Trust me, I’m NOT a doctor

When you first move to a country where you don’t really speak the language, you start off with a straw-grasping philosophy, trying to make any sort of connection to your mother tongue that makes the new language seem a bit less scary. Or at least that’s what I did.

So began my love for “NOT” words. When faced with the word “Notfall” on various signs, I would tip my cap and say, “Why thank you, Germany. I had no intention of falling but it’s so kind of you to look out for my well-being like that.” And then I would skip along on my merry way. Unbeknownst to me, I was actually avoiding a “Notfall” by not falling, but this wouldn’t occur to me for a while.

Things became a little more complicated when I came across signs that said “Notdienst”. I mean, if they weren’t offering a service, then why were they open at all?

But the real stumpers were “Notarzt” and “Notausgang”. Even with my limited German, I knew that Arzt was a doctor. Was this some kind of weird game Germans played at dinner parties?

Traudl: So, what do you do? 

Brickel: Well, I’m not a doctor! (Wink, wink…)

“Notausgang”, however, it seems to me, is just plain dangerous for non-German speakers. You realise after around three minutes in the country that an “Ausgang” is an exit, but a NOTausgang? Picture, if you will, a bunch of foreigners in a burning building. They all start running for the exit…

Linguistically-challenged tourist: WAIT! Stop! It’s NOT an exit!

And then they all turn around and run back towards the flames of doom.

Of course, once you realise that “Notfall” is an emergency, the rest all falls (ahem) into place. It’s probably too late for those poor tourists though.

Don't worry, it IS an Ausgang
Don’t worry, it IS an Ausgang

Another thing that might surprise visitors to Germany is the amount of “fahrting” that goes on here. So to make your next visit a little less confusing, I’ve compiled a little glossary* of “fahrt” to help you along. I know, I’m so helpful.

Fahrt: a fart

Einfahrt: a fart that has to be held in because you are in a crowded public place

Abfahrt: a fart that requires extra pressure from the abs to push it out

Ausfahrt: that moment of blissful release when you finally let rip

Zufahrt: a fart that is so smelly, it rivals those of zoo animals

*Glossary may or may not be accurate

Fart with earth gas
Fart with earth gas

Upon seeing the above sign on a taxi, I just couldn’t resist taking a photo.

Mr Taxi Driver: What are you doing?

Me: Taking a photo.

Mr Taxi Driver: Why? 

Me: Because if you have a stupid sense of humour, this is hilarious in English. 

(Poor Long-Suffering Nigel has, by now, hidden under a table so people don’t think we’re together.)

Mr Taxi Driver: Oh. Yes, I suppose it is quite funny in English. 

Me: It is. Trust me. I’m not a doctor. 

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86 thoughts on “Trust me, I’m NOT a doctor”

  1. Also, a couple corrections, since some of those responding to your names post made some potential errors too.

    One guy was claiming that “Anna and Jānis” were really Jewish names but that Latvians decided to consider them to be Latvian. And then you were surprised to hear that Jānis was really a Jewish name. And then the guy posted some wikipedia stuff.

    I’m pretty sure that guy is actually more off-base than on-base. Jānis actually traces back to an ancient Latvian pagan fertility god of the sun and the summer solstice which has nothing to do with derivation mentioned (I think it actually traces, in part, farther back still to one of the gods of the earliest proto-Indo European speaking peoples far away from Latvia, of course way super far back when who knows exactly how what got mixed with what, maybe the word got mixed in and did come over from that tradition, but I’m not so sure about that at all, whatever the case it’s certainly not a straight Yahweh to John to Janis thing at all even just linguistically and in other ways it has no connection whatsoever). It sounded like a German Christian name and so to the early German Christian missionary/warriors it sounded legit to them and they considered it to be a good Christian name but, at least way back when, it was really likely more of a way to sneak in old traditions and having a little laugh at how the invaders thought it was something else. Of course, over the centuries it did start to take on the Christian connotation (which I guess does ultimately trace back to the Jewish one) even among the locals more and more and probably most in recent times think of it more in that sense than some ancient connection to old traditions (although some number do still take it in the latter way and certain the festival of midsummer is one of the biggest still in Latvian, the whole tradition really came from ancient times but was sort of Christianized on top; it’s also like the Christmas tree that everyone is so familiar with, it doesn’t actually have any ultra deep Christian roots but was basically a Baltic pagan tradition that got assimilated into modern Christianity).

    Regarding Adolf, all I can say is that you see the name used in old church records there dating to before anyone every heard of Hitler. Maybe some were later named after him or out of fear and wanting to be in good graces in a sense, I don’t know, but the name usage there certain doesn’t trace to Hitler. You can find it used in many old records way before that time so the guy who said that it traces back actually to the old Swedish influence (who controlled the Baltics for a while, generally in much more relaxed and nicer ways than those before and those after) is probably correct.

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  2. Getting back to your Latvian stuff and all the funny ‘Latvian’ names and so on:

    “‘Gonoreja’ is a name in Latvian”

    Well, yeah…. it’s as much a Latvian name as is Mary O’Gonorreilly. 🙂

    but kinda worse

    “Stalinas, Leninas- Latvian girls names”

    Not even close. And in this case, come on, I mean seriously. You really know so little of history that you could mistake these names for being Latvian?

    But hey, even still, OK, so you don’t know even a trace of history, fine, a simple mistake, whatever, but then, as with seemingly almost all of your responses regarding Latvia, you get all snide and are like why should I bother to keep track of what’s actually Latvian or what is Russian or this or that. Well with that sort of attitude why are you so shocked that you saw so few smiles and were not greeted with open arms at all times? Just march into a country, constantly mix things totally up, don’t even act like you care to bother, pretty much say 90% negative things….

    Let me ask you this, if you go to Israel next and start blogging about all the humor you can find in some Jewish names and among all the general fair game humor you then also have parts going on about like and can you believe how they some call their kids “Adolf Hitler” and “Klaus Barbie”. I found those names in the telephone directory there! Boy those Israelis! hahahaha What will they do next! hahaha. Then again actually those names might be kinda cool to have. I mean can you imagine being the kid on the play ground named “Adolf Hitler” and just staring down the other kids with that “Jewish glare”. Kinda cool actually hahahaha. And then imagine that someone points out to you how you are totally mixing things up and then you respond with basically oh please, whatever, Jewish names, Israeli names, names of Nazis, LOL, whatever, if I have to keep track of all these differences I won’t even have space for my blog, hahaha. Gosh I am SOOO witty! LOLOLOLOL

    Well, just how do you think that would go over? Would you be ever so shocked to find some Israeli people greeting you without smiling or some making some incredibly big deal that you just don’t get, over you and your blog?

    Sure everyone has to take a joke and some of it is funny and even some harsh stuff is true, but something about how you went about some of your blogging there just didn’t come across all that nicely and it was like you were trying to make the Ugly Irish Woman outdo the Ugly American times ten. You just marched in all imperious and didn’t appear to really want to learn about anything for real and just slagged off on things that at least 50% of the time you had totally mixed up and mostly seemed to always pick out the worst of everything. I mean people joke about the drunken Irishman all the time and so on, yes jokes get made about everyone, but they also don’t then generally act proud of any ignorance of Irish history or just slag off on every last thing about the country. Maybe someone does a silly skit but they also might talk about how amazing this or that is about Ireland too. It’s fine to point stuff out, to make un-PC jokes, etc. etc. but at least show a touch of interest and respect at times otherwise you just come off like a straight-up boor.

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    1. And if you wondered why some were a little touchy over this and that, do keep in mind the history please.

      Imagine if at the end of WWII Ireland had been handed over the U.S.S.R. and then some of your cousins were shot in the head, some sent to Siberia and half of the rest fled to other countries. And it’s still relatively fresh history. People your age are still just one step from directly connected to such things. And then image if English and Gaelic was suddenly replaced by Russian and Russian was made the one official language. Then imagine the population suddenly went from say 90% Irish to 50% Russian in just a short time and some of the best lands were taken over and some more Irish people were sent off to Siberia in order to accomplish that. And imagine if some schools were set up for Russians only and they were never taught anything but to speak Russian and that special Irish schools were set up where you were also taught Russian only.

      And imagine this all after Ireland had just been happy to have been free for only 20-30 years just prior for the first time in hundreds of years and had had the local Irish population held 95% as serfs until at least 1826 and in some places until the 1860s by the same Empire now in control again. And imagine it at times if all Irish culture was banned.

      Do you think that Ireland might not still be, after just 20 years of freedom again, a bit of a broken country still in some ways? Do you think nobody will be affected?

      Do you think after getting freedom again the Irish might be especially carefully to try preserve their culture and especially proud?

      Do you think Ireland might not have taken on some of the more dour expressions and ways of acting had they been both under Communist suppression for decades?

      Also after living side by side with a culture that was somewhat different in regards to openly greeting and smiling sometimes that rubs off (I’ve heard that in some parts of Russia you were considered to be a simpleton if you went around smiling so it was their custom to not go around all smiley like say, in particular, Americans. The original Latvian way had been considerably more smiley, but it slowly changed over the 60s,70s,80s. My grandmother would complain when she went back about how people didn’t smile like they used to and were taking on too much of that type of dour appearing Russian culture and also getting too broken by Communism in general, which also broke many Russians too of course. The two cultures were relatively different. Heck, they didn’t even use the same alphabet. Latvian culture had been more Northern European. Most in the west basically think Latvia = Russia = Slavic = mostly Othodox = write in Cyrillic = 100% Eastern European, which really is pretty far off-base.).

      If you compare those who left and those who stayed you can see the affect the decades under Communist rule had in how the two sets act now.

      And if some seem like operators, everyone, Latvian and Russian alike had to learn ways to survive and it can take more than 20 years for it to all clear away.

      And some of the stuff about girls in huge heels eyeing guys and luring them for nothing and then blowing them off and glaring at them etc. It’s all just a tourist trap thing in certain parts of Riga. Some clubs hire Russian girls to go around and do that to get guys suckered into buying drinks (charged at insane prices). They got mad at being used by people coming over the UK for a cheap and easy time and lots of lies and decided to fight back in their own way.

      And yes, Canadians don’t make a huge deal about being mistaken for America, except actually sometimes they do, but they were not shipped off to the North Pole and shot and taken over by America either.

      Heck, some in Ireland still get all fierce over stuff from like 800 years ago, but a few Latvians are a little touchy over some recent stuff and they the worst on Earth?

      And I mean even stuff that might be considered nice, to have lots of countryside around, you try to twist into some kind insult and acting like tree-hugger is an insult?

      Anyway, I’ve said enough.

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          1. Well, I certainly don’t doubt that. I doubt that you ever read anything longer than your own endless words. That would certainly explain a lot. Ignorance is bliss as they say (although is being poked by pitchforks actually bliss?). Anyway, it’s rather unsurprising that you have no interest in actually learning anything. It’s easier to make fun of places when you are ignorant.

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  3. That’s fantastic! I’m glad you are finding so much humor in adapting to a new place. I suppose the alternative would be endless frustration haha.

    By the way, this is Brantley of the Brantley Blog (which kinda fell by the wayside). I just wanted to reconnect because you used to be a follower and I wanted to share with you my new project: The Story in the Frame. It’s an artistic collaboration between myself and my girlfriend (a photographer). I’m writing short stories about her photography now!

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  4. My grandma was German but I’ve never been there only because of language. I am scared. How can you learn all the schsssshhhssscccc? She grew up in Latvia and never tried to teach me. So I am planning to survive with the languages I know already ………in case if I will be going….

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    1. Ha ha! The pronunciation is actually not so bad – it’s way more predictable than English! A sound is a sound and that’s it – though I do find some schsssscheishes words tricky 🙂

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  5. It took me a hot second to figure out the “not” thing too… and I’m with you in still finding it slightly hilarious every time. I was pretty much over the “fahrt” amusement, but thanks for reigniting it with your list of faaaaaaaaaaaaahrts. 🙂

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  6. Ha! Great Fahrt glossary. Doing literal interpretations to foreign languages often produces funny stuff. Good of your taxi driver to recognize that. I was unloading diesel at the main bus terminal in Ottawa at 3 am one night and realized all the buses coming back were marked “Hors de service” – I thought to my self that it was mighty kindly of our transit system to provide such a service for the whores. (it means “out of service” in French) 😀

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    1. Oh, that did cross my mind as well! I was wondering if anyone would come up with it! I thought I was confusing people enough though with all the notting and fahrting so I thought the Irish ‘not arsed’ might be a step too far for most!! 🙂

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      1. Oh, thank goodness, I was scrolling through the comments hoping somewhere you would make clearer what “Not” meant and … well, fahrt too 😉 Too early in the morning for me to work my brain, but your post was still fun (as always). 🙂

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  7. LOL!
    I remember when I first came to Germany and there were “H” signs every few paces. All I could think was that Germany must be potentially dangerous or very, very safe as there were hospitals everywhere! Yes, it took a while for the penny to drop and learn that “H” stood for Haltestelle and that it meant “bus-stop!”

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      1. Ha! Ha! You would think. 🙂
        My boyfriend used to drive me all over town in those days….. and East Berlin was a no-no. In fact, I hadn’t even taken the tram until 6 years after I had actually moved here LOL! And why again?
        It was in the East! It was quite funny when you think about it. We used to go to Prenzlauerberg to see the squatters and punks and I wasn’t even allowed out of the car! Now it’s all gentrified and pretty and I live in Prenzlauerberg quite happily LOL!!

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  8. One of my favorite Christmas pieces when I was a kid was Mozart’s Schlittenfahrt. I knew that this right up Mozart’s alley, considering his sense of humor, so I figured it must mean “silent but deadly”, and I’d break into giggles every time I heard it.

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  9. Oh my goodness this glossary is perfect! It’s also awesome in dealing with men. I think you have a fantastic career ahead in deciphering ManSpeak – not really to communicate with them, but to understand their bodily functions in the same way we understand the color blue to have many different hues.

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