What I wish I’d known before moving to Germany for a year

Photo credit: Hans-Freudenberg-Kolleg

Being a linguist has its perks, as well as it’s drawbacks, but learning languages at university definitely doesn’t prepare you for the paradox that moving abroad can sometimes be. Spending my year abroad in Germany has been an experience, strengthened me up, made me more independent and culturally aware than ever before. If it wasn’t for the hurdles I had to face and the new things about life that I learned, my time in Germany would have been just another year. However, I can assure you that my year was far from ordinary and here is why.

Some people always say to appreciate that one honest friend, because they will force you to see the reality of a situation and they refuse to sugar coat the truth into something less arduous. For me, life in Germany meant that I had umpteen friends just like this. At first, it was a massive culture shock but as time passed, I began to think highly of this characteristic and start to cherish their honesty. Along with being at times brutally but necessarily blunt, the scarcity of small talk at the cashiers was a mystery to me- something that would have indubitably made the weekly food shop much more delightful. For a girl like me who loves to make new friends and talk to new people- the lack of spontaneous conversation on the streets was something I constantly struggled to familiarise myself with. I think the way Germans are incredibly straightforward is something we actually all strive for in our own lives and I am glad I had the chance to live somewhere, where everyone is frank with each other, no matter how much it hurts. Let’s be honest, lying is far more indignant in the long run.

Bikes. Who new that Drais’s two-wheeled invention would be so loved by students all around the world- especially in Germany. I was astonished at how much students relied on their bikes to travel- much more than us Brits across the pond. There was a small problem however- I can’t ride a bike. To be honest (let’s get going with the honesty here), it had been years since I even attempted to ride a bike, let alone intrepidly schlepp down the road without crashing into a car. I just got on with it, I guess that’s what I had to do. So I nervously got on my friend’s bike as we all rode back, exhausted from playing basketball in the park by our home. I was just about to turn the corner and finally arrive in our driveway when an impatient driver behind me started rushing me to peddle faster. As I rapidly tried to get onto the pavement, it felt like the ground below me gave in as I toppled over awkwardly and hit the floor. Well at least I gave it a go and gave it my all. If I had known before how vital bikes are to the way of life in Germany, I would have spent my summer tirelessly perfecting riding a bike in order to avoid moments just like this.

Food is incredibly important in life, especially for students, as all that studying does work up an appetite. I am a busy bee and consequently used to rely heavily on ready meals to keep my heart beating- not the best for an athlete, I know. As a result, I was taken aback by how limited microwave meals were in Germany. It was definitely a melancholy day for this convenience queen. Luckily it wasn’t long until my amazing housemates taught me the ways of cooking fresh meals. The days of frozen meals are over for this girl- well for a while anyway.

The most important and heart warming part of it all was without a doubt my friends. My housemates (surprisingly I had 99 of them) and the lovely group of pals I had at university were all just so accommodating and made me feel at home from day one. They are a beautiful group of people, who I miss so much but make me smile from ear to ear when we do see each other.

To my dear friends, you taught me to love myself for who I am and for that, I am grateful-something I definitely didn’t know before I moved to Germany.

With thanks to Mariam Gambo