I am a student currently living in Berlin, but I am originally from Belarus. Actually, I have been living here since 2001, but I spent three years in Kosovo and a couple of months in Saudi Arabia before coming back to Germany, so maybe I could still be called something like an expat here.
What brought you to Germany?
I was very young when my family moved here, so I can’t really tell, but I would say the prospect of a new, exciting life might explain the decision.
What was the biggest struggle when you moved?
When I came to Berlin, I did not speak a word of German. Luckily, I was not too badly affected by that fact, but I remember walking around in the kindergarten and wondering why no one understood what I was trying to say to them in Russian. That must have been very frustrating for them… now that I think about it.
What I like about Germany is the cultural diversity we have here. It is always an interesting experience to meet people from other places. In connection with that, one can come across all sorts of festivals, especially during the summer months, so there is always something to experience or to do. If you like art and theater, Germany is also the right place for you. Being a student, it is a little easier for me to get affordable tickets to art exhibitions or staged plays. After living here for quite a while now, I would say that if there is one thing I do not like about Germany, then it’s the bureaucracy.
Any funny, cross-cultural moment, blunder?
Hhm…(fortunately) not. Maybe I have been living here for too long now…
Do you think Germany is a multicultural country?
In terms of Berlin, I can say that it is very multicultural indeed. Spontaneously, I am thinking about our very large Turkish and Russian communities right away. Berlin is also popular with international students, so I would say that once you come to Berlin, I am sure you will come across your co-patriots somewhere. On a big scale, I am sure that you find a representative from almost any country in the world here… if you try hard enough.
Do you feel integrated?
After so much time here, I would say I do. I sometimes find it funny that some people are convinced that I am German and are totally surprised to find out that I am actually from Belarus.
Has any of the stereotypes been confirmed about Germans?
That is a funny question because as I was thinking about this, I realized that there is one stereotype that my own behavior confirms it to the fullest by now, and that is punctuality. I have reached a point where I feel uncomfortable being late, even if it’s just a few minutes and even if people I am about to meet are my closest friends. I would say the idea that Germans love punctuality is indeed very true. Honestly, I don’t know about many German stereotypes, but if you ever wondered if Germans really love beer, I would say the significant majority of them does. 🙂
What is it that still strikes you here?
I am still surprised about how much people in Germany stick to rules and barely accept anything else. I still notice how difficult it is to make an exception or find alternative solutions to problems, especially when it comes to bureaucratic stuff. I remember being on the train once, when the conductor asked to see my ticket. My student ID, which is also my train ticket, does not have a photo on it, so I was asked to show my passport, which I did not have with me at the moment. I offered to show my health insurance card with my photo AND my signature on it, so it was clear that I was the owner of the ticket. However, the conductor remained stubborn and I ended up having to leave the train with her.