Turkish Travel Tips II: Speaking Bad German in Turkey is Better than Speaking Bad Turkish

german flagOne thing that I learned in Turkey is that speaking German in Turkey might actually be more useful than speaking Turkish.

Although I tried my very best to pass as Turkish, something about my ginger hair, milky white skin, and battered green backpack seemed to alert people to the fact that I am not from their country.

This was not usually a problem, except when it came to communication. For some reason, even though my Turkish is about 1000 times better than my German, people assume that because I am from the West, German would naturally make more sense as a communicative tool. In fact, at least once a week somebody refused to accept that I don’t speak German and doggedly continued telling me their life story as I gazed uncomprehendingly at their face and make small noises of protestation in Turkish or English.

When I tried to buy a bus ticket:

Me: Bilet Izmir’e almak istiyorum. I would like to buy a ticket to Izmir.

Ticket Agent: Ah, maalesef Almanca bilmiyorum. Ah, Unfortunately, I don’t speak German. Here is my colleague, the handsome and multilingual Berk.

Berk: Hallo. Ich spreche Deutsch. Sprechst du Deutsch? Ich liebe Deutsch sprechen! Hi. I speak German. Do you speak German? I LOVE speaking German!

Me: Errr, etwas. Nein. Hayir. Almanca bilmiyorum. Türkcem Almancam’dan çok daha iyi. Izmir’e gidiyorum. Biletler var mɪ? Er, a bit? No. No. I don’t speak German. My Turkish is much better than my German. I’m going to Izmir. Do you have tickets?

Berk: Ich wohne in Berlin, aber meine Familie wohne in Kuşadasɪ. Einkaufen. Rauchen. Apfel. Flughaven. I live in Berlin, but my family lives in Kuşadasɪ . . . he continues in German as I stare at his face blankly.

Me: Almancam yok. İngilizce konuşabilirim. Ne zaman otobus Izmir’e gidiyor? Lütfen, bilet alabilir miyim? I have no German. I speak English. When does the bus to Izmir go? Please, can I buy a ticket?

Berk: Fünf Uhr. Ich habe ein Haus in Munich. Schwester. Lederhosen. Tankwart. Five o’clock. I have a house in Munich . . . and so on in German.

Me: İngilizce biliyorum. Fransizce biliyorum. Turkçe az biliyorum. Almanca yok yok YOK. I speak English. I speak French. I speak some Turkish. I have NO German WHATsoever.

Berk: Hands me ticket.

Me: Sağ olun. Çok teşekkürler. Iyi günler. Thanks. Thanks very much. Have a nice day!

Berk: Kein Problem!

When the internet stops working in my coffee shop 

Me: Çok pardon. Internet yok. Internet çalɪşmɪyor. Excuse me! I’m very sorry! There’s no internet. The internet’s not working.

Barista: İngilizce bilmiyorum. I don’t speak English.

Me: Not a problem, because I am speaking to you in Turkish! And for the love of all that is good, I know my accent’s not that bad.

Barista: Bakar mɪsɪnɪz! İngilizce, Almanca biliyor musunuz? Excuse me! Does anybody in the café speak English or German?

Person in the café: Hallo. Ich spreche Deutsch! Ich liebe Deutsch sprechen! Die Toilette suchen Sie? Well hello! I speak German! I LOVE speaking German! Are you looking for the washrooms?

Me: Nein. Tuvaletinizi istemiyorum. Internet çalɪşmɪyor. Anladɪnɪz mɪ? No. I don’t want the washroom.The internet isn’t working. Do you understand?

Person in the café: Die Toilette ist nach oben. The toilet is upstairs.

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