Hamburg Street Conversation

Posted in germans, WTF by expatatlarge on July 20, 2012

I’m well rugged up and walking, my daily mild exercise, around the tree-lined streets of the Blankenese suburb in Hamburg close to the Elba (across which is the A380 factory). I stroll past some magnificent Hansel and Gretel mansions in large, lost in the woods gardens – this is millionaires row, billionaires, whatever.

A well-dressed man, a bit older than myself, is crossing an intersection coming towards me. He slows down as he approaches me and it seems he wants to talk.

He stops, so I stop. Germans are so polite when they are not trying to take over the world. So, thinks: I’d better do the same (it’s a tit-for-tat utilitarianism thing). I wonder what I am up for here. Have you heard the word of the Lord? Some pfennig for the old guy?

He starts talking as I take my left earphone out. In German of course.

“Nick sprecker Doych”, I say. “Ick hab kynner Doych.” In my impeccable accent.

“Ach, vot language? You speak, what do you…”


“Ach, good.”

I take out my right earphone and raise my sunglasses to look him politely in the eye.

He is wearing a classy red windbreaker (I can’t make out the brand) over a warm jumper as the summer in Hamburg is not all that impressive this week; cloudy, blustery, cool (14deg), a spit of rain today, pouring yesterday. He has what look like expensive-frames on his thick-lensed square glasses, and he swipes the air with a thick cigar stub that trails noxious fumes that dissipate quickly in the breeze as he speaks to me. He might live in one of those billionaire houses.

He says: “You know, I have stopped you to talk because, one, you have your sunglasses on; two, you have those… he waves his cigar around… those things in your ears; and three, because I wish to ask you a question.”

The man is, I am confident now, not a complete nutter, but pushing it. Eccentric billionaire.

“Der built zeitung, you know?” I must have looked blank because he asks again. “Der built, it is the, vat you say, newspaper?”

Ah yes, Bild. I recall some German scandal rag like that.

“The very first word in der Bild today, do you know what it was? The very first word?”

Naturally I did not know. I shrug.

“The first word on the page. It is bordell.”


He doesn’t seem to have heard me because he repeats, “Bordell. You know where women sell themselves. A bordell!”

“Brothel.” Yes, I know them.

“Yes, yes, a brothel. The very first word! What do you make of that? What is your opinion?” He holds his cigar up at his face, takes a puff, as he waits for my answer.

I smile as I consider what his opinion no doubt is.

“Well,” I say, “Germany is a very open minded country, a very broad minded country.”

He tilts his head back a little, looking in my eye with a bit of sparkle as he contemplates my answer briefly. He then points his cigar at me with slight gesture and gently smiles.

“Thank you”, he says emphatically. And walks on.



6 Responses

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  1. DanPloy said, on July 22, 2012 at 12:11 pm

    Perhaps he was a ham Burger?

  2. Skippy-san said, on July 23, 2012 at 2:50 am

    Germany -Open minded? Not when it comes to trying their language. I have found Germans have no patience with you if you cannot speak the language perfectly. For example I try to use it whenever I can at stores-and they detect my American accent and immediately switch to English.

  3. dibabear said, on August 9, 2012 at 12:57 am

    Skippy…mostly because they'd rather practice their English. I've had more language chauvinism in Paris than in 20+ years in Germany. What I *have* had though is a refusal to speak English even when they can but that's a different kettle of fish.

    Phil…dang, missed that you'd be in Hamburg. There's a wonderful beach bar, the Strandperle near where you were that's great for sitting out and watching the harbo(u)r.

  4. expat@large said, on August 9, 2012 at 10:10 am

    Skip: that's a bad thing?

    Diba: we found this isolated but excellent drinking place on the bike/walking path along the Elba. opposite from the Airbus factory.

  5. dibabear said, on August 13, 2012 at 4:37 am

    Strandperle is west of the Airbus factory a ways across for the container port (or one of them). I think there are several establishments in that area. This one is right at the waters edge. I could've spent the night just sitting out watching the ships roll in and watch them roll away again.

  6. expat@large said, on August 13, 2012 at 10:17 am

    Didn't ride that far down, but stopped on the beach a this old place called, according to Google Maps:

    Dill sin Döns Restaurant

    I mean it had character, but it wasn't write home about brilliant. Mind the weather was shite.

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