I got a little bit cocky when that saviour of a grant from the government came in and decided that suddenly money was no object. This was my hedonistic year abroad; the year to live it up and not worry about something so trivial as euros. But it goes fast my friends. It goes fast. Especially when you have to move flats, buy books, tickets for transport, pay for drinks, days out etc. Let me now take you on a journey through my first few money making exploits and fun projects I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of in the first half.
Having worked before at “The Scotch Whisky Experience” in Edinburgh (and of course coming from a Scottish family) I knew a little bit about whisky before I came to Berlin. I was also taught how to drink it, it seemed it was compulsory to have a dram with the co-workers after a hard day taking people off the Whisky Ride. The ride was in several different languages and I always loved the chance to use a bit of German when I heard the last bit of the tour say “Auf Wiedersehen”.
Anyway, when I was living in Friedrichshain I lived around the corner from a cute little whisky shop called “Cadenheads Whisky Markt”. I went in (in a tartan scarf, I’m really sorry but they loved it) and asked if they needed any help. Klaus told me I was in luck as they actually had an event coming up called “Tag der 100 Flasche”; a tasting event where people from all around Berlin came to try out some of the best whiskies and rums for a small entry fee. I couldn’t believe how many people showed up to this tiny little shop just round the corner from me. People queued up and waited patiently to be welcomed and presented with a dram glass and a stamp by me. I felt like a bouncer.
The first thing my boss said to me is that they “sell honestly”. I asked what he meant and was told that I simply had to try EVERY WHISKY in order to know what I actually liked. Being a little 19 year old girl basically amongst these older guys who’d been holding their whisky for years, I became the most frequent visitor of the “bread basket” – my little lifeline that sat round the back next to the dusty bottles. Every tour that they guided was really informative and all in German. Even when the customers attempted to speak to me in English to hear a bit of the Scottish accent, my boss would helpfully and kindly swoop over and tell them “Actually she’s here to learn German!!” which I thought was just so understanding and cool of him. The customers were really interested in my life in Edinburgh etc. and loved the fact that I looked like such a stereotype with my red hair (I’m a natural blonde but let’s keep that on the DL).
The guys in the shop were so welcoming and really knew their whisky, having travelled all around the world and visited more breweries in Scotland than I even knew existed! I had a lot of fun and got to know some people living in the neighbourhood whilst standing on the door next to a giant whisky barrel.
My dad set me up with one of his friends who is a journalist from Berlin so I could get some tips. Given that it was winter, he offered to meet me up at the central Christmas Market with his kids. We went for dinner and he gave me some great advice to get applying for jobs and also asked if I wanted to babysit his kids for some extra cash! I told him I’d be delighted.
The kids were an unfortunate mixture of cute and ridiculously cheeky! They loved their dad but were clearly very picky about their babysitter, they told me they hoped I would have black hair! I was very confused. Apart from being challenging little terrors at times they’ve taught me a lot about patience and looking after kids! Kids are also a brilliant resource for learning German and since one of the boys is obsessed with farm animals I get to play farm games, read farm books and learn farm vocab every Tuesday evening which is fun.
The most challenging part of babysitting was when the oldest boy had his birthday party. I was given the job of accompanying the kids while they searched for the objects for the treasure hunt around the square which the dad had hidden. Things didn’t exactly go to plan when we opened the door and all the children flew out in a gigantic swarm screaming and not even looking for the clues but following the arrows and treating it like a race! The two single girls at this party were the only ones who seemed to listen to the concept and as a result they found ALL 11 of the treasures… I guess girls are just smarter. The cruel irony was that the prizes were numbered and they had to share them out to their rightful owners, and in the girl’s boxes were hot wheels cars while some of the boys got their coveted pink Bubble Makers… this just reminded me of every birthday party pass-the-parcel I have ever been a part of. Wouldn’t say it wasn’t FUN… but looking after 11 kids running around the street hyped up on sugar is tough. At least I got to use the German words for “slow down”, “watch out for the car” and “please don’t fight over the toys”! The parents also taught me to make waffles in a waffle machine which the kids all enjoyed!
German in the UK – Kids Club
Our family friend Sarah has begun work on a great new project to help toddlers learn the basics of foreign languages whilst they’re very young. The idea is that bilingualism improves overall intelligence, confidence and ability. Not sure if that’s true in my case! But I do know that had I begun German at a younger age I’d maybe be as good as my German friends are at English, and I really think that languages are a great skill to have, and lots of fun to learn in the beginning!
When I returned for Christmas I was so honoured when Sarah asked me to help her with the German department. She uses a mixture of classes, resources and tutors to make learning French, Spanish and German easy and fun for kids. I got the chance to record sounds for an app and rewrite some translations of nursery rhymes. If you want to learn more about it visit her website here, she’s based in Falkirk and works with children from pre-school to age 7. The songs I did for her German app should be available soon.
And now I come to the second semester of my year abroad and I have an exciting announcement to make about the next half! I’ll let you know all about it in my next post! 😀 Thank you all again so much for reading this and if you’re also on a year abroad or working in Germany I hope this helped you in some way 🙂