"Ich bin kein Berliner!": A stranger tells me off for wanting a doughnut

This is much too mild for a pitting, so it’s going in MPSIMS.

Every morning, I get on a bus. I ride the bus into the next village over, whereupon I disembark and get on another bus or a train, depending on the day, and then I go into the city for school. This system usually works very well, except when it snows. For some reason, snow just stumps the internal mechanics of a bus to the point of it not being able to show up within a half an hour of its scheduled arrival time, despite this effect being totally absent on cars, trucks, and other vehicles, which zoom by merrily laughing at me as I stand at the bus stop for an undetermined amount of time in the snow. Please note that this is my first time living in a snowy environment, so I really don’t understand the mechanics of all of this at all.

Today was a Snow Day. I stood at various bus stops for an hour and ten minutes this morning in the snow in tennis shoes. By the time I got to the city, I was afraid of pushing the ‘stop requested’ button too hard lest my obviously frozen-solid fingers shatter like glass. I had just enough time for a quick stop at a cafe before my first class.

At the cafe I ordered a coffee and stood for a minute or so pondering the array of baked goods that was laid out before me. Should I go for the salami sandwich on whole grain bread or–nah, screw it, I’m getting a berliner.

Lest you think I was engaging in cannibalism and feasting upon the flesh of the residents of our capital city, a berliner is actually a jelly doughnut. Most of you will probably know this. Kennedy, giving his “Ich bin ein Berliner!” speech, did not. To this day Germans find this very endearing that they had the privilege of witnessing the leader of the free world proclaiming to said free world that he is a jelly doughnut. Every time I order one of these things, the baker in question–and this has happened at several different bakeries over the last few months–notices my American accent and hands me my doughnut with a cheerful “Ich bin ein Berliner!” It was cute the first three times or so.

Come to think of it, it’s still kinda cute.

Anyway, after an hour and ten minutes standing in the snow in nought but my trainers and sweat socks–wait, nought on my feet but trainers and sweat socks–I decided I deserved a coffee and doughnut. “Ein Berliner, bitte,” I said to the baker. She handed me my coffee and doughnut and I headed off to the sugar-and-cream station.

At the sugar-and-cream station was standing a portly middle-aged man with enough jewelry to drown him in the bath and a noticeable comb-over. He watched me add copious amounts of sugar to my coffee. I am new to coffee. I only started drinking it since I moved to Germany, and I still need an awful lot of sugar in it to mask the bitterness. But it wasn’t the sugar-and-milk routine that Herr Comb-Over noticed. Oh, no.

“Kids these days,” he says (in German, obviously).

“Huh?” I say, looking up. He points to my doughnut.

“Kids these days. You wouldn’t believe what they eat. They come in, buy up sweets, don’t eat anything else at all. Not like when I was your age.”

Obviously not like when you were my age, I think to myself, with a glance at his beer gut.

“Oh,” I say.

“Their parents give them money, and they go and just buy sweets with it. Nothing else!”

“Mmhmm.” At this point, I should have waved to the baker and left. I really had no idea what I was getting into. But for some reason, since it’s very rare that anyone strikes up a conversation with me in public (I don’t think I’m especially intimidating…) it didn’t occur to me to flee. So I made a polite noise, which he must have taken to be encouragement.

“They just go buy sweets without any lunch at all. That’s why they’re so fat!” he says enthusiastically. He jiggles he waves his arms to emphasize his point. “I see them waddling down the street…it’s ridiculous!”

“Ah, actually I’ve already had lunch” I say. At this point I’m still putting sugar in my coffee. Actually, that wasn’t true, but I thought I had better say something to emphasize that I would usually have had lunch by now had I not been stranded in Winter Wonderhell for the last hour or so. I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me at the time to tell the truth about the bus stop incident and all–I was still a little bit in shock about being lectured about ordering a doughnut by a guy who looked like he might have been an extra in a 1970s TV show.

“See, their parents don’t know why their kids are getting so fat all of a sudden. It’s because they’re buying all these sweets behind their parents’ backs with their parents’ money!”

At this point it’s worth pointing out some things. Firstly, that I’m about 115 pounds, tops. This actually doesn’t have as much to do with my eating and exercise habits as it does my metabolism, and I know I’m going to have to start making an effort in another five or ten years, and at this point it still hadn’t caught up to me that maybe this lecture was a little undeserved. Secondly, that I’m buying my doughnuts with my money, thank you very much.

And thirdly, that this is Germany. More specifically, it’s a relatively small, fairly safe city in a country that doesn’t let people get drivers’ licenses until they’re 18 or so and where people are, on the whole, a huge fan of Walking Places. This leads to a population that is to the casual eye much thinner than the average American population, especially among young people. As I said earlier, I’m 115 pounds and a size four, and most of the women my age that I interact with are thinner than I am.

So in my panic I decide to go for the Why Do You Hate America? route. “Um, actually, I think young people here are much healthier than in America,” I say.

“Oh, America!” he says. “I was in New York once. Let me tell you about my trip to New York!”

My god. Behind him, the baker is laughing at my plight. I start trying to interrupt to say I have to go–I had the feeling that if I just left he’d follow me out the door, still talking–but he talks, seemingly without having to take a breath, about “How I Went To New York And Ate Healthy The Entire Time Even Though All They Have There Is Unhealthy Sources Of Food Like Hot Dog Carts.”

Finally he had to pause or he’d have keeled over from lack of oxygen. “I have to go,” I say. I run for it, spilling coffee as I go.

It wasn’t until I was halfway down the street that I realized that a guy had just come up to me and complained about the doughnut that I had ordered. I had just been told off, in public, for wanting to eat a doughnut. The guy seemed pretty normal, even if he was sort of stuck in the 70s from the looks of it–he looked well-groomed and put together and all, not as though he was mentally ill or anything.

But the real funny thing?

The guy was eating a danish.

Er, well, I screwed that one up. Says right there in the first sentence that this wasn’t supposed to be in the Pit. Could a mod move it to MPSIMS?

Obviously the sugar high hasn’t worn off yet–had no idea I was in the Pit. :rolleyes:



Do you always calmly converse with cannibals?

Or sexual exhibitionists? :wink:

So you choose the wrong foods and you can’t post in the right forum.

Kids today!

I bet she bought her membership with her parents money too. :stuck_out_tongue:

AND you were talking to a stranger! What next? Ignoring the Mr. Yuk stickers?

And think of all the unsavory influences she is exposed to on a daily basis here? Its downright scandalous, theres not a god fearing one in the bunch! Kids these days, being exposed to that sort of nonsense!

FWIW I recently learned a marvelous word for a person who writes or publishes bus schedules–“fabulist”.

Regarding the use of the word Berliner, I was at one time close to fluent in German, but I never picked up on this. I understand that the suffix “-er” is added to the name of many cities to form a sort of uninflected attributive adjective, as in Pilsner Urquell, Wiener Schnitzel, or Neue Zür(i)cher Zeitung. Or if the city name ends in “-en”, that is dropped and replaced by the “-en”, as in “Tübinger Stadtlauf”. But are such “-er” words not used to mean the inhabitants of a city?

from that annoying Wikipedia, “In fact, Kennedy’s statement is both grammatically correct and perfectly idiomatic, and would not be misunderstood in context. The urban legend is not widely known within Germany, where Kennedy’s speech is considered a landmark in the country’s postwar history. The indefinite article ein can be and often is omitted when speaking of an individual’s profession or residence but is necessary when speaking in a figurative sense as Kennedy did. Since the president was not literally from Berlin but only declaring his solidarity with its citizens, “Ich bin Berliner” would not have been correct,” so he was both expressing solidarity AND claiming to be a jelly donut.

However, because we are what we eat, Ducktail’s tread title (“I am not a Berliner”) is inaccurate, as her cafe buddy said. :wink:

I take it you are a female?

I think he wanted some of your jelly roll… that jelly roll, unh~
It’s pretty obvious he was wixen und flirten.

I would just like to compliment you on a nicely written essay.

Well done!


Guess that makes me a pussy.


Why do I feel as though a part of my life has just been stolen?

Berliners? Danish? Hamburger? Frankfurter? What is it with naming foods after areas of Europe?

Be thankful they haven’t named an American. I think it might be a sausage wrapped in a chocolate chip pancake.

With American Cheese.

Around here, they have " filet American". It is beef tartare, essentially, with some spices and so on mixed in. It is usually served on a french roll with a serious heap of onions, usually far more than are shown in this picture.

I have no idea how raw hamburger got to be associated with America.

Some people here like it, with onions mixed in and a lot of pepper. I’m not crazy about it, but I’ll eat it if it’s offered and I’m hungry. Still, you’d never find it for sale in a restaurant; it would be against restaurant health and safety codes. On the other hand, you do occasionally find steak tartare at some of the better restaurants.