I am becoming more and more unwilling to speak Swedish in public. It’s getting, by now, to be a bit of a joke.
Today, I took a vacation day and found myself in another city. I went into a café and gave my order to the (young) waitress. I wanted a cappuccino so I said:
“Jag tar en cappuccino.” Which translates, strangely enough, to:
“I’ll take a cappuccino.”
The waitress stared at me as if I’d said “Bestow upon me a codpiece boiled in trench-coat lovely sir lunchbox.”
I repeated the order, in my stupid-person voice, and she got it. Now this would have been a bit amusing except that it happened a few hours earlier in a Subway sandwich butcher’s.
“Lunchmenyn, tack,” I said. Meaning: “Lunch menu, thanks.” This was Subway at lunchtime, where they serve a good many lunch menus. But she stared at me like I was insane. “Which part didn’t you get?” I asked. “All of it,” she said.
Now, my Swedish accent isn’t brilliant, and I do tend to mumble in most languages but, seriously, how can you NOT hear the word “cappuccino” in a customer’s very short order when you work in a coffee shop where cappuccinos are 20% of your business?
This has happened me many times in Stockholm too, many many times. It’s got to the point where I don’t speak Swedish very often any more when ordering things. Speaking English right off the bat always works better, and let me tell you, you get vastly more respect. They pay attention, they are more helpful, and the girls always wink lasciviously (or so I imagine).
So, my standard advice to all English-speaking immigrants who move here is: learn Swedish well. But speak to pretty much everybody in English, because then they’ll all love you and not treat you like a confused moron.