Friday, 30 May 2014

Growing where we're planted.

A year ago today, Team B arrived safely at Frankfurt airport, and were met by Petra. Thank goodness she was there to teach us the ways, or we might never have arrived in Cologne! There was a lot that was different, and being in a car that was on the wrong side of the road was a harrowing experience!

I was reading about the stages of culture shock and integrating into a new country. Now, I don't want to pin-point where exactly I am in the honeymoon, frustration/negotiation, adjustment etc phase, since I'm pretty sure that there is a "go back ten spaces" option in this whole moving abroad game. However, the honeymoon phase is over, and the mastery phase has not yet arrived... I think we're still somewhere in the middle.

While there are some things that I find amusing about life here, I take note of the differences not with the intention to belittle the culture (although the fear of draughts here is real, guys.), but rather so that I can take note of the subtle changes that might be going on with me. I want to be aware of the ways in which my mannerisms change, or notice how behaviours that I might start finding normal here aren't common in SA, so that one day, when we return to South Africa, I'm not totally shocked by it.

Unsurprisingly, there are some definite things that have changed in the last year...

For example, the new me...

- writes numbers differently.
Number 1 needs to have that little stripe at the top, which makes it look like a 7, so the 7 needs to have the cross it to differentiate it. Failure to do this causes confusion at the bank, so it's best to just change.

- looks left, right, left again when crossing the road.
I usually get this right these days, and my days of frantically looking both ways is sort seem to be behind me. This was a necessary adjustment in order to preserve my life.

- wears house shoes inside.
It took a while, but Winter converted me and I've decided that house shoes are the way to go.

- has German words creeping into English.
While German generally has exceptionally long words, there are some words such as "Stimmt" or "Doch" that seem more efficient in German and sometimes creep in.

- recycles.
I used to recycle in SA, but the system isn't nearly as complicated. While the system here seemed complicated and frustrated me at first, it really isn't thaaaaat complicated.

- has become more interested in the origins of fruit.
Who in SA really cares where their bananas come from? {silence} {stereotyping!} I've never given it too much thought, but I am a little more aware of it now.

- finds Sprudel delicious.
While we still don't buy bottled water, when carbonated water is available, I actually rather like it. And Apfelschorle (apple juice and carbonated water) is just like Appletizer for half the price. Yes!

- is no longer intimidated by the dairy isle.
This has been a thing for a while... but something I've been working on. I still haven't a clue as to what most things are, but I am no longer intimidated by any of it, since I've decided that Quark is the perfect substitute for, well, everything.

- has embraced the window box.
I've always admired the pretty flowers growing in so many window boxes, and now, we're proud window box owners! (do we get a membership card or a certificate?)

- is a practical dresser. 
Malcolm would disagree with this, I think, but I dress far more practically here than in SA. If it's hot, I dress like it's hot, if it's cold, I dress like it's cold. In SA I could usually avoid weather because I was either driving or inside some other building.

- no longer gets a fright when the window tilts. 
At first, the windows here would give me such a fright when they tilted, but I think I'm getting used to it now, and it seems pretty normal - the challenge will be not breaking windows in SA when trying to tilt them open!

A year over here certainly has changed me in small ways, and I'm so thankful. Even more though, I hope that I've grown too, and that the process carries on until it's time to leave.


  1. It's kind of cool to look back and realize, oh, I didn't do this before, but I've adapted so this feels pretty natural now. It's almost hilarious to watch my family in the US--after being in Malaysia so long, they have truly forgotten proper English. They don't point at anything with their index finger, they use their many little things can add up to a big difference!

  2. It's funny, but there are lots of little differences in cultures and countries that are not apparent until you move to/spend a lot of time in another country. You're probably more adaptable after your year away and more confident. It's lovely that you have this record of your experience.

  3. Ah I so enjoyed this post! Well done on getting the left, right, left thing down... I still have my moments here. And appletizer for half price, what a deal.
    You're definitely growing through this, and growth is good right... Right! Don't stop taking notes of these little victories, they're like souvenirs that you'll be able to keep forever.
    I look forward to the reverse culture shock post you'll write when one day you move back to SA!

  4. Wow can't believe its been a year already! So many little changes and lessons learned. We have been tricked by the European 1's a few times, thinking the first time that an 11 was arrows up - we tried going upstairs at the bus station instead of to platform 11:)

  5. i actually just started drinking carbonated water, and i like it-- maybe it's an acquired taste? i remember not enjoying it for years and years, and then something changed. as for dressing more practical - i've been noticing the same thing with myself... it might be age?

  6. first time visiting your blog & I have to say, I also do some of what the new you does! hahah, for example: I open the window tilts with caution, I started doing the German version of 1 & the "J" too.. some of the other ones also but mainly those.


  7. Oh reverse culture shock might be quite something! As long as I can handle the traffic I should be ok, right? :)

  8. Me neither! The 1s really are so tricky! I often see them as 7s until later in the number there is a 7 and I see the difference!

  9. I think it's an acquired taste, since I didn't like it at all when I was a child!

  10. Thanks! Thankfully the "J" isn't too much of a problem since none of my info include the letter! (how strange..!)