currently associate with any day of the week. I also work with kids, so I’m used to the spontaneous shrieks of happiness and the nonstop chattering about nothing in particular that they tend to produce. When I was listening to the quiet hum of Bregenz from my window one day, I heard one such little girl rambling on and on and laughed to myself because once again I could barely understand what she was saying. Only this time, it wasn’t because she was going a mile a minute about their new Pillow Pet or the last episode of Wow! Wow! Wubbzy!, but because the kid had a FREAKING ACCENT! Omigoshsocute. I don’t know how parents here discipline their children, because even if my future son/daughter were to tell me they had burned the house down, saying it with a precious spit-filled “ich” would make it impossible for me to get angry. I want to bring them all home and keep them in a little room that I can go into whenever I need some Austrian silliness in my life. I’m just not sure how I’d get them through customs.

German Banner Ads – Upon arriving in Bregenz, it took me about a week to get the internet up and running on my computer. When I finally did, I was met with a very interesting surprise: the ads along my sidebar were all entirely in German. German dating sites, German pet adoption, The Secret to Getting Rock Hard Abs (in German); if I didn’t know better, I’d think the Austrian internet provider was mocking my single life and admitted weight gain, but that’s beside the point. I’m not sure why this tickles me so, because rationally if I’m in another country, there will not be American ads plastered all over the place. Poor Wanda (my laptop) must be so confused. Seeing the ads for clothing stores I’ll never be able to go to and LivingSocial coupons I’ll never be able to cash in is a little disappointing, and a lot of the time the pictures in the ads are fascinating but reality quickly hits when I have no idea what they’re selling me on. Either way, www.Flirtfair.at sounds like it’s got whatever I need whenever I need it, so that one’s totally getting bookmarked.

Tone-deaf Austrians – Have you ever been sitting on the steps leading into Lake Constance and heard a familiar tune far off in the distance, but were unable to determine what said tune was because of some unrecognizable hindrance? Have you determined that, for once, the obstacle was not the heavy German accent accompanying the tune? Have you finally realized that the tune was Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive,” but just barely because the person was so off-key that it almost rendered the melody unlistenable, and you actually questioned the message of the song in relation to your current situation because the performer was so terrible that the deafening foghorn that drowned her out moments later was actually preferable to suffering through to the sound of dying cat that was ringing from her vocal cords? I have. Twice.

Old School Pop/Rock Music – Every morning, my roommate and I would sit at breakfast with our host parents, who I affectionately named House Mama and House Daddy, eating yogurt with muesli and homemade bread with Nutella or cheese. Life was good. Life got even better when the radio was turned on and Bryan Adams’ Everything I Do (I Do it For You) started playing, followed by the Eagles’ Desperado. Each and every song that played was some kind of pop or rock song dating back to the 70’s, with the occasional polka thrown into the mix for a cultural reminder. The best part? House Daddy knew every word! The man can hold a conversation in a wonderful mix of German and English (Germenglan?), yet he recites every line of Springsteen’s Born in the USA perfectly? This place is just too fantastic.

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