Ada Abroad: Living and Working in Germany

An online journal recording two years spent as a Fulbright/Pedagogical Exchange Service Teaching Assistant at secondary schools in Germany. (2003-2004 I was in a village near Bautzen; 2004-2005 I will be in Nordrhein-Westfalen.)

Location: Münster, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany

I'm an American living in Germany, working as a foreign language assistant at a secondary school. Future plans: getting my Ph.D. (probably in Germanic Linguistics), becoming a professor, living an ethical and meaningful life.

Thursday, September 23, 2004


I went on a walking tour of my village yesterday. The place is tiny-- actually smaller than my subdivision back home! I think there are around 20 houses, plus one small shop that sells essential grocery items. No post office, no church, not even a bar (!)-- although there is a bus stop. Apparently there are 143 residents.

The village itself is quite pretty. Most of the houses are in good repair, and the handful that aren´t just add to the DDR charm. There are fruit trees all over the place, and a fair number of people have livestock in their yards. Sheep seem to be the most popular choice (my physical therapist friend explained to me that people keep them as lawnmowers), but I also saw some goats and a pony. I haven´t seen any chickens yet, although I´ve heard them.

The residents all kind of look alike. Most have jet-black hair. (I suppose that´s what happens when your ancestors lived in the same locale for hundreds of years. ) They´re not a friendly bunch. I tried to say ´Guten Tag´to people on the street yesterday (I´ve been told that this is village good manners). Most of them just looked at me funny. Only a couple bothered to reply.

Today at school I helped my ninth-graders practice proper English intonation. Germans tend to speak in a very flat, low-pitched tone, and they transfer this to their English. However, in English it makes them sound extremely serious (at best) or downright suicidal (at worst). They also favor one-word answers and hardly ever say ´please´or ´thank you.´ Hence the special ´Friendliness and Politeness´training, which is actually written into the curriculum!

I wonder why ID never went over the proper way to be brusque, harsh, and overly blunt in Geman class? I could have used the training.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

So people aren't too friendly yet. Maybe they don't see too many people from outside their area.

1:16 PM  
Blogger Ada said...

I think that´s part of the problem. Hardly anyone ever moves into the village, and if they do it´s usually because they´ve married in-- not too many American teaching assistants or foreigners of any kind in this area! I can understand their reticence though. Probably they´re thinking `Who on earth is this strange little person and why is she saying Guten Tag to me?

11:59 AM  
Blogger christina said...

can you imagine all the money i'd save if i used sheep as my lawnmower?! but considering my yard is pretty big, i'd need lots of them. my neighbors would hate me :)

4:57 PM  
Blogger Ada said...

The sheep might have cost less than your lawn mower-- they´re ecologically sounder, too. No gasoline, no batteries, and free fertilizer to boot! But, you´re right, your zoning regulations probably prohibit it...

11:36 AM  
Blogger Californian Exile said...

Hello Ada, I had to laugh reading your village resume. People ARE quite suspicious of and downright unfriendly to strangers. Small talk happens directly proportionally to the time people have known eachother and consequently, being a stranger is about the loneliest thing possible. Bracing up against lonelilness is an art and an act of kindness towards oneself and others.....After a few generations, things warm up (!!), I guess. When I moved to a village in middle Germany in 1988, I was convinced that tight and pinching underwear or uncomfortable shoes must be the reason for the terrible unsmiling unwelcoming grimaces of the rural population in response to my "Guten Tag"!!! After more than 30 years in Germany, it doesn't bother me as much, although I do not behave in this way. Take a look at Trompenars one of the cross-cultural authors and you'll find the ever-present "anxienty index", high in Germany (of course!).

Good luck with your stay there!!!!

An old Germany "veteran",

3:49 PM  

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