Expat Holiday Grocery Shopping
My first years in Europe I made an expat friend. She, like myself, married a German man and needed to learn German. Wanting to impress her new in-laws my friend decided to buy a turkey and make a fantastic holiday dinner for his family.
There are two things you should know; her mother-in-law was a super cook, and wife of a farmer. (my friend lived on a large dairy farm) The pressure was on to impress her mother-in-law. So over the hills and through the woods she went to buy a turkey.
To understand this story you need to know a few German words:
Turkey - Truthahn
Goose - Gans
ganz - whole or entire (pronounced almost the same as Goose)
At the butcher, she asked for a "whole Turkey." She said something along the lines of “Ich möchte ein Gans Truthahn." For a German, this sentence is just confusing. The butcher asked more than once, “eine Gans?” She kept replying yes, thinking he was asking do you want the whole Turkey. He packed up her purchase, and she headed home.
Table set and Turkey cooking she was excited. The guests arrived one by one. When she looked in the oven, something seemed strange; things were not going as planned; Her turkey just wasn't cooking. After waiting and waiting for the food, the mother-in-law decided to step in and help. She looked in the oven and said, "Why are you cooking a goose like a turkey?"
The mother-in-law was adorable and started to fix the situation, but my friend burst into tears. She had not understood the butcher, and he didn't understand her, and thus she ended up with the wrong meat. She had no idea that Gans meant goose and that he was repeating it because he didn't understand. The butcher was asking, "What lady a goose or a turkey?"
To make matters worse, her mother-in-law, the farmers wife, was shocked that she did not even notice the difference. Her big plan to impress the family flopped.
Grocery shopping in a country where you don't speak the language can be full of surprises. Happy Thanksgiving.