My wife and I came to Germany from England in June. We have come here to live with our daughter, and her family. I suppose you could call it semi-retirement, a sabbatical whatever. We wanted a new experience after many years in England, and felt like a change. My wife is from Holland, and has lived with me in England for 20 years or so.
She has one big advantage over me, coming from Limburg in South Holland, she understands German much better than me. There is the first conundrum for the Englishman overseas language! Don’t get me wrong, I did German at school, but that was so long ago, and I have never spoken it since! I spent some time in Holland, and although the work language was English (computers), the after hours and social language was always Dutch. After a couple of years, I was beginning to make tentative progress, and could understand a fair bit, and then we returned to England!
So, here I am again, in Europe, trying to survive a foreign culture and language.
The dilemma I have is that, so far, I really like Germany. We live in the south, not too far from Luxembourg, in a very rural area near Bitburg where the beer comes from. It’s not just the scenery, which is lovely, lots of pine forests and rolling hills, but it is so different here from English life. First of all, everything is so clean. It strikes you at every turn, when you drive through one cute village after another. The white walls and red geraniums are so characteristic here. Secondly, you feel so safe. Doors are left unlocked, people look out for one another and, really it is like going back to England in the fifties!
There is a down side (for me). It is deeply religious, so don’t come here if you don’t like the sound of church bells! Many small shrines are placed around the villages and are carefully tended, I don’t know by whom! Every village has it’s cigarette machine outside by the road, which I am sure wouldn’t last one night in the UK.
There is another difference, which I don’t like, but I think it just goes with the rest of the culture. The people here are curious, a bit nosey and are quick to interfere in your affairs. It is different from the faceless anonymity of English culture both good and bad.
You can get questions like, “are you married?”, or “do you go to church?”, which we left behind in England over 20 years ago. One associates symbolic Germany with high technology “forsprung drch technic” etc. Actually it is quite old fashioned. We berate our “broadband” connection here (less than 400 kbit / s) as we thought the internet super autobahn would have been everywhere here.
Overall though, I am glad we came here. The old saying “travel broadens the mind” is still true. My wife and I have started German classes. She is up in the intermediate class and I am down at the beginners level with quite a few Americans from the local air force base here. If anything, they are more isolated here than we are.
A few days ago the family had a day trip outing to Bernkastel on the Mosel. What a lovely quaint little village. It has the river and a castle, and a truly medieval village with old tudor style buildings reminiscent of York. Okay, it is a tourist trap, but fair enough it’s lovely. We have bought some of the new fresh wine, only available in September, and I hope to return for the Oktoberfest!