Liv Hambrett

Germany + Australia + Culture + Motherhood + Home

Life in Weiden, Travel + Life Abroad

Hold the Button!

I first discovered SG’s notable skills when assembling furniture – from an array of shops, although he favours Ikea … think about that –  when we moved in together last year. He whipped up book cases, dining tables and beds in remarkably little time and, wielding his water scales, bored holes into walls and fitted in shelves in mere minutes. Indeed, just yesterday, he timed himself with the three book cases of differing sizes we picked up at Ikea and managed an average of … wait for it, five minutes per case.


Gliding through the assembly of our apartment one shiny white plank at a time, he seemed unstoppable and I, deeply impressed. But six weeks or so after we moved in, he clipped a hurdle and nearly brought it, him and us crashing down. The hurdle was a large, wardrobe shaped one with a sliding mirror door. It was the latter feature – and a little pronunciation confusion – that must bear the most responsibility for what has come to be known and referenced as the ultimate Meltdown.

Quite like I have a lot of trouble pronouncing, with any level of differential crispness, kuchen, küche and küken and generally mix them all up into one hybrid word that suits all occasions (as much as cake, kitchen and chick can suit all occasions), SG, like many Germans before him, does something similar with ‘bottom’ and ‘button’. In a clear headed moment, when wanting to use the word bottom, he goes for the reasonably similar ‘buttom’. In a hot-headed, pressure-filled moment, he completely blanks on bottom and goes straight for ‘button.’ And pressure-filled was the moment when, labouring beneath the behemoth structure that would eventually become our wardrobe, things started slipping and SG needed my assistance.

He had been grunting and swearing for a couple of hours, alternating between abusing the instructions, the pieces and the world, when things started getting critical. The skeleton of the wardrobe was almost complete, albeit shaky and scarily flexible. Breathing hard and contorted into a position necessary to bear the weight of the furniture, SG suddenly barked my name. I darted over to proffer what assistance I could. He panted,

‘Hold the button!’

I searched frantically for the button and found a couple of large plastic buttons on the back of the wardrobe.

‘Quick, hold the button!’

‘Which button? There are two on the back.’

SG was slowly disappearing beneath a landslide of shiny white wood, his face an alarming shade, his grip slippery. ‘THE BUTTON, HOLD THE BUTTON.’

And then I knew. He meant bottom. I had to confirm, before I threw myself at the bottom of the wardrobe, in case he actually did mean button and holding the button was going to save him from certain death. Obviously the moment was not ripe for the old pronunciation double-check, so I tentatively posited,

‘Do you mean bottom?’

He roared, lion-like, one last desperate attempt, ‘HOLD THE BUTTON.’

So I held the bottom. I took a punt and dived down, ignoring the buttons, splaying my hands along the bottom. The wardrobe, and SG, survived. It took us a few weeks to laughingly mention ‘THE  BUTTON’. For a while, we pretended the wardrobe simply erected itself. We continue to pretend, when we move again, the wardrobe will magically dismantle and re-assemble itself.

This time around, we’ve re-settled with no such meltdowns. Ikea was a quick, pain-free trip executed with scary efficiency and fueled by four hotdogs (SG.) The bookcases are up and looking smashing. There have been no meltdowns.

Weiden, let’s try this again.


  1. Jay

    1 August, 2013 at 10:20 am

    Hahaha – oh goodness.

    I figure it’s a success if my husband and I are still talking after assembling IKEA furniture 😉

    1. Liv

      1 August, 2013 at 11:14 am

      I have adopted the same standard! Similar with hanging pictures … always tense.

  2. Rachel

    1 August, 2013 at 10:21 am

    I think German relationships are put under a lot of pressure at IKEA; but intercultural relationships do have that extra edge. You’re stressed, you’re ignoring screaming children and aggressive trolleys, and then there are the communication issues that come with an intercultural relationship. The visit will inevitably end in a bitter, heated discussion.

    1. Liv

      1 August, 2013 at 11:14 am

      Totally. I am a bit of a lingerer, I like to stroll through the displays and comment endlessly. SG is quite the opposite, although uuusually reeeasonably good natured about my lingering. Our last Ikea mission was military in its precision, we were going in for a set list of things, nothing more, nothing less. So I compensated by lingering in the Swedish food shop and buying a stupid amount of biscuits while he ate a stupid amount of hotdogs.

  3. travelangels

    1 August, 2013 at 1:25 pm

    haha nice, story, this is what I call ‘lost in translation’ , so have fun with the button in the kueche, where a little kueken found a kuchen on the bottom of the shelf 🙂

    1. Liv

      1 August, 2013 at 5:21 pm

      So many of those moments pepper our conversations – I make at least ten mistakes per sentence which just sounds nonsensical but because SG’s English is quite good, his mix-ups are way better because they actually make (very funny) sense. And as for kuchen, küche und küken … WHY GERMAN, WHY?

      1. travelangels

        1 August, 2013 at 11:20 pm

        hahah I’m sure you are doing great! you have this talent with using your language, why not with others as well… I had to learn Greek which is even worse, I guess..

        1. Liv

          3 August, 2013 at 12:24 pm

          I think I’d even take Greek over the German grammar! Do the Greeks have such ghastly grammatical rules? Although you are dealing with a whole new alphabet, I shouldn’t complain!

  4. shsayshallo

    1 August, 2013 at 4:29 pm

    Hilarious read!

  5. Barbara Peters

    1 August, 2013 at 5:02 pm

    Very funny. I have several memories of my daughters and their funny mix-ups being bi-linquel. “mommy where is my rock!” while dressing, led to a tantrum, and finally daughter number 2 clearing it up. “She can’t find her skirt!”. Ohhh.

    1. Liv

      1 August, 2013 at 5:22 pm

      Oh I can aaaabsolutely see how that would happen a lot. I do things like that and I am not even close to bilingual. For at least six months I forgot the term ‘dining room’ and just popped in the German.

  6. MegsFitness

    2 August, 2013 at 3:53 pm

    Hahaha! I love the way you told this story… I could picture your confusion and need to help…. ^_^ Jeff and I just moved yesterday and we’re still banging our shins on oddly placed boxes, but we’ve been “settled” less than 10 hours, so that’s to be expected. Last night, I tripped on the litter box and nearly fell face-first into the bathroom. I threw my hands out to catch myself and managed to grasp the door jamb… which.. apparently had recently been stained. My hand came away with dark brown smudges, but my face remained unmarred. Ah the joys of moving.

    1. Liv

      3 August, 2013 at 12:23 pm

      Oh the joys indeed. So much tripping and banging and slipping. I hope you get settled as quickly and smoothly as possible! x

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