Since moving to Germany to start my year abroad just under two months ago, I have been consistently pleasantly surprised by every day I spend here. As a student of German and Spanish, spending time abroad to improve my language skills in an authentic setting is the crux of my degree and I am grateful to be still able to complete my Professional Training Year during such a strange year!
In a year of surprises, I wanted to share three things that surprised me during my first months in Bamberg, where I am studying for one semester at the Otto-Friedrich University.
1. Culture shock
This is something that I thought would affect me more when moving abroad than it did. I recognise that this is not the same for everyone, and perhaps if I were in a country further away from home, I would have experienced culture shock, but my overall transition to life in Germany was as smooth as I could have hoped for and I feel well-integrated.
Things are different, but not necessarily worse or better, and recognising this helped me remember that I am lucky to have the opportunity to experience new cultures and live in a different country, even when things are different or difficult. Difficulties include living without home comforts like Yorkshire puddings or crumpets!
2. Language fatigue
Immersion in the target language is important, but that’s not to say it isn’t tiring. The first few weeks were linguistically challenging – going from not using German very much to speaking German all day was tough! For me, this sudden immersion was intense and mentally quite tiring. At the end of each day, it was nice to call loved ones at home and give my brain a break from German!
Difficult though it may have originally been, with hindsight I believe being thrown in the deep end like this is the best way to improve, although it’s not something you can really prepare for. I’ve been here less than two months, but I already feel my German has come on leaps and bounds – constantly using and being exposed to the language works wonders.
3. German stereotypes
We all know the stereotypes surrounding Germans – mostly famed for being punctual and direct – and so far, I have found such stereotypes to actually be largely true. Every bus I have got on here has been on time (a luxury I am not used to in England!).
Being direct and ‘to the point’ is seen as very German. Germans are not lovers of small talk like we are! Their direct way of communicating saves time and is something that I find I surprisingly quite enjoy. As much as I enjoy a polite British conversation about the weather, cracking on with things that need doing and getting straight to the point of the conversation is quite refreshing!
My first two months here in Bamberg have been wonderful, and I hope to continue being pleasantly surprised by new experiences as time goes on.