InterNations Featured Blog
Jenni: Kangaroos in Deutschland
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Germany, etc.
I’m Jenni, I’m a German and ESL teacher from Melbourne, Australia, and I moved to Berlin in 2007 as part of a language teaching exchange.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I used to mass-email family and friends during a year in Germany in 2004, but a friend of mine told me about her blog in 2006 and I decided to try this out as an alternative to mass-emailing in 2007 when I moved to Berlin.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
I have a few favorite blog entries. “Blue and Gold Addiction” still makes me laugh. Two of my travel pieces – one on Albania and one on New York – are entries I’m particularly fond of, as both of them take me back to the emotions I experienced in that moment at those places. However the entry “Untitled” is without a doubt the most personal entry I have written, and possibly the one I am most proud of as it is eloquent and expressive despite it describing and having been written during an intensely painful time in my life.
Tell us about the ways your new life in Germany differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
My background is unusual, in that I had already lived in Germany twice before I moved to Berlin – once as a high-school exchange student in 1998, and once with a language teaching program in rural Germany in 2004. I had also travelled around the country several times and had an extensive knowledge of the culture and the language, so I didn’t experience culture shock nearly as much as others would have. The major difference is the physical distance between my family and I. We are very close, and at home I would have daily contact with them, but here contact is limited to webcam chats, email and text message, all of which are invaluable, and in Berlin my close friends have become a substitute family. There are still things that I miss from home. Some of them just aren’t available in Berlin, or cannot be transported – watching the sunset over Port Philip Bay, some Australian foods, and going to an AFL game at the MCG. Others I can recreate here, and even pass on to other expats – the TimTam Slam, watching the Grand Final at 6am in a sports bar with Australian backpackers, and celebrating Australia day with homemade sausage rolls and an Australian movie marathon… in the middle of winter.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Germany? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
You can never be fully prepared, as you are going into a completely new experience, but I feel I much better prepared than others in my situation due to my previous experience in Germany. My advice would be to contact everyone in your family, work and social networks – there’ll be at least one person who knows someone with a connection in your destination, and this can be an incredible help at the start; just having a phone number you can call if you really need to, even if you never use it.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
My work provides a never-ending stream of anecdotes. I work at a language school, usually on reception, on a very busy thoroughfare, and we get our share of crazy people. One summer night a few years ago, a disheveled older lady came in carrying various fully-laden dirty shopping bags and asked me in German with a thick Berlin accent to help her to find accommodation for the King and Queen of England for 2000EUR per night, and what sightseeing I could recommend. After a few more goes of telling her we were not the right people to ask, I told her that the Queen and King would enjoy a stay at the “very expensive place” near the Brandenburg Gate; she thanked me, wrote this down in her notebook and left the building in the direction of said establishment.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Germany?
Number one with a bullet is to put some effort into learning German. German and English are linguistic cousins, which makes the language a lot easier to learn than most people think, and also than many other languages. Granted, the grammar is difficult, but learning even just the basics of the language opens the door into German culture and really does make your stay more enjoyable! This will also help you with my second tip, which is to go out of your way to get to know locals. They know the city like you know your home city and are an excellent source of information on where to go. Number three is to travel. If you’re like most expats, your visit is temporary, so use long weekends to discover the surrounding area.
How is the expat community in Germany? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
I can’t speak for Germany, but the English-speaking expat community in Berlin is large, very active and from a wide range of social and employment backgrounds, which means that there is always someone you can ask for help or advice, to participate in activities with or to have a drink with – you just have to put yourself out there.
How would you summarize your expat life in Germany in a single, catchy sentence?
I used to imagine that living in Berlin would be great, but I never imagined it would be the best time of my life!