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.
The view by sunset from the Autobahn between München and Rosenheim. Photo coypright dpa
Five Months into my stay in Köln: half way there. Scary Stuff!
The last month I’ve been on holidays, Semesterferien. The German university system is different than in Ireland in that it starts later and has two different semesters from October to January and April to July.
As an Erasmus student the Semesterferien are a great opportunity to travel, get to know your new host city better or like me, do an internship. For normal students there are generally exams, essays to be written, and some sort of mini-job or internship too.
This is a preview of Erasmus Year: The Halfway Point.
Karneval season begins in November, but February is when it really kicks off. It’s such a major thing here in Cologne. It is basically a week long party, on the street, in pubs, clubs, along the Rhine, wherever.
The most interesting thing for me is what I can only describe as the cult of Cologne. Karneval really evokes this sort of emotional attachment to the city, the language, the beer, the music, and all the other traditions.
This is a preview of Karneval and the Cologne Constitution.
Latest statement about “The Germans:” The Germans are very self-confident. They really don’t seem to care what other people think about them.
Example #1 .. They have no shame in blowing their noses really loudly in class.
Today I finished one of my seminars. Next week’s class is cancelled, so no 8am start on a Monday. Wunderbar.
I did not speak a word in that class over the course of the past 14 weeks, except that time I nervously had to stand in front of the class and talk about the Enlightenment for a presentation.
Afterwards I was asked if I’m from Luxembourg. Irrelevant but worth mentioning, I think.
This is a preview of Living in Germany: Cultural Stereotypes.