Tuesday 19 July 2011

Foreign language experiences and life in Braunschweig

When my husband was seconded to his company´s head office in Germany for 1 year, I accompanied him on our first overseas trip together.
He had done a 3 month intensive German language course about 1 year before we actually left, so that by the time we got to Braunschweig much had been forgottten along the way...I knew nothing.
I stayed home, no kids at the time yet, so my activities consisted of house cleaning, window shopping in the city centre, meeting with South African women whose husbands worked on the same project, sewing, and a lot of tv watching. The fact that we watched an English TV channel - BFBS -  British Forces Broadcasting Service, didn´t do much for my learning of a new language.


Eventually I decided that if I lived in Germany I might as well learn German, so I enrolled in a 3 month Basic course. I learned enough to get me by while shopping, to watch and understand a bit of what was being said on German TV. Our original 1 year was extended to another year, and that by the time we left we had been in Germany for almost 6 years.

Our first hurdle with the German language came when we had to go to the doctor the first time we fell sick with a very bad cold. The Doctor managed to tell in a broken English that we had an African virus - this because we had told him we had recently arrived from South Africa!
Another South African couple who happened to have taken a detour via New York on the way to Germany, was diagnosed by the same doctor with and American virus! We had a great laugh at this diagnosis.

The first couple of times we went shopping we used to take an English/German dictionary with us and we would peruse the products and try to figure out if they were what we wanted.
What was "dandruff shampoo" or "shampoo for dry hair"? What about the names on meat cuts, some of them we couldn´t even find a translation for them.

The very first time my husband went by train to Hannover, he asked for "Ein Ticket nach Hannover". The vendor asked him "Ein weg oder Zuruck"? (one way or return?) and he would just repeat "one ticket to Hannover". Eventually after asking 3 times, he just issued a one way ticket.

Another time, sightseeing in the city, we were trying to locate a street in our map, as we stood under a sign that said "Ein Weg". We looked in the map directory and we just couldn´t find such a street name, and were puzzled that the map was recent so it should have that street. After a while we decided to ask a passerby to show us on the map where we were. He was a bit puzzled, but explained to us that it wasn´t a street name, but meant that street had only one traffic direction (One way street).

Me and the kids 

Since I was home we decided it would be a good time to have children. Germany was also a very child friendly country who welcomed any addition to the nation, as their birth rate was very low - so our two babies were born there 18 months apart. 
We were lucky to find a "Hebamme" (midwife), Frau Franke, who worked with the Obstetrician, who wasn´t afraid to speak English, as she had an English partner. 
She even told me to phone her at home if I had any queries and she would get her boyfriend to translate if she didn´t know how to explain. What a darling!

It was a lovely experience for me, I met some nice people and made some friends, despite the fact the Germans are a bit cold and closed.
But the weather was for me the worst to get used to, with long snowy winters and summers with not much sun or warmth.    
I couldn´t wait to get back to South Africa and it´s beautiful weather.

Due to the instability and crime rate in South Africa, we left a few years later and settled in Portugal....and much later we moved to Australia.

1 comment:

  1. Sami Darling,
    I laughed all the time, when I were reading the article.
    Specially the one for the street name.
    Quando o Zé me esperou no aeroporto de Frankfurt, eu, depois de ler tantas vezes o mesmo nome, também disse: Que grande cidade deve ser aquela! Era SAÍDA.


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