Reverse Culture Shock

I’ve been back in the U.S. for one month and two days now and I’ve had several adjustments to make. As much as I longed to be back in the South, there were many things that I found myself complaining about when I returned.

  1. Water: When I landed in the U.S., the first thing I did was fill up my water bottle from the water fountain in the airport. After my first sip, I almost spit it out. The water tastes like chlorine. I’d heard Europeans make comments about it before, but I thought they were exaggerating. It’s true though, and I miss the German tap water. Also, I’m not comfortable drinking water straight from the tap here like I was in Germany.
  2. Public Transportation: Issa joke. I have to drive everywhere and I hate it. There are no trains (besides Amtrak) in Greensboro and the buses are supposed to come every 30 minutes, but they seem to show up whenever they feel like it. In Braunschweig, the buses and trains usually came about every 7-10 minutes depending on the route, and were always on time. Very unreliable. Also the buses smell really bad and look dirty inside. The buses in Germany were usually very clean.
  3. Recycling: It’s so much harder to recycle here, at least where I live. In Germany you’d find recycling bins (with separate bins for glass, paper, plastic) everywhere, and the bins for regular trash were very small, so it discouraged you from just dumping any and everything in them. Here, there’s just lots of huge trash cans everywhere and if you want to put something in a recycling bin, you have to hunt for them or take it home with you (if you have a recycling bin, and many don’t).
  4. Grocery Stores: They’re so huge and overwhelming in comparison to Germany. You don’t have to bring your own bags, or pack them yourself as fast as you can before the Germans get mad at you. Checking out is a much calmer experience here. In Germany it’s a race to pack your things up by the time the cashier is ready to take your money.
  5. People: I’ve heard a lot of people complain about how fake Americans are. I used to get offended, but now I understand. Everyone is very “friendly,” meaning they smile and say “Hi, how are you?” and don’t expect to hear how you are really doing. I’ve experienced lots of very over-the-top and unnecessary greetings from acquaintances (very loud “Oh my God, how are you?! I’ve missed you! It’s been forever!”). These aren’t necessarily intentionally “fake,” I think that’s just part of how we do things and what’s considered polite(?) here. It’s still very weird. And don’t even get me started the dreaded small talk. Many people are also very indirect, loud, and move extremely slow.

Germans are very direct, and I love it…sometimes. It makes things really simple when people just tell you in clear terms what they want or what they are thinking. There’s no beating around the bush with them, which saves so much time and energy. The only drawback is that sometimes (often) they will tell you things you don’t really want or care to know (unsolicited opinions and advice). They are very comfortable telling you that we Americans are stupid for electing Trump as president. My favorite comment that I received at a party was, “Well, all empires fall eventually. The British fell, and now America will fall.” I didn’t really know how to reply to that one. Also, many of them do not care at all about hurting your feelings, so don’t expect them to sugar coat anything.

6. Alcohol Laws: In most places in the U.S., you can’t just walk down the street with an open beer in hand. In Germany you can have alcohol out anywhere except for on the public transportation. The legal drinking age in Germany is 16, but they also cannot get a driver’s license until they are 18.

7. Shopping: Stores are open later here, and the sales associates can be very overbearing sometimes. In Braunschweig most shops close around 7:00PM, and almost all shops close on Sundays, except restaurants and stores in the central train station.

8. A/C: It’s always too hot outside and freezing inside. The A/C is way too cold and I have to bring my cardigan with me everywhere, even if it’s 95º F outside. Most places in Germany don’t have A/C, so when it’s hot outside they just open the windows. However, it rarely got as hot as it is here in North Carolina in Braunschweig.

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Auf Wiedersehen!

I’m going home! It has been a wonderful couple of months here in Deutschland, but it is time for me to return to the USA. I spent the last week finishing exams, moving out of my apartment and traveling between different Airbnb’s, and stuffing as much as I could manage into my suitcase.

I had to move out of my apartment on Monday, which is also when I had my last exam. To make my life somewhat easier, I checked into an Airbnb on Sunday evening so I wouldn’t have to deal with the stress of exams and moving on the same day. I ended up giving away a few things to my neighbors (I left things outside of my door, and my neighbors generously took them off my hands), and what was left (that I couldn’t bring home) had to be thrown out.

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Last view from my apartment window in Braunschweig

The room I booked was only available until Thursday, so I had to leave and check into another room much farther away. My host was an older German woman who lived in a house in a very quiet neighborhood. She was very nice, and preferred to only speak German, so I got some unplanned language practice. Unfortunately, she had a cat and I’m allergic, so that wasn’t fun. I tried to stay out of the house during the day so I could breathe normally, so I tried some different cafés and restaurants in the city.

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Typical German breakfast (from Fräulein Wunder in Braunschweig)

I also got to see some of the friends I met here in Germany before I left. We went bowling and then out to dinner at a Turkish place, where I discovered my love of Döner Boxes. Döner is a popular Turkish dish in Germany. The Döner Box has all the same ingredients, just thrown into a box with seasoned fries, and it’s only 3.50 EUR! I’m so upset that I just discovered this the same week I leave the country. My Turkish friends that I went with said they had never seen that in Turkey before, so I’m guessing it’s unique to Germany (but I hope not).

As much as I love Döner Boxes and Currywurst, I can’t wait to go home and eat tacos, lemon pepper wings (with peach drink from American Deli, obviously), brown stew chicken and rice and peas with cabbage and a Ting, beef patties, pad thai, and a million other things. Aside from the food, I’m also very excited to see my family and friends again, and have access to hair products designed for my hair texture.

This won’t be my last post, as I have a few more thoughts about my time here in Germany. I will be taking a much needed break from all things German for a little while though, so I’m not sure when that post will happen.

Bis dann!

Imani

 

General Updates

Hi there!

I’m still alive, still in school, and still in Germany. I have about one month left before it’s time to go back home to the U.S. My classes are wrapping up now, and the exam period will begin at the end of July. I’ve been using this time to hit the books, so I don’t think there will be any more exciting international trips for me. After exams, I’ll have one week in Germany with no set place to stay (my lease ends July 31), so I may do a small trip or two then, but probably somewhere within Germany.

German language progress:

I’m definitely getting better at forming coherent sentences in German, so that’s exciting. I’m in two different German classes, one for students with technical and scientific majors, and another conversational class. Both of my professors have commented on my improvement during the semester. In class, we had to retake the language placement exam that we took in the beginning of the semester, and I scored a C1, which is much better than the B2.1 that I earned the first time. (For more about what these scores mean, visit this site: http://www.goethe.de/lrn/prj/pba/bes/enindex.htm. ) Also, I just finished my first 300 page German novel: “Hirschluder” by Christian Oehlschläger. It took me a while (2 months), but it definitely improved my vocabulary. I’ve also been watching an Austrian show on Netflix called “Vorstadtweiber” or “Suburbia – Women on the Edge” that’s been really entertaining and has also exposed me to some more differences between Standard German and Austrian German.

 

 

 

Amsterdam

A few weeks ago my university shut down for Excursion Week.  Most students take this week as a chance to travel to different cities across Europe. There are also professors who organize educational excursions to different cities to visit different companies. I chose to use this time to do some studying and take a short trip to Amsterdam. Continue reading

Berlin

I recently took a weekend trip to Berlin to meet my aunt, who came to visit for a few days. Last time I travelled to Berlin, I made the mistake of taking the train. Everyone here in Braunschweig laughed when I told them this, and informed me that the bus is much cheaper. This time I took a Flixbus, which is essentially a much nicer version of the Greyhound. It took about three hours to get to the Berlin central bus station. From there, I walked to the nearest subway station and took a train to the nearest stop to the hotel I was meeting my aunt (Shout out to me for not getting totally lost because we all know how directionally challenged I am). I even found a San Franciscan (?) burrito place nearby, where I got three soft tacos. I’ve been craving tacos for the longest, and there are none to be found in my little town here in Niedersachsen (Lower Saxony). I’ve actually had people here tell me they’ve never had tacos before!

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Berlin Wall

I did a lot of exploring in Berlin, mostly on foot. My poor feet have experienced so many painful moments during my time here in Germany. From our hotel we walked to (and through) the Tiergarten, and ended up at the Brandenburg Gate.

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Berlin Wall

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Brandenburg Gate

From there we kept walking until we ran into an outdoor art market and the Berliner Dom. Then we walked to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, which is a very interesting and moving place. Our next stop was the East Side Gallery, which is the a 1316 m long portion of the Berlin Wall.

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Berliner Dom

 

Berlin was amazing, and I am so grateful for my wonderful Aunty Natasha, who fed me and hosted me in her hotel during my visit! Also shout out to Simone, who was my travel partner during this trip!

Tot de volgende keer,

Imani


Thank you for reading my blog! If you enjoy reading about my experiences here in Germany and in Europe, please consider donating to my PayPal or GoFundMe. Feel free to also send me your mailing address if you’d like a post card from me!

Hamburg

Hamburg is the second largest city in Germany, and is located in the northern part of the country closer to the coast. A friend of mine recently invited me to go with her and one of her friends for a day trip and tour of the city. It’s is about 3 hours away from Braunschweig, and with our student ID’s we can get there for free. The catch is that we can only take regional transportation within our state, so we had to take about 4 different trains to get there. Nonetheless, I’m always down for a free trip and I’d heard how beautiful Hamburg was, so I was excited.

 

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My friends and I in Hamburg

My friends had registered us for a free tour of the city, and we had about 20 minutes to get from the train station to the meeting point after we arrived in Hamburg. Unfortunately, we spent about 10 minutes looking for the bathroom, which had the longest line ever. We ended up having to speed walk/sprint to the meeting spot, which was 15 minutes from the station. Luckily, they were still there when we arrived.

 

Hamburg seemed like it would be a beautiful place on a warm and sunny day, but unfortunately that was not the day we visited. It was cold, wet, and slightly miserable. The pictures I took were during the few times the sun did peak out for about five minutes. We did have a very good tour guide, and it was free, so I’m not complaining.

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Elbe Philharmonic Hall


Thank you for reading my blog. If you enjoy reading about my experiences here in Germany and in Europe, please consider donating to my PayPal or GoFundMe. Feel free to also send me your mailing address if you’d like a post card from me!

American Culture?

Many of the other international students and German students here have told me that they learned all about American culture by watching different movies and TV shows, such as Friends, The Big Bang Theory, and Star Trek, to name a few.

 

Just glancing at these cast images, the first thing I notice is the lack of Black people, with the exception of Geordi La Forge in Star Trek TNG. The actor who played Worf  (Michael Dorn) is black, but Worf is a Klingon, which is an alien species characterized as being uncivilized, violent warriors. The other shows are mainly set in New York or California and feature all white casts. As a black girl raised in the South and born to Caribbean parents, these shows represent an American culture that I’ve never experienced.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what American culture even is, and I feel like the U.S. is way too massive for such a label. The culture in the South is different than the North, the West is different from the East, and there are even further differences within each region.

Shows that I would recommend for people interested in learning about different cultures in the U.S. typically overlooked by Hollywood include Black-ish, Queen SugarInsecure, Atlanta, Living SingleThe Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Living Single, Girlfriends, Martin, etc. I think what’s interesting about these shows is how they’re all set in very different parts of the U.S., and therefore the experiences shown are very diverse. For example, Queen Sugar, which is set in Louisiana, deals with completely different issues than shows like Atlanta, set in Atlanta, Georgia (obviously), or Insecure, which is set in Los Angeles, California. There are many other shows as well, these are just a few of my favorites.