Even more embarrassing than not being able to order in German at the market is getting laughed at by a vendor and several surrounding customers.
It is “Spargel” season here in southeast Germany, which is when the white asparagus is harvested. Everyone gets very excited about the Spargel, and it seems to be on every menu board I pass. Chris had it at work and really enjoyed it, so we thought we’d get a few stalks to accompany our fish and rice dish.
The vendor must’ve heard us speaking English to each other, because he asked Chris what he wanted in English. Chris said we wanted 6 stalks of Spargel. The vendor, a jolly-looking man around 60 years old, started laughing extremely loud. He yelled out, “Only 6 stalks- no! For two people? Hahahaha!”
The two customers around us, one older woman to our right and a man to our left, also joined the vendor and started snickering. They tried to hide their laughter by turning away.
Apparently, asking for under a kilo (2.2 lbs) of Spargel is a ridiculous request that you should not make in public.
The vendor, still laughing, told Chris we had to get a kilo because anything less wouldn’t be enough. Chris said okay (even though we didn’t really want a kilo), but I agreed because we were obviously violating some sort of German cultural code of conduct and we wanted to get out of there quickly as possible. The surrounding customers were still chuckling at our faux pas.
We paid for our kilo and ate it for a few meals. It was very good, but I could’ve done with a few less stalks. I could also do without the heckling, so next year I will have to decide if I will forego Spargel season or eat a kilo of it like a real German.