What Not To Feed To Your Child!
Suze from our Parent Panel is back with more of what life is like for an expat mum in Germany. In this post she shares her hilarious tale of false friends and embarrassing food.
“Die Hemmung” is a great German noun. It describes, in one word, all the inhibitions experienced by many of us when attempting to communicate in a foreign language in which we are far from proficient. Often embarrassed and possibly concerned we will be belittled for our incompetences, we are scrabbling outside our comfort zone. Worse still, if you do give it your best shot and they actually understand, there’s always the danger they’ll then presume fluency and gabble back at the speed of light fully expecting you to comprehend.
At least that was my problem.
A confident Manager in the UK, I was able to conduct presentations to hundreds of medical professionals without breaking a sweat. On arrival in Hamburg, just about able to count to ten in German, I crumbled under the pressure and spluttered out sentences only under duress and when absolutely necessary. It took me quite some time to lose my Hemmung but one particular event aided progress towards shaking it off completely.
When my daughter was born I’d only been in Germany for a couple of years. Granted, I had got past the panic stage regarding chatting with the Germans, but nevertheless I was far from confident. A friend of mine, a mother too, Iraqi and also struggling with the complexities of the language, had asked me to accompany her to a meeting about child nutrition. I really didn’t fancy it but she pleaded with me and in the spirit of solidarity, I agreed.
On the basis of forewarned is forearmed, I swotted for that meeting with a fervour that would have stood me in excellent stead had I applied it to my O’levels back in the day. Deciding, should I be forced to contribute, I would speak about preservatives in children’s food and how best to avoid them, I practiced intensively if not enthusiastically.
Cometh the hour cometh the (wo)man, I was indeed asked for my input on the day of the meeting. Channelling my inner Northern grit and wishing my pride hadn’t stood in the way of me using a crib sheet, I did my best to champion preservative free food.
Half way through my speech (preservative this preservative that), I thought I was doing well until I plucked up the courage to try a little eye contact. Could it be that these women were smirking! I believe one was even openly laughing! How dare they, I was doing my best and child nutrition is a serious business is it not? Sensing my well rehearsed dialogue was somehow unintelligible, my oratory faltered. It was only then, that a very kind German lady named Anya, took me gently to one side and explained the reason behind the hilarity.
“It is, what you say in English, a False Friend” she told me. “Damn right” I huffed, interrupting “these women are certainly no friends of mine!”
“Nein nein, she chuckled, you see “Präservativ” is the German word for condom!”
So I had been extolling the virtues of condom free food for children.
So soon after giving birth the laughing fit that followed soon had me sprinting for the Ladies! After which we all had a good giggle. From that day on, my Hemmung left me.
How much worse can it get than announcing to a room full of women that, although not always practical, wherever possible, you do your very best to avoid feeding your child condoms?