Being in a new place is always an adjustment and learning experience. Germany is no exception. Since being here, I’ve had days where I feel the high’s of seeing new things and navigating unfamiliar territory. There are other days where I feel the lows of not being able to understand everything. I feel the urge to make petty complaints about the lack of black hair products or specific foods I crave at the grocery store. It’s human nature to search for familiarity, right? The reality is that in foreign counties it’s not always that easy. All of these things have been great experiences in refining my character and exersizing a “glass-half-full” mentality.
A little over 3 months has taught me that….
1. Struggling to grasp a new language makes you feel like a child again.
A great friend of mine described being in a new country as a “humbling experience” from a language standpoint. There are days when you get excited about learning new words. You’re constantly asking “what’s that?” on billboards and signs. I find myself watching German kids shows (like this), which make learning fun…. Still, there are those sometimes awkward moments when you don’t know what people are saying so you just laugh along with them or ask them to slowly repeat themselves. All the adds on my social media accounts are in German and sometimes it still takes me by surprise lol. It’s a process.
2. Germans LOVE their vacations or what they call “Urlaub.”
I applied for a freelance/artist visa and the appointment was delayed by an entire month because one employee decided to take 4 weeks off to just chill………Now, I’m not saying that people don’t deserve time off. It’s important. Relaxing adds to our quality of life and reduces stress. At the same time, I’ve had to adjust my mentality a little bit coming from the U.S. In America vacations exist, but are not nearly valued in the same way.
Americans work themselves to the bone. At home I have the option of going to McDonald’s or Walgreen’s literally whenever I want because many are are open 24hrs a day. Our “on-the-grind” mentality has led some of the greatest minds to develop things that we can’t seem to live without (take the internet, Google or Amazon Prime for example). At the same time, America has such an extreme capitalistic mentality that we often neglect the wellbeing of our own people. Consumers develop a sense of entitlement because they aren’t used to being patient for anything. Businesses do whatever it takes for profit and selfish gain. In this sense, the American need to succeed is both incredible and destructive…….but I digress. Having off days is something I can definitely keep learning to embrace.
3. Knowing how to drive a stick shift is still a valuable skill in many parts of the world.
Since being here I’ve primarily taken the train or bus. The only car I have access to is conveniently a manual. I got my license in the States driving an automatic car. Most of the time I felt like a boss behind the wheel…….until now. Thankfully, my boyfriend has been graciously teaching me how to drive stick shift in his Volkswagen Polo. But I can’t even lie ya’ll, I’ve been struggling with the clutch.
Cars in Germany are generally on the small size so that has also been a big change for me. My previous car was a 1998 Volvo V8 hatchback…. pretty much a grey dinosaur on wheels. It got me from one place to the next, but small cars are definitely a nice change. Again, it’s a process.
4. Even with being miles away from home, I find myself pleasantly surprised by the kindness of everyday people.
Outside of universities, there are very few public spaces to practice here in Germany. Most professional singers tend to practice at home. This is not something I can do with where I live unless it’s really really late at night or on the weekends. In the center of town I stumbled upon a music shop so I just walked in and asked if they knew of any place to practice. The owner graciously said that they teach piano lessons in classrooms above the store and that I could use the rooms at my convenience!!! I literally almost cried. This small blessing definitely made a huge impact on my life as a musician here. It’s the little things.
5. The arts are valued in Germany in a way that I wish was emulated throughout the world.
People want to go to operas and orchestral concerts here. It’s refreshing. The opera system is partly public and partly private. It’s pretty amazing knowing that the German state is funding and sustaining culture. There’re always options here when it comes to shows.
6. I haven’t figured out why, but I’ve noticed a pattern of people just flat out staring at me.
Now I’d never generalize and say this is something all German’s do. And I get that there aren’t as many Black folks around my town…but it sometimes feels odd being looked at. It’s something I experience at least twice a week. It’s not one of those, “oh you look so pretty stares” it’s just blank or perplexed stares.
7. German’s have this type of popular folk music called “schlager” and …….it’s quite terrible.
Now that the holiday season is approaching, you hear it at any outdoor festival or market. I respect the musical style and recognize that every culture has things that are dear to them, but it just won’t grow on me. Click this link for examples of typical schlager songs ….(decide for yourself what you think, but you’ve been warned lol.)
8. The North Rhine-Westphalia (aka NRW) is a HUGE and dynamic province within the country.
In many ways it reminds me of the RDU area back in North Carolina. The cities bleed into each other and it’s easy to get from one place to the next in a relatively decent amount of time. This is especially easy with the autobahn where people can drive 130 km/h (81 mph). I’ve been staying in a small town just outside of Essen, but I also have access to perimeter cities like Dortmund, Düsseldorf, Duisburg, Oberhausen, Wuppertal and even Köln.
I look forward to sharing more about my journey here in Germany! But enough about me…what about you?!?!
I’m Interested in Your Journey Too!!!
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Much love fam 🙂