A Tourist Oops in Tallinn

by Kenneth Rayman on July 2, 2018
My lunch today had a good and surprise bad moment. I walk in to the restaurant and the bartender greeted me in Russian. I immediately froze and couldn’t speak in turn. Thus I pull the “arrogant American tourist move” and say, “do you speak English?” I immediately recoil and internally groan at what I had just unintentionally done.

The bartender flags another server over who tells me in English that I can sit anywhere. A few minutes later, I see the bartender start coming my way with her pad and pen in hand. Having learned basic Russian and knowing enough to be polite, though I was appalled at the move I made a minute ago, I realized I had to make the mental switch to speak in another language as it wasn’t natural to do so.

When she got to me I said, “Извините, спасибо. Я говорю немного по-русский…” she cut me off to politely tell me in English, “it’s okay, you can point.” For grammar sake, I had messed up by saying “excuse me (Извините)” instead of “ Прости (sorry)” but I had every intention to speak as much as I could, before she cut me off, “… но я хотел бы…” and then point to the entree number I wanted. It wasn’t until after she walked off that I remembered how to say “63” as “шестьдесят три.” And when she brought my beer and plate, I thanked her in Russian as well.

At the end, I was determined to not use any English to make up for my inadvertent rudeness. When she motioned to the register as I approached, I said, “Да. Я хотел бы заплатит кредит кард.” When my card was not reading the machine right, she looked at me confused because she had no idea why the machine was acting up so I said, “У меня есть наличными,” and handed her a 50 Euro note for my 25 Euro lunch. When she gave me my change, I thanked her and said, “очень приятно (nice to meet you),” and she smiled.

I went back to my Mindvalley class happy that I did my best to fit in after I messed up initially. I had remembered from Jim Kwik’s earlier lesson the importance of self-compassion in making mistakes. We can all learn a lesson from this in that mistakes happen but as Jim had just told me, self compassion reinforces the routine (or in this case the Russian buried deep in the language center) for my Super Brain.