Thursday, 14 July 2016

Year Abroad Series: 5 Misconceptions About Germany

Hello Lieben!

This post was written because I feel like (British) people have A LOT of preconceptions about Germany and I myself arrived on my Year Abroad with a few of these preconceptions which were quickly proven to be wrong.

  1. German Punctuality

Anyone who has ever had to take a train with Deutsche Bahn will get this without any further explanation. In all my time in Germany, I have never got a train that has been punctual. It may well start okay, but somewhere along the line your arrival time steadily creeps towards the next hour and you’ll find yourself dealing with multiple announcements apologising for the delay. Annoyingly, this is where knowing German comes in really handy, because the German announcement will always give the reason for the delay and will give you information about your onward journey, but the English announcement will just be a sorry with about as much feeling as a wet flannel.

Note: if you do find yourself in this situation, you can just go to the information desk and they stamp your ticket allowing you to get to your destination using any means possible, even if that means taking a train that was more expensive than the one you originally booked.

  1. Technological Development

Germany is home to massive car and tech businesses, and because of this I came here expecting a futuristic way of living where the underground trains were actual hovers and bank notes were a thing of the past and everybody was paying with “credits” scanned through their wrist (okay maybe I didn’t go this far).

Anyway, Germany is a country where bank notes are very much IN - if you go to a restaurant, always take enough cash with you, because even if they do miraculously have a card machine, waiters will often act as if this is the most difficult thing you could have possibly done as a customer.

Another problem I have: wi-fi. In the UK, all you have to do is walk past a shop and you’ll pick up their Cloud wi-fi for free, and everywhere on campus the wi-fi is easily accessible. This is sadly not the case in Germany. The wi-fi on campus is patchy at best, and elsewhere in the city it is only to be found in a select few coffeshops. I don’t even have wi-fi in my student accommodation, which is why I’ve found it so hard to bookstagram whilst in Germany; it’s not so easy to socialise with other users and casually browse my feed.

  1. English Abilities

One of the most annoying things I am often asked is “why do you study German?” (often by Germans which is even more irritating) because what usually goes unsaid is “everyone speaks English”. People in Germany start learning English from quite a young age and also have a massive range of resources available for their language learning - music, TV, films, books - so yes, it’s common for people to have English skills, especially in big international cities like Frankfurt and Berlin. But the place where I’m from is in former East Germany, and the population is quite old - most of them learnt Russian at school rather than English, and it appears to me that unless students are studying English at university, there’s not much learning the language beyond school. This came as quite a shock for me, because I had always thought that if I was ever struggling to understand something I could always resort to English if I absolutely had to. On the plus side, this really helps your German rapidly develop.

  1. The language is HARSH and ANGRY

Speaking of the German language, let’s just get rid of that harsh and angry stereotype, yeah? German has what us linguists call complex syllables, so you’ll often find a lot of consonants squished together, and as a general rule of thumb, you pronounce all of the consonants you see in a word - silent letters aren’t really a thing. For this reason, people are under the impression that German is quite a harsh sounding language and is also spoken angrily - a classic example: those memes with words like "hospital" and "butterfly" in several different languages and then at the bottom, in capitals, in German. When people try to tell me the words of German they’ve learnt, they always shout them at me, and find it hilarious when they spit out “I drink orange juice” obnoxiously loudly. To this there is only one response: any language will sound angry if you shout it. Also, German soldiers represented in Hollywood films are not exactly the portrayal you should be judging a whole country and its language off. Just saying.

  1. Lederhosen Lovers

Not everyone in Germany wears lederhosen or a dirndl (the classic buxom barmaid dress). It’s not your everyday wear, and it’s also a Bavarian thing. People outside of Germany have an annoying tendency to ascribe Bavarian qualities to the entirety of Germany - the massive variety of beers, the pretzels the size of your head, lederhosen, Conservativism, snobbery... and it’s just not the case. I will concede, however, that the diet of sausages and potatoes isn’t entirely a misconception.

Have you ever been to Germany and had your preconceptions disproved? I’d love to hear about them! Let me know in the comments below.

Previous Posts in the Year Abroad Series

Love to you all!