Foreigner Beware Of Crinkly Forehead

A few weeks ago, I went to the doctor’s. It was a big event for me. I’d never been in need of medical attention before. Not in Spain, anyway. I’m of robust design, you see. I don’t pander to fancy foods that can’t be eaten with a spoon and I don’t get illnesses that can’t be cured by spending an afternoon in bed. However, a rebellious mole on my back was starting to morph into an octopus and it needed to be stopped by a professional.

Health centres are confusing places. I glanced around in a daze for ages until spotting a desk with a person who wasn’t either bellowing into a phone or being harangued by patient-staff scrum. I approached the woman stationed there and told her that I had an appointment at 11:30. Turns out that this was the desk where you make appointments and not the desk where you go when you already have an appointment. Once this was clarified, I asked her where I needed to go next. Up to the third floor, she said.

I followed her directions and arrived in a big central waiting room surrounded by four walls with lots of doors with names on them. Only then did it occur to me that I was missing a vital piece of information.

I returned to the desk lady for help. “Sorry,” I said, “I don’t actually know which doctor I’m supposed to be seeing. Could you tell me their name, please?”

And there it was.

The dreaded Crinkly Forehead.

I repeated my query, only to be met with yet more crinkles towering over a blank stare. I asked again. The crinkles assumed attack formation. I tried once more, in really simple Spanish, words spaced at one second intervals (I’ve had some practice at this, as you can tell). I repeated my question three more times. Still nothing. In an act of desperation, I grabbed a pen and paper from the desk and wrote it down. Finally, the name of my physician was divulged.

The most flabbergasting aspect of Crinkly Forehead is that it can spring into action BEFORE verbal communication even has a chance to commence. This happened to me in my local phone shop. As I handed my phone to the girl and drew breath to ask if she could please top it up with twenty bucks, I found myself confronted with a quizzically cocked head disfigured by crinkle over crinkle over fucking crinkle! They were humping each other, I swear! Then they called for re-inforcements and a bundle of veins as thick as anacondas after a meal of jungle elephants joined the wrestling match and… Christ, I did not know that the rosy baby bottom face of a twentynothing could even do that!

I’m guessing her inner thought process must have gone something like this: She looks like a foreigner, so whatever she is going to say will be incomprehensible. But I will try to help, because I’m a good person. But… what if she tries to make me speak in English?!?! Oh God, oh God, oh God, oh God! I’ve only studied it for ten years at school, I can’t say a word!!! What am I going to do, WHAT AM I GOING TO DO?!?! At this point, she reaches the conclusion that it’s safest just not to understand anything.

The Crinkly Forehead is the nemesis of every language learner, tourist, or foreigner in general. It is the iron curtain, the NATO missile defence shield and the wall Trump is gonna build all rolled into one.

Once the contortions commence, once you spot the merest ripple, the slightest tell-tale twitch in the face that may have been smiling benevolently at you just a heartbeat ago, dear language learner, you are doomed. It is the manifestation of Blue Screen of Death in a real live person. A re-boot can only be effected once the obstruction has been removed, and the obstruction, my hapless foreign friend, is YOU.

Attempting to engage with Crinkly Forehead is not like flogging a dead horse. It’s like flogging all the sausages, lasagnes, burgers and chicken nuggets that its macerated remains found their way into, expecting the clapped-out old mare to re-assemble and run the Grand National. It ain’t gonna happen. No chance. Go home. Talk to Siri.

I, my dear people, will be talking to my mole. At least it is forthcoming, if only with tentacles.

 

I think we all need a restorative wedge of cake after this.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Keen observers will have noticed that this very same specimen featured in the previous post, but from a different angle. C’mon… it still looks delicious, does it not?! If it fails to appeal, maybe hairy chested man in the back will do it for you…?

 

[Note for nerds: This post was also published on my new language blog http://multilingualbychoice.blogspot.com – please pop over for a visit to discover what you’ve been missing!]

 

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61 thoughts on “Foreigner Beware Of Crinkly Forehead

  1. Debbie Smyth

    Ha! That gave me a good laugh – I’m sympathetic too, needless to say
    Because I’m quite dark (not natural on the head of course) I usually get away with it until I open my mouth. But oh I know what you mean

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  2. roughseasinthemed

    Been there done that. They look at you and see G for Guiri stamped on your forehead (rather than their crinkly one). A tale of two foreheads really.

    Persistance. And being make helps too. My partner talks them into submission. It works. Despite speaking Spanish with a Welsh/ Australian/Newcastle accent. Even bilingual Gibbos acknowledge his weird Spanish. It’s a man thing I guess. Nothing new there.

    Hmm. Hope the octopus gets sorted to your mutual benefit.

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      Depends what you mean by “accent”… very few people don’t have an accent. In German, I have a southern accent, in English, I have a slight German accent, which most Americans don’t even hear, they think I’m British, which is also an accent, and when speaking to American children who’ve never listened to one of these, they sometimes do not understand, leading to Crinkly Forehead…!

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  3. samdfb1

    You had me at ‘octopus.’ Am glad I kept reading. Funny! But I can imagine how massively frustrating the experience was for you. Stay strong my sister…from another mother. ;). Btw…enjoyed that cake picture…again. Thaaaaannk you!

    Liked by 1 person

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  4. gaynorsprytherapy

    Ah! I can sympathise with this. When I’m at the centre, I often have crinkly forehead when I answer the phone from someone who is clearly calling from Mars and underwater. I snap into ‘whatever the caller is going to say will be incomprehensible’ and have to work backwards from there. Maybe Botox will help me?

    Something for everyone in that photo.

    Liked by 2 people

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  5. BerLinda

    I do still get crinkly forehead sometimes but not nearly as much as in Latvia. Even when I spoke Latvian, they’d instantly go into panic mode and say “I don’t speak English!!” Very frustrating. Thank you for the man 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  6. joannesisco

    I encountered the blank faced, crinkly foreheaded response on a regular basis when I visit my husband’s family in Quebec. I’m willing to acknowledge that both my French and my accent are abysmal.

    Good luck with the octopus on your back!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  7. Carissa Hickling

    Thank you for posting here too so I can comment! 🙂

    BTW had a crinkly forehead moment yesterday on Sentosa Island in Singapore… we were trying to drop one friend off to Selosa Beach then me to the airport to catch my flight back to Bombay.

    We took directions from the hotel (or thought we did!) and went off on our merry way! Got to a check point and they guy stopped us.. crinkles… asks where we want to go… more crinkles… a half ass attempt to let us know we were going the wrong way… our efforts to check prompted a burst of crinkles and waved us through… knowing full well we were going the opposite direction!!

    Knowing the REAL meaning of crinkles, I whipped out my phone, google maps and boom… we turned around and slunk back past the same check point hoping he didn’t stop us again. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Oleg

      I used the same technique in Saigon (or, if you prefer it, HoChiMinh City): showed the taxi driver the location on Google maps. I didn’t even try to say the address, even though Vietnamese uses Latin script – with so many diacritics you couldn’t be sure how to pronounce it correctly. And, on the other hand, their English accent needs another effort to be understood. E.g. I heard clearly ‘airlies’ – what, beeing in the airport, one may guess meant ‘airliNes’.

      Liked by 2 people

      Reply
  8. Jackie Cangro

    You’re right that the crinklier the forehead gets, the worse my language skills get. So intimidating. I was in a train station in Milan and asked a question of the ticket agent in very halting Italian. The agent’s face brightened a bit as she rattled directions in top speed. My mind froze. I tried to remember the word for “slowly,” but drew a blank. Boy her forehead got crinkly after that! I don’t think I uttered another word in Italian.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
      1. Jackie Cangro

        Yes. Later when ordering a cookie at a cafe, I asked for un biscotto apricoto. The waiter nodded. “Hmm mmm, apricoto,” he said. “You can speak English. It would be easier for both of us.” Ha! (The word for apricot is not apricoto. It’s albicoco! I was totally winging it.)

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Kim in Fiji

    Most eloquent. I identify with many points, but one that hasn’t been mentioned is the unfortunate Secretary who only took 10 years of English in school and can’t speak a word. Hahahahaha

    Like

    Reply
    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      Hi Colin! This blog will keep going, I’ve only decided to start a second one that was just about daily life with languages. Am trying out blogspot just for a change, to see how it works. It’s an experiment.

      Like

      Reply
  10. Dubliner in Deutschland

    oh gosh, yes I’ve encountered the crinkly forehead! And then sometimes they look panicked and run off to find an english speaker to deal with you. This happened to me at the hairdresser once which made me feel pretty crap about my level of German! Or they just stare at your rudely and tell you they didn’t understand one word.

    Like

    Reply
    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      Hairdressing vocab is tricky…. I remember looking it up before my first visit here in Spain. There’s little risk of anyone running off to get an English speaker, coz they’re a bit sparse on the ground 😉

      Like

      Reply
  11. Pingback: Foreigner Beware Of Crinkly Forehead — Lady Of The Cakes – happilylost

  12. TheLastWord

    You are well aware of my feelings on octopus, almost on par on my feelings about cats….

    Crinkly Forehead is a global phenomenon. I remember on my first job in the US, fresh off the boat, I headed off to the 3rd floor for a meeting with this lady. As luck would have it, I almost barged into her coming around the corner. My shock caused her to step back and seeing my naturally tanned skin she started speaking in slow staccato sentences…..

    Liked by 1 person

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