Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Complex cross-cultural confusion

And no, the confusion wasn't with a Cypriot.

We have a friend, L, who is German, and works some of the time in Israel. She speaks pretty good English, and stayed with us a few times at our old house. We hadn't heard from her in about three years, when out of the blue she phoned, about a month ago. She said that she has a friend, P, who needed somewhere to stay for about five days during December. Would we possibly be able to put her up?

I explained that we had moved, and now had a guest flat available. I checked the dates, and nobody else was coming. So we said, yes, that would be fine. P, she told us, is German, and also works in Israel, and doesn't speak much English. L said she would get back to us two or three days later with the flight times, once the tickets were booked.

So far, so good.

Sure enough, L phoned, and told us the airline number. She said that P would arrive at eight o'clock pm on Tuesday 2nd December. So we put 20.00 into our Google calendar for today, and an alert on Richard's phone. On Saturday I made up a bed in the guest flat, and mopped the floors, and this morning on my way home from toddler group, I bought some bread and milk to put in the fridge.

Then, shortly after noon, I had a phone call from Richard, saying that he'd had a message saying that P was already at the airport! He didn't take the car to the office, so he had to walk home (about fifteen minutes) and then go to fetch her.

Her flight, apparently, arrived at 8am, not 8pm.

P did not have Richard's office or mobile phone number. It seems that she didn't even have our home phone number. So when she arrived, and collected her luggage, and hung around for a while waiting for Richard to pick her up, she phoned L to ask what was going on. L is currently in Germany, and did not have our numbers with her. So she had to phone someone in Israel, and tell them where to go to find our home number. But by the time she rang it, Richard and I were both out... and L did not have Richard's mobile number.

L has worked with an organisation in Limassol, so she next tried phoning them. She got through to C, someone who we know slightly, but who does not know L at all. And C did not have any phone numbers for us. But she knew someone else in Limassol, A, who knows Richard fairly well. So C phoned A, and told him what was, by now, a third-hand story.

A was rather suspicious at the story of an unknown German lady waiting at Larnaka airport for Richard, so refused to give his mobile number. Instead, he phoned Richard, and asked him if this made any sort of sense to him. Richard said that yes, we were expecting a German lady this evening....

So A gave Richard C's phone number, and C told Richard what she had heard...

.. and sure enough, poor P had been waiting at the airport for about four hours by the time Richard arrived for her. And since she'd had to check in in the middle of the night, she was very, very tired.

She's now here, and - I hope - asleep in the guest flat. She has about six words of English, it seems, and we have about six words of German (Kaffee, bitte; ein bahn strasse; stillwasser - none of them terribly useful for explaining how to get to the local supermarket, or where to find the towels).

In Cyprus, 'pm' means morning, not evening. We are now wondering if the same is true in German, hence the confusion...

5 comments:

Suzanne said...

I'm impressed you can keep all the A's, B's C's straight! Nice to know about pm. I'll tuck that away for future use.

itsboopchile said...

You have an enormous amount of patience !!!
Now I hope all goes well.
Betty G

itsboopchile said...

You have an enormous amount of patience !!!
Now I hope all goes well.
Betty G

itsboopchile said...

You have an enormous amount of patience !!!
Now I hope all goes well.
Betty G

Steve Hayes said...

It sounds like the time my daughter decided to fly British Airways to go back to Greece for her graduation, and British Airways would not allow her to board the plane to Athens from London because they did not understand the workings of Greek bureaucracy, so she was stranded in London with no money, and trying to phone the Greek foreign affairs department, who phoned the embassy in London, who phoned BA, who didn't believe them....