I am translator and consider myself also a friendly and helpful person, so sometimes I find myself in situations where I can’t help myself and have the urge to help. This week I found myself waiting in the queue at a street food stall at London’s Borough Market. Suddenly my ears tuned into a mother and daughter tourist team next to us, talking in German with a Swiss dialect and who seemed a little lost. Not in terms of directions but for food. This got me thinking about the Swiss translation services we offer. So I leant over and asked, in German, whether I could help in anyway.
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Well, they said, we are very old and wet from the rain and we are just looking for something warm and filling really. But the queue at the stall I was standing at seemed a little too long to wait for them. Well, I said, pointing at the stall next door, this is a very unusual British thing you might want to try – homemade Scotch eggs. Now I am not normally a fan of them but I had sampled them earlier and, with them being warm and the egg yolk still a little runny, they were surprisingly tasty. I thought that the pork and egg combination would easily appeal to a German or Swiss, knowing my way around German cuisine quite a bit. Also they could go home, happy with the thought they had sampled something entirely British and a bit weird, but were full up and warm. But they dismissed the idea entirely. Pork and egg as a combination? Not really, thank you. And besides, as they told me, there was no one at that stall queuing and that signalled to them that it was either not popular or not very good and therefore they would not trust it…
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So this is a perfect illustration of the fact that, as a translator, you need to understand other cultures and habits, but that they are, of course, never true for everyone and that you mustn’t generalise things either. Borough Market is a wonder world of probably pretty close to any cuisine you can imagine, and with shops around them to match, you will find as much a colourful audience to sample it as the ones you make and sell the food and drinks there.
Did you want to know what they got in the end? They ended up standing in the queue behind me after all – because it was a queue, then it must be good. I explained the concept of Indian samosas and onion bhajis to them and then the Thali that was on offer – which is what they purchased. I wished them a “Guten Appetit!” and was hoping that they would go home happily – and with the thought of having sampled another very British type of food, because the samosas were very good too. Yum.
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