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 Ever Get More Than You Asked For?

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Dick Stodghill
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Dick Stodghill

Number of posts : 3795
Registration date : 2008-05-04
Age : 94
Location : Akron, Ohio

Ever Get More Than You Asked For? Empty
PostSubject: Ever Get More Than You Asked For?   Ever Get More Than You Asked For? EmptyWed Oct 21, 2009 9:14 am

A Stodghill Says So blog:

I sometimes recall driving across France in the summer of 1985. As tends to happen in July, the windshield grew buggy after a couple of hours so I pulled up at what appeared to be an auto supply store in a small town. I was hoping to buy a bottle of window cleaner but the woman behind the counter had no idea what I was asking for. After several minutes of motioning as if I were cleaning a window, arm waving and talking the woman may have decided I was a nut and called the manager.
We went outside, I showed him the dirty windshield and did more motioning until his face lit up and he began nodding his head and giving me directions. In French, of course, accompanied by some pointing and waving of his own.
I got behind the wheel while he opened a garage door. He then went to the middle of the street and stopped traffic in both directions so I could back up and enter the garage. Inside a mechanic was working on a large Mercedes. The manager gave him instructions and he walked away somewhere, then returned with two buckets of water, one soapy, the other clear.
He then washed and rinsed the windshield. After that he stepped back, sighted along where he had worked, shook his head and started over. Following several cleanings, rinsings, dryings and sightings he was satisfied. Never, not even on a new car in a showroom, was a windshield so spotless.
A little embarrassed by having taken him away from his work on the Mercedes, I got out my wallet. The manager shook his head, said, "No, no," opened the garage door again, went to the middle of the street and blocked traffic so I could back out. As we drove away he stood watching and waving his hand.
After all these years I'm still embarrassed by it even though I know they do things differently in France. No halfway jobs there.
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Abe F. March
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Abe F. March

Number of posts : 10720
Registration date : 2008-01-26
Age : 80
Location : Germany

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PostSubject: Re: Ever Get More Than You Asked For?   Ever Get More Than You Asked For? EmptyWed Oct 21, 2009 10:22 am

Good story Dick. I don't think the treatment you received was especially unusual. In some countries, and I repeat some, people go out of their way to make foreign visitors welcome and offer assistance. Difficulty with speaking a language requires extra effort to communicate and that is often rewarded with special treatment. Show of appreciation is all the payment desired.
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dkchristi
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dkchristi

Number of posts : 8594
Registration date : 2008-12-29
Location : Florida

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PostSubject: Re: Ever Get More Than You Asked For?   Ever Get More Than You Asked For? EmptyWed Oct 21, 2009 4:59 pm

And that was France!
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Abe F. March
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Abe F. March

Number of posts : 10720
Registration date : 2008-01-26
Age : 80
Location : Germany

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PostSubject: Re: Ever Get More Than You Asked For?   Ever Get More Than You Asked For? EmptyWed Oct 21, 2009 11:09 pm

DK,
when I first read Dick's post and he mentioned France, I was a bit taken back. My experience in certain areas of France, as an American, didn't get that courtesy. The older generation remember the war and American help and are pleased to accommodate. The younger generation don't all hold that same view and it can be a turn-off. To castigate an entire country by isolated experiences is not wise. We find similar things in our own country.
For the most part, reaction depends on how we present ourselves. Arrogance is seldom rewarded with courtesy.
"I have a problem and need your help", will normally get positive results.
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Dick Stodghill
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Dick Stodghill

Number of posts : 3795
Registration date : 2008-05-04
Age : 94
Location : Akron, Ohio

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PostSubject: Re: Ever Get More Than You Asked For?   Ever Get More Than You Asked For? EmptyThu Oct 22, 2009 6:54 am

Abe brought out the key point regarding arrogance. We spent three weeks on an AARP tour that went to countries we hadn't planned on visiting. After that we left the tour and followed the three-week touring on our own as originally planned. We were appalled by the behavior of some of the people on the AARP tour and did our best to stay away from them. On our own, it was a different world.
An example came at a hotel where we stayed for 11 days in Bayeux. It's restaurant had been in business since about 1670. One evening near the end of our stay there an American woman loudly proclaimed that an appetizer for which the restaurant was noted was "awful." The owner tried to calm her down but when she kept yelling it was awful he said, "It may be awful, but it's famous."
About that time the head waiter walked past our table, smiled and winked at us. All the woman had to do was say to those with her that she didn't like it and put it aside as I'm sure she had done at places in the States.
We had come to agree with the French about the behavior of the majority of Americans. I don't know how many evenings we spent in quiet bars where everyone was enjoying themselves when the door was flung open and a loud, noisy group entered. Like the others we would say, "Oh no, not Americans."
One night at a hotel in Austria the others on the AARP tour were complaining about everything, including the lousy country. After they had all gone to their rooms we went to the bar, although wondering what kind of reception we would receive. Turned out we were there until 2 a.m. talking with six or seven people, including a farmer whose land had been worked by his family for 700 years. The interpreter was the representive for Mercedes-Benz for the entire country. It was a wonderful evening.
Arrogance seldom produces favorable results.
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dkchristi
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dkchristi

Number of posts : 8594
Registration date : 2008-12-29
Location : Florida

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PostSubject: Re: Ever Get More Than You Asked For?   Ever Get More Than You Asked For? EmptyThu Oct 22, 2009 8:06 am

When I lived in Wiesbaden, Germany, I was fluent in reading, writing and speaking the German language. I joined a German book club sponsored by the local library. Our group became quite chummy and started to attend the Opera together and other little events. The members of the group were German women with the exception of one woman from Amsterdam who was of some reknown as she started a barge library lending system so books borrowed by those living on barges could be returned to libraries in other countries along the route. Then there was me.

At that time, U.S. servicemen had green license plates, so Americans were easy to spot (for other reasons too, but it started with license plates). Often, I'd be riding with my friends to some event and some driving error by a green license plate would start a round of negative comments about Americans.

Finally, on one such evening, I said quietly in German from my back seat that I was an American woman. Silence in the car. Then the Dutch woman said in perfect English, "You are an American, but you are a member of the literature group. You are one of us."

She meant it as a compliment, but I felt somehow unpatriotic, that to be an American was not an honor at that moment; the honor was being accepted in the group. I think language is a conduit to international understanding. As Americans, which often means U.S.A. citizens, we cling to English and it limits our scope of understanding. It's the language that reveals the history and culture of a nation and how people relate to each other. Without some understanding of polite conversation at least, common courtesies are often ignored.

I remember in Korea hearing English speakers shouting at their Korean drivers and maids, as if a louder tone of voice made their directions more easily understood. The young lady who worked in my home said no one in her entire community ever spoke that loudly unless they were in agony, fear or anger. Thus, those were the emotions communicated.

It works both ways. I thought a friend of mine was going to slug a woman who was speaking Spanish and practically pushed my friend's cart out of line to move in front of her to the cash register. The offending woman was with her entire family it seemed, all well-dressed and behaving obnoxiously to our interpretation as they moved in front of people who had been patiently standing in line.
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Abe F. March
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Abe F. March

Number of posts : 10720
Registration date : 2008-01-26
Age : 80
Location : Germany

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PostSubject: Re: Ever Get More Than You Asked For?   Ever Get More Than You Asked For? EmptyThu Oct 22, 2009 10:34 am

DK,
I know the feeling. During the Bush Administration, whenever we went away from our local community, we did not speak English. There are still some who don't understand that politics affect the citizen. It doesn't matter if you disagree with the policies of your President, you are an American and represent the good or bad of the administration in power. With Obama as President, attitudes in Europe have changed dramatically. Deep down, people have a love for America and want to see it in the light of peace and prosperity. When they are dragged into economic disaster and/or war, it is normal to target the person or country responsible. They have suffered enough from war and desire peace. Prosperity follows.
As for stigmas, they will remain. American tourists are know to be boisterous and uncaring. The exceptions are those who blend into the society and respect local customs. Language plays a big role.
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Carol Troestler
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Carol Troestler

Number of posts : 3827
Registration date : 2008-06-07
Age : 81
Location : Wisconsin

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PostSubject: Re: Ever Get More Than You Asked For?   Ever Get More Than You Asked For? EmptyThu Oct 22, 2009 11:02 am

Sometimes it is just about different ways of doing things, and that is all right. One time we were traveling in France with my sister and brother-in-law. We usually had a picnic lunch and had stopped at a wayside, took out our supplies, ate, packed up and were on our way in about twenty minutes.

A table of French people turned around and stared in horror. Here they had arrived at the same time we had, were just finishing setting up their picnic with table cloth, candles and wine. They were horrified that we had eaten so quickly.

I think those who travel and don't bother to sit in bars and restaurants and get to know people are missing a great deal. One of our most memorable evenings was in France during the Normandy invasion anniversary in 1994, where the London taxi drivers had brought veterans of D-Day over from England. It was an evening of listening to stories and honoring these men.

We attended the wedding of our exchange student from Germany and were treated like family. We had conversations in a combination of German and English.

DK, I envy you your time in Germany. I think I could really speak the language if I did as you did. When our exchange student lived with us, her mother sent a recording of their talking parakeet. Now it really humbles one when a parakeet can speak German better than you can!!

Carol
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dkchristi
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dkchristi

Number of posts : 8594
Registration date : 2008-12-29
Location : Florida

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PostSubject: Re: Ever Get More Than You Asked For?   Ever Get More Than You Asked For? EmptyThu Oct 22, 2009 11:19 am

That's okay Carol, about the parakeet's German. My small parrot whistles classical flute music taught her by my niece. I only know one piece, Fur Elise. She also speaks in Spanish which I have had difficulty retaining.
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