Everything Is Impossible In Europe

The other day in Geneva, my wife and I wanted to split a single serving of fondue, rather than get enough for two. The waiter at the restaurant responded: “It’s impossible.” Ultimately though, that’s what we got.

Last night in Davos, a group of us tried to get into a shuttle to be taken from a party to the main center here. There were only five seats in the back, yet six people tried to squeeze in. The driver responded: “It’s impossible.” Ultimately it was very easy to squeeze in an extra person, and the driver relented pretty quickly.

One person in the car — who was American but lives in Belgium — commented that he hears the phrase “It’s impossible” all the time in Belgium. I’ve heard it several other times in just a few days. Never has the situation actually been “impossible” or even close to impossible. The situation’s just always been kind of slightly against the rules.

You don’t really hear this much in the US, so I’m wondering: Does the prevalence of this phrase actually represent some kind of cultural thing whereby people take rules more seriously? Or is it just a language thing, where people who don’t speak English natively use it to just mean “you’re not supposed to do that.”

Genuinely curious which one it is.

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