Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Navigating Dating

In a Different Language

[Yes, Pitbull inspired this post...]
As an American, I have grown up in a tight knit community of English speakers on one of the largest continents on Earth filled mostly, with English speaking inhabitants. I have studied German in the past but, of course, English is my native tongue and it comes easiest for me.

I am fortunate enough to have English as my first language though because it is, after all, the international language. In every country I have visited I have met at least one person who spoke English, yes even in Paris, France (though that took a lot of work.)

And let's face it, at times it's easier to get across a point or find your way when speaking in your native tongue. Just like during my doctor's visits in Germany about my knee, I am more comfortable speaking in English because there's no way I could know the necessary words in German.

But how do you handle people interested in dating you when they don't speak your language or you don't speak theirs?

I have been single since May of this year which is quite a feat for me as it's been much longer before that that I have been alone and not had someone to hold me up. It's like a breath of fresh air when I think about it. I can do this, I can survive alone.

But still, being single, I attract some interesting people and they don't always speak English. Gasp!

Especially when I'm at a club with friends I meet guys who are nice and we may dance or have a drink and we exchange phone numbers. Later I realize that my German skills may not get me past said first drink and his English skills won't do it either. What do you do then?

How can you make a relationship work when you cannot even speak to each other, well have an intelligent conversation at least..?

Article after stupid article cites “communication” as the key to a healthy, long-lasting relationship. But when you speak pretty-good-but-not-perfect German and your boyfriend speaks pretty-amazing-almost-perfect-but-not English, you need to take a step back and remember what their native language is and that rude comment they just made might not really be so rude after all.


I've had some experiences in Germany where a guy will tell me I was, “viel keliner" than him. In case you don't speak German, that means “much smaller.” If you know me, I'm not really a little girl and I'm OK with that, but I was quite confused when this 6 foot tall, 6 pack packing blonde said that to me one night. I was like, "Uh... No I'm not"..? I wasn't so much offended but, hmm, shocked..? (at least he didn't say I was bigger than him!)

Turns out the guy only meant shorter, which – hey – I am. But he learned a little somethin’ then. In English, it’s much less acceptable to call someone bigger or smaller than you, especially if that someone is an overly sensitive girl. In Europe, sometimes people comment on weight without all that guilty, oh my gosh, so-and-so is calling her faaaaaat! It’s just a comment and fat is not a dirty word, like it can be in the US.

Some Short Tips:
Don’t laugh (at least not out loud) when the other person slips up... At least not all the time. I guess I don’t mind being laughed at when I want to say a word like "preservative" but instead say something like “condom” (das Präservativ), it happens. But I don't need to be corrected on the 101st time I mess up the gender of the word dog, can't we just leave it?

Remember, the other person doesn’t have the cultural background you do. So they don’t remember things from your childhood like TGIF or trapper keepers or ring pops and they may not know how to play MASH. Yes, sometimes it’s annoying to have to explain who Patty Mayonnaise is, but most of the time it’s hilariously fun.

But it's important to switch back and fourth between the languages. You're both learning here, right?
So, here's to trying something new, not that I have the time to date right now...

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