By Sandeep Joshi
Sandeep Joshi is a German Chancellor fellow from India, currently on a research
stay in Germany, sponsored by the Alexander von Humbolt Stiftung.
“Mark Twain couldn’t have been so critical for nothing”, I argued in my own favour, as I made my way to the nearest tram station. With zero German language skills and strictly vegetarian diet preferences, I wasn’t expecting my outing to go smooth. Street Donners and Mcdonald’s are a different game as there isn’t much conversation involved in the whole process. This time I was heading to a proper restaurant.
I spotted a nice little option claiming to offer “größte Auswahl a vegetarischen und veganen Optionen”.
“Perfect!”, I chimed as I made my way into this eatery.
“What would you like to have sir?”, she said handing over a single page menu to me.
“So much for the größte Auswahl“, I murmured looking at a grand total of 3 pasta options listed under vegetarian.
“Get me some water first. I will take a minute to decide.”, I smiled at her impatience.
“Sparkling or still?”, she asked.
Oh, the Germans! They have made even the water so complicated.
“Still.”, I was quick to respond. I could never imagine calling the sparkling soda Water anyways.
What a scam! Not much to decide from, as I read the 3 pasta options 10th time.
“But hey, the waitress spoke English and she even smiled. That has to be worth something.”, I consoled myself as I made up my mind in favour of a pesto dish.
“Holy hell, why would you make a water bottle so complex. What’s wrong with the turn-to-open caps?”, I cursed as I could finally nudge the right metal knob that made the cork come off and hang on to the side of the bottle. I pour a glass to myself to celebrate my little victory over German engineering. I was proud I had solved another German puzzle, naively unaware of the events to come.
“4 freaking Euros for water?”, my brain was having trouble making peace with it. “Excuse me. This must be a mistake. Water comes with the food, right?”, I enquired politely to the waitress. “No. Water is extra.”, she made it as short as possible, feeling no need for an elaborate explanation.
Maybe I didn’t look flabbergasted enough. “What a rip off!!”, I was still sulking as I walked out of the restaurant, thinking I was scammed because I looked like a naive foreigner looking for vegetarian food in the land of Currywurst