Awkward Abroad: The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army”

It started at Oktoberfest. French people I had talked about Oktoberfest with told me that Germans spoke better English than Americans, so I thought that’d be true. WRONG. Everything was in German, even at the train station and at the metro and the signs for everything. It was a huge culture shock and my shoddy scribbled list of German phrases did nothing, even when I showed it to the Germans sitting next to me and asked for pronunciation help. By that point, I had pretty much resigned myself to walking around Munich completely oblivious until …

The beer hall we were in had a traditional German band that played the White Stripe’s “Seven Nation Army” like every ten minutes. Seriously. Every ten minutes.

And the 10,000 people in the beer hall knew the iconic “DUH… duh-duh-duh-duh DUH… DUH” part just enough to repeat it OVER AND OVER AGAIN EVERY DAMN TIME. With the same amount of people standing up or raising their liters of beer at the end of the song.

I didn’t know if it was because they were hammered or because it was such a great song.

“Why is this song so popular?” I asked the German guy next to me.

“I don’t know. But do you like it?”

“Yes! It’s the White Stripes!” I said. Le duh!

“White Stripes!” he repeated, matching my enthusiasm in such a way I didn’t know if he was mocking me or being sincere.

“Yeah,” I said, apprehensively. “And this is ‘Seven Nation Army!’”

“White Stripes!” he repeated again.

“Um, yeah … is this song a soccer thing… or, I mean, football?” I asked. I wasn’t sure if he knew the White Stripes or just knew that I knew the White Stripes.

“I don’t know. But everyone knows this song.”

“Pretty sure it’s a soccer thing. I mean, football,” I sighed into my beer.

It totally was a soccer thing. It’d play on the TV when the French soccer team was discussed on the French news program. It’d play in Irish bars (or be sung by Irish people in Irish bars) when soccer games were on.

But then, it’d play during the first house party my host sister threw and I watched drunk French twentysomethings dance to it. It’d play at a French bar and people would drum their fingers on the counter in time with the music.

And no matter where it was played, EVERYONE knew the guitar part.

It made me wonder if everyone knew if the White Stripes had broken up this year.

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Awkward Abroad: the Period Joke from Down Under

You can only say “She perioded on me” if you’re Jonah Hill or a New Zealander

[Disclaimer: I was not actually the cause of the awkwardness of what I’m about to tell you. SURPRISE SURPRISE. But I acted so awkward about what happened that I can’t not include it.]

Though I’ve met New Zealanders in France and Ireland, the only time I hung out with New Zealanders was at Oktoberfest, and even then it wasn’t really “hanging out” but rather “sitting at the same picnic table even though there are two Germans separating us.” I didn’t even know they were New Zealanders because it was so loud and they were so far away and I didn’t even end up talking to them until hours into Oktoberfest.

I did, however, notice them as soon as we got in, because 1.) they were both very cute and 2.) one of them had a lip ring and a tattoo sleeve and neither of those are very common in Europe and 3.) they were seated at the edge of the picnic table where the waitress would stand to drop off the beer and take orders so I kind of had to notice them.

I should say that I didn’t make official contact with them until after my friends and I started talking to the Germans. It was towards the end of our Oktoberfest, because I remember this was when I was trying to explain to the German guy why we couldn’t stay there all day and night and then go to a club with them at midnight (he wasn’t accepting my excuse that we didn’t have strong German bladders and livers like they did). We were friendly with the Germans and were working our way down the table, I guess.

My friend Lily was sitting opposite of me on the other side of the table—the side that the lip ring and sleeve tattoos guy was on—and she was standing up because she was ready to go. This guy was standing up too, and I couldn’t see it until Lily pointed out, but it’s kind of hard not to look over when someone says “Hey, why do you have blood on your shirt?”

At this point, the German guy and I both stopped talking and turned to look at the New Zealander because, well, duh. And everyone else at the table did the same because, well, DUH.

The guy swiveled to show us his white shirt, which did have noticeable dried bloodstains on his torso, like where the bottom of his ribcage was.

“Oh, yeah, that. Some girl perioded on me, like in Superbad,” he said, ever so nonchalantly, not even pausing or stuttering or laughing to screw up the joke.

It took me a second to connect the dots and get the reference (can’t believe I’m writing this … a girl has her period and …. crap, I can’t do this … just watch the video in the link). I just couldn’t believe that he just pulled that out, and even as I’m writing this I’m still a little shocked.

First off, the guy quotes Superbad, which doesn’t really happen when you first meet someone. And secondly, he’s quoting that scene in Superbad.

Bold move, sir. Bold move indeed.

I remember I looked over at Lily and just like me, her mouth was open in shock too. She didn’t say anything—maybe like me, she wasn’t ready to say anything just yet—but I could tell we were thinking the same thing: Did that guy just say what I thought he said?

The German guys didn’t really have much of a reaction—either they weren’t prudes like us or maybe they just don’t watch a lot of movies (see: Talking about Inglorious Bastards with some Germans). Lily and I just glanced at each other again before we started doing that incredulous snort-laugh you do when something happens and you can’t believe that it did.

It was Lily who was finally able to respond—I was still trying to figure out whether that guy really did mean to make a period joke to two girls he just met.

“No way, man, she’d have to be an Amazonian or something to do that to your stomach,” Lily pointed out, calling bullshit—another reason why I love her.

He smiled self-deprecatingly and laughed before responding. Turns out a girl cut her finger and wiped it on his shirt. Or so he said.

What girl? Which finger? What did she do to get a cut? Why did she wipe it on his shirt? Is she okay? What happened to her? Does she have AIDS? Do YOU have AIDS?

I was too scared to ask. And alas, now I’ll never know. But that’s probably a good thing.

Lily managed to bark out a laugh at that. I was still quiet. Even when the focus went away from the guy and everyone when back to their conversations, I was still quiet.

And the German guy next to me noticed. “Your face, it’s very red,” he told me.

Red like the bloodstains, I couldn’t help but sourly think. Before I started to utter something commonplace like “Oh” or “Yeah,” I happened to glance over at the guy who started all of this.

He had been watching me. And when I made eye contact with him, he winked at me.

Needless to say, my face got even redder after that.

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.

Shit.

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.

I went to Oktoberfest and all I got was this lousy cold…

So I know I said in my last post that my next post would be about Oktoberfest, OKTOBERFEST Oktoberfest. Welp, sorry, but this is not that post.

I am lazy. But I am sick, so that means being lazy is allowed and I can’t be judged as much for it. And, even more, I am lazy and sick in a foreign country where chicken noodle soup doesn’t exist, so that blog post isn’t going to be up until the end of the week.

That paragraph had a lot of important information in it (such as I am sick, waaaah mommy please come back to Paris and take care of me), but the most important was I AM … IN A FOREIGN COUNTRY WHERE CHICKEN NOODLE SOUP DOESN’T EXIST.

Pretty sure I feel weaker after writing (and then rereading) that last sentence.

I was feeling a little below the weather the Wednesday before Oktoberfest weekend. No big deal, just a little sore throat, and just like schools everywhere this time of year, there are a couple of kids I have to sit next to who were sick. And there’s the public transportation I take at least twice a day. So I thought I was dealing with a small common cold that would be gone before I left on Friday. Pssh. NOT.

You’ll read about this in my next post, but I slept in a tent Friday and Saturday nights before leaving Sunday morning, and it was cold (Under Armor spandex and jeans and every one of the five shirts I brought and hat and scarf and gloves and three pairs of socks) and the next night it RAINED. And I was in a tent. And I was a little sick when I got to Munich and then I was a lot of sick when I left Munich.

Eat your apples and pay attention to old wives tales, I guess.

But I will get through this. Hopefully, soon.

For example, I have orange juice. No problem. It’s even “jus d’orange” and there are a million different cartons. So the OJ situation is OK.

And. I have cough drops, though the only brand I could find was Ricola—which, thankfully, is my favorite cough drop brand in the States, because I am that person who has a favorite cough drop brand. Cultural side note: all French medicine is sold in pharmacies, but you can buy cough drops in grocery stores. Specifically, the candy aisles of grocery stores. And they come in little cigarette-sized boxes as well as bags. So now I carry a pack with me everywhere I go … a pack of cough drops, that is.

But the chicken noodle soup? No sirree bob. And I don’t mean no Cambell’s chicken noodle soup or chicken noodle soup with star/Goldfish/alphabet/Spongebob noodles. I mean, no chicken noodle soup.

Like, I finally found carrots, peas, and noodles in chicken broth (best I could find) and told my host mom I was eating it because I was sick. And then she asked if I wanted a salad. Um….what? Not the response I was expecting. Maybe that’s the standard French sick food, instead of soup and OJ and ice cream? Explains why everyone is so skinny here…

I feel as though the absence of good chicken noodle soup is the only reason why I am still sick a week later.

Looks like all the “PROST!”s I got this past weekend did nothing for my health.