Hi, I’m Vanessa, the Abel part of Leather and Abel. Jason and I moved over to Berlin from London just over a year ago and are loving our new life here in Germany.
I’m half-German and my mother’s family come from a tiny village in the middle of nowhere. They all live on the same street and since I was born, I have visited them about once a year. After I met Jason, I wanted to take him to visit my lovely family after which we spent a fun weekend in Berlin, to check out a big German city. We literally fell in love with Berlin instantly, went back to London to quit our jobs and a few months later we moved over to the land of curry sausages and beer.
How was your integration process?
I actually spent most of my education at the German School in London, so language isn’t a problem for me. Even so, the paperwork is extensive and difficult. In the UK, we have pamphlets in every language for all people to understand, which they don’t seem to want to do here in Germany. Jason and I have both lived in Japan, where EVERYTHING is different, so compared to trying to integrate out there, Germany isn’t so different from England. There are also so many foreigners living in Berlin that you make instant friends with people who have already integrated and are happy to help.
What did you think of Germany and Germans before coming here? Have some of the stereotypes about Germans been confirmed?
Being half-German, I don’t like anyone bad-mouthing Germans, except myself.
They really do drink a lot of beer and love techno music, but as with every stereotype, there are all kinds of people here. I was surprised at how practical they are here with their fashion and the trains really do run on time, but the level of customer-service is appalling. I don’t think you can even call it service, as the people in shops and restaurants are just plain rude. It’s hard to make German friends, but when you do, they are amazing and will go out of their way to help you. Plus the idea of Ruhetag on Sundays (where basically every single thing is closed and by law you have to be quiet) took a while to get used to.
What is it that you miss the most from your country?
Cheese. What is wrong with Germany? ARGH!!! Luckily we have many many visitors from England, so we have a constant supply of cheese…
Do you think Germany is a multicultural country?
I don’t think Berlin is representative of the whole of Germany. In Berlin, you will rarely meet anyone from this city, or even from this country. My colleagues are from almost every country in the world and we received training in English! Everyone in Berlin seems to speak English fluently and travel lots. I would definitely say this city is multicultural and accepting of other cultures! I love it!
Do you feel accepted into the German society?
I feel accepted. I think it’s harder for Jason, especially when we first arrived in Germany because of the language barrier. He would practice his German and go into a shop to order something and the reply would always come in English. It’s hard to get the confidence to speak a language you are not familiar with and we know many people who have lived here for many years and still cannot even order food in a restaurant. It’s a shame you don’t need German to survive here, but sometimes it can also be a blessing. Also trying to find a place to rent is hard enough in this city – being a foreigner makes it impossible.
How would you summarise your experience in Germany?
It’s been interesting to experience the German-half of me. I don’t wear heels and when it’s cold, I wear practical clothing. I don’t like handbags and if I absolutely have to carry more than can fit in my pockets, then I would prefer to pop a rucksack on my back. I wear less makeup than people in England and often can’t be bothered to straighten my hair to perfection. Inside I definitely still feel English, but it’s been interesting to be able to explain some of my non-English characteristics. Living in Berlin is crazy – we do all kinds of random jobs and meet people from all over the world, whilst living in an extremely cheap but beautiful apartment. Who knows how long we will stay, but for the moment I have to say that we absolutely love it!