Same words, different meaning:

25. Januar 2015 | von

A few days ago I had a visit: a former student of mine came over and stayed five days. He is also a Guatemalan, but is currently studying in Spain and found some free time and a cheap flight, so I was happy to welcome him after many years of sporadic contact. He is the third person whom we receive here from Guatemala and seeing how the three times we have observed the same train of behavior, I think it is kind of safe to say that the following list of conclusions are based on more than just supositions. Of course, for the purposes of these text I will exaggerate a bit, although… I am not sure how much. I am not trying to make us look bad, since there are wonderful things we have and are, but it is no secret that being punctual and working efficiently arent two of the most developed habits in Latin America. hese are some of the things that stand out when comparing what German say and mean to what my people (including me when I had just arrived) understand:


Germans say: We´ll leave in ten minutes.

Germans mean: In ten minutes we will be on the way already.

Some of us understand: We will leave in more or less ten minutes, so make sure you continue doing whatever you need to do that might take around fifteen minutes to get done, we will wait. Also, one minute before we leave we will remind that you have sixty seconds, just in case.


Germans say: Be ready at ten o´clock.

Germans mean: Be ready at ten o´clock.

Some of us understand: Around nine fifty-nine start getting ready. If you need to look for a jacket and put it on, dont worry, that does not count as not being ready. Also, if you are upstairs, take your time to come down after ten o´clock while we wait at the door for you… and the same applies to finding your keys, wallet and similar items, brushing your teeth and washing your hands are also part of the things we will totally accept.


Germans say: We need one hour to get there.

Germans mean: We should have around 20% extra time to make sure we arrive on time.

Some of us understand: Since we need one hour to get there, the best thing to do is leave the house when we have sixty minutes left before the time we should arrive. Rushing at the last moment and running or driving faster than necessary in order to compensate are perfect ideas.


Germans say: Breakfast is ready!

Germans mean: Sit down and eat.

Some of us understand: All these cold cuts are still to be fried, the warm food is coming. No, of course we have more than only bread and toppings, who would eat cold stuff in this weather?!


Germans say: Please, dont drive too fast.

Germans mean: Please, dont drive above 150 km/h.

Some of us understand: Please, dont exceed 100 km/h.


Germans say: Remember, you have to know the different types of trash.

Germans mean: Separate glass, plastic, rest, green, paper…

Some of us understand: You should take a course and buy some books in order to memorize and understand the different rules and combinations regarding trash. Whatever you think you know, know that you are wrong.


SOME Germans say: America…

THOSE Germans mean: The United States

MOST of us understand: America, we hope you dont mean The United States.


Germans say: Des Teufels liebstes Möbelstück ist die lange Bank.

Germans mean: “The devil’s favorite piece of furniture is the long bench.” (Do not procrastinate!)

Some of us understand: Digstgb safjkhaskf tkjkadfys klsja kjd is the kljskj bank.

And so, my friend is gone and I guess he will treasure the memories of the beautiful cities he saw and experiences he lived and will not remember much of the contrasts between our cultures. A few days dont provide with a clear picture of all the things one has to learn and relearn… it took me a while, even though I read and tried to come as prepared as possible. It is really interesting that after these years living here I get the chance to how my habits have changed. In any event, with all the differences and ups and downs, I can say at the end that Germany is the country I admire, but my land is the place I love.

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