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’m a freelance technical editor–I don’t speak German as well as I would have liked to after two years in the country. I can get by in stores and restaurants, but a conversation in German about art, politics, literature, and so on is still beyond my abilities. Last week my sister sent me a large box of English books, which is a great but guilty treat for me, as I should be studying German every night!
My husband, who is Peruvian, works for a German company, but his contract expires in November so he is 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 few here and we chose a very expensive one when we first got here, which left us little money to travel, whcih is one of the greatest perks of moving abroad!
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, and my husband and I often exchange glances when they talk German, as they do it so easily and effortlessly! Of course, they need to speak German all day long in school, which actually isn’t all day long here, but that’s another story!
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 neighbour to feed our cat while we took vacation, they would not accept it period! That is just something a neighbour does for another neighbour.
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 alwasy 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 are just thrilled to correct 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.