I never thought something as simple as the word “please” could spark an entire 5 minutes of confused conversation. Allow me to explain…
A few weeks ago when I was in Germany visiting my fiancé, we shared a few minutes of confusion all because of the word “please” (bitte in German). On a gorgeous day, we set out for a 3 1/2 hour hike through the woods behind his house. Halfway in, we stopped for a break and a little snack when we found an old, dirty table tucked away under the trees. Mr. I-couldn’t-possibly-sit-on-a-single-fleck-of-dirt-even-though-all-my-clothes-will-have-to-be-washed-after-this-ridiculously-long-trek-through-the-forest took his precious time dusting off the concrete bench until it was sufficiently clean enough for his precious tushy. I, on the other hand, being from Arkansas where we all walk around barefoot and pregnant, and not being afraid of a little bird dooky, plopped down on the place closest to my tired body without any regard to what I might have just subjected the seat of my jeans to, and said, “Honey, will you hand me my water?”
When he did, he smiled at me and said, “Please.” I wrinkled my brow and embarrassedly muttered, “Um, sorry, dad.” “What???” he asked. I said, “You corrected me like a father would correct his child.” I could see the question mark above his head as he once again asked, “WHAT?” I said, “Ok, ok, honey… I asked for my water, but I didn’t say ‘please.’ In America, this is considered a little bit rude. If a child asks for something and doesn’t say ‘please’ their parent will usually say it for them as a reminder that they forgot the most important part of their request. When you handed me my water and said ‘please’ I assumed you were politely reminding me that I should have been a little more polite when I asked for it.”
He laughed and said, “Oh, honey… no no. In German we say ‘bitte’ for ‘please’ AND ‘with pleasure.’ You can say, ‘Wasser, bitte’ (water, please), and when I hand it to you, I can say, ‘bitte.’ I guess I should have said, ‘with pleasure’ instead of ‘please.’ Ohhhh… I really hope I don’t go to America and say that to people. They would think I am so rude!”
These are the things my future husband and I have to look forward to. Hopefully I can learn German fairly quickly, and as he learns more English we can meet in the middle. But that’s not really fair to him. He’s already so good in English it’d be more like him giving 85% and me giving 15%. It’s a good thing we both have a good sense of humor.