Friday, May 29, 2009

Sour Service

As an American, I have become accustomed to excellent service. Salespeople are always eager to get you another size or help you in any way they can. This is not the case in Europe. The service is very unfriendly. There's no "hello, how are you today" or smile or "have a good day" or anything. But that's just how the culture is. There's a generally emotionless quality or distance when it comes to service. It may be the culture, but to me it seems the salespeople are not just unfriendly, but outright rude. They snatch whatever item you're looking at out of your hands the moment it seems it may be a bit too pricey or they seem incredibly insulted when you ask them to describe what is in a dish at a restaurant, as if service had nothing to do with their job description.

But it's hard to decipher if they're singling us out or not. There's a lot of animosity against foreigners and the service workers treat you very differently when they see that you're foreign and not a native Austrian, even if you speak German. They want Austria to revert back to its pure roots and will certainly not lift a finger to assist a foreigner like myself in any least not when it comes to shopping.

This whole unfriendly approach to the Austrian (or maybe European) service industry makes me question even further how translation is even possible.  If you're translating a brochure or advertisement for a store, let's say Express because it's my favorite, there are sure to be sayings that would never occur in the other language. The English advertisement might in some way welcome a client into the store with a warm greeting. But in Austria, they don't give warm greetings. So how do you translate it? Do you keep it as a sort of greeting but just turn the warmth factor down to negative thirty, thereby accommodating the culture change? Or do you try to keep it close to the source text? Even if it doesn't quite make as much sense in the target language? It's all very confusing, but I just know that I can't wait to go shopping in America again where people smile when you say hello.

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