Sunday, 15 September 2013

Blog Post Numero Uno (or should that be Nummer Eins?)

Here, by popular demand (well, one person's demand!), is a blog to document my Third Year Abroad - exciting times! Hopefully I will have lots of thrilling adventures to make this a worthwhile read.

My farewell cake! 

So, this time last week I had just waved a teary goodbye to sunny (ahem) Britain, and embarked on the first leg of my journey abroad. If I had to sum up the week in one word, it would be this: surreal!

So many things have happened this week that have been way out of my comfort zone that it's hard to know which way is up sometimes! I think I've been incredibly lucky, though, to have encountered so many people who seem to understand my situation and who are doing everything they can to make me feel welcome. I know not everyone gets this, so I'm definitely counting my blessings right now.

A lot has happened this week, so I won't write about everything, but I'll just give a summary of the main events which will hopefully be interesting. Here goes:

I arrived in Brussels and immediately failed at using the metro (I had to awkwardly ask a stranger to pass my ticket through the barrier, as I'd left it behind). Not a great start! But I managed to find my hostel and met two lovely girls in the shared room, one of whom actually went to the same school and college as me. What a small world!

On Monday I arrived in Cologne for the induction course, which was extremely surreal, as everyone was an English native-speaker, and a couple of others from Bristol were there, so it didn't really feel like we were in Germany - it sort of just felt like a holiday! I didn't really know what to expect, but actually really enjoyed myself, and met lots of other people in the same boat as me, which was definitely reassuring.

My year abroad sort-of-officially began on Thursday, when I arrived in Lemgo and was greeted by the amazing Herr Knepper from the school, who sat me down in front of some food and then frog-marched me to the bank and argued in German with the person setting up my account over my student status (if you're a student, you don't have to pay a sign-up fee, and apparently I count as a student, even though I'm not studying in Germany...), for which I was incredibly grateful. I probably could have worked it out myself if I'd been concentrating, but I was so exhausted from the long journey and early start that I just let everything wash over my head. Afterwards, I was given a brief tour of Lemgo by Herr Knepper's son. It's such a pretty town! I doubt I really took in that much of it at the time, but I'm definitely looking forward to getting to know it better. And I did manage to take a couple of pictures of this really cool mini library that I found! How awesome is this???

It's a tiny library in a phone box! So adorable. I will definitely have to make use of it while I'm here.

Anyway, that evening I moved into the Wohnung that I'm renting (thankfully organised by the school - so so grateful!). It's a little granny flat downstairs from a family, who are incredibly nice! They even offered me tea when I first got there. Amazing! I do have trouble understanding them though. Obviously, they all know each other really well, and the two daughters are teenagers, so they speak very quickly with lots of slang that I don't understand. Bit embarrassing that I have to ask them to repeat everything they say. But I'm sure that will get better with time (I hope so, anyway!).

Now, onto the scary bit - the actual teaching. On Friday I went into the school - I'm spending six months as an English language teaching assistant in a secondary school, in case I didn't make that clear before - and was given a tour and met a few of the teachers. Needless to say, I instantly forgot every single name and how to get around the school, but I'm sure I'll work that out as I go along. I also had to stand up in front of a class of 17-year-olds and talk about myself, then answer their questions. I don't think I'll ever get used to standing up in front of a class - it's terrifying! But the actual talking part wasn't too bad, since I just have to speak English, which is something I can actually do. Every cloud...

Yesterday (Saturday) was full of new experiences, but not the ones I'd expected! In the morning I made honey. I kid you not. The family who live upstairs keep bees, and have an adorable Lädchen (little shop) behind the garage for people to buy honey from. So cute! I had to wear one of those bee-keeping suits complete with hat, and once we'd got the honey things (technical term, anyone?) out of the bee boxes (you can tell I know what I'm talking about), we had to melt the slabs of wax with a sort of industrial hair dryer, before putting them into a sort of sideways washing-machine-esque contraption, and spin it to extract the honey. It was a lot of fun, but extremely sticky! (I learnt a new word - "Es klebt!") In the evening, I was invited to Herr Knepper's 60th birthday party. I was actually quite apprehensive beforehand at the thought of meeting dozens of middle-aged Germans who all knew each other, but it was actually a lot of fun. I discovered that it is definitely a lot easier to speak German in a party situation, with dim lights, background noise and a glass of wine in your hand! I spoke to quite a few people who told me I had no accent when speaking German, which was clearly shameless flattery, but quite nice to hear nonetheless.

This morning, I went to Gemeinde am Grasweg, which is a church on the other side of the city. I understood almost nothing that was said (embarrassing!), but afterwards, I was greeted by a lovely elderly lady, who, on hearing that it was my first time there, and that I'd only been in Lemgo 3 days, insisted on inviting me out to lunch with her and her husband. She was so so friendly and so nice that it made me feel quite emotional!

All in all, I think this week has gone a lot better than expected. I didn't burst into tears in public once (despite being very close on more than one occasion), which I count as quite an achievement!

So far, I have found a lot of things to be quite similar. However, there are a few things that are subtly different. I will definitely have to get used to:

  • Sparkling water (It's everywhere.....)
  • Early mornings (School starts at 7:40... WHY???)
  • Mayonnaise on everything!
  • Sundays (Everything is shut. I'm sure that'll take some getting used to!)
  • Coffee cream
  • Handshaking (So much handshaking...)
  • Bottle clinking (I'm told they clink the bottom of the bottle instead of the top! Potential-for-minorly-awkward-situation-alert.)
And finally, my paralysing inability to make any kind of small talk! Seriously, when I was being introduced to teachers at the school, it suddenly occurred to me that I had no idea what to say, and just shook everyone's hand and grinned like a crazed cheshire cat, hoping that would count as being polite. Why don't they teach us that in school? I know how to debate about Arbeitslosigkeit and Atomkraft, but don't even know how to say 'nice to meet you', so in social situations (at least at first, before I know people well enough to start a debate on Abtreibung) I'm completely useless! Oh well. I suppose that will improve with time.

Anyway, thus concludeth the first week of my year abroad, and with it my first blog post.

Bring on the rest of the year!
Bis Bald.

Edit: I would also like to add the MASSIVE SQUARE PILLOWS to the list of strange things about Germany. Seriously, what's the deal with those???


  1. Totally not stalking you... but this is a great blog, and so weird to read about all my old haunts in lovely little Lemgo! Have a fantastic time over there - Viel Spaß!!
    With love from your Predecessor,

    1. Haha! no worries! Thanks for the encouragement :) I'm sure loads of my experiences will be quite reminiscent of yours!

  2. MY popular demand. XD Thanks so much for starting this blog, it is awesome to read about what's going on with you, and all your new experiences, and all the things that are different in Germany. I remember about that Sunday shops thing from when we last went as a family, so weird how used everyone in Britain has got to them being open on Sundays, a few decades ago Britain would have been just the same as Germany in that regard.

    We all miss you loads. :( Yesterday Benny did something REALLY cute, he was in bed and wanted a drink so he stuck his head straight through the bedding to reach the water bottle and it wrapped around his head, it was like a person sticking their head out from under a pillow! I got a picture, it was a little blurry but I'll try and put it on fb for you.