My German is lousy. Probably because of the stereotypical laziness that comes with being from an English speaking country. Why should I have to bother when most people in Europe speak English as a second language?
Well, this weekend I learnt that such a crazy level of arrogance can land you in a whole heap of trouble.
This weekend was, of course, FedCon XII. The largest Trek and Sci Fi convention in Europe and one that I was so impressed with 2 years ago I and my friends just had to return.
We arrived in Bonn on Thursday and made our way, by bus, to the Novotel. It wasn't until the following morning that we realised that my good friend Chris had left his coat on the bus. Furthermore, the coat contained his cards and more importantly, his Passport.
Fundburo (lost property office) became the first new word in my small and inadequate German vocabulary. We arrived there to find no coat and no English speaker. The poor man behind the counter had tried to help and on the 2nd attempt we managed to work out that if the coat had been recovered, we wouldn't have it until Monday due to office working hours. We were due to fly on Monday.
If it wasn't for the fact that we had a saviour staying at the convention hotel then we would have been pretty screwed. A quick call to Leena and she was able to escort us to the Polizei and rescue our weekend through the magic of being bilingual. It was at that moment, when Leena was talking to the Police in German while translating everything back into English when I realised just how backwards our language schooling is in Britain.
Within 30 minutes, the loss had been reported to the police and Chris had been put in touch with the British embassy in Berlin. This is were the craziness of the British foreign office became clear. In order to get an emergency passport for the flight home, we would have report to the nearest Consulate office on the Monday morning. Now Britain has a consulate office in every major city in Germany. Now let's bear in mind that only a decade ago Bonn was the capital city of West Germany. Was there a consulate office in Bonn? No. So tired and a little cranky we got a train to Dusseldorf. This was on sunday evening. In the waking hours of Monday we made the trip to the consulate office, in time to see the guard raise the Union Jack.
The emergency passport was issued quickly so we had enough time to salute the picture of the Queen on our way out before heading back to Bonn for our flight. Just before getting the airport shuttle bus we popped into the Fundburo. Chris' coat was waiting for him on the desk! I love sod's law ;-)
But hey... we had a great time and only missed a small part of the convention. I'll write a full report when I wake up.
One thing is certain... next year I'll know more phrases in German that Ein bier bitte!