I am Marilya. I come from Belarus and study political science in Slovakia. I came to Germany as an exchange student. Originally I was supposed to study there for one semester but eventually I stayed for sixteen months. During this time I studied at the university of Siegen for one full year and afterwards completed a three-month internship in a non-governmental organization in Bonn.
Frankly speaking, the main reason why I chose to go to Germany for my Erasmus studies was because I wanted to learn another foreign language. I had to decide between France and Germany and chose the former one also partially out of a fear not to be able to learn French properly. J Somehow I always had it in my mind that the French pronunciation is something what you have to learn from your childhood and that French people are very sensitive about it and don’t like when foreigners butcher their language. German, on the other hand, seemed to be if not easy but at least doable. So I decided for German and Germany.!–more–>
What was the best/worst experience in Germany so far?
It is difficult to recall any bad experiences, but probably my very first day was a bit disappointing. I arrived at the Hamburg airport and wanted to take metro to get to the city. In order to get underground I had to carry my incredibly heavy suitcases all the way downstairs as neither elevator nor escalator worked. That was really irritating and also disappointing as no one even suggested help me to bring down my luggage…
The best experience was to see Germany during the Football World Cup. I would say that if I ever had a ‘cultural shock’ during my stay in Germany probably that was it. After having seen how crazy Germans can get about football I finally understood what this game means for them. The closer the World Cup was coming the more national flags you saw everywhere around: hanging out of the windows of apartments and offices, fluttering in the yards, attached to the cars. When the matches began all the cafes, bars and other public places that had a TV set immediately became full of people who were also dressed or face-painted in colours of the national flag. They unstoppably drank beer and enthusiastically cheered for the German team.
I worked in a café in Siegen on the day when Germany played in half-final against Brazil. Germans won then with a stunning score – 7:1. What I saw then was beyond my expectations. People were absorbed with the game and did not notice anything else around. But after every goal Germans made the whole place was exploding. People were shouting, cheering, then dancing, singing and celebrating! To be honest I didn’t expect so much passion from these always reasonable, well-behaved and I would say quite reserved people, as I had got to know Germans by that time. So seeing them so cheerful and open was a pleasant discovery.
What is it that you like/dislike about Germany?
Germany is very ‘green’. For someone coming from Eastern Europe it was really unusual at the beginning to see so many wind power plants and solar panels while travelling somewhere through the country. I also had to get used to separate trash in at least 5 different categories and do it not only at home but also in public places. Even without having any particular interest in environmental issues you can see how much attention Germans pay to such topics as climate change, global warming, alternative energy, or recycling. I admire this commitment and wish my country could do the same way.
Do you feel accepted here?
According to my experience it is incredibly important to speak the language of the country you are going to live in. The level of someone’s acceptance rises quite proportionally with the language skills. The better you understand, speak, write, and read the more possibilities you have to discover the country and the mentality of its people.
I came to Germany without any knowledge of German and learnt a lot quite quickly. However, I feel I still haven’t gotten to the point where I can interact with a German in the German language on ‘equal’ terms as I can do it for example with a Slovak in Slovak. And this still creates certain barrier. Of course, the language does not decide everything but it is definitely an indispensable tool to understand a people and to become part of their society if one wishes to.
I’d rather say that I feel adapted than accepted. I know much more about Germans, their way of life, traditions and mentality than I did before. In some situations I can act confidently and so I feel comfortable as I know what ‘the rules of the game’ are. In some other things I still lack knowledge and experience. But I enjoy the process of learning about Germany and I am quite excited of my future discoveries.
Any funny cross-cultural blunder that comes to your mind?
Just one short story about German punctuality. This stereotype is completely true!
Once my flat-mates and I organized a party in our dormitory. We told everybody we’d start at 9 p.m. For me it was clear that nobody would come directly at that time. Nevertheless, the ‘German part’ of our guests came exactly at 9 p.m. Moreover they were really surprised and my German flat-mates got even a bit angry that there wasn’t anybody else from all those foreign students who had promised they’d also join us. But eventually they indeed kept their promise and came two hours later.