Ana and I (and Luna and Pushkin) are house sitting for some friends in a little town called Eberswalde just outside of Berlin. It is an hour and a half pleasant train ride and it feels as though we have definitely stepped into a totally different part of Germany. Eberswalde has about 30,000 people and about 50 km northeast of Berlin. We are staying in the United Methodist parsonage because one of the couple who live here is the pastor here. We are so happy to enjoy their balconies, their peace, and their dog while they are away.
We also realized that being out here means that there is less and less English. Part of me is really happy about this development. I have been trying to put myself out there more with my German. If I have to use it, it can only get better. The other part of me is really quite terrified about this…German is hard and I am still far from just being in the language. I have come a loooonnngg way but still I am far from just being a part of the German speaking community and feel fully comfy there.
For the expat in Germany this means that every day activities because exhausting stressful activities….
For example, Ana and I had some errands today that needed to be done.
- Her bike needed to be taken to the bike shop because somehow between Berlin and here it got a flat.
- We needed a few things at the grocery store.
- I needed to go to the Post office to send something off.
Not a big deal until you realize how many things you need to say and know how to do in those social and everyday situations. Both of us were a bundle of nerves as we set out on our errands. Ana had looked up phrases to say and I was still obsessed with how the post office had reviews on Google about how unkind they were there. It hit me that when I got to the post office in the states…it’s not a big deal! I may have to wait in line which is a pain but I don’t fret over it. Here, I had to pep talk my way into starting to walk that direction. In the states, when we need to go into a shop to get something or fix something or ask questions…it’s not very intimidating except for getting over normal social anxiety if we have it. Here, we now need to fret about basic sentences and if we are lucky the person we talk to has some grace, patience, and perhaps will understand our English when we switch mid way through.
- The bike shop – the awesome man in charge listen and saw and then flipped into English and all was well.
- the grocery store – All good.
- the post office – I waited nervously in line and when the person working saw how nervous I was she stopped our interaction and just said, “Alles gut. Alles ok.” All is good. All is ok. And it was.
As I walked away, feeling such relief from my post office interaction I thought to myself, perhaps some of the best things we can offer to immigrants when we know what is up is to accompany people into everyday situations. We who live in other spaces don’t always know what we are supposed to do, or what the norm is until we trample it accidentally, or the unwritten and sometimes written rules. We are standing in line fretting about the language barrier and whether or not we are getting this social situation right. We probably wouldn’t mind someone just walking with us and perhaps translating a bit but mostly holding our hands in the day to day. Alles gut. Alles ok.
We have made it yet another day. 🙂