One day in Europe and my expat fires have been fueled
So I’m in Düsseldorf. My initial impression, based solely on the airport, was that all things in Germany essentially look like a giant IKEA. Now now, before you get your panties in a twist, be advised that a) I know IKEA is a Swedish company, and b) I am aware that an entire country cannot possibly take on the characteristics of a build-it-yourself furniture warehouse. Therefore, my initial impression was, admittedly, inaccurate, but the Düsseldorf airport, from what I’ve seen, does LEGIT look like one big ole empty IKEA. I mentioned this to a lovely little southern lady with the cutest darn accent, and she not only wholeheartedly agreed, but also laughed uproariously at my obviously genius-astute observation.
My second impression was that Düsseldorf is the QUIETST PLACE ON EARTH. I have since realized that this is not an accurate statement either (cue the endless stream of drunk dudes), and was rather an ill-informed opinion based on the fact that my flight arrived at the crack of dawn on a Saturday morning. It was light out. I had traveled for 16 hours. I legitimately had no idea what day or time it was, so I shall forgive the momentary quiet, as it has since been disproven.
My third impression is that Germany has a ridiculously high proportion of gays. Every two seconds, my gaydar goes flashing, and I’m certain that a pair of gents or a lady with short hair or sneakers is a homo – but are they gay or are they just coolly European? I spied one lady who would, in LA, be easily identified as a big ole’ dyke, and upon smiling my biggest Sapphic-sisterhood smile at her, I got nothing. Ever pair of men I see looks too cozy, and too well-put-together to pass for straight in America, but I am having a hard time believing that Germany is made up of 97% gay men, so I am having to rethink this theory.
My fourth thought thus far is that rich Europeans know how to be rich – and they make it look good. I’ve been told that Düsseldorf is a shopping and vacation destination for wealthy Dutch people, and I would amend that statement to include rich Europeans in general, as I’ve heard snippets of BRITISH, Spanish and Italian being spoken in the streets (I’m sure Dutch is being spoken as well, but it’s all German to me). not only do people flock here from all over the continent, but if they’re rich and they’re shopping on the kenigsallee, the street home to all of the major design and couture houses, they are DONE UP.
But this ain’t no fifth avenue or rodeo drive shit; the wealthy Europeans who come here to spend more money than I make in half a year wear head-to-toe furs and leather in a way that’s unlike anything seen on any wealthy person under 75 in the united states. the Hollywood set would never even be caught dead wearing FUR IS MURDER chic, and if someone even tried to walk park ave wearing a dyed-yellow chinchilla, the PETA folks would be splashing red paint all over them before they could even blink. Here, the wealthy are impossibly put-together from head-to-toe in a very classic way; the women are all in heels, sophisticated trenches and understated yet expensive makeup, and the men are all handsome and perfectly coiffed. See the previous point about how gay all the dudes look.
Dusseldorf is, in fact, a beautiful city with a vibrant culture, and I’m thrilled to have a few more days here to explore when I’m not busy schlepping around this ginormous wine and spirits expo (36,000 people are expected! Yikes!). my hotel is in a “little Tokyo” of sorts in the city, so this area is particularly culturally and linguistically diverse. … which brings me to my point of the day: the privilege of being a native English-speaker.
As a result of centuries of imperialism (PS: DADDY I WILL EXPLAIN THIS TERM TO YOU FOR REAL ;)), the united states’ mid-20th century ascent to worldwide business dominance, and centuries of philanthropic efforts to “Christianize” and “civilize” the people of the world, English has become a widely-spoken, taught and learned language all over the world. Of course, in America, we can really only be bothered to lean American, and shoot, JR, there ain’t nothin’ wrong with that.
Having had the benefit of lifelong private education and a degree from a highly-regarded major university, I have, of course, “learned” four languages: Hebrew (jew!), latin (dead language or not, that counts), French (ummm I really sucked at that) and Spanish (which I can muster the energy to vaguely read and or speak only upon threat of death or mortal humiliation, and a language at which I dramatically improve at speaking when under the influence of a drinkypoo or two). But truthfully, I speak none of these languages, nor do I really even attempt to.
But why should i? why would I need or want to put myself in an uncomfortable situation, even when in a foreign country, when everyone around me will cater to my needs and respond to my timidly-put requests and questions in their own broken English? Why should I make the effort, when everyone around me will do it for me?
Of course, I speak no german (danke is my current go-to), and am tremendously relieved to find the natives of this fine country bridging the language gap for me, but I can’t help but feel like a major asshole every time I walk into a store, spit out one word (thus far coffee and water have resulted in the desired effects, thank god), and have some genial german responds in perfectly-phrased english. What’s worse is that I’ve found myself expecting, rather than hoping, that people will speak English and therefore understand my feeble attempts at communication, which leaves me feeling like an entitled shithead who epitomizes the ugly American persona: someone unwilling to bend, even whist standing along the banks of the rhine, to the local language or customs.
I will continue to struggle with this sense of language-entitlement, doubtlessly, but that’s not going to change or alter my behavior, if only because I do not, in fact, speak german. However, I hope to endlessly convey a silent apology for being a dickhead in every timid English-language request I make.
Ok, I must get myself to bed. Delirium has set in, so don’t judge me too harshly. Xoxo GOODBYE, as we say in America (fuck yeah).
Ps: oh yeah. I need to move to Europe, STAT. whichever country’s language I manage to master first wins.