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.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

40 Things I Learned During My First Four Months in Germany

1. I am not cut out for small-town life. At least, not for German small-town life.

2. Walking is more difficult than it looks.

3. The American health care system is really wretched compared to Western Europe’s. Not only do tons of Americans have no health insurance at all, but the quality of care is better here!

4. Hiking is fantastic fun.

5. Bike helmets really work!

6. Living in a stranger’s house is an inherently stressful activity.

7. The Autobahn is terrifying and being in a car going that fast will make you dizzy.

8. Physical therapy works.

9. Racism and prejudice against people of other religions are still socially acceptable in rural eastern Germany.

10. Being a foreigner is also an inherently stressful activity.

11. Teaching is incredibly time-consuming. (Note: I knew this already, but now I’ve experienced it first-hand!)

12. No, it’s not true that all towns and villages in Germany have public transportation!

13. While German Gymnasien may produce better-educated citizens than American high schools, they are attended by only one third of Germany’s young people. And the other two thirds have no better than a tenth-grade education! In other words, both educational systems have their flaws.

14. Germans believe that American cuisine consists solely of fast food. They also have no concept of how big and diverse our country really is-- some of them expect Michigan to have the same climate as Florida!

15. The German conception of American Indians is, frankly, silly.

16. Being liked by your coworkers is nice, but not actually necessary.

17. Germans are a lot more judgmental about infractions in unwritten social codes than Americans are. If you sweep your walkway on Sunday or put up your Christmas tree before December 23rd, you can be sure that your neighbors will gossip about you.

18. How to deal with a your boss: smile and nod a lot, offer criticism only when absolutely necessary, tow the line, keep on your toes, and vent to friends on other continents.

19. How to deal with nasty landlords: move out.

20. Seventh-graders are much easier to deal with than tenth-graders.

21. Sparkling water is actually pretty good!

22. So are Limburger cheese and sour-milk cheese aged with mold.

23. Steak tartar (raw hamburger with chopped onion and seasonings) is not as disgusting as it sounds—but I still prefer my meat cooked.

24. German washing machines are inscrutable.

25. Learning to speak a minority language is like stepping through a secret door into a whole different country.

26. I hate being called an “Ami,” but not nearly as much as I hate hearing my country referred to as “Ami-Land”!

27. Countries work better when they are not ruled by religious fanatics. (Note: Again, I already knew this, but now I’ve seen it for myself.)

28. Intelligent television is actually possible. Over here, at least.

29. I am a typical prudish American. Which is to say, I find anatomically correct garden gnomes, advertisements featuring bare buttocks painted on the sides of buses, and clips of porn on the evening news to be vulgar and unnecessary.

30. Hospitals are boring.

31. Being an “authority figure” is kind of fun.

32. School is much more enjoyable when you have a key to the teacher’s lounge!

33. But I still don’t want to teach middle school or high school on a permanent basis.

34. A technique for shushing chatty students: Look directly at them, smile, raise an eyebrow, and say “Shhh!”

35. A technique for getting kids to stay on task when they’re doing their seat work: Warn them that you’re going to call on them. Then do so.

36. Breaking your ankle is not conducive to doing linguistic fieldwork.

37. The old, regionally distinctive Sorbian dialects have pretty much died out. Unfortunately.

38. Two advantages of living in a rural area: 1. Organic fruit right off the tree! 2. Locally-produced sheep cheese!

39. Don’t judge people until you’ve seen the way they treat you when they’re not under any professional or social obligation.

40. My correct (American) shoe size is not a woman’s 6—it’s a woman’s 4 ½!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Adrienne:

Your comments and insight show that a person learns many lessons that are very different from what's expected. Thanks for sharing them.


3:12 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home