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A decade of Deutsch (Hamburg)

In exactly eight days I will have been in Hamburg for ten years. I arrived on the 31st August Protected content a 26 hour flight from Australia, tired and exhausted, but looking forward to seeing my girlfriend - who is now my wife - after an absence of six months. I could speak no German except for 'Ja, dass ist mein Pass.' and 'Wo ist das Theatre?' so I wasn't really prepared for life here, but since then I've managed to learn German and enjoy speaking it as much as English - although obviously not quite as well...

It has been quite a journey, these last ten years. I've learned a new language, gotten married, became a father, bought a Kleingarten, learned to appreciate football, travelled around many different countries in Europe, tasted a variety of different foods, established a business and aged ten years.

There have been many wonderful, as well as challenging moments during this journey. Moving to another country if you don't speak the language is a very demanding step to take, especially when your own country is far away and you cannot hop onto a plane and fly one or two hours back to the familiarity of your home. Sometimes people ask me if I get homesick anymore, but I don't - at some stage Hamburg became my home and now I can't imagine leaving it anymore.

One advantage of living in another country is that you never stop learning. Ever. A couple of weeks after I arrived we were invited to a friend's birthday party. It was Saturday evening, but her birthday was on Sunday so she was partying into her birthday as is customary here. As we walked in I wished her "Happy Birthday for tomorrow" as I would do in Australia only to hear everybody moan and groan loudly. I had no idea what I'd done until someone explained that it is bad luck to do this in Germany! I learned my lesson and have been careful ever since. More recently some friends and I went camping last year and after we had set up the tents one said 'Ganz schön trockene Luft hier' and then looked at me expectantly. I had no idea what he was talking about until he told me this meant he would like a beer!

Another memorable moment was when we bought our Kleingarten together on the Baltic Sea. As my wife introduced me to our neighbour as her husband from Australia, the first thing he said was 'Ein Garten ist viel Arbeit' not 'What's an Australian doing here in Kiel buying a Kleingarten ' but a friendly warning perhaps that Kleingartens are not places where you can simply lie around drinking Fosters and enjoying the sun, but a place where work has to be done, hedges trimmed, lawns mowed and vegetables grown!

There have been many such moments over the years, but unfortunately I can't write them all down in one post as it would be a very long one and I know you haven't got all day!

Anyway, have a good one and maybe I'll see some of you tonight at the English Stammtisch.


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