Expat Voices: Jean Jourdan on living in Leer, Germany
South African expat Jean Jourdan appreciates feeling safe in Germany, but finds the attitude of "know it all" hard to handle and would like to create facilities to barbecue in public parks.
Name: Jean Jourdan
Nationality: South African
Country of residence: Germany
Lived in Germany: 9 years
City/town of residence: Leer (Ostfriesland)
Date of birth: 1956-4-29
Civil status: Married
Reason for moving to your new country of residence
High crime rate, lack of work
What was your first impression of your new country of residence?
Rain, cold. The grey city was smelly, streets looked grey and dirty, people spitting, everything was negative, because I had not wanted to leave South Africa. Everything built so close together, no mountains, no free space, everyone busy and not exactly happy. And, yet, people were helpful in solving our immediate problems of accommodation, food and medical needs.
What do you think of the food?
Too much fatty, greasy gravy, too many sausages, too much bread, too little fresh fruit and vegetables. No variety in the line of cakes, expecially too much yeast baked cakes. Decent indian food is very rare.
What do you think of the shopping?
Nice pedestrian malls in the city centre. Large supermarkets too far away. Too many clothing shops and hairdressers.
What do you appreciate about living in your new country of residence?
The "Ruhezeit". Peace and quiet over midday and especially on Sundays. Also nice to have quiet after 10pm at night. The very well disciplined way of driving so that traffic flows smoothly. Excellent cycle paths. Nice parks to walk through and switch off. Mostly good public transport. And, being safe, being able to leave doors and windows open to air without having burglar bars etc.
What do you find most frustrating about living in your new country of residence?
Bureaucracy. The weather. The lack of understanding when one uses the incorrect word. Job market: having to have the suitable qualification papers for each and every job. The absolute obsession with cleanliness, too much disinfection. The german attitude of "I know it all" and the harsh way they speak to one (although it is only non-germans who perceive it as such).
What puzzles you the most and what do you miss the most since you've moved here?
I miss warm weather, sunshine and blue seas and mountains. Lack of outdoor life in garden and nature partly due to lousy weather and lack of facilities. I still imagine that people tend to smoke and drink a lot here.
How does the quality of life here compare to the quality of life in other countries that you've lived in?
Germany has a high standard of living, but leisure time can be expensive. Having a garden is a plus. I like the strict drinking and driving laws. Good road and transport systems.
If you could change anything about your new country of residence, what would it be?
Create facilities to barbecue/grill in public parks. More spots that have a shelter in case of the weather being wetter than wished. A personal identification card system with fingerprint for all foreigners.
What advice would you give to a newcomer?
Come with an open mind, be willing to adapt and accept. Knowing some of the language is very useful, as even now, many cannot speak or understand English. Join a sport club or leisure group. If at all possible, see that you already have a driver´s licence and, upon arrival, initiate getting a german driver´s licence.
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