You don’t need to live in a big city to have it all. Annabelle Baptista writes a love letter about small town life in Germany.
Small towns in Germany have their hands full trying to live down the stereotype of being – well – small, and limited in offerings. A friend once told me I should be happy I married a man who wasn’t from a small town. I imagine he thought I would either (1) feel like a fish out of water, or (2) spend my days cataloguing my spice cabinet.
When we moved from Heidelberg to Neckargemuend, many who visited said, “You live where the hase (rabbit) and igel (hedgehog) say goodnight,” using the well-worn phrase for deadly boring. While I loved our new house, mentally I prepared myself to be buried.
Small towns, big surprises
However, to my surprise, small towns aren’t the tombs many believe them to be. Neckargemuend, population 14,335, has an active band scene that meets in the Jugenntreff hall, usually Friday or Saturday night, at least three times a month. There is a well-equipped gym in Bammental, as well as a racquetball and miniature golf course ten minutes away in Wiesenbach.
Neckargemuend, though small, has several good restaurants, an African art gallery, an Indian jewelry shop, and a neighborhood coffee shop. It’s a small but eclectic scene, far from the closed-minded, backward places of folklore some still imagine.
The neighbourhood is very multicultural. The neighbour across the street even co-starred in a cooking show, and the whole town was abuzz watching the camera crew that blocked our street. I have met a published author, singers, and the mayor, as well as area and regional soccer players.
No – it is not Berlin – but small towns can hold very interesting people.
Tips for settling into a small town
So, what should you do if you are going to move to a small town? When you move in, why not invite your neighbours over? Start small; invite the neighbour who always seems out- and-about, or the neighbour you would ask to get your mail when you’re away. I have learned that in Germany no one seems able to resist dessert and a cup of coffee.
Moreover, don’t let a limited German vocabulary dampen your enthusiasm. Most people will meet you halfway when it comes to communicating. Learn set phrases like “Schön, Sie kennen zu lernen.” (Nice to meet you). This phrase ranks right up there with hello, goodbye, and hand gestures.
If your town has a Volkhockschule (adult school), why not take an aerobics class? Be confident and just follow the others until you learn the people and the routine.
The web, though worldwide, is also local. I joined www.babbel.com to improve my German through an online language exchange, and one of the people who responded lives in Meckesheim, a mere ten minutes away.
Small towns are a concentrated microcosm and each one is unique. So get out, explore, and open yourself up for an adventure.