Expat Voices: Susan Nowak on living in Germany
Attracted by the food, clean toilets and learning another language Susan Nowak wasn't fully prepared for the intricacies of German grammar.
Name: Susan Nowak
City of residence: Lüneburg, Lower Saxony
Date of birth: 17 September 1970
Civil status: Married
Occupation: Freelance Writer
Reason for moving to Germany: Learning another language was on my “Things to do before my time is up” list and a secret fondness for Currywürst and Glühwein.
Lived in Germany for: Eight years
What was your first impression of Germany?
As I arrived in the first summer storm of 2002 my very first impression was “Those are the biggest darn hailstones I have ever seen in my life!” Closely followed by shamelessly fast drivers; even in hail the size of tennis balls, and very clean public toilets.
What do you think of the food?
I love the food, but then I do love food generally. I think that in the UK German cuisine receives bad press and vice-versa but, as with most things, it’s usually uninformed people who make decisions and comments based on what they have heard or read “somewhere”. German food is unpretentious and ‘does the job’ and that suits me down to the ground. That said, the day I drool at the thought of Eisbein I’ll know it’s time to move on out.
What do you think of the shopping in Germany?
Ah well, the supermarkets take one back a couple of decades or so. Pretty certain I’ll never get used to not having the variety and choice of the UK. I live in the countryside, which means attempt to purchase anything more exotic than a carrot and you’re struggling.
What do you appreciate about living in Germany?
An expensive but excellent health service. It’s unknown where we live not to get an appointment with your GP on the same day and I have never experienced a long waiting list, even for non-emergency treatment. Also, capable-looking police officers who have passed the age of puberty. Child-friendly shops and restaurants. Oh, I really appreciate my German husband too!
What do you find most frustrating about living in Germany?
It’s really not as bad as some of the previously mentioned uninformed people may think, but I must admit to wishing they would loosen up a little sometimes.
What puzzles you about Germany and what do you miss since you’ve moved here?
The things I miss are mostly food-related, mushy peas, pies, and crumbly cheese to name but a few. Other than people (of course) I miss very little. This is my home now and I love it. However, I do find the language frustrating.
How does the quality of life in Germany compare to the quality of life in other countries that you’ve lived in?
Of course it’s rather problematic comparing quality of life. I do enjoy living here and I can’t envision moving back to the UK. That said I did live for a while in New Zealand and well…
If you could change anything about Germany, what would it be?
The use of dative and accusative and the formal and informal forms of ‘you’. There are seven different words for ‘you’. In a nutshell, German grammar.
What advice would you give to a newcomer?
Don’t be lazy if English is your mother tongue. Most Germans are very polite and will change to English as soon as they detect an accent. It’s easy to get by, Learn the language of your country, it’s polite and you’ll know if they are trying to take the Mickey!.
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