The German Pain Scale

Conference day today. They canceled my postgraduate course, but offered me a different course. Given that I had considered both of these options, I’m not torn up about it. One (minor) problem with being in the conference is this: I don’t have much to blog about, so I’ll make some general observations.

German, for example, is a very guttural tongue. People around here seem to be continuously yelling at each other, but there is a bizarre disconnect. Their faces look happy, but they are spitting violent words of apparent vitriol at each other. It’s very disorienting.

OK – that was a lie. Germans never look happy, the German range of expression covers the full spectrum of general discontent at one extreme, all the way to downright anger at the opposite extreme.   


This is the visual pain scale that we use in the US.


This is the German counterpart.

Also, this is probably why I’m finding that isn’t always apparent when I am in the former East vs West – they’re all a bit stoic and severe. There seem to be more people in the West, however.

After spending all day in conference, I got out for a very brief hour before meeting S at her hotel. We had some drinks waiting for her brother, then the three of us headed out to dinner. 

They left the choice to me, but I really haven’t done any substantial research on the restaurants in town. Still, after a few brief minutes I chose a place that is highly rated, nearby, and that has a number of neighboring restaurants (in case we couldn’t get in). And, of course it was German, because I have no desire to eat French, Italian, or Chinese food while in Germany.

All of the tables in the restaurant had been reserved, but we got an open table outside. This was fine, because the evening was absolutely beautiful. We ordered a round of beer from the waitress, who was at a perpetual 6 on the German Pain Scale. 

She returned with the beer and took our orders. M’s beer was wrong, and we would have told her that, but she disappeared. We sat talking, drinking, and waiting, all while the light grew dimmer and the evening colder. The restaurant was raucous with tipsy patrons watching a soccer match. The people at the next table were on their third round, but our waitress was not to be found.

We caught the attention of another waitress, who asked again for our orders. She was at somewhere from 2-4 on the German Pain Scale. Could have been 0 — I couldn’t tell. While we waited for our meals she brought brandies for us in way of apology. I don’t know what happened to our original waitress – she was nowhere to be seen.

I ordered another beer. This was a Schneider Weisse, which was creamy and malty. Much better than the first. (It’s a good sign that I remember the name.)


Finally, dinner came. I had ordered the Berlin Plate, featuring a light meatball in cream sauce, roast pork, half a currywurst (sausage with curry flavor – they’re very popular here), delicious red cabbage, beets, and potatoes. This gave me the opportunity to taste a little bit of everything, but the clear winner was the meatball – I really want more of that. And the cabbage.

We spoke briefly with the men sitting next to us. One didn’t seem to fit on the pain scale, but he turned out to be Austrian, which explained his ability to smile. Once again, I have resorted to telling people I am from New York. Although Europeans are much more familiar with American cities than were the Indonesians, It’s just easier. S didn’t even blink when I did this, but she did question it later.


As the night grew old, we paid our bills. We gave each other baffled looks when we saw that the pain-scale-6 waitress had returned. After this, we returned to our hotels, passing by the remnants of one of the churches destroyed in the war, now maintained as a monument. 

Tomorrow is a full conference day, and at some point I really must explore this city.

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