My name is Carmen. I come from Lebanon. I’ve been living in Berlin since 4 years. I studied Mechanical Engineering in Beirut. I like theater and have been taking acting classes in French since 3 years at La Menagerie in Berlin. We prepare a play every year and perform it. I also like stand-up comedy. I perform in English in different shows and open mics happening regularly in the city. The English comedy scene in Berlin is becoming really big and very popular. I am also producing/co-producing 2 stand-up comedy shows: Comedy auf Deuglish (Monthly English/German Mixed Comedy Show) and Teepeeland Stands Up (English Comedy Show at Teepeeland).
I was lucky enough to be offered a job position in Berlin after my graduation at the same company where I did my internship during my engineering studies. So I took the opportunity, and moved here!
How was your integration process?
When I first arrived to Berlin, I didn’t directly get to know the very hype, relaxed, multicultural side of the city. On the contrary, and because of the reason that brought me here, the environment I was introduced to at first, was a very professional, very traditional, very man dominated German one. As a 22-year-old Arab girl, boiling with motivation and emotions, having an intense need to loudly express my mindset at any time, and being raised with this warm heated body-language temper, I did indeed experience A LOT of cultural clashes while facing with my highly qualified, very efficient German colleagues.
It took me time to get to know them better, understand their reactions and most importantly enjoy working with them! I stopped taking everything too personal, and accepted the fact that: hey, why should you expect everybody to act the way you do? Your way of thinking and behaving isn’t necessarily the best one to adopt in some situations! I honestly started feeling more integrated in Berlin once I began with my regular activities: Theatre and Comedy. It’s through them that I got to develop friendships and broaden my social network. And it definitely helped me to become more comfortable with my work situation.
Can you tell us about a cross-cultural blunder you have committed in Germany?
In Lebanon we have the habit while saying ‘Hello’ to people to also ask: ‘How are you?’. When I first arrived to Germany, I did the same: “Hallo, wie geht es dir?” To my big surprise, and when I asked that to Germans, I often didn’t get any answer. They just answered back by a simple: Hallo. My automatic thought, back then, was a very stereotyped and judgmental one: “Oh man, those Germans, they’re too cold, what is wrong with this question? Is it even considered as too personal here? Could you just let it out!” I then got the chance to talk about it to a colleague of mine. And this was his answer: “Well the question ‘How are you doing’ might seem very simple but isn’t really a very easy one to answer. Of course, I could lie to you, give you a quick “Mir geht es super” and walk by. But why should I do that? And if I wanted to be honest and give you an exact answer then it will take more than 20 minutes to explain to you how am I really doing. So instead of lying or wasting your time, I prefer not to answer.” I was so impressed after that. It’s true; sometimes a non-answer is much better then a fake one.
What strikes you most in Germany (good and bad)?
I’ve always considered myself as a control freak. I need to plan in advance, analyze all the sides of a project: cons/pro, timeline, …, and bring structure to every small task I’m given. Back in Lebanon, I felt a bit different having this mindset because it wasn’t a very common to have over there. After I moved to Germany, I actually feel more ‘normal’. I am the one judging control freaks over here 🙂 It’s good but sometimes it’s too much. In some occasions you just need to act spontaneously especially when it comes to going out or partying …
Do you think Germany is a multicultural society?
I’ve visited some German cities, and I think from what I’ve seen so far, that Berlin is the most multicultural one between them. Maybe not all of Germany could be considered as multicultural but just some locations in it. I can totally see that in Berlin: you can’t imagine the number of people from different nationalities I got the chance to meet and talk to during the English comedy events. The city is a very popular one and it attracts a lot of expats. Sometimes I think that there’s a lack of Germans in Berlin rather than internationals. And that’s why it’s more difficult for newcomers to practice the German language here. Expats could keep on speaking English and not bother at all by learning some German.
What do people in your country think of Germany and Germans?
All of the positive stereotyped opinions are thought by Lebanese people about Germans: Hard workers, very punctual, produce the best cars, have a very good economy, drink a lot of beer 🙂 , very polite and diplomatic, play good football …
Has your lifestyle changed when you came to Germany? If yes, how?
My lifestyle definitely became healthier. I became a vegetarian 2 years ago. I am definitely more aware of the environmental issues surrounding us and the simple small tasks I have to do on a daily basis as an individual to help decreasing them. I also definitely changed my mindset regarding work and career. Life is not only about that!
The fact that I am living in Berlin helped in reinforcing the changes in me.
Anything else you want to share with the readers about you and your experiences in Germany? Perhaps an advise you want to give to a newcomer?
Try to learn the language! Try not to take anything as personal and don’t give up or judge fast, sometimes it takes time, and you’ll for sure be positively surprised by the results.
Picture taken by Dave Abott