I’ve just begun my research year abroad in Germany. It’s been about a week and a half, and it’s been a period of mostly highs and…well, not exactly lows, but let’s just say humbling experiences.
My German speaking and German hearing are far from awesome. In fact, I always warn Germans I encounter with my standard opening line, “Entschuldigen, mein Deutsch-sprechen ist nicht so gut,” which translates to “Excuse me/I’m sorry, my German speaking is not so good.” They always say, “Nein, es ist gut!” They’re very kind and I don’t believe them, of course. The folks I’ve met at the library and in the town of Wolfenbüttel in the Lower Saxony region have been super helpful and, oddly enough, quite funny. I think jokes about German humor are definitely not applicable here, because I’ve had a laugh with almost every single local I’ve met. One thing though, I’m hesitant to pet their dogs. Do Germans care if strangers come running up to their puppies? I have no idea, but I’m tempted every time I see a dog.
About those humbling experiences… two days ago I did laundry. Yes, seemingly an easy thing to do with a washer and dryer. Well, not so easy when you don’t have the full capacity of the language. Now I understand how my mom feels in America. I had to look up the words imprinted on the washer to determine which was the most appropriate cycle. For instance, the word “Fein/Wolle” is simple enough — “fine/wool,” but I couldn’t even begin to guess the meaning of the word “Pflegeleicht”. Even after I punched it into my App on the iPhone (“oh, it means ‘easy-care’, okay”), I’m still left wondering, “Wait, does that mean I can combine jeans and knits together? What does Schnell/Mixt mean? How do I wash only in cold?” So confusing. So basically I stared at the washer, willing it to give me answers for a good twenty minutes, hoping somebody would wander by to help me.
Everyday comes with a challenge. But once I’m able to overcome a few more challenges, I’ll really be ready to do some washing!
Of course I’ve found some good food. What’s the point of traveling when you don’t eat well? Even in the small town of Wolfenbüttel, there are some very good Italian (Sicilian to be exact) cucina. It’s so good that I went to the same Italian restaurant twice in one week, and ate enough burrata for the month.