Many years ago, my husband and I spent a few days in Munich. It was Oktoberfest and my dad sagely sent me a text that read ‘have fun, but don’t get drunk’.
It was my first visit to Germany and despite having lived in Ireland for 5 years then (aside from 20 years in Asia), although culturally sensitive, I was unintentionally uncouth. We were in a beer tent, enjoying the merriment of the Fest, chatting to revellers when a young lad popped over to me and asked me to join him in shouting Rudi Voller at the band. I obliged, not wanting to let my new friend down or more so, the beer having impaired my judgement!
Happily chanting away, I was caught unawares when two burly bouncers grabbed me and my husband and proceeded to evict us out of said tent for being unruly, rowdy and disrespectful towards the band. Now, I had never been kicked out of anywhere in my life, being prim, proper, observer of all rules! I realised my folly belatedly when my husband explained one of the band members was a Rudi Voller doppelganger and my actions had come across as jeering. I was ashamed.
The next day, we went for a stroll in the city and stopped at a bar for a drink. I asked for half of pint of a particular brew whose name escapes me now and whether it could be served in a particularly pretty glass (of which they had several on display). The bartender was not amused and replied with a strict ‘No. This beer comes from a different region of Germany and it can only be served in this glass’ and proceeded to mock me in front of his other colleagues. I apologised for my ignorance but the damage was done. The bartender had no interest in serving me further.
I had the opportunity to visit Munich through work several years later. It was a seminar attended by participants from all over Europe and I had the pleasure of meeting a lovely lady from Sweden. Asa was well-read, well-travelled, ran a successful CFO-for-hire business and just simply wonderful company. From Asa, I learned manners and etiquette. There were other participants from Norway and Finland, and Asa could have easily switched to her native language when conversing with these participants as we shared a table for dinner. Instead, mindful of my company, she maintained the conversation in English not only throughout the meal, but over the course of the 3-day seminar. My mum brought me up with good manners, however, my impatience let me down over dinner one evening. Asa observed that I had piled on several dishes on my plate from the buffet. I am never one to go back for seconds, and therefore just wanted to have one plate of food without having to re-visit the buffet. Asa chided me over my lack of grace. ‘Just have a portion at a time, Anne. Pace yourself, you’ll enjoy your food better’.
As I reminisce, I am thankful for such experiences but a small part of me can’t help but marvel at my misdemeanour and subsequent ejection from Oktoberfest!