People should be open to new experiences, make the best out of life, go explore new countries, learn new languages… But it is also important to be open towards other cultures and people that come to your home country. It is important to put yourself in somebody’s shoes and to think how it is for them: how would it be when you arrive somewhere, where you don’t know anyone and don’t master the language.

When I moved to Spain, I didn’t face many problems, as I didn’t have the language barrier. Nevertheless, it is interesting that the Spanish people do need a bit time to thaw, although we tend to think they are very open people.

When I moved to Brazil, then that was much more difficult, especially with the language. It is extremely different from Spanish, but everybody seems to think that “oh, it’s so similar, you’ll understand”. I needed about two months before I was in the language and it was all rather chaotic.

My whole stay there was chaotic. Brazil is clearly not Europe. A small example: there are no such thing as apartment search portals in smaller cities. In comparison, it was rather dirty. The public transport was really shocking. I didn’t have a car, like the rest of my colleagues, so I had to take the bus to work: it took me three hours every day per direction with four changes! We are talking about the same city here! Additionally, no one could help me with directions. The bus drivers speak only Portuguese and when you don’t understand their fast speech, then clearly it is not going to be repeated. Once I asked the bus driver if it is really going where the sign showed and he said yes. After an hour I realised that I’m in a wrong place, I didn’t recognise the area. It was evening, I didn’t have much money with me and I didn’t have even anyone to call for help. So I had to wait until the end stop in a bad area and then wait again at this bus terminal until the same bus went the same way back. I was really scared.

So when the Brazilians asked me what I like in their country and what I dislike, then I told them these stories and that I am shocked, I’m not used to this. But actually they do not want to hear your honest opinion. The majority wants to hear how great it is. Only the Brazilians who have already been in Europe could understand what I mean when I say that I have a huge problem with the local public transport. Of course, the really big cities in Brazil are different, too.

It’s actually a difficult cultural situation. Germans are brought up to be honest and open since we believe it allows the problems to be solved quicker when you are allowed to criticise openly. It is OK to criticise in Germany: it is a cultural norm and also culturally approved. In many other countries it is all a bit fake. Germans are not used to this and that’s why we come over as direct. We are outspoken. When someone asks me what I dislike, then I tell it. If they do not want to hear it, why to ask it in the first place?


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