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Warm and welcoming Germany

14 November 2010, 11:00  - Anonymous
Like Gerald, I am a South African, living in Germany. Like Gerald, I am also married to a German.

Unlike Gerald, I have found the Germans to be so welcoming and warm; so many people have gone out of their way to help us settle into this country, being patient with me as I try to learn the language, as I struggle to adapt to the temperatures, (and face it, nothing in South Africa prepares us for winter days that can go as low as minus 17 degrees!) as I feel my way around the system in terms of schooling, health, general bureaucracy of starting a new life and business here.

Moving here was a shock for us in that everything works. First time. When people say they will post you a letter, it arrives on your doorstep the very next morning. If you order something off the internet, it arrives within two or three days.

Trains and busses arrive on time, every time, and here in Munich where we live, not one house is further than 500 metres away from a bus stop, so everyone can get around. Here, if you don’t own a car, no-one bats an eyelid. In summer, people ride their bikes, walk, and live outside, taking advantage of the warm weather.

Life is great

There is a system for everything, and sure, there are all sorts of rules and regulations but as long as you live within the rules, and walk the system, life is great. Munich is known as the safest city in Germany, and kids are protected and kept safe by everyone and they feel safe and relaxed because of it.

Our teenage kids are now having a childhood like we used to have in SA - they can go and play in the park, go for long walks in woods, go swimming with friends or snowboarding or tobogganing in winter. They know and we know that the worst that will happen is that they fall over and scrape a knee. And if they do, some passer-by will help them put a plaster on it.

We put our kids into German schools (as opposed to most expats who put their kids in English speaking schools at huge expense) and have found the schools to be exceptionally proactive and supportive of our kids integrating into learning in a completely different language.

What I have also found though is this: many (not all) of the expats here that I have met tend to stick together in their own little cliques, pushing their cultures and ways onto everyone else, and often try to dominate the conversations and demand different treatment. Instead of trying to fit in, they form clubs and cliques and keep living the “old life” which often has no place here. Instead of trying to adapt to the German way of doing things, they insist that their ways from their “old country” are better.

Avoid negative expats

In the process, they come over arrogant and judgemental, sarcastic and scathing, and run down anything that is not American/British/Australian/or wherever they come from. And the Germans avoid them. Understandably. Hell, I avoid them too. If things are so great in the old country, why on earth are they living here?

Do I miss South Africa? Of course I do. But the critical decision in trying to make life work in another country has to be a willingness to expand and learn and grow and adapt, and in the process, this allows you to fit in and flow with the new way of doing things. It’s not always a better life. It’s a different life, with its opportunities and challenges and accompanying wisdoms.

I have made some beautiful friends here in Germany - none of them are native English speakers. I found I have more in common with Germans than I do with Americans or Brits. The festivals are fantastic...any excuse to celebrate and enjoy life, which the Germans do with gusto. Why fight it because it’s not something we as South Africans are used to? Why not just join in and have a blast with them?

It’s been a hard two years of adapting and learning and settling in, that’s for sure. I couldn’t have done it without these warm, gentle, supportive people. Would I do it again? Yes. What would I say to others thinking of moving to a new country? Be open to the differences and the new ways of doing things, try and integrate as much as possible, even if it means learning a new language and a new system, a new culture or even just new things to celebrate.

- Are you a South African living abroad interested in sharing your views? What is it like for a South African living in a foreign country or how do you view South Africa from a distance? Send us your columns to and you might get published in our new Beyond Borders section.

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Disclaimer: All articles and letters published on MyNews24 have been independently written by members of News24's community. The views of users published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24. News24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

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