Top Ten Things I’ve Learned Living in Germany

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It’s hard to believe a year has passed since I took the leap of faith and moved to Germany to marry my wife, Corinna and to dedicate more time to my artwork. However, yesterday marked my first year living abroad (actually, today if I follow German time because I arrived a day later than I left the US).

It has been quite a year, not totally according to plan, but as Matthew McConaughey said at the end of the movie, Reign of Fire, “Life sure has a funny way of turning out different, don’t it?” As I reflect on the past year and write my top ten, I’m wondering … if life always turned out the way we wanted it, would it be life anymore? And would it be as exciting?

Okay, here’s my Top Ten …

10. Chocolate is just better over here. Please accept that everyone. In fact, when I travel to the US, I bring a nice stash of German chocolate with me (74-85% dark; hey, I have to watch my boyish figure).

9. There is American Reality, and then there is reality. Don’t get me wrong, I love my homeland as much as any other American, but I think the above observation (#9) rang true when my German dentist recently said to me, “You guys don’t really have news over there, just entertainment.”

8. The German language is beautiful but was engineered to be unlearnable, except through native processSo I’m just trying to be as fluent as I can. In my mind, I see the German language as a giant china shop with an incomprehensible maze running through it; my best hope is to try and walk around without getting lost or breaking anything expensive.

7. America is not so much a “Land of Plenty” as it is a “Land of Land.” Until an American lives abroad in Europe, I’m not sure he or she may truly appreciate this. When my wife asks me, What do you miss? My first answer, after loved ones and old friends, is the lonely, vast, American Highways. In fact, I wrote a song with just that title, and hope to record it this year.

6. Germans love Hollywood! But Hollywood loves Hollywood, too. I get a real hoot out of watching my favorite films in German every night, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised how many Hollywood films are shown. But when you live in a small city in Europe where people lose it over a good street artist, it suddenly hits you that Hollywood contributes more than it may think to its own fame. And fame to me now … just seems more like … fame.

5. People over here don’t care about what you do, or even what you wear, just how well you smile. In my time in Germany, and in my travels around Europe so far, I’ve noticed that people are so polite and smile back more. For example, in Germany, when you leave any place, even a fitness studio locker room, complete strangers yell, “Tschuess!” (roughly translated as cheers). And today, I almost accidentally ran into someone with my bike. Through the last second of braking and a desperate final evasive maneuver, the woman just kept smiling.

4. Germans and many Europeans are virtual heroes at never drinking water or going to the bathroom. It is amazing, and that’s that. Ironically, I don’t seem to miss being served water or being able to find a bathroom.

3. Many Americans probably have a doppelganger in Europe. It is downright creepy but scientifically explainable. After all, unless someone from the US is Native American, there is a good chance that his or her roots trace back to Europe. But … still … can we say, Weird? I keep seeing American actors, musicians, politicians, even old friends, and so on, everywhere I go. I was even told recently that I have a doppelganger in Lueneburg. Kind of makes me a little scared to walk around.

2. Germans REALLY know how to party! On New Year’s Eve, if I were a blind man, I would have sought cover. The reverberating explosions, like live rounds, banging and shoving unapologetically through the streets, were fascinating. And the constant, blooming, panoramic rockets … it was as if everyone bought fireworks all year round, filled up their houses with them, then launched them off simultaneously from their balconies and street corners. We turned on the TV and other cities were doing the same thing, only on a far bigger level, with more fireworks (which seemed unthinkable) and with DJs and light shows that one would have to witness to believe. What a blast!

1. Retired German men and women pass you on their bikes going uphill during a snow storm. Whenever I’m feeling lazy, I just look outside and watch them doing a pre-workout stretch in the snow … kind of puts things in perspective, doesn’t it? I wanted to live longer to try and write that great book. I guess I moved to the right place! And one of these days I’m going to catch this old man who always passes me uphill … the one who looks like my grandfather.

One of these days …

Yours in leaps of faith,

J.G.C.

 

 

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7 thoughts on “Top Ten Things I’ve Learned Living in Germany

  1. Cindi Neisinger January 8, 2016 / 9:01 pm

    Jesse,
    I don’t think I will ever make it to Germany so … Thanks for sharing. Best, Cindi

  2. XunairaJ January 8, 2016 / 9:57 pm

    CHOCOLATE!! I want some of that!!

    I loved your blog post about Germany. I was in my undergraduate when we were offered German Language as one of the courses. It was fun to study and what was more fun was the fact that it was really close to my native language, that is Urdu.

    So, if you know Arabic or Urdu, you can grasp it quicker but in the end, it ruins your English pretty much. It did that for me. I started pronunciating my English in the German way.. haha!!

    Anyways, I loved to see Germany from your eyes. Great blog post indeed.

    • Jesse Giles Christiansen January 8, 2016 / 10:10 pm

      Thanks, Xunaira! German is fun to study, and what a language, but SO HARD! I plan to be fluent in a decade, maybe … (just kidding). Interesting about Urdu … hmmm … I find English and German similar linguistically, but you’re right, very different in pronunciation. I hope I don’t lose my English accent … or maybe I’ll start sounding more European. That would be cool.

      • XunairaJ January 8, 2016 / 10:40 pm

        Haha, yeah that would be cool back home for you.

        Yeah, in a writing way, they are similar. I used to write the explanations in English because my written English is 1000 times better than my Urdu, haha. I should be ashamed of myself, I don’t know my mother tongue that well.

        I used to have so much difficulty remembering the words and our professor was so funny. I plan to visit Germany as soon as I can, perhaps for higher studies.

        Tell me, how’s the weather treating you? Have you frozen yet or not?

  3. Jesse Giles Christiansen January 9, 2016 / 1:40 pm

    It has been uncharacteristically warm, as in many places. We have had a few snows, which are soft and poetic with only a few inches or so. It is just over freezing now. Speaking of higher studies, I plan to read great works in German (e.g., reading Der Alter Man und das Meer right now). Cheers!

    • XunairaJ January 9, 2016 / 8:32 pm

      Wow! What a great place to live and write about. I think about some peaceful place where I can write and always Germany is the answer. Perhaps I will visit one day

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