Something New Every Day

German Word of the Day:


(a) n. neut.;  knowledge

(b) v.; to know

Friday marked two milestones for Yours Truly – one month in Deutschland and the end of my first week of real German school!  On the face of it, starting a new school, in the middle of the semester, in a town a million miles from home, where you can’t exactly speak the language, sounds like something out of your worst middle school nightmare.  In reality, it hasn’t been all that bad.  How does one navigate the first week of German public education, you ask?  Since I’m pretty much a pro at this assimilation thing now, here are my top five tips:

  1. Eat the Kartoffeln.  Potatoes are not optional here.  They will be found in every school lunch – possibly as both the entrée and the side dish.  You’re German now, you love potatoes.  Eat up.
  2. Bring your sunglasses… they have windows here!  Some of you, my American friends, probably spent your high school years in a windowless building that looked like a miniature Alcatraz, only with more hormonal inmates.  Not in Germany.  There are windows everywhere – and they trust us enough to leave them open!
  3. Stock up on fizzy water.  As a rule, they don’t have water fountains in Germany – but nobody drinks flat water anyway.  If you can get your hands on a 1.5 liter bottle of bubbly water you’ll fit right in.
  4. Hold out for English class.  It’s nice to remember what it felt like to be a participating member of society.
  5. Give the social sphere a shot.  Germans have a reputation for being cold-shouldered to strangers, but I’ve actually found the people here to be really open, welcoming and helpful.  Your attempts to use your meager vocabulary and mangled grammar will be appreciated.  Walk up to somebody and attempt to pronounce Eichhörnchen.  Watch the ice melt away.

In summary: jumping in to a new place is tough, and it doesn’t get easier when the local inhabitants are teenagers and they speak a language you don’t understand.  I miss being able to raise my hand in class, and crack jokes with my friends in the hallway.  But it gets easier every day.  Thus far, what’s keeping me motivated is the speed with which I’m finding I can learn and do new things – and the fact that I saw both a shooting star and a hedgehog from my bedroom window last night.  You have to look out for the little things.

Finally, here are two pictures that might be interesting.  Now I’m off to enjoy my weekend!

My new school. It's a Gymnasium, which is basically a junior high and high school for kids who plan on going to University.
My new school. It’s a Gymnasium, which is basically a junior high and high school for kids who plan on going to University.


This is my weekly school schedule. It's really different than an American schedule - I have 10 classes that each meet only once or twice a week.
This is my weekly school schedule. It’s really different than an American schedule – I have 10 classes that each meet only once or twice a week.




3 thoughts on “Something New Every Day

  1. Oh Maria, this IS eyeopening to me! Since our Kids never ate at school I did not know that potatoe is so prominent in the menue! I am impressed with your progress in German: “Eichhörnchen!” This is one of the tough ones – and isn´t it amazing to see and feel progress almost physically?! You managed one month. My experience: it takes 3 monthes to get through the worst phase, after 6 monthes you start to feel comfortable and from then on time is running like crazy and you start to panick that you will have to leave so soon… Inbetween there will hopefully be a lot of shooting stars and people who not only appreciate your efforts in German but you in Person.
    Keep looking our for pasta! Iris


  2. This is such a fun thing for me to read. You are a clever, entertaining and a great writer! Maybe this will turn into a memoir? I’m so happy that you are experiencing this part of the world at this time in your life. It sounds like such rich learning. Best, Katie


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