Foreign to Germany

I jumped on my bike, coasted down our hill, and seconds later was in the center of my German town.

Today is a holiday called Ascension Day, and whether Christian or not, everyone finds a reason to celebrate. I’m embarrassed to say that I did not know this while meandering by bike around town watching and wondering as foreigners do.

Men walked together in groups, like schools of fish, each belonging to his particular clan of family or friends. I even spotted lederhosen. One such group I passed on my bike was carting a wagon of beer that played loud celebratory music. They shouted something to me as I quizzically and quickly pedaled on.

Then I came across groups of walkers and hikers, mostly men again, enjoying the day with their company and the nature surrounding them. For me, this was a day of learning and remembering the culture of the country in which I live.

As an RA at an international school, it’s so easy to forget about the bubble I live in while living in Germany. Sure, I drive, shop, and frequent cafes in Germany, but at the end of every outing I return to the safety of my international, but still very North-American dorm. Every now and then, I get a glimpse into German life and am reminded of just how much of an outsider I really am.

Yesterday, as I read at an outdoor cafe in town, the shop owner inquired about my book and why I wrote in it. It was a book by one of my favorite professors in college. I told her it was about living a dignified life and how the decisions young women make shape them for the rest of their lives. She looked at me like I was crazy, responding, “Okay,” and walked away.

I still have so much to learn about my German neighbors. What are they passionate about? What makes them angry? Why do they wake up every morning to do what they do? These are all questions I want to have answered, and I await this summer longingly when I will get to live with and around Germans in Berlin.

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