7 most important things to learn about integration in Germany
von Carmen Beck
- When in Germany, do as the Germans do.
Since we are a pretty developed and diverse country, there is no such thing as one German culture. Because of this, take a closer look at your German neighbours, colleagues and new friends around you. Nobody expects you to be more German than us, so you can relax. Rest assured, you don’t have to drink beer and wear any Lederhosen. Besides, the latter is totally uncommon outside of Bavaria...which is another good thing to remember: if you have questions or doubts, ask the people in your daily life. Most of them will appreciate your showing interest in their culture and habits, and they will be happy to explain and share their perspective.
- Make the first step:
Not everybody in Germany has experience living abroad or has moved around a lot in his or her lifetime. Many of the Germans you meet might have spent their entire lives in the region where you meet them. This means they might not see the need to make new friends, because they are surrounded by friends and family they‘ve had since they were kids.
That’s why it’s good to make the first step and see who is willing to open up. Accept that they might take quite some time to welcome a newcomer – unless they are already part of the international crowd themselves. So, take it easy!
3. Plan your weekends
You might find it hard to adapt to the weather if you come from a warmer place than Germany. To make the most out of it, many Germans have clear priorities about how to spend their weekends. If the weather is good, be sure to explore the natural sights in your area. Rather than shopping on Saturday, you might go hiking, skiing, etc., and remember to check the weather forecast so you can enjoy the sun when it’s there. In this way, the weather won’t seem so bad, after all…however shopping might be an issue since all shops are closed on Sunday. You will figure out what the perfect balance is for you!
- How not to get off on the wrong foot with your neighbours
If you want your German neighbours either to ignore you completely or alternatively ring at your bell in anger (depends on their temperament), then you should mow the lawn on Sunday, play the piano after lunch, throw your recyclable bottles in the regular garbage and wash your car directly in front of your garage. Ask your landlord if you are at all uncertain about what is allowed in your apartment building. You will be provided with the „Hausordnung“ which are the rules of the building.
- Find out what festivities take place in your new home.
For example, you might want to see traditional festivities like a Maibaumaufstellen, as well as the Carnival or the many beloved Christmas markets. There you will often find locally organized food stands, and they would probably be happy to get some help for their next event. Maybe you could bake a cake or even do something simple such as helping to set up tables and benches. You will become integrated sooner than you think by simply offering to help.
- Kill two birds with one stone – to better integrate, join a club or go to the VHS (Volkshochschule)!
Many sports activities and other social activities are organized in clubs. To meet locals, as well as to learn or improve your German, you might join one of the numerous clubs. There is an impressive variety of clubs all over. For your other interests, check the local VHS. They have all kinds of courses from cooking, photography, arts – and of course German courses!
7. Enjoy the differences and learn the language
You certainly don’t have to give up all of your habits and routines, but you should definitely be ready for new experiences. As much as you love the food from your homeland, be sure to try the many cuisines that Germany has to offer. Not only local specialties, but also Turkish, Greek, Croatian and all sorts of Asian food. Do something you never did before: ride a bike to the next town and come back by train. Book a roller blading course and ask your colleagues about the best places to go. Rent cross-country skis and go on a tour. Listen to a free concert at your kids’ school or visit one of your city’s nearby churches. Ask your new friends to join you and let them know the specialties of your home country. The key to it all, though, is the language. The earlier you start speaking your first words in German, the sooner you will feel more in contact with your new surroundings. Germany could even become your second home – you never know!
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