April 1st is the official start of the Sommersemester, and that means a lot of things.
1. I’ve got a new Studentenausweis, and it helps when you bring said new Ausweis with you, especially when hefty train fares are involved.
2. The weather has to get better soon… I hope.
3. Classes have resumed, and I finally have something to do with my time again.
This is a preview of Studying Abroad: The Busy Life.
This weekend brought with it a series of reminders that, in case I had forgotten or indeed been so desensitised to the cultural quirks of this glorious country they ceased to have an effect, I am indeed in Germany. That happens, occasionally. A situation arises, a conversation is had, a premise wandered into and one is reminded of the essence of this place that has become the norm and the fact that the essence can in fact be delightfully strange.
True to my aim of being as honest as possible when writing this blog, I think it’s time I own up to the fact that Erasmus isn’t always a walk in the park. I’ve said before that it’s not real life, but in this regard it is: there are still highs and lows, ebbs and flows. It’s normal, or at least to be expected.
Being busy all the time and being on what feels like a year of a holiday means that there are significantly more highs than you might have in “real” life, but it also means that you’re probably less prepared for the lows.
This is a preview of Life in Germany: Ebbe und Flut.
I used to think Germans behaved strangely in the sun (their manner suspicious, vaguely panicky, a little startled) for the fundamental reason they see very little of it (except for those living in the country’s sunniest city, Freiburg). But living up North these past few months, I have added a second prong to my theorising about the Germans and weather. I now suspect they behave the way they do because one can never be sure, when the sun does eventually come out, whether it will last for 30 seconds, three minutes or three hours and whether, when it disappears, it will be seen again for days or, possibly, weeks.
This is a preview of Living in Germany: Sunlight? What sunlight?.
Being an English native speaker on Erasmus is tough. There are two main reasons:
Number #1 (the lesser of the two evils..) Everyone will try to speak to you in English, broken English, or worse yet, American English. That dream you had about perfecting your other language? Forget it!
Number #2 EVERYONE can understand you when you speak your native language, all the time. There is no chance of passing remarks about the lady on the tram’s pink silken trousers, nor that guy’s lopsided moustache. Beyond being unable to complain, which some might see as a good thing, you can’t have a regular conversation in a public place without knowing that somebody is listening in.
This is a preview of Life in Germany: When English Is Your Native Language.
The thing with trying new things, or finding homeless puppies, or living in new cities, is you get attached. You get attached and you don’t want to give these new things back, or you want to take the puppy home, or you want to stay somewhere a little longer than you’re allowed. First comes the little pinch as you realise something has to and soon will, end. Then comes the rip, the walk-away. And it stings every single time, no matter how calloused your skin or how conditioned your mind for departure.
This is a preview of Expat Life: Deciding to Leave.
Most of the time here, I can crack out my German in shops and cafes and restaurants with aplomb, or in social settings, engage in a monolingual conversation that makes me feel both smug (look at me go) and embarrassed (did I just murder a case?) at the same time, a sensation peculiar to learning and speaking a foreign language … or is that just me? But there are other occasions were something else happens and it’s usually in a bar and usually with bright young things who grew up with American pop culture squawking loudly in one ear and an English teacher in the other, from around the age of six. On these occasions, the conversation becomes bilingual, but in reverse. Allow me to elaborate.
This is a preview of Living in Germany: The Language Battle.