People often ask me what it’s like living in a different culture. It’s a difficult question. Many of the strange or different things around here are ones that were part of my initial enchantment with the new city and have since become everyday sights that I can forget to share with you.
For instance trees.
So many trees here are so old… they’re huge. This alone is awesome. But it’s also not uncommon to see things growing on trees. I walked past one (tree) the other day and thought for a brief moment “oh what a nice pine tree!” until I realized that it was a dead tree with branches haphazardly stretching everywhere; but the ivy that was growing up it formed a perfect cone shape that we associate with some types of pine trees. Whoops.
Then there’s the language. Every language has a different grammatical structure of some sort (and I’m always reminded how terrible my English grammar is when I try to learn foreign grammar). I’m beginning to learn more than just words but also how to phrase things correctly. For instance, this sign literally translated reads “Here play Children” sounds very proper but really serves the same purpose as our “Children at play” signs.
Speaking of language, I’m still learning. If you were wondering. I’ve never met so many people who speak multiple languages though, and while it seriously messes with my brain, I’ve very much enjoyed this European norm. Just this afternoon I was introduced to a young woman who spoke no English, and with my elementary German, conversation wouldn’t have been too exciting if she hadn’t been fluent in Spanish, so we just switched to that language. I absolutely didn’t expect to use my Spanish over here, and I’m pretty sure I can feel my brain doing things when I switch from German to Spanish, but it’s exciting to be able to brush up on all my languages here.
Languages are everywhere. Unlike America where something can come to Minnesota from Texas or Kentucky to California and still come from an English speaking country, most of the countries around here are the size of a big state and everyone speaks different languages. This bar of chocolate showed up in our house the other day and I have no idea what language this is. Czech? But that’s normal.
The first month or so was pretty brutal for me, but I’ve slowly been learning to speak German. One of the first moments I realized that things were coming together for me was when I finally understood this store:
I’m sure you’ll understand how this is just a bunch of gibberish on the wall. Because that’s exactly how it looked for the longest time. Suddenly one day I realized that “Kleine” means small, “Preis” means price, and “König” means king. This is the small price store. Look at me lerening all the werds. Lo and behold, it’s like a family dollar store. Cool, Germany. I’ll get this language one day.
Germany isn’t famous for phone booths and they certainly haven’t any classic red booths standing around for tourist to take pictures in. However T-Mobile is a major phone company here and T-Moblie hotspots are everywhere. Haven’t used one… but if you’re desperate, they got yo back.
This is a little late in coming, but the “Alt Stadt” or “Old City” had this big Manger scene during Advent and I thought it was cool. One thing that never ceases to amaze me is how much of Church history is still in European culture. Whether or not the country is extremely religious or no, at one point they were: and that faith shaped the traditions that are still around today. In Austria December 8th (Conception of Mary) was a national holiday, and here in Germany January 6th (feast of the 3 Kings) was a national holiday.