I just got back from a trip to a town north of Frankfurt…what a long trip! Last night I had a long talk about German culture with Matthias and I had a very good cry in the midst of our conversation. The good news is I am moving from a tourist mindset to a resident mindset. It seems we will be living here in Germany for at least a year, possibly up to two and a half years before heading to Japan. That means I really have to learn another culture, way of thinking, and language ALL OVER AGAIN! It’s a bit exhausting thinking about it and it’s been humbling to realize that even though I have been trying so hard to adapt here in Germany, I have made a lot of mistakes and social “faux pas” type of things during my three weeks here. I had a long talk with Matthias about the many things I have done that are not very polite (i.e. offensive!) in German culture. Thankfully he was very gentle with me but I did cry a bit knowing the long road ahead of me and knowing I’ve offended people I really care about. I am sure it’ll be something good for me and if I can one day become a tri-cultural person I’m sure I’ll be the better for it.
It’s so easy (and so wrong) to assume that German culture is “almost the same” as American culture. The longer I am here the more I realize that the two cultures are REALLY different! Of course, they are not as different as Japan and the U.S. but they are soooo different. I think I’ll write my next blog entry about more of the cultural differences I’ve noticed in my short time here and others that I have been told about.
A huge one is GEMÜTLICHKEIT. Wilkipedia says: Gemütlichkeit connotes the notion of belonging, social acceptance, cheerfulness, the absence of anything hectic and the opportunity to spend quality time. (In many ways, this feels very un-American to me!)
A small one is: when you eat, fork is in your LEFT hand and knife in the RIGHT! It was very awkward to switch sides and I feel like a two-year old trying to get food into my mouth with my left hand but hopefully it will get easier.