E&M‘s Lisa O’ Leary recounts an embarrassing incident during her first few months of moving to Germany… 

It’s been six months since I moved to Germany and four since this global pandemic sent us all inside to think about what we’ve done. Myself & himself spent the first two months finding a place to live and the next four filling it with furniture. As you can probably predict, it’s not easy buying furniture when all the shops are closed – but we thank our lucky stars for the mothership that is IKEA. Though it closed its doors, its heart and online services remained OPEN! So while there was a three week waiting period for every order, we graciously accepted and assembled in humble silence (…and lots of swearing). 

When finally the last, suspicious nail that we couldn’t find the hole for was discreetly discarded and the remaining giant cardboard boxes were squished into the communal recycling bins that are closely monitored by our friendly ‘neighbour watch’ – we collapsed into our new bed (IKEA make ‘Malm’). But alas, no sleep was had. We had forgotten one small but crucial element: curtains. Every morning we were awoken at the crack of dawn to an extremely enthusiastic sunrise. How in the hell did I overlook this? (*Hint: we had been lockdown drinking. A lot.)

The following week, standing outside in the rain surveying the oddly depressing looking curtain store I began preparing my “Get-ready-to-Speak-German” dance. Given my very limited German and the complexities involved in ordering overly-priced tailor-made curtains I had little room for error. This had to be a home run. 

      “GUTEN TAG!” I announce very loudly – possibly a bit overly-enthusiastically and feigning confidence to compensate for knowing about 40 words of German in total.

      “Ich habe Nummern für dich!!!”

I will spare you the details of the awkward exchanges as the shop assistants stare, terrified at the sopping wet Irish woman shouting at them in incomprehensible German. I appear not to be the first idiot to walk in with such demands and they very patiently lead me through some options. When we settle on the perfect protype (black…I choose black blinds – I know, wow, ground breaking) she asks to “see the nummern”. 

The “nummern” – or window dimensions – were carefully and clearly written down on a document that took my partner and I over FOUR HOURS to compose thanks to having no idea how to measure windows (where do you start? The entire frame? Just the glass part?? WHERE?!). Wanting to be absolutely certain, I did what any rational, sane, sleep-deprived woman does and forced my partner to sign the document, agreeing to the finalised figures (don’t look at me like that …this is a totally normal thing to do!). He begrudgingly scribbled at the bottom and I folded it safely into my purse. 

The shop air starts to feel very thin as I feel the blood propel to my face and ears. Red hot everything. Throbbing heat closing my throat.

I pull out the slightly soggy document with the confidence of Thor and slap it down on the glass countertop. Like a dog with a bone; I have done my homework! “The numbers, you will find Madame, have been cross-examined and signed by a second party thank you very much indeed!”  As the shop assistant examines the numbers I notice her expression change to one of shock as she flashes a quick side-eye in my direction before returning to the page. Confused, I peer down and there, right where my partner’s signature is supposed to be, is a giant, poorly drawn penis with accompanying testicles.

The shop air starts to feel very thin as I feel the blood propel to my face and ears. Red hot everything. Throbbing heat closing my throat. Red hot barbequed boyfriend when I get home! I begin to lean as discreetly as one can while a glaring, aggressive drawing of the male genitalia stares up from a sticky page – onto the counter and begin to subtly rip off the end of the page while continuing to talk about the delivery for my new blinds. 

Unsurprisingly, the shop assistant just stands there staring at me as I finish ripping the final hairy testicle from the page while still some-how nonchalantly stringing my poor German words together as my insides scream. The whole thing is going really well. I look completely insane as I attempt to maintain composure while simultaneously plotting revenge on my perverted significant other!

The shop assistant – bless her heart – is very professional. She has clearly dealt with sleep-deprived inarticulate Irish women with penis-drawing partners in the past. She takes my details, rounds it all up, my card declines a few times before going through because WHY NOT? IT’S NOT LIKE TODAY CAN GET ANY WORSE!…..and off I pop.

Outside the store – still raining – I whip out my phone and hold down the microphone button in my whatsapp: “I just want you to know that I only purchased blinds for our bedroom. Not the spare room. Which is now YOUR room! GOODBYE!”


Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels
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    Lisa O' Leary is a freelance video producer and writer originally from Ireland, now living in Hamburg. She studied Multimedia Communications in Ireland and Human Rights Law & Film abroad.  She has a passion for impact storytelling and mostly produces video content for NGOs or documentaries.

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