But Let Me Tell You More About Germany!

reverse1And I thought I was doing so well.

One month after coming back to the UK after having lived in Germany and Japan for a total of 6 years, a reverse culture tick hit me.

In the garden of a pub, I was sat with a nice guy, trying to charm him as I tend to do with nice young men. We were trying to find how compatible we are by asking each other ridiculous questions. He asked me what my favourite fizzy drink was.

“Uhm, well I’m not sure of the drinks round here but in Germany there’s this cola…”

To which he mock rolled his eyes, and poked fun at me for starting most sentences with “in Germany…” [Read more…]

“British Values”

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It’s not often that I’m not clued up on a British news story, but there is one this week that I refuse to read more into. There’s a big hoo-hah about something to do with non-Christian faith schools and something to do with Trojan horses and Britain being a Christian country.

I dunno, it just seems like casual racism – the kind that made me nervous to come back to England. Anti-Islamic feelings are pretty high right now, perhaps as high as they were before, but people are being more vocal about it. Someone on my Facebook last week posted something asking why 9000 people had died on D-Day when we still have halal meat on sale in the UK and people get sent to jail because others find their tweets offensive. I did try to correct him, but to be honest, it was a post that had been reposted from somewhere else – with no doubt thousands of others also reposting it. There’s no way to help these people.

This morning in the Guardian there was an article which I did not read, about Mr Gove who is Britain’s education secretary and all-round plonker, who apparently said that schools should be teaching “British values”. Awesome! So, here are some British values that I think kids should be taught in schools – the things that are really important to being British.

1. Complaining about the weather.

Every British person understands the importance of being able to complain about the weather, no matter what the weather is.

2. Can-based-meat.

Spam. Corned beef. I even saw bacon in a can in my family’s cupboard. All hail the canned meat!

3. Fish and chip shop loyalty.

Any British person will tell you where the best fish and chip shop is in Britain. Outside that establishment will be a proud sign saying that they are the best in the country. Until you go to one of the other “best in the country” places, that is… (For me and my family it’s always Aldeburgh).

4. The price of Freddos.

Something will will anger any Brit is the price of a Freddo. These chocolate frogs used to be just 10p back in our nostalgic childhoods. However, the price keeps going up and up – and the voices complaining about this get louder and louder. Freddos should be 10p!

5. Knowing the real meanings behind things.

If someone says “would you like the last biscuit”, they actually mean “I’m going to eat the last biscuit but am doing this polite gesture before I do so”. They do not, under any circumstances mean for you to eat the last biscuit. If they say “you’re welcome” without you having to say thank you first, it means that you should have said thank you. Knowing the meanings behind what we say is key to understanding brits.

Those are five of my British values. Are there any other brits out there who can offer up some more for us?

 

Why I’m Nervous About Being Back Home

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So I’m back in the UK, in my home town of Bury St Edmunds. I’ve been feeling really sad since I’ve been back, which has taken a hit to my eagerness to blog and do other projects such as the YouTube project myself and my friend Danni are doing. But I’m trying to fight through the sadness.

I left Frankfurt on Sunday morning, at 7am, after catching a bus to Hahn airport at 2am. I was heartbroken at myself for leaving. Because I am really nervous to be back in the UK. For many reasons, which I will list for you here.

1. What’s up with this UKIP Stuff?

UKIP are a political party in the UK who want mainly two things – to be out of the EU and to have fewer foreigners in Britain. But, if we had a conscious uncoupling with the EU then that would mean that people like me wouldn’t be able to just hop over to Germany to work for a bit, but also that we wouldn’t be able to get so many awesome people come over. Not to mention, being free to travel where we wanted.

As for this foreigner stuff, a lot of British people are scared of this image of (mainly) Polish people who come over to Britain, “steal” jobs and claim benefits. Firstly, immigrants do not steal our jobs. Even if they did, it would mean that we need to up our game. When I was working in London in December, a highly educated person told me to watch my back because a Polish person would steal my job. If there was a threat of Japanese-speaking Polish people with native-level English then I would need to make sure that I have the skills to be able to stay employed. I actually know such a Polish person, and he is welcome to any of my jobs as he is frickin’ awesome. I need to be more awesome.

More people have been voting for UKIP recently, and they are no longer a kind of joke party whom everyone laughs at. I’m nervous to come back here just in case people can’t see the bigger picture and are easily swayed by the media.

2. What if people are just really crap?

In Frankfurt, everyone was pretty amazing – opening minded, not racist, not homophobic, not judgmental. In Bury, people are conservative and maybe closed minded and maybe they vote for UKIP. I don’t know. What if I just don’t like…people? I still have my old school friends here who are all super awesome, of course (they wouldn’t be my friends otherwise) but I hope I find it easily to find awesome people around me otherwise.

3. What if I don’t like my new job/end up in London and can’t afford to buy avocados and hummus anymore?

99% of the jobs I have applied to/have interviews for are not related to video game localisation, meaning that I’m probably going to have to retrain in whatever field I go into. Which isn’t bad, but what if I find that I suck at marketing or sales or team-assistanting? I guess I could just start again with another job. But what if I move to London and find that I can’t afford to do the thing that I want most in the world right now – live by myself. Argh!

All these things will iron themselves out, I’m sure. I’m also excited about my new life back in England. Tomorrow I have a lot of interviews in London so after those have happened I’ll be less anxious, I think.

And at the end of the day, repatriating myself was never going to be an easy task…

 

Why I’m Leaving Germany

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When it was time for me to leave Japan, I knew it right away. Seeing how my colleagues acted so casually in the aftermath of the tsunami made me start piling up all the reasons why Japan made me unhappy. How I could never fit in. How I had terrible loneliness. How I started acting out when people were ignorant about non-Japanese people and culture.

Now, in Germany, it’s not taken a tsunami to shift me out of love with my life here, but I know for sure that it is time for me to leave. I often think I’m crazy, since I have a job I feel passionate about, and I live a very good life here in Germany. But there are two main reasons why I feel I cannot go on here without becoming very unhappy.

1. Communication.

Tonight I was in the food section of a department store with a friend when an elderly lady fell back and crashed to the floor, knocking her head on a freezer as she went down. Blood was pouring from her head. A man and a woman nearby jumped to help her, and I did too. I helped the lady to her feet then was listening as the woman was explaining to the lady that there was blood coming from her head. I stood around helpless, wondering what to do, what to say. The lady needed to sit down, and the woman spoke with a member of staff but I didn’t quite catch anything about getting her somewhere to sit. I said awkwardly to the woman “there are sitting places over there” but the woman looked at me as if I was a nuisance and turned away from me. In the end, I could do nothing. So I paid up and left.

Even though Frankfurt is an international city, where 99.9% of people speak English, I feel isolated. My German is coming along well and I understand quite a bit these days, but I would need to study German a lot more before I was in a place where it would take away my isolation. In Japan, I wasn’t isolated by a language barrier – but I’d been studying it since I was 16.

I want to be in a place where I can make small talk with someone nearby. Or help someone in the street. Or be able to live with people who don’t have to put any extra effort into speaking with me because they speak in English anyway. Although I have more English-speaking friends here than I know what to do with, the fact that my go-to language isn’t the same as the majority of those around me makes me feel very limited in my world.

2. Information.

I’m in a supermarket in Germany and I pick up a can of soup. I judge it by its price, the design, the ingredients list. That’s it.

Take that same situation in Britain and I have a lot more information to hand – perhaps I’ve seen an advert about the soup, perhaps I saw a review for it in a magazine, perhaps I remember eating this soup at uni and remember whether I liked it or not.

I feel that here in Germany – and, indeed, as an expat in many places – it can feel like such a one dimensional life. It’s almost like being a child, with no prior knowledge on the things around you. This goes beyond a language barrier, it’s an informational barrier. Of course, one could learn more about the things around them – watch the tv adverts, talk about things with locals. In Japan I can’t read the words “ajino moto” or “biku camera” without singing the jingles, and simple information like that made me feel more at home there. But it’s totally different when you’re back at home in your own country and you are holding an item that takes you on a trip down a million memory lanes, sparking recognition in your brain. I want to go back to living around things that I know well, not things that are new and unknown.

Though I look around at the amazing people and the amazing life I have here and feel sad to be leaving it all behind, I get a pang of excitement inside me when I think of being able to live back in the UK again. I’ve been away for so long it’s like a foreign country to me now and I’m even excited at the prospect of experiencing reverse culture shock. There’s nothing like living abroad for understanding your own country and culture, but I feel that when I return and see everything with fresh eyes, I’ll be able to understand what it is to be British more than ever before.

And then I can start writing a whole new chapter in my life.

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