On the bus from Würzburg to Berlin, a lady entered the bus and took a seat next to me. Usually, I am not accustomed to speaking to German people on the bus. It is not so much in their culture to strike up spontaneous conversation with strangers. However, she was very friendly from the start and it was not long before we were deeply immersed in German conversation. For some reason, she was under the impression that I was an excellent German speaker, which flattered me at first, until I realised that she was keen to chat non-stop for the next four hours and I could only grasp about a sixth of what she was saying.
I ended up nodding and smiling quite a lot, but then she would ask me a question and I would look at her blankly and say “Nochmal, bitte?” which means “Again, please?” And she would continue to explain at the same speed and with the same complicated vocabulary and I would have only a fraction more of an idea than last time. But it didn’t matter. For some reason, she wanted someone to talk to and she was particularly excited by the fact that I came from Australia. We discussed all sorts of things. She was born in Karlsruhe when it was being bombed in World War II. She lost both her parents and was adopted by some lovely people a few hours away. She was now 75 years old but she did not look it.
She proceeded to tell me about the different mentalities in various areas of Germany. She also explained a lot of things about East and West Germany. In German, East is “Ost” and she was referring to these people as “Ozzies” at some point, which had me thoroughly confused, as we refer to ourselves as “Aussies” too! We spoke a lot about family. Her son lived with her in central Germany but drove to work in Stuttgart during the week. He worked for a car company and it was a very good job which paid for lots of expenses, like an apartment and transport costs.
At this point, I had to redirect the flow of conversation to a level of vocabulary I was more familiar with. The weather. We discussed weather in Germany compared to weather in Australia. She was astounded to see the Autumn temperatures on my google app, which looked like a nice German Summer. The conversation continued for hours and whilst I did not understand most of what went on, I did gather that she was a very friendly and open-minded lady who believed that the world is united and that there should be no boundaries dividing us. I was happy to have met her. But I must admit, it was a relief when I arrived in Berlin and was able to speak English again!