I have been so bad about posting in here because I have been so busy posting on my other sites. I have been very careful to keep this page as anonymous as possible but I’m not sure how practical that will be going forward.
I want to be able to share by books and my writing as that is where most of my time is devoted now but at the same time that kind of takes away from what I’m doing on this page. I will worry about that later. For now, I have interesting experiences to share about my life in Germany.
For a while now, I have been trying to learn the German language. We will be living here indefinitely at this point so I want to be able to speak the language very well, especially since I do not find as many English speakers here as I did in our small town in Denmark.
I started out taking a quick course at Goethe so I could pass a basic test to get my temporary residency. The people there were wonderful, the teachers were great, the facility was fantastic. They even had social programs to get you out in the public meeting locals and experiencing the culture. If I could finish all my classes there I would love to do that! However, it is not to be. The government here requires resident applicants to attend 600 hours of German classes at specific schools here in town to be eligible for a permanent residency visa. Sadly, Goethe is not on the list.
The government here requires resident applicants to attend 600 hours of German classes at specific schools here in town to be eligible for a permanent residency visa. Sadly, Goethe is not on the list.
Some people do not agree with this language and culture requirement for residency but I personally think it’s great! All countries should require it. The government will even reimburse you for part of the costs when you finish your course. Knowing the local language and culture will make it so much easier to function well in this society. Unfortunately, the experiences I have had trying to fulfill this requirement has not been wonderful, yet.
First of all, the process to even find out information is next to impossible if you don’t already speak at least basic German. I have called many schools and said, in German, I do not speak German well, do you speak English? This has been answered with everything from a polite yes or no to people just hanging up on me (I was even hung up on when calling the school I was taking classes in after saying, in German, I’m a student in your school … click). I decided trying to call was never going to be a good idea so I went to check places out in person. I mean, people are less likely to be rude to your face, right?
The people I met at the first school I tried to enroll in were very dismissive, gave me incorrect information, then acted frustrated with me when I got things wrong. They had me take the wrong test to be placed in their school then acted as if I should have known it was the wrong test. This was all on the first day just trying to get enrolled. I finally gave up and went home.
I did go back again and try one more time to get into the school. I went to the room I had gone to before and the door was locked with a sign on it, all in German of course. A man came out and I tried to ask him a question but he just pointed at the sign and walked off. I wondered around until I found someone who spoke English. She told me to go into a room and wait. I walked into the room she had pointed out and it looked like they were having a meeting. A man turned around and spoke German to me. I said I was sorry but I do not speak German yet and was told to come in here. He just turned his back to me and kept on with the meeting.
Now, I am a very strong person and I don’t usually let things get to me but I will admit at that point I really wanted to cry. My level of frustration was through the roof. I walked out, went home, and never went back to that school. A few days later someone from the school called and asked if I was going to come to school or not, they were holding a place for me. I told her she couldn’t pay me to come to their school. I hung up and never heard from anyone from there again.
The second school I went to was much better at the beginning. The staff actually spoke to me and one lady even spoke English very well so she could help me get everything filled out. I have to say considering how many foreigners speak English (and most are not from countries where English is the primary language. I had classmates from Syria, Turkey, Africa, and a few more countries and they all spoke English to some extent) I’m surprised these schools, which cater to people who do not speak German yet, do not have more people on staff who speak English.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I do not expect the German people to adapt to me and my language. I want to adapt to the German language and culture but when you go to a school that is specifically set up to cater to people who do not know a word of the German language or anything about their culture past Octoberfest and the Berlin wall, you’d kind of expect them to be able to help you a bit more. At the very least, not treat you like you are putting them out by not knowing the language already.
I was at the second school for about a month and pretty happy with everything until my teacher, whom I love, had to take a sick day. The woman who had been so helpful in the office came down and substituted for our class for one day. While I had really liked her as an administrator, I was not so fond of her as a teacher.
Our regular teacher had been teaching us basic conversations. When asked what I did for a living I had said Autorin, a female author. My regular teacher said Autorin was the English version of the word and taught me the more common German word which is Schriftstellerin. When the administrator asked me what I did for a living I said Schriftstellerin but apparently I didn’t pronounce it very well. She started making fun of the way I said it and pointing at her shoes. I had no idea what she was trying to tell me but I was very aware she was making fun of me. I guessed later she thought I was saying more like stiefel instead of steller. Steifel means boots. It’s the only thing I could come up with that made any sense for her to point at her shoes.
Now, like I said, I’m not one to let people get to me, usually. I’m used to people making fun of me. I’ve always been taller than everyone else, I was a fat kid, I’ve had 6 brain surgeries and now have practically no short term memory so sometimes have trouble understanding and remembering, I’ve learned to just go with the flow. This was just different somehow. This was a person whose job it is to teach people like me who don’t know the language. She should have corrected me, explained what I did wrong, and helped me to do it right, not make fun of me in front of the entire class. It’s not surprising that no one else really wanted to speak up the rest of the class after this display. I know she pissed me off.
The next day when our regular teacher returned we found out we weren’t the only people having issues with this administrator. Apparently, she had been treating our teacher the same rude way, and our teacher is German! After the second month of classes, our teacher announced she would be leaving the school. Most of us in her class dreaded the thought of staying there without her.
With the neurological condition I have, stress makes my symptoms worse. By the end of the second month, I was having a lot of neuro problems and had to drop out of classes for a while. Now, I’m faced with going back to the same school without the teacher I love and with the administrator who made fun of me. I’m not sure I can stand to do that. I have until the 22nd to decide if I want to go back or not. Until then, I might try a few more of the schools on the list. I’m sure there has to be a good one on there.
I have met some great, kind, helpful people here in Germany. I love this city and feel safe here. Which is why it saddens me that I’ve had such bad experiences with these schools so far. If a person comes here and doesn’t get out and interact with the public at large they might think everyone will treat them the way these people at the schools have treated me (assuming, of course, I’m not the only person being treated this way) and this is not a good representation of the German people.
Many people I talk to out in public are very willing to help you when you are at least trying to speak German. Many will tell you how to say something right if you say it wrong. I don’t mind being laughed at once in a while when I make a mistake as long as they explain what I did wrong and tell me how to say it right. I know I’m going to make stupid mistakes, I’m just starting to learn, that is expected.
All I hope for is for people to help me learn to do it right so one day I will be able to speak German well and be a real part of this great country. Whether I get help or not, I’m determined to learn the language and culture even if I have to try every school in town to do it!