The other day I read and commented on Cathy Dobson’s blog Working on a different planet about her first few (acually 20) years of living in Germany after having moved there from England. It brought back many memories of when I moved from Germany to England.
I was lucky because I already spoke (if badly) English, and I married a Brit who was able to help me with lots of things. But he was at work and I did have to go out on my own and brave the English world!
I remember having to get a national insurance number. The building was a huge room where everybody sat and waited until your number was called. You then went to the front and had to speak to one of the people there. I remember there were HUNDREDS of people waiting with me and EACH ONE of them could hear that I wasn’t English when it was my turn to speak at the front!
Ok, there probably were only 35 and they most likely couldn’t hear a word I said, but I felt terrible.
I remember my mother-in-law asking me to get some sausages from the butchers one day. The mere thought of asking at the counter made me sweat. Wasn’t there a supermarket nearby I could use???
I remember going into an off-licence asking for a bottle of wine. I only knew Liebfrauenmilch (I wasn’t a wine connoisseur ;-)) Well, I didn’t know that the English pronunciation was different to the German!
All those problems were little problems because I did speak English and I did know things about England, yet to me they felt HUGE!
That’s why I don’t just teach German, I try to help people with anything cultural they may encounter if they move to Germany or deal with German companies – just don’t ask me about any wines 😉