Do you give up or are you Hungary for more?

Eight Hungarian men have moved into my apartment block. Thankfully, the only hot one moved into the apartment opposite mine. He has a propensity for walking around half-naked which I find pleasing. We have mildly flirtatious conversations that I can barely understand as he only speaks Hungariman. They don’t seem to go to bars but, instead, enjoy knacker-drinking on the roof of the parking garage which is just below my balcony. I feel like a bit like Juliet some nights, if Juliet had had eight Hungarian Romeos, that is.

On one such occasion, they offered me some Hungarian moonshine. (If you want to know what that tastes like, go and swig some petrol.) We all ended up at a party in one of their flats and I immediately impressed with my one word of Hungarian – “egészségedre!” Where I could have picked up the word for “cheers!” in Hungarian (and around 15 other languages) is a mystery…

Anyway, on Sunday, I decided that a major blitz of my flat was necessary. I had amassed enough paper over the last year and a half to start my own recycling plant. Five sacks of paper and general rubbish (separated, of course) sat in the hall and I proceeded to lug them down to the bins one by one. On my fourth trip, I bumped into the Hungarian who acts as an interpreter for the rest of them. He looks a bit like Chris Evans, unfortunately not the hot Hollywood one.

This one. But less smiley.
(image taken from imdb.com)

He also likes wearing socks and sandals.

He kindly unlocked the front door for me and I trudged back upstairs. I was hoping he’d have finished his cigarette by the time I went back down with bag number five but no, he was still there.

András: Wow, so much rubbish. 

Me: Ja, heute ist Putztag. 

Luckily, he hadn’t seen me schlepping down with the first three bags. He opened the door for me again and then paused on the steps.

András: Em, Linda, can I ask you something? 

Me: Sure, (whatever your name is).

András: I’m looking for someone to practise my German with and I was wondering if you’d be interested.

Me: I’m not sure I’m the right person for that job. I’m pretty sure your German is better than mine. (Educating someone on the art of the Sitzpinkel does not make you an expert on the German language; it merely means that you have a rather unhealthy fascination with the peeing habits of German men and like talking about it when you’ve been drinking Hungarian moonshine.)

András: (peering at me intensely through his black-rimmed glasses) I’d like to try though. I can cook dinner for us. Monday? 

Me: Erm, no, I can’t tomorrow. I have a pub quiz. 

András: Tuesday? 

Me: Erm, erm… Maybe. I have a late lesson though so… we’ll see. Maybe. Byeeeeeee!

On Tuesday, I arrived home, put on my slippers, spooned some beans into a saucepan and started up my laptop. I hadn’t even had time to enter the password when there was a ring at the bell. Scheiße.

Me: Oh. Hi.

András: Are you coming? 

Me: Well, I’m really tired and I’ve just got in the door. (He lives directly under me so he had obviously heard me coming home.) Would you mind if we left it for another night? 

His face fell. More.

András: But I’ve already cooked. 

Me: I’m…

András: It’s 20 minutes out of your life and I’ve already prepared everything. 

Me: (Sigh.) OK, then. 

I then flopped around the flat, sighing loudly, sulkily taking off my slippers again and angrily bunging my poor beans into the fridge. I gave the bottle of wine in there a last wistful glance and walked wearily downstairs.

When I stepped into the living room, I was comforted to see that András had his laptop on and was currently browsing a website full of terrifying-looking knives.

Me: Em, what’s that? 

András: Oh, it’s a hobby of mine. I make knives. 

Me: … Cool? 

He then opened a cupboard and proceeded to show me his collection. Just in case I wasn’t convinced by the glinting blades, he then shaved a chunk of hair off his arm to demonstrate how sharp they were. Tufts of ginger hair floated lazily to the floor.

Me: (Hmm, I wonder if I should throw myself through the window or try to make an attempt for the door…) Um, wow, impressive. Oh, is that a photo of your family?

Immediate crisis averted, we sat down to eat. To be fair, he had gone to quite a bit of effort. He’d even bought wine. I tucked into the goulash while making what I felt were appropriately appreciative noises. We chatted a bit about his family in Hungary, his work here and the joys of learning German. He pulled out the book he was using. It was quite possibly the most boring book I’d ever seen.

András: I’m using this book. 

Me: (Say something positive, say something positive) Bah hahaha! That’s probably the worst book I’ve ever seen! It’s just table after table of conjugated verbs! It’s so dry! 

András: (Peering at me over his goulash) You think your books are better than my books? 

Me: (Say no, say no) Yes, for sure. They have pictures and dialogues and useful everyday German. I can lend you a couple if you like? 

András: OK.

I polished off my goulash and got ready to make good my escape.

András: I’ll get the main course.

Crap.

He set down a plate of grilled chicken and a pot of vegetables. I refilled my glass.

Me: Mmm, this is really good, thanks. 

András: You know, I don’t want to be… wait, I don’t know the word. 

He started typing the Hungarian word into the translator app on his phone. The German word appeared letter by letter:

g-e-w-a-l-t-t-ä-t-i-g

Me: (Gulp) Violent? You don’t want to be violent? 

András: No.

Me: And are you? 

András: I don’t want to be. But when you said you didn’t want to come tonight after I’d prepared everything…

At that moment, I knew exactly how Julia Roberts had felt in “Sleeping with the Enemy”. Door it was.

Me: Well, that was delicious but I really must be going now. Thank you for dinner! 

András: Next Tuesday? 

Me: Byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! 

I scarpered back upstairs and gave Manfredas the abridged version over Messenger.

Manfredas: Double lock your door.

Me: Done:

Manfredas: And your balcony door.

Me: Also done. I mean, he has a wife and kids, but then, so did Fred West.

The real tragedy of the story is that I never did get around to eating the beans.

Forlorn-looking beans

 

 

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Throw me a bone

Me: I accidently hit on the right verb in German class – wegwerfen – to throw away.

Manfredas: Well done! 

Me: My initial thought was “auswerfen” – to throw out – but I thought, “No, German… It has to be something else.”

Manfredas: See? You’re getting better and better. “Auswerfen” is also a verb though. It means “to output”.  “Rauswerfen” is to throw out, like to throw someone out of a bar. 

Me: Huh. That will probably come in handy. Is “einwerfen” possible?

Manfredas: Yep, to throw in. Like to throw a coin into a machine. 

Me: Oh yeah! That’s on the washing machines downstairs. Choose the programme before throwing in the coin. Can I throw in my clothes after I throw in the coin? 

Manfredas: NEIN! That would be “hineinwerfen.”

Me: (Sigh) OK. Abwerfen?

Manfredas: Yep, if you’re thrown off a horse, for example.

Me: Anwerfen?

Manfredas: Yep, to start something up. Like a machine. 

Me: Can I anwerfen the kettle?

Manfredas: NEIN! 

Me: Verwerfen? 

Manfredas: Yep. To reject or discard something. 

Me: Zuwerfen? I’m sure this isn’t annoying for you at all…

Manfredas: Zuwerfen? Yep, it means “to toss.”

Me: Can I zuwerfen a salad?

Manfredas: NEIN! Geht gar nicht.

Me: How do I toss a salad then?

Manfredas: You don’t. 

Me: Can…

Manfredas: Before you ask, no, you can’t use it for “toss off” either. 

Me: I’m offended. I would never ask something so crass…

Manfredas: Hmm.

Me: Vorwerfen?

Manfredas: Yep, to accuse or blame someone. 

Me: Bewerfen?

Manfredas: Yes, to pelt.

Me: Unterwerfen?

Manfredas: Yep, to subdue.

Me: Bet you wish you could unterwerfen me but I’m going to keep going. Hinwerfen?

Manfredas: To throw something down. 

Me: Zurückwerfen?

Manfredas: Yes. To reflect or echo. 

Me: …

Manfredas: …

Me: Huh. I think I’m out. 

Manfredas: (runs for the door)

A few days later, I was with a student. I like to share the misery around so…

Me: I’ve been having great fun with “werfen” this week.

Gundula: ??

Me: You know – abwerfen, auswerfen, einwerfen, hinwerfen, verwerfen, wegwerfen…

Gundula: Ha, oh right. Yeah, Germans never really think about that. Do you have “entwerfen”?

Me: NEIN! What does that mean?

Gundula: To draft something. 

Me: Man, is there anything werfen can’t do? 

Anyway, I will never throw in the towel when it comes to this language. Incidentally, that also works – das Handtuch werfen.

And now I’m off to toss a salad. So there, Manfredas.

 

 

Be careful what you click for…

Step number 59,248 in becoming a proper German is getting yourself a .de email address. Having noticed that a lot of Germans email me from a web.de account, that’s what I decided to go for. There are two things you assume when you sign up for an email account called FreeMail:

  1. You get an email account;
  2. It is free.

I like free.

Register free!
(image taken from giga.de)

You can imagine my surprise when, a month or so later, I received an invoice (Rechnung) from web.de for around €15. Assuming (clearly very dangerous in Germany) that it was a mistake, or possibly some optional extra that I was under no obligation to pay, I deleted it. A few days later, I received another one. About a week later, I got another one and, shock horror, the amount had gone up. It seemed they were serious about this payment malarkey.

Finding it hard to believe that every German with a .de account is paying for it, I emailed my old German teacher to ask if she was paying for hers:

What!? No, I don’t pay. Maybe you accidentally agreed to open up an account where you have to pay. They could have inserted some button that you can hardly see and pressed accidentally.
I heard a similar story from a friend. You should call and complain and tell them it wasn’t your intention to open up this account.
Crap. The one thing I dislike more than making phone calls in English is making phone calls in German. I decided to take the coward’s way out and, instead, replied to the email I had received and sent another message through the Customer Service page – not easy to find. I got a confirmation that they’d received my query and waited. When, after two days, I had got no reply, I knew I’d have to bite the bullet and call. Crap. (Again.)
The telephone number is buried somewhere in the site – I guess they hope that you’ll just give up and stump up whatever it is they’re asking for.
Did you think I’d lay down and die? Oh no, not I!
They hadn’t bet on the intrepidity of Frau von Grady, however. I trawled every inch of that blasted site and eventually found what I was looking for. The first victory. Amazingly, the automated system recognised my nervous muttering of my contract number – when had I signed up for a contract? – and I was put through to an actual person.
I explained the reason for my call.
Herr Helpful: Ah yes, I see that you’ve sent us two emails about this. 
Me: (Grrr.) Why, yes, yes I have. Aaaaaaanyway, I didn’t sign up for a contract, I don’t understand why I’m getting invoices and I don’t want membership to anything. I just want the FreeMail account that I registered for. 
Herr Helpful: I see. Let me just check… (tap, tap, tap)… yes, it seems that on the (insert random date) at (insert random time), you clicked on a button that activated your premium account. 
Now, because of the way web.de is set up, with things moving around the pages, pop-up ads and various buttons that appear randomly, this is actually very possible. However, as I hadn’t handed over any bank details, given a credit card number or even double-clicked to confirm, I hadn’t given it a second thought.
Me: Well, that was a mistake. I didn’t mean to click anything. All I want is the FreeMail account. 
Herr Helpful: OK, I understand. I’m cancelling your “contract” now. You won’t receive any more invoices from us. 
Me: Great, thanks. But do I have to pay the previous invoices? 
Herr Helpful: No, you don’t have to pay anything. 
Me: (Phew.) Fantastic. WAIT! Can you please send me that in writing? (Because Germany…) 
Herr Helpful: Yes, of course. You will get an email shortly. 
As I sat clicking refresh and waiting for the confirmation, I contemplated how much entertainment value the staff at web.de would get out of my “recorded for quality purposes” German over the next 90 days. The email arrived. It was over.
Yeah, right. This is Germany. The following week, I received a “Mahnung” in my inbox. This is like a final demand before things get nasty. The next day, there was one in my letterbox.
Me: What’s “on the warpath” in German? 
Manfredas: Auf dem Kriegspfad. Why?
Me: Because I’m on it. It all started a month or so ago. (Approximately four hours pass…) 
Manfredas: (Snore.)
Unwilling to waste another second of my life on the web.de automated telephone system, I decided to go down the email route again. Two extremely harsh, most likely very rude and, even more likely, in hilarious German, emails were despatched.
On day three, I received a very apologetic email saying that there had been a mistake in the system, that everything was now resolved and that I wouldn’t receive any more invoices or demands. This time I didn’t bother with a reply.
A couple of days later, I received an email asking me to rate the customer service at web.de.
I printed it out and used it to wipe my Arsch. Maybe I should send it back to them after all – if I can find their postal address…