Of course I resolved to speak only in German when I arrived here. I had to stick to my guns and be insistant “NUR AUF DEUTSCH” I would shout at whoever tried to engage in English conversation… or so I thought before I saw the Deutsche Bahn machine. You see, I had to buy a ticket for the train (Deutsche Bahn/S-Bahn/U-Bahn). I was a good 20 mins in the queue before it came to a standstill; the Spanish family at the front couldn’t work the machine. A guy in front of me started scoffing and had a hilarious grin and I noticed he mouthed ‘jesus christ’ and ‘unbelievable’. For fear that the same fate would befall me, I got this guy to help me out and, shamefully, my first conversation was in English!
He recognised my Scottish accent as he’d just come from T in The Park festival and I in turn recognised his Australian accent. We chatted and took the train together and got on to the subject of traditional foods and Australia’s lack thereof – how can one survive on Vegemite? When he asked me what foods were traditionally German, a man alongside of us joined our conversation and told us to get Currywurst – my fave – and also just all the meats/breads that Germany is famous for. When the Aussie left the train the German kindly obliged when I insisted we speak in German and I had my first proper conversation in German! He had so much patience with me and only explained words to me in English when I had trouble (maybe every 5 mins I would zone out or misunderstand something). He exited the train with a thumbs up and said “Du schaffst es!” – “you’re doing it!” but I think in this context it means ‘you can do it’!
[…after a few hours and getting really lost and perfecting my asking for help/directions in German…]
When I had found my way to my host family I was so tired and they were very welcoming! The stereotype that Germans are unbelievably organised, neat and orderly most definitely applies to my host family. I was told that we breakfasted every morning all together at 7am(!) and that we had coffee on weekdays and tea at weekends. This was a kind of routine I was not used to! I was shown a bathroom with 2 sinks and designated one of them and then shown to my bedroom where I found German Dictionaries, Learning Guides and Grammar Textbooks neatly stacked on the table. Perhaps a hint… but very much appreciated! After messaging my family and friends at home I lay in my bed and I honestly just thought about how lucky I was. I think I probably fell asleep with a smug expression of contentment plastered on my face. Rather than the nerves I had when I got on my flight, I felt so happy and lucky to be in such an amazing city.