Friday, April 19, 2013

Showing off our apartment (and my language skills)

Due to the events this week and my subsequent addiction to streaming the local Boston NPR station online, I've fallen behind in my Camp Nanowrimo word count goal. So now that I'm finally sitting down to write, I'm of course doing a blog post. I may have to add up word counts from this month's blog posts and add them to my story....that's not cheating, right?

As you may be aware, B and I are moving into a new apartment soon. We finally found a place after a very slow, long, painful search, and I am soooo excited to move out of the one-room place we've been squatting in for the past 3 months (yes, that is one-room, not one-bedroom). However, since our search was taking so long, we didn't want to give notice to move out of this cell (I mean palace) until we had another place and date confirmed.

And of course in order to give notice in Switzerland, you have to send a letter to the rental agency and then sign something that the rental agency gives you and then they have to send you the forms for other people to fill out and you have to send something back to the agency again saying yes, please put an advertisement up. (When I say "you," I really mean B. I'm not on the lease so that was my official excuse to not participate in any of this process). Anyway - the whole thing takes a while. But the advertisement finally went up and B started fielding phone calls from interested parties.

We tried to set up only one viewing last Thursday, but of course people couldn't make that day, so maybe Wednesday, and then some people can't come THAT day, so maybe Friday? Basically, we ended up having three nights in a row in which people invaded and I couldn't make dinner until late (I have such a wonderful attitude about this whole thing). Then it turned out that out of at least 10 applicants, the mysterious black box at the rental agency only found one acceptable, so we had to have another viewing this Thursday (which means we really had one Wednesday AND Thursday - that's five viewings for the price of one).

For the most part, I did a great job of buzzing people into the building, shoving B at the door to answer it, and then lingering silently near our (four) computers to make sure nobody tried to steal them. I totally wasn't creepy.

Apartment viewing is fun - it's a pretty random slice of humanity that walks through the door. We got some strange ones, including a woman who cheerfully spoke Gerglish (Engman?) the entire time, even though it was obvious that neither were her native language. There was a group of three Puerto Rican girls who were REALLY excited that B spoke Spanish (3 of them, but they only took one form - B claims this is because Hispanics must always travel in groups). There were several English speakers, or at least ones that were more than happy to switch into English. Those who didn't, I let B handle.

Except twice. The first time B abandoned me to show the cellar storage to some woman who had an irrational number of questions, and my worst fear was realized - the bell rang, and I had to let someone else in. The following conversation, as best I can recall, ensued:

(Language key: G - German, F - French, E - English, italics - my thoughts)

Me: [G] Hello!

Very nice girl: [G] Hello!

Me: Please don't ask me about taking your shoes off. I never understand if people are saying OFF or ON, and I inevitably give them the wrong answer.

Me: [G] This is the kitchen. <appropriate grand gesture>

VNG: [G] Nice - something something something.

Me: noncommittal noise. <awkward pause> Crap, I should've said something. [G] Sorry, I'm learning German.

VNG: [G] something something since something?

Me: Ah, she's probably asking how long I've been learning German! [G] Since two months.

VNG: <looks very surprised>

Me: Damage control! Say something! What else could she be asking about for a length of time? [G] For [E] me. [G] My husband live since two years in the [F] apartment. [E] Crap, that's [G] French.

VNG: [F] We can speak French, if you'd like.

Me: <blank stare> No one in my entire time here has spoken French. OMG IS SHE FRENCH? She IS fashionably dressed. (Narrator's note: I get really, really self-conscious about my French in front of French people who are fluent in other languages. So...most French people). [F] Yes, ok! [G] This is the bathroom. WTF was that? Didn't we just agree to switch to French? How the hell do you say bathroom in French? I'm pretty sure I knew it five minutes ago.

VNG: <cautious look>

Me: Uhhh...PANIC PANIC PICK A LANGUAGE. Where the hell is Bruno? [G] My husband is coming. He is in the [E] basement. [G] There is a washing machine and cellar.

VNG: [G] something washing something?

Me: Ok, definitely asking about the washing. [G] At the end of month is there 10 days free. On 11th and 12th have we washing. Two days for every [F] apartment.

VNG: [G] ..apartment. <sympathetic smile>

Me: Oh hell. How many questions can that other woman POSSIBLY have? I need a panic button. [G] My husband is coming. He explain better. Here is the room. That is the balcony. <sneak to door and check it to see if B is coming back up the stairs>

VNG: [G] something with without furniture something?

Me: [G] without <checks door again> If B comes back and I've given away our first born child, it's totally his fault.

VNG: [G] something something something?

Me: Uhhhhh.... [E] Uhhhhhhh....

<door creaks open>

Me: <runs to door and grips B's arm in inappropriate desperation> [E] Talk to this woman!

B: [G] chit chat chit chat

VNG: [G] chit chat chit chat.

B: [E] She wants to know if we'd be willing to sell any of our stuff.

Me: [E] If it's up to me, she can have all of it.

VNG: <laughs> [E] I just moved here, so I have nothing.

Me: ......Did she just understand me AND REPLY IN ENGLISH?

....Yep. So that's what happened. Turned out the girl was actually from Italy and perfectly nice....and, of course, spoke English (that brings her language total to four, in case any one is keeping track. I have jealousy issues).

Apartment viewing is fun. More stories later!


  1. Oh apartment hunting in Switzerland! We lucked out when we found our place when we moved here. As in it was probably divine intervention that got us our place so quickly. When we looked at our place the hauswart would speak to me in Swiss German, I would reply in high German and then translate everything for my husband. It was um...interesting.

    Good luck with your word count. My Camp NaNo word count went to pieces after we got visitors very close together. I know I'm probably not going to win but I'm going to write like the wind regardless.

    1. Thanks, but I'm also definitely not going to meet my Camp NaNo goal, unfortunately - I got sick and now I'm pulling overtime just to get everything packed up before B's parents arrive on Saturday with the moving van (I've been reduced to throwing clothes in trash bags). I thought about lowering my word count goal in order to make it, but that's definitely cheating. *sigh* Three attempts at Nanowrimo, and no win yet! Also, was so happy to run into your blog the other day - loved reading it, and especially love the 30 before 30 list. Unfortunately it's too late for me, but maybe I should get together a "1 year in Zurich" list or something :)