My name is Anushka. I come from New Delhi, India. I have done my Bachelor’s and Master’s in Environmental Sciences, so basically I am all about nature conservation. I currently am in Germany for my PhD studies. It has been around 3 years here. I currently hold the position of a research scholar at Humboldt University of Berlin and simultaneously work as a guest scientist at the Helmholtz Association for Environmental Research in Leipzig. Thanks to the two different work-stations, I still can’t figure out I am a Berliner-Leipziger or Leipziger-Berliner. They both are unique in their own ways; as many say-Leipzig is the old-Berlin. So, I consider myself very lucky to live the old and new version of Berlin simultaneously.
Germany has added, actually edited and made my list of hobbies go haywire over these past few years. Life has been on a constant move. Working hard over the week to a laid back weekend with friends. The concept of an outing has changed from movies and restaurants in Delhi to hiking, beaches weekend get-away and beer-gardens-loads and loads of beer-gardens. It’s in Germany that I learnt to cook Indian dishes, thanks to the away from home food cravings.
While studying in India, I started to develop the slammer side of me, but it is here in Deutschland that I have become a professional slammer. It’s not normal public speaking, it needs innovation of sorts to explain your research to a swarm of Germans in “English”. The first time I participated in a slam, I was not sure they understood anything. It was only when I was re-invited to present the same slam in a different city, I realized; that either Germans understand English (more than what they admit) or I am actually good at it. The scare for the language, at-least speaking the language is somewhat in my head, I have learnt the language for around 6 months before I started my PhD, but the scare of pronouncing the words incorrect is so intact. Therefore, I use my language proficiency to watch German shows on televisions, watch and enjoy soccer (I love Mat Hummels!!) and to catch up on Bollywood movies dubbed in Deutsch (the dialogues become hilarious). Lastly, the seasons within season, the ever fluctuating weather has given a shopaholic person more reasons to shop. Despite this, I have still not got it right. Germans are perfect to deal with sudden rains on a normal summer day or some really low temperatures over an autumn evening. I do take assistance of the daily weather report to get dressed, but somehow I am still away from the German perfection.
What brought you to Germany?
I had recently completed my Master’s and I was working as an environmental consultant in Delhi… 7 months to be exact, I landed with a full-scholarship to pursue PhD under any professor and at any university of my choice in Germany, it was an opportunity of a lifetime. I was only 23, I knew it was too early, but I could not miss the chance. I felt a bit awkward amongst my fellow scholarship holders, they all had previous research experience and I was like this small kid in the world of research and development. You won’t believe it, I have been studying since the age of 5, without any breaks. High school, Bachelor’s, Master’s and now a PhD. Once I am done with the PhD, I might treat myself to no more studies for some years at-least, which again will be tough, as I already have some post-doc offers lined up in the U.S.
What were the initial struggles when you moved?
The only challenge I faced here was being homesick. Especially when you come from India and you have stayed with your parents all your life, it gets pretty terrible. The sudden switch isn’t easy. From managing your bills, to your food to even waking up on time, everything needed some reorganization. Ironically, now when I visit India, I keep missing Germany, it has just become my home away from home.
What are the things that you like/dislike in Germany?
I tried really hard thinking, but I realized I don’t dislike anything about this country. The like list is a bit long. To highlight, I like the flexible working environment here, the way everyone is straightforward. It really helps being yourself, no need to pretend. I appreciate Germans for their immense punctuality in anything and everything. Thanks to them, I myself have become the arriving at least 10 minutes before the appointment type (I wasn’t like that before). Besides this, I love the work hard and party harder culture, especially the weekend beginning at 2pm on Friday!! It is priceless. Separate private and work life, no calls, no emails on the weekends, no last minute hassles, nothing spontaneous, everything planned and organized. They don’t leave scope for anything to go wrong or any misunderstanding. Moreover, Germans really help me feel comfortable, “they try only if you try” is absolutely the truth. When they see me making efforts with Deutsch, they make reciprocative efforts with English. This not only helps me fit in but helps me learn from them. I have become so organized living this German lifestyle, from waiting at traffic lights, to sorting trash into their specific categories, to go grocery shopping with a compulsory shopping list (not depending on mere memory) and definitely not to forget reading each and every line of any kind of agreement before signing it. Lastly, I love the fact that Germans love Indian culture and traditions, seeing their interest amazes me. They equally participate in our festivals held in major cities here, wearing the Indian attire, relishing our “spicy” food. So you see, I can go on and on and on.
Do you feel yourself integrated? What does it mean anyway?
I am sure you can figure out by my previous answer, how completely I feel integrated and secure here.
Unfortunately, I do hear cases of racism against fellow Indians from time to time, personally I have not faced any. People here mostly confuse me being from the Middle East. Women from the Middle East often come up to me and ask me, from which country I come from and why I don’t cover my head. There is a substantial Middle Eastern community in Berlin and Leipzig, maybe which is why I am not discriminated, or haven’t faced similar situations as its normal for fellow Germans to observe Middle-East origin citizens.
In my observation Germany is multi-cultural to an extent, it might take some more years though to completely become one. Like I mentioned, “they try only if you try”.
Has any of the stereotypes about Germany and the Germans been confirmed?
About Germany!!! Can’t say, about Germans, there are many!!! Over the years I can vouch regarding all of the following: Punctual, straight-forward, rule-oriented, love pork, bread-sensitive, bake awesome cakes (healthy ones), highly cautious about new things, the trust between people and their sense of society is admirable, eco-friendly, lastly they love their cars, it’s sacred for them.
What’s the first thing you do when you go back?
Thanks to the fact that my research is based on the German landscape, I will try to remain well connected and incorporated with my work here. So when I go back, I would plan and implement frequent visits here 🙂