Eating out in Tallinn is fun. I’ve yet to have a bad meal here, and not only is the food delicious (and cheap), but the restaurants themselves are a delight to visit. From the kitsch and twee, to the traditional and rustic, to the ultra-modern and cool, each one is an excitingly new experience for a Ballymena girl whose only experience of eating out involves words like Wetherspoons and Pub Grub.
I’m particularly enthusiastic about Bann Cook, a funky-dunky pancake bar tucked away in a corner of a shopping centre. Yes, a pancake bar. Look!
I don’t know if I’m just incredibly uninformed, but I’d never previously heard of the concept of having a savoury-filled pancake for lunch. I think it’s fabulous. The idea of having a speciality pancake bar, doubly so. And the place itself: it’s probably wrong of me to use a term like ‘funky-dunky’ even once in a post, never mind twice, but it’s the only one that does it justice. We’re talking about a bar where you order your pancake (which can contain just about anything you want it to – are you grasping the sheer marvellousness of this discovery yet?!) and then watch them make it on a big, hot wheel thing. Then you eat it in the coolest little seating area, with brightly coloured walls and pictures, transparent orange and yellow seats, and bright orange glass lightshades. So. Very. Cool.
I was, however, a little confused by this sign, which seemed to be sending out aggressive vibes that weren’t really in keeping with the cheerful feel of the place:
As far as I could tell, Angry Pancake Man was pointing warningly at us, and I explained this to Riho as he tried to figure out what was going on with the dude’s hand. “He’s threatening us with something,” I mused thoughtfully. Riho looked dubious. “Are you sure?” he asked uncertainly. I nodded with the smug air of one who has spent two days chanting Estonian words at a Learn A Language CD-ROM and is therefore practically fluent. “Head aega means goodbye,” I explained knowingly, “so head isu is bound to be some variation of that.” I paused, my mental wheels of logic spinning rapidly. “Therefore,” I concluded confidently, “Angry Pancake Man is telling us that we can’t sit here if we’re not eating anything. And he’s pointing us towards the exit. If you’re not buying food… see ya!“
Riho did not look at all convinced. I don’t know why he can’t just accept my linguistic brilliance.
Anyway, I’ve just looked up each individual word, and, loosely translated, it seems that Angry Pancake Man is actually saying something like “Great to see you here… enjoy your meal!”. Which is close enough, as I explained to Riho. He looked incredulously at me. “No it’s not!” he exclaimed, “you were trying to insist that he was saying buy something or bugger off!”
I did think it was a little out of keeping with the general attitude of the service industry here. Shop assistants do not hassle you, instead preferring to let you browse in peace and waiting until you request their help before approaching you. Warning signs never issue threats, but gently highlight the issue in question without being all overbearing and authoritarian about it. It just goes to show how accustomed I am to all the “DO NOT DO THIS”, “THERE’LL BE NONE OF THAT”, “DON’T THINK ABOUT TOUCHING THOSE” and “IF YOU SO MUCH AS LOOK AT THIS WE’LL FINE YOU £500 AND SERIOUSLY CONSIDER THROWING YOU IN JAIL” signs that scream at us from every conceivable place in the UK. My instinct was to assume Cheerful Pancake Man was actually Angry Pancake Man, and automatically turn his kind, hospitable words into a harsh threat, and his friendliness into arrogant aggression.
Much as I continue to despair of my continuing and depressingly consistent failure to grasp the language here, I must admit that I’m actually very relieved to have been so wrong about Angry Pancake Man.
Filed under: anger, confusion, conversations, culture, Estonia, food, foreign languages, funky-dunky, happy, pancakes, restaurants | 10 Comments »