Expat Voices: Annabelle Baptista-Baumann on living in Germany
"Germany sometimes seems like it’s holding the status quo, because it’s always been that way," says African-American Annabelle Baptista-Baumann.
Name: Annabelle Baptista-Baumann
City of residence: Dilsberg
Date of birth: 27 November 1964
Civil status: Married
Occupation: ESL Teacher
Reason for moving to Germany: My husband’s parents needed our support.
Lived in Germany for: Four years
What was your first impression of Germany?
Very green and lush. The castles made me feel like I really was living in a fairy tale.
What do you think of the food?
After eating it for almost five years, I’m not a big fan any longer. Schnitzel, Brautwurst, and even salmon seem to be the standard fare. Heavy on the pork, light on the beef, I don’t know why, they have cows, I rarely see pigs. Go figure.
What do you think of the shopping in Germany?
Living in a small community near Heidelberg, I’m afraid of shopping here for fear of seeing myself coming and going down the street. So, I stay safe by buying solid colours and simple cuts that are classic. I’m learning how to be an improvisational cook. Mexican is slowly coming to Germany, I had a Cinco de Mayo party, but good cheese that melts is non-existent in my area.
What do you appreciate about living in Germany?
The view. Germany is the most picturesque place I have ever lived in.
What do you find most frustrating about living in Germany?
The people. It’s hard because African-American culture for some German’s is new. Although my Grandmother would say, don’t let that fool you, they have cable! Some German jokes are still ethnic or sexist. We have the same jokes, but we would never say them out loud.
What puzzles you about Germany and what do you miss since you’ve moved here?
Sometimes there are some humorous clashes about what “on time” means, or when is it time to “leave”, Germans can say good-bye all night and never move an inch toward the door to actually leave.
How does the quality of life in Germany compare to the quality of life in other countries that you’ve lived in?
The quality of life is a lot higher than in an apartment in Boston; travelling by subway, sometimes not saying hello to anyone for days if you live alone. Here, there is a sense of community.
If you could change anything about Germany, what would it be?
It’s pleasant, it’s idyllic, has a natural simplicity and that is refreshing, even soothing, but I don’t want to be lulled to sleep. I want to be awake, alert. Germany sometimes seems like it’s holding the status quo, because it’s always been that way; I’m German and you’re “other”, but more and more the world is becoming a global family. I’m afraid some Germans may not enjoy having so many “relatives” on their welcome mat.
What advice would you give to a newcomer?
Get rid of all electrical appliances before you come. If you love a fairy tale you will find one. Have patience and learn how to smile and nod, and always try to say a few phrases in German. Everyone appreciates it.
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