Awkward Abroad: Talking about Inglourious Basterds with Germans

I’ll have to update my resume so now it reads “International awkward conversation starter” because that’s what I’ve been doing since I crossed the Atlantic. I mean, I knew I was good at being awkward in English with Americans, but I never knew my true potential at being awkward in any language with any person until I studied abroad.

So I have all of these weird, embarrassing anecdotes that I pull out on occasion with friends or at a bar or even in my conversation class when my teacher asks what I did this weekend and I complain about all the bises I had to give. But this is only with the people I interact with in person, and what about all of my family and friends back home who won’t be able to see what an expert awkward conversation starter I am for themselves until I’m back???

And, I only tell these stories in person, and I want to be able to remember them so I could cherish my akwardness forever and have good stories to tell my grandkids or, if I grow up to be the crazy Pillow Pet lady that I think I am, anyone’s grandkids.

Therefore … I’ll post the ones I can on here and set up this reoccurring story column kind of thing. It’ll be like in Sex and the City when Carrie gives a voice-over about what she’s going to write about after it happens … except mine won’t be cute or sexy, it will be cringe-inducing. Because I am not a Carrie.

So here’s the first one:

Talking about Inglourious Bastards with some Germans, NBD

There were a lot of far-fetched things in Quentin Tarentino’s Inglourious Basterds, but the auteur was telling the truth about how the Germans count on their hands. Remember when (beautiful) Michael Fassbender’s (beautiful) British spy accidentally reveals himself as a Brit and not a fake SS by the way he counted off the drinks he wanted in that awesome bar scene?  Turns out Germans really do start counting on their thumb (1), and then ring finger (2), and then middle finger (3) and so on and so on.

Except, I only trusted this fact after the German guy sitting next to me at Oktoberfest signaled for three beers like he was making the “L” loser sign with an extra finger and I looked over and was like “Oh my god, Germans actually count on their fingers that way! Inglorious Basterds was right!

This is the wrong way to count on your fingers if you’re trying to be German. But look at his face ❤

And as if that didn’t make me sound like enough of a dumb Valley girl … I had completely forgotten that I was referencing a movie that is all about American scalphunters who wanted to murder Nazis during World War Two … to a German … at a festival celebrating German culture and history (and beer). Yikes.

At first I thought I could take it back. The universal “Ohhhh, I get it” look didn’t appear on his face. I could just say I saw it in a movie once and move on from there. Or so I thought.

“That’s the Nazi-hunting movie, right?” he asked. He seemed more confused than angry. That was a good thing, right?

“Um, yeah. But, see, the character counts on his fingers like this,” I said, demonstrating the non-German way, “and that’s how the Nazi knew he was a spy.”

“Oh,” he said.

“Yeah,” I replied.

Welp. That happened.

Looking back, I think we could have moved on from there. I think I could have saved it and made a joke like, “Well, you already knew I wasn’t German,” or something. I think I might have even risked spilling my beer just to make a distraction and get me out of this mess, even though technically I’d have to create a new mess to do that. But whatever. There was hope.

But nope, then his friend had to ask what we were talking about. And I looked at this guy, and he looked at me, and two whole seconds went by. TWO WHOLE SECONDS. And I just knew that I had to do something fast.

“So do you guys still give thumbs up to people or is that weird because it would look like you’re just counting to one on your hand?” I asked, blurting out the first thing that popped into my head.

I didn’t care if I looked like a ditz, a spaz, a dumb blonde, an American, whatever. There was just no way I was going to repeat this conversation.

They didn’t get it at first and kept giving me weird looks, so I legitimately thought that maybe thumbs up wasn’t a thing in Germany. But then my new quasi-friend started laughing and shook his head, like he couldn’t believe we were having this conversation.

Me neither, buddy.

But hey, don’t worry, the thumbs up is alive and well in Deutschland. The guy must have thought I was an idiot, but he still invited me and my friends to go to a club later. So it was like everything turned out okay in the end—except, you know, I had to leave and we didn’t have enough time to fall in love and get married and spend the rest of our lives eating pretzels and test-driving Volkswagens together in our color-coordinated lederhosen and drindls and never, ever, ever mentioning THAT MOVIE ever again. 

Talking about Inglourious Bastards with some Germans, NBD: PART TWO (yes, there is a Part Two … unfortunately …)

I know what you’re thinking. This girl brings up Inglourious Basterds AGAIN? But this time it was a German who brought it up!! He started it! It wasn’t my fault, I swear!

I did learn my lesson … sort of. This wasn’t at Oktoberfest. This was when I was in Dublin at Temple Bar talking to a German guy and he ordered two beers and used his thumb and pointer finger.

And in that dim light, in the noisy atmosphere, in the cramped bar space, it all came rushing back to me: Oktoberfest Awkwardfest 2012. Duh duh duh!

I want to make this very clear: I didn’t even REFERENCE Inglourious Basterds. I just said, “Oh, that’s right! I forgot about how Germans count on their hands.”

That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less. I promise.

“What? Oh, yeah,” he said, looking down at his fingers and then back at me. “Have you seen that movie that came out a couple years ago … it’s American, I think … what’s it called again…?”

I figured since he was the one to bring it up, it would be okay to finish it. I mean, he was practically begging me to tell him. How could I not?

Inglourious Basterds?” I helpfully supplied, praying that was actually the movie he was thinking about.

“Yeah.” He made the same German “two” sign, although now it was used as a finger gun that he shot at me. “That’s the one.”

Any excuse to post another picture of Michael Fassbender on my blog is a good excuse … even when it’s commemorating his deceased character. I have no shame when it comes to Fassy. (GET IT?!)

I didn’t know what to do, and not just because finger guns make everything awkward. But I saw an opening and I took it.

“It’s funny you say that … last time I talked about that movie with a German it got real awkward real fast,” I said.

And then, I swear, his face lit up and he laughed a little. I laughed a little too, nervously, but I thought I was in the clear. It was all good. I survived!

But all of a sudden he stopped and then he got really serious and said, “But seriously though, yeah,” and looked deep into his beer glass for a moment before tipping it back and draining it.


There were no finger guns this time to start off the awkward silence.

Because I was the finger guns.

Once again.

As I festered in the silence, I remembered that (beautiful) Michael Fassbenders’s (beautiful) British lieutenant died because of the way he counted on his fingers. I should just be lucky that I wasn’t killed because of the way I keep unintentionally insulting the way Germans count on their fingers.


8 responses to “Awkward Abroad: Talking about Inglourious Basterds with Germans

  1. Pingback: Awkward Abroad: Talking about Inglourious Basterds with Germans

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  5. Maybe I wasn’t paying attention to the uniforms in the movie, but one obvious I accuracy was that every German soldier in France was a Nazi. Only the Waffen SS were nazi party. The rest may or may not have believed in that ideology, but were probably either drafted against their will under threat of execution, or an officer forced to take an oath under the same threat or they were professional soldiers that happened to be in the army when the Nazi party took over. It was a good movie, but it didn’t seem fair to have this or that poor shlub being brutally killed when they may have never wanted to be there in the first place.

  6. Ok…I need to ask something. Why would talking about that film be awkward for Germans? Do you think that they would be offended if someone talked about how much they hated Nazis ? Do you think Germans want to defend Nazis? Why would any German, or human for that matter be offended or awkward about a film concerning killing fascists, hate mongoring, murderers? Do teens get awkward if you mention Jason Vorheese, because teens killed him in Friday the 13th? Maybe I’m missing the point, not sure why talking about a great film filled with great German actors, made in Germany, financed in part by Germany, ……with Germans, would be awkward. Most all Germans love that film, and for good reason.

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