Monday, January 24, 2005

A conversation with a German

I had my first encounter with a German last Friday. The story goes like this...

Many years ago, I went to London with anti-ringgit and we stayed at his Aunt ST's house. ST and her mother were very hospitable and welcomed me with open arms. I had a great time in London, getting to taste some home cooked food (her mother's loh pak kou is one of the best I have eaten!) After the holiday, we kept in touch via email. Every year, ST return to Malaysia with her mother, to visit their relatives and to escape from the chilling UK winter. I'd usually go for lunch or dinner with them - she loves the steamboat near my house.

This year, in addition to her mother, ST brought along a kwai poh friend. She said that she could finally tour Malaysia herself instead of just visiting relatives every year. ST also asked me to help her buy a notebook as it seems to be relatively cheaper in Malaysia and that she didn't really trust those e-bays dealers in UK.

Anyway, so I met up with her on Friday to give her the notebook. That's where I met her friend, a German who is currently working in UK. Interestingly, she works in a weather research center. I have never met a scientist (a PhD) in my life and it was my pleasure to meet one. My first impression was that she's a really serious, stoic and quiet lady. My attempt at conversation failed most of the time. I thought, well, maybe she's a geek, you know .. the really "studios" type that don't talk a lot or when they do talk, it's filled with scientific gibberish :P

We went to Chinese restaurant called Imbi Palace for lunch. anti-ringgit's cousin sisters (Jamie and Joyce) and cousin brother (Mr T) joined us. It's odd. Here I was, with anti-ringgit's aunt and cousins without anti-ringgit. It was awkward for me, at least, so I have to try to get Miss German to talk. Since we were both stranger to this little "family gathering", I thought it is better that I get her talking.

I learned that she dislike Asian food, rather, she's not adventurous enough to try them. Okayyy... so I asked, "what do you like about Malaysia?".

Her answer was nothing. Hmm.. interesting answer - it is the sort of answer that just sealed out any further attempt at conversation trail of the similar topic.

One more try.. "Why not? We have the best food and shopping places in South East Asia."

"Oh, I don't like to shop and as you already know, I don't like Asian food."

"Okayyy..," awkward silence, "um.. um.. ah.. waiter, more Chinese tea pleaseee.." :-D

"But I had a good time at Langkawi... the beach is so beautiful and it's so quiet there." (that's was because no one goes there after the tsunami, I thought to myself). Good, now we are talking.. So we started warming up to each other and I suggested some other things to see in the following week like the Thaipusam festival on Tuesday. kimmikanuyi gave me the idea of suggesting Selangor Pewter factory tour so I told her that too.

After lunch, they went to Midvalley and I went back with the promise to join them in Hard Rock Cafe for dinner tonight.

At 8.30pm, we met outside HRC in Concorde Hotel. Miss German wanted to sit outside and ST asked if it is ok? ST said that they don't get a chance to sit outside a lot in London because it was too cold. I said fine but I am thinking, weird - the kwai would rather breathe carbon monoxide?

So we sat outside. Strangely, there wasn't much traffic on a Friday night! The streets were empty of vehicles! Does that mean that Jalan Sultan Ismail is frequented by Muslims? So Miss German and I ordered a cold beer. ST chose orange juice and Joyce went for ice lemon tea. After two beers and a chicken breast barbeque later, Miss German became more talkative. By "more talkative" I don't mean she turned into kimmikanuyi.. ha ha ha.. So I found a few interesting about Germans:

Germans have no sense of humour. It seems to be a well known traits in Europe. ST agrees to it. It's just their culture.

Germans are highly efficient and productive. Miss G told me that she was surprised to see our train schedule in KTM main station. There is like only a few lines. She commented that trains are not popular here, are they? I said that what she saw was actually the trans-national train lines, not the LRT. Those are more popular. And I said you cannot compare our trains to the ones in Waterloo Station in London. That station is madness. I think there must be like 1000 lines (I may be exaggerating here) in that station. It's overwhelming. When I was there I am like totally lost! 1000 lines! In comparison, Singapore has 4 lines.. so do Melbourne. London's Underground has like maybe 10 or 15 lines. Miss G agreed that Waterloo is madness too. In London, you may board train A in platform 1 today but train A may go to platform 10 tomorrow. Unlike Germany where a train will always come to the same platform at the exact time. Miss G said that the Germans are very methodical and precise. She said that they have almost 30 days of leave per year which is quite a lot by any world standard and yet when the Germans work, they are highly efficient and productive. Works get done. I think to myself, well, if you don't joke around and lepaking is probably a foul word in your workplace, I am sure one gets highly productive. I wonder if they surf the Net at work? Or blog? Highly unlikely.

I should also say that I feel embarrass that my countrymen in Langkawi has scammed Miss G. See, she made hotel reservation with this local travel agent in Langkawi via the Internet. When they arrived in Langkawi the hotel claimed that the travel agent have not paid them for the rooms. They approached the travel agent who later issued a cheque to the hotel but the cheque was bounced. RM2,000 burnt. I told ST that she should not trust local travel agent - go for popular ones like Mayflower or Reliance. She said Miss G wanted to go through local agent to help the local economy. They could have made reservations using London travel agents but Miss G wanted to help Malaysia. I feel ashame to see her good intentions were being treated this way... maybe that is why she has nothing to like about Malaysia.

As we were talking and whenever the traffic light (at Renaisance Hotel) turned green, there is a rush of traffic as vehicle started accelerating towards Shangri-La. Miss G would wince whenever that happen and after the third or fourth times she could not contained it any longer and would exclaim "you guys don't have noise regulation, do you? I blinked. Noise what? She explained that in Europe, all the cars are regulated. You don't get "noise pollution". I said "come on, be realistic, I am sure noise from vehicles is a norm in ANY cities. London was not exactly a ghost town, ya?" She said no.. London was relatively quiet. ST disagreed. ST said that the noise level in London is as bad and the reason you don't realize is because traffic were always at a standstill. Yay for ST! Secretly though, I thought that Miss G was really spoilt. What we heard is not some loud motorcycle or some old cranky car. It's a pretty common traffic noise. No one was honking and she thought it was loud. She must be living in a forest or something in London. Then again, she probably stays and works in some suburb. We are sitting outside one of the city's major intersections. How to compare?

Miss G asked me if I speak and write Chinese and I said I don't. She gave me "the look" and wonder why I don't know. Luckily I have ST to back me up here. Ai, this has been discussed here so I won't talk about it anymore. The weird thing is what I wrote in my blog is coming back to haunt me. Brr... Takut!!

Oh, it is interesting to note that if you work in a EU research center based in London, you don't get taxed as that center has diplomatic immunity. No income tax! Earn Pound Sterling! Isn't that a dream?

1 comment:

rotitelur said...

I enjoyed reading this one. I always find meeting people from other countries very fascinating.

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