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.
For a long time, I have been hearing murmurs of an island with sand so white, it’s blinding. Of an island where wealth abounds, of an endless stretch of beach-baskets, lapped by the North Sea. Sylt, the people whispered, Sylt.
Others told me it was a snobby haven of tax evaders, ridiculously expensive and there are spots as nice as Sylt on the North Sea, minus the pretension.
I wasn’t going to write about Berlin because, it’s Berlin. And there are people far better equipped to write about a city that’s name and reputation precedes it so thoroughly it is nigh on impossible for a passer-through to do it justice. And Berlin, like Hamburg, is one German city that I’ve been fortunate enough to get to a few times. So I reconciled myself to two days of wandering around, a spot of light shopping, some good old fashioned eating and precious time spent with my intrepid Aunt and Uncle who are currently on a road trip around parts of Eastern Europe.
This is a preview of Visiting Berlin: Villenkolonie.
It started snowing as I walked (minced through the grey slush) to the Hauptbahnhof, tiny little pellets that stung on contact. My face did its hardening trick so it felt like stone about five minutes into the walk. The morning, which dawned pretty in pink, had an air of quiet excitement about it. The Deutsche Bahn and I, after a long hiatus we sorely needed from each other, were about to be reunited. I had a 7.53am train to Leipzig with my name on it. The last time the DB and I had cavorted, it was in Bavaria, puffing between Weiden and Nürnberg in sub sub temperatures.
This is a preview of Leipzig, Wifi, and the Deutsche Bahn.