Thursday, October 18, 2007

You . . .

Ok, so this is a German lesson as well as something I find interesting that has happened to me this past two weeks.

In German, there are several forms of the word YOU. They have the words, Sie and Du. Du is something you only say to friends or children. Otherwise, you use the word Sie instead of Du. We of course in English have one word.....YOU.

Honestly, I have the hardest time with this. I say Sie to the people I should say Du to. And Du to those that I should say Sie. I don't know why it is so hard for me. But here is something I thought was kind of interesting that has happened within the last two weeks along these lines of Du and Sie.

I am going to talk about people I go to church with. Most of the members there are German. Some are Canadian, some are American. But mainly they are German. We have lived here 14 months now. Even still with them, I have a hard time knowing who I should Sie and Du. You would think these people that you have been talking to for over a year would know you and you know them well enough to say Du.

Well, on a Saturday, I was at the Church for a meeting. There is a guy there named Christof. He is a very nice younger guy. I would assume in his late 20's. He loves Emma and Ian. We talk every Sunday and he knows English very well.

On this particular Saturday, he says to me, "What is your name? I'm Christoff, by the way." I knew who is was. I've known for over a year. He has known me as well. At first, I thought it was really odd. Did he really not know my name? How could that be so?

Now, fast forward to this past Monday. I took Hannah to a birthday party and it was for a girl that goes to church with us. I was talking to her Mom, who I talk perhaps three times a week with. All of a sudden, she says to me, "I'm Brigita, by the way". Once again, I knew this. It took me back. Then she said, "I'm giving you permission to use the word Du."

It was weird to me how all of a sudden, even though you know someone, you re-introduce yourself when you are a "du" sayer instead of a "sie" sayer. Gardner assures me this is the way it is done here.


Martina said...

Gardner's right, when they offer you their first name they're also offering you the "Du".

I agree that it's confusing, even to Germans. For the most part moms of kids the same age will say "Du" to each other, but every so often you'll find a mom that just doesn't fit in and call her "Sie". It's just awkward.

At work (I work at the post office) I've taken to saying Sie to all of my customers, to avoid offending anybody, which has resulted in my saying Sie to 15-year olds because they looked like adults :-) But I'm sure they were secretly flattered.

C N Heidelberg said...

The secretary at my work speaks to me in English but she still did this to me, only in English! She asked for permission to call me by first name, and said I could call her by first name. I think it's very ingrained for them that there is this Sie/du boundary that she even tried to put it up in English, where it doesn't exist. In most places in the US, we would have been on a first name basis from day one!
Among younger people you can just use du right least that has been my experience.

Jo Anne said...

That clears it up for me!! Having a tiny little grasp of German didn't help me either...I never even used 'du' with my relatives! lol Thanks for clearing that up Tamara!!

J said...

I still have a problem with it too. I use 'du' more than 'sie' because I usually speak German to people I know. I sometimes catch myself using 'du' when I'm in a shop or something and realise that I should have used 'sie'. I asked a German coworker if this would offend a German and she told me that it would it she did it since she's German, but since they can tell from my accent that I'm a foreigner, they probably wouldn't be.

March 2007