An expat’s efforts to expand her network of German friends and deepen her friendships remain frustrated by the slow progression she is making with the German language, but with a little help from her children, she is getting there.
Because I work from home, I don’t speak German as well as I would like to after two years here. I can get by in stores and restaurants, sure. But when it comes to a conversation in German about art, politics, literature, and so on, that’s beyond my abilities. Last week my sister sent me a large box of English books. It’s a great but guilty treat for me, as I should be studying German every night!
My husband works for a German company, but his contract expires in November; he’s madly looking for other work in Germany. Our family just rented a wonderful house in a small village outside Bamberg. We didn’t intend to move twice within two years, but rental houses are sparse here. We chose a very expensive one when we arrived, which left us little money to travel.
Making friends speaking little German
Although we have met so many wonderful people, I still feel at a loss because of my broken German. Our children, aged 10 and 12, have been fluent for a while now. My husband and I exchange glances when they talk German, as they do it effortlessly! Of course, they need to speak German all day long in school.
Once a friend, always a friend
Germans have a reputation for being cold and standoffish, but we have learned that one must merely work a bit harder to get to the warm and generous German heart. For example, I was initially dismayed to be ignored on the street when passing by another person, but I have discovered that if I say hello first, I always get a warm (and sometimes surprised) hello back.
And once a German is your friend, he or she is loyal and available. In America, we tend to use money as the only currency, but when we tried to pay a neighbor to feed our cat while we took vacation, they would not accept it period! That is just something a neighbor does for another neighbor.
With a little help from our kids
We were recently invited to join a few families (through our children, of course) for a Friday evening get-together at the local beer garden. As I sat around the large table of happy, laughing adults—the kids had their own space upstairs—I couldn’t help but feel somewhat envious of their obviously easy and long-time friendships. When we first left America, before moving to Germany, my husband and I both longed to make more friends. We tried to develop friendships with people wherever we lived, but everyone always seemed so busy. Here, time with family and friends is a large part of the culture. I find that my new German friends are very patient with me as I struggle with the language. Plus, our kids love correcting us!
A big plus point to living in Germany is that the people spend a lot of time outdoors, hiking and bike-riding, both of which are beloved activities here. Although it is still hard to get the kids away from their electronics, even here!
Whatever happens, these two years have been a wonderful addition to my life, and they have enriched our children in ways that they cannot yet start to appreciate.