Reflections: When Ignorance Is Bliss
On Feb 01, 2016
This experience gives me a smile each time I think about it.
Living in Germany without knowing German was difficult. From grocery shopping to casual city travels we had to keep depending on Google translate. There were instances when we had to type in a whole mail (postal) to translate and then realise it was just another junk. But we still had to keep translating most mails since we could not make out which was important and which was not.
Though many people in Frankfurt knew English, most did not. There were some who could respond in broken words but could not follow us. My son’s paediatrician could not follow English and it gave me a bad time enacting everything (from coughing to vaccination). Our apartment owners too knew only German and it was unimaginably difficult to tell them anything. I had to go to the level of taking a Google translate page and typing what I had to tell and make them type in German and get it translated to English to understand.
There are, however, times when ignorance became bliss too.
Once on a trip an old woman boarded the tram. Since all the seats were occupied and the only vacant one was next to me, I offered her help by unfolding the folded seat with one hand and propping my son’s stroller with the other hand. I kept the seat pressed down for her to sit and she moved towards it. Just then the tram took off much before it was supposed to and the rule of inertia pushed me almost out of my seat and I had to prop my weight on the stroller I was holding. My hand which was pressing her seat too came off. She who sat down thinking the seat was in place fell down on the tram floor. The smile on her face faded and there started a shower of abuses in German. She was shouting, yelling, pointing and gesturing. She was so angry that my sorry was drowned in it.
Everyone else in the tram looked pathetically at me and some even gestured ‘It is ok’ to comfort me. When the old woman got a seat after one stop she sat down and continued her abuses from there. It was very uncomfortable for me because everyone else looked at me sympathetically and I had an embarrassed smile on my face. But I felt so glad that I understood no word she spoke. The old woman took a break when she got tired of abusing.
The tram moved on. People got down and new people got in. Though I felt bad for the old woman I was so glad that I could not understand a single word she spoke.