#From Chris: I still hang my head in embarassed shame when I think of my firt days in Germany for my intercalated year abroad. Working out in which order to visit the various departments to ensure the correct 'Aufenthaltsgenehmingung' was achieved before I was barred from my university residence, I visited the town hall.
Being only the second day there, it all seemed a fairly longwinded afffair, but optimistic as ever, I saw it all as a challenge - including getting the basics right like finding my way around the various departments and sections required. Searching for another, I blythely asked a passer-by which floor I needed and listening intently, registered the floor number and pressed the lift button to take me there, as the friendly local continued to chat. Within seconds alarm sirens were ringing and police with drawn hand guns were running everywhere. The chosen day was during the time the Bader-Meinhof Gruppe were coming to a sticky end and the authorities were expecting a backlash. Next, before my eyes appeared a shapely silk-stockinged pair of lower legs, evidently attached to a screaming and very scared women. The the moment of horror arrived - I'd pressed the NOTRUF button on a Paternoster Lift - the sort without doors where you just walk in and out as the lift moves slowly past your chosen floor. I'd never seen one before but the realisation was almost a physical blow. Panic and the sure belief that my linguisitic incompetences were such that I'd never be able to explain myself I nonchalantly left with the local German 'guide', who thankfully hadn't notice me pressing the button. Needless to say I read the print off the local paper for a couple of days in case someone had died of fright during all the panic - and set about learning to read all signs and notices with the utmost care.
PS any good German words for that moment of horrible Aufklärung?