August 5, 2007

The problem with apples

It’s amazing sometimes how a small thing can turn into a big thing when there is a language barrier to navigate. Case in point: last week Joe and I went into a small grocery store we’d never been in before, and all went smoothly until we got up to the checkout. The cashier was ringing up our items when suddenly he picked up two Granny Smith apples from our pile and started waving them at me and saying something I couldn’t understand. A multitude of thoughts went through my brain: did we need to bag them, was he asking me how much they cost, was apple-buying prohibited on a Wednesday? Finally in exasperation he handed off the apples to a neighboring cashier who dropped them on the scale beside her (she was next to the produce section), and then printed out a little sticker that she stuck to one of them. Handing them back to me, I could see the price on the sticker and finally realized our unforgivable error. Our usual grocery store never required us to self-price our produce items, but we’ll keep a much better eye out for this kind of thing when we visit strange stores in the future.

2 Responses to “The problem with apples”

  1. Glenn Fleishman said:

    Had the same problem in Basel, but was able to figure out when they said, “Sie haben die Gewicht nicht gemarkt” or something like that the “Gewicht” (weight) was missing!

    I also had this problem throughout Europe in train stations as to when i was supposed to put my ticket in the little stamping thing that put a date and time and other code on the ticket’s back. The train conductors were universally pleasant about it, but I never quite figured out WHEN i was supposed to do it.

  2. Morgen Jahnke said:


    Joe and I have found that we can understand what people are saying…when they’re speaking to the other person! When someone addresses me directly in a stressful situation, I feel a bit like a deer in the headlights, unable to make sense of the words flying at me. On the other hand, when someone asks Joe a question, I can usually make sense out of what they say 🙂

    We haven’t yet tried our luck on the railways, but I’m sure we will show our ignorance in a multitude of ways when that day arrives!