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:
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- Hold out for English class. It’s nice to remember what it felt like to be a participating member of society.
- 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!