When getting a coffee in Germany, occasionally the cashier would ask me "Zum Mitnehmen?"
Sometimes cashiers are in a friendly cordial mood, and other times they might be grumpy. That's how all humans beings are. But, having a perhaps not-so-happy person say forcefully "To go?" really struck me.
The reason is, that in English the choices of expressions would probably be:
- No question at all. Whatever "default" was implied.
- "Is this for here or to go?"
- "Is this for here …?"
Jumping immediately to the question "Is this to go?" (in English) puts extra emphasis on that option.
To explain how it sounds to me, imagine you are visiting someone's house as a guest. And they say to you, out of the blue, "Perhaps you'd like to leave now?"
You may corroborate this point, by imagining you go into a McDonalds in the USA, and the cashier asks suddenly and coldly "Is this to go?" or "To go?" They would not say that.
(Continuing the previous thought briefly, there's a difference regarding who says it. If a guest says, after staying for a while, "I think it's time for us to get going", that is perfectly normal. But for the host to say it is different.)
Do you think that "zum Mitnehmen", if said abruptly by the cashier, and without a smile, is still perfectly polite?