Still a Culture Shock: Lack of Personal Space

I’d say there are many things that shock me about Germany. The things that I have learned over time have made Germany out to be some odd sort of ‘opposite land’, where everything is, effectively, just the opposite of what I had in America.

Take, for instance, German and American hypocrisy over Gesundheit. In America, everyone will talk to you about why you need to quit smoking, but they’d prefer to do it over a Big Mac and fries. On the other hand, in Germany everyone is so concerned about their Gesundheit that they regularly visit pools and saunas (much more than I ever witnessed from the Americans), but you can’t walk down the street without being in a near constant cloud of second-hand smoke.

To each his own, as they say. I’m a non-smoker, so I notice the stench. Continue reading

Cultural Differences, re: Japan

I’ve been majorly annoyed lately. Mostly because of Facebook, which is my ‘keeping in touch with contacts in the US’ weapon of choice. Maybe it’s because I’ve got friends and family in Japan, maybe it’s because I read the news too much, I don’t know. But it’s been killing me the past few weeks, reading the banal and often unnecessary status updates about the bowel movements of my ‘friends’’ kids, or their upcoming concerts, or what they’re listening to. I actually quit Twitter because of this, even though that was a long time coming. I simply can’t believe that so many people have moved on so quickly after the Japan happenings. Continue reading

Lernen, Studieren and German as a Foreign Language

I consider myself rather lucky. I’m an American, I speak English which is the international business language, and I moved to a country that has a relatively strong English-speaking background. The part of Germany that I live in, Bavaria, was (still kind of is) occupied by the Americans after the war. This means that along with the German requirement that students learn English in school because it’s the ‘international language’, the people of this region got to practice it because of the troops that were stationed in the area.

So I understand that just about everyone my age (I’m 29) around here knows at least a decent amount of English words, even if they are scared to use them.

I’m an English teacher here. And let’s be obvious, that’s pretty much the ONLY thing I can do as a Beruf until my German is pretty flawless, which it is not. I’m a high level 2, an intermediate, but as I said in an earlier post, I didn’t learn Yoga or Graphic Design German in my integration course. Continue reading

They don’t teach you those words in German class

I enrolled in an intensive course (a must-have when you plan to live in a foreign country and need to assimilate, FAST) within three weeks of moving to Germany. It met five days a week, five hours a day. The learning curve was steep. It was great. Within two months I was able to speak to the Turkish girls in my class who didn’t know any English. That was a rewarding day, when we realized we could speak almost freely with each other. It was easy to make friends after that point.

When you take an intensive course, you learn what you will need to function in your new country of residence. You learn a lot of daily vocabulary. You learn how to grocery shop. You learn telling the time and reading bus schedules. You don’t learn Graphic Design language. And you most certainly don’t learn Yoga language.

As someone who currently teaches English for a language school and understands how the classes and teacher assignments work, I know that I can’t just sign up (or even ask) for a “Yoga German” class. These are highly specialized in terms of subject matter, and there’s just too great a chance that I’ll get a teacher who has never practiced yoga and is teaching out of a yoga deck of cards. It’s way easier, and cheaper, to do the self-study in this case. Continue reading

The wedding table: novel and practical!

Before I moved to Germany, I was a Financial Counselor at my alma mater. I did not go to school for finance, but previous jobs in the realm of retirement funds and a decent amount of on-the-job training mixed with my own personal experiences with college funding were all that I needed.

Receiving training in finance really rearranged the way I think about a lot of things that most people take for granted or don’t ever stop to question.

The first on that list was obviously the ridiculous cost of post-secondary education in the US. Ludicrous is too nice a word, seriously. We (most Americans) have been raised with the understanding that by the time we are 25, we’ll probably be really in debt. And hopefully out of college, paying it back.

The second on the list was weddings.

I’m 29, from divorced parents, and a professional photographer. Always the wedding photographer, never the bride. Continue reading