On of the big irritations of wintersports, judging from detailed observation of your holiday punter, is the fact that they have to be done in Johnny Foreignerland. And before you all think here she goes again doing the superior expat look-down-your-nose-at-your-countrymen thing, I’m including everyone in this. Italians are probably even worse than Brits for thinking you’ll understand what they’re on about just because they’re yelling at you very slowly. Russians seem to have a total inability to get to grips with even the basics of anyone’s language but their own (though they should probably get credit for starting with a different alphabet) and the Cloggy who asked me where the Dutch part of town was because they didn’t like all these English people everywhere rather summed it all up.
Obviously things would be a whole lot easier if you could ski in Swindon or snowboard in Sneek. And the Russians can in fact ski at home, but presumably the combiantion of dodgy infrastrucure and the risk of being murdered by religious zealots puts them off. (Having said that, I’d love to ski in Russia, so if anyone wants to send me in return for a rave review, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.) In theory, of course, the English could always holiday in Scotland (which has five ski areas, I’ll have you know), but since most of them claim not to understand anything we say and would probably be justifiably baffled by the idea of macaroni pie and beans it doesn’t really solve the innocents abroad problem.
All of which explains why we hardly ever see Germans or Austrians. Why bother travelling all day just to put up with a load of foreigners and their weird food when you can pop round the corner for home made schnitzel and lederhosen just like Mütti used to make? You wouldn’t would you.
But I appreciate that most of you have no choice but to venture out into the dangerous wildernesses of abroad if you want to slide about on high-tech bits of plastic, so in a spirit of cross-border co-operation (by which I do not mean removing your elected government and replacing it with a brace of my mates, you’ll be relieved to know) I propose the construction of an international snowsports phrasebook. Not being a polyglot myself I can only supply a list of useful phrases in English, but if any of you want to translate it into the language of your choice, please feel free. Once we’ve got enough translations we can turn the whole thing into a smartphone application and make a killing.
On arrival at the airport:
- I wish to report my luggage lost/stolen/damaged beyond repair.
- What do you mean, it’s in Reykjavik?
- Where is the (insert name of TO) rep?
- What do you mean there’s no (insert name of online travel agency) rep? I booked with (online travel agency).
- Which is the coach to (insert resort name)?
- My coach has gone without me, where can I get a taxi?
On the transfer coach:
- Can we stop for the toilet/something to eat/to be sick?
- No I don’t want your overpriced ski pack at a ruinous rate of exchange.
- I have already ordered my lift pass online. Bugger off.
- Rep, the driver is not using his hands/is on the phone/is smoking a cigarette.
- The driver is dangerous/mad/homicidal/asleep.
In the chalet:
- I am a vegetarian/vegan/fruitarian/pain in the arse.
- I do not eat red meat/pork/fish/vegetables/that.
- Oh really? I’m sure I put it on the booking form.
- Is this wine supposed to taste of cat piss?
- I am lactose/gluten intolerant.
- No that’s fine, I can eat lots of cake.
At the ski hire shop:
- Yes I want expert skis – I have skied for two/three/four weeks.
- I would like fat powder skis because I ski off piste all the time.
- Yes I know it hasn’t snowed in a month.
- I want skis with rocker technology/reverse camber/iOS5.
- I want to change these skis, they don’t turn properly/are the wrong colour.
- My skis have been stolen. No I did not take the ski insurance.
At the ticket office:
- How much!!?
- No I did not think to check the price before I booked the holiday.
- Can I take my child on the chairlift in my rucksack?
- The weather forecast says -50°C on the glacier. Does that mean it will be cold?
- I didn’t ski on Wednesday, can I have a refund?
- Which shop did I hire these skis from?
- Where can I buy a turkey? (yes this was a real question)
In the mountain restaurant:
- 30€ for an omelette, you are having a giraffe mate.
- Waiter? Waiter! Heellloooooo, earth to waiter!!
- Do you have a toilet I can get to without descending a rope ladder in ski boots?
- This steak is cooked properly, can you take it back and burn it please.
- Do you have anything which doesn’t consist of lard, cheese and potatoes?
- Can I eat this sandwich I stole at breakfast on your terrace?
- Yes thank you I will have another of those flavoured vodka shots.
- These flavoured vodkas are great aren’t they?
- mumblemumble slur youremybestfriendyouare bleaaargh
- I apologise for my friend.
- It’s the altitude, he’s only had 15 vodka shots and six pints of Stella.
- He’s got food poisoning, everyone in the chalet is ill, it’s disgraceful.
- Yes of course we will clean it up.
- No I’m fairly sure he won’t die of hypothermia on the way back to the chalet.
- Errr …. which way is (insert name of chalet).
Obviously I shall trust you all to make faithful and accurate tranlations and not snare unwary skiers into uttering such embarrassments as ‘my nipples explode with delight’ while innocently trying to tell the ticket office cashiers that they have lost their lift passes, thereby leaving me vulnerable to arrest for publishing a phrasebook with intent to cause a breach of the peace. Because I know none of you would so much as consider doing such a dastardly thing.