This week it is Birgit’s turn to send some greetings to home.
Birgit and I met in August 1999 in a bar. Her back-then boyfriend and my to-be roommate and I were about to start our trip to spend an exchange semester in Spain. Her first sentence was: “Hello, I am Birgit. He is MY boyfriend.” The boyfriend and roommate is long gone (still in our heart though) but our friendship has survived several continents and cities, quite a number of holidays spent together, and many years without seeing each other.
Birgit’s international career has started already on the day she was born. Her birthplace is Tralee, Ireland, where her parents spent several years with their kids on a work assignment. Birgit has since also lived in Havana and Shanghai, and has now found her new home in Bilbao, Spain – for the time being at least.
She is heading the kindergarten in the German school. Throughout her career she has not only traveled extensively herself, but has also always worked with kids from different backgrounds and cultures.
So … Here comes Birgit’s perspective on Germany:
How would you start your greetings to Germany?
Dear Germany, I haven’t lived with you for a while….
What comes to your mind when you think about Germany?
G – good isn`t good enough
E – east and west
R – reunited, realistic
M – Made in Germany
A – all of me loves all of you
N – Nürnberg – my hometown
Y – yummy food
In what way has your perception of Germany and the Germans changed due to your experience abroad?
Well, difficult to say. After living many years abroad and in different countries I must say, I started appreciating Germany and the Germans. More than I ever could imagine.
I never felt like the “German stereotype”. Not in my behavior, not in my way of thinking. People don´t think I look very German. I often get asked – where are you from? – Italy? France? Spain?
My name is difficult to pronounce for a lot of foreigners. I got used to being called Igbert, Brigi, Virchi, Berget, Isabella, Silke, Pirpit just to mention a few. I gave up pronouncing it and spelling it a hundred times. Since I live in Spain now, my second name became very important. They don´t get that we only do have one last name. So their way of thinking is, better using two names instead of only one last name.
I enjoyed being abroad learning languages, different cultures, adventures, managing difficult situations without any help, etc.
And after all I learned that I am more German than I ever thought.
I am on time, I am very structured, I am straightforward, I love reliability and I started celebrating German cultural events like the Oktoberfest with my original Dirndl, of course, and Carnival in Shanghai. Those events became the two most important ones – an option of being 100% German for two nights per year. I loved it, I enjoyed it and I wouldn´t have missed it.
And yes, my perception of Germany and the Germans changed. I started loving the typical German way of thinking. Germans are reliable. Talking my language with my friends, eating at Paulaner some German food and coming back to Germany felt like coming back home. It took me many years to find that out. I am still living abroad, but we are getting closer…
What are the most important lessons you have learned about the German culture?
I am proud (and believe me it took me a long time) to be a part of Germany. Our food and drinks are good (I took suitcases full of Schnaps, Bratwurst, Leberwurst, Lebkuchen to Shanghai) and now I am very grateful to buy all the daily necessities I need at the drugstore DM, Müller or Rossman and bring it to Spain. Our sense of humor is great, we are successful in sports, German products are well known and appreciated, friendship is something important, the education system is for free and quite good, and last but not least we became an open minded nation.
What do you think Germans should be aware of?
Germans shouldn´t be too German when they are not in their country. They shouldn´t complain all the time, they shouldn´t scream and shout, they should be more patient and they should try to learn some basics of other languages. Germans should be more open minded.
Which stereotype can you totally relate to?
I would say I am on time and I am straightforward. I prefer getting directly or at least after a short time to the point.
What is the best kept German secret?
We do like to celebrate more occasions than the Oktoberfest. There is a lot more than that. Ahhhh and we don´t wear Dirndl and Lederhosen all day long.
And – We are warm and welcoming.
Your favorite German word?
Grandios, which means sublime, superb, terrific
The most embarrassing moment of being German?
Being on a 4 day boat trip in Indonesia with my friend and another 18 people. Both of us were the only Germans. Before going aboard we had to order drinks (like coke, beer, etc.) for the trip. My friend convinced me to order 15 bottles of beer. Apart from non-alcoholic drinks of course. I thought it might be a bit too much but she said we definitely need this for the 4 days and two of us. We wanted to be on the save side.
It turned out that the guide shouted our names through that bus and we had to raise our hand confirming our orders. When it came to the point that I heard my name in the connection with 15 bottles of beer I really felt ashamed and so “stereotype German”. We were the only ones who ordered 15 bottles. All the others ordered around 4 or 5.
What would you appreciate not to hear about Germany or the Germans?
Second world war and Adolf Hitler of course. Worldwide topic No 1.
Not all the Germans are tall and blond with blue eyes.
Best things you have learned about yourself when being outside of your cultural comfort zone?
Stay calm and cool and don´t forget to smile. Always look on the bright side of life.
Greetings to Germany – your last sentence:
Country roads, take me home….let´s wait and see … to be continued
Thanks Birgit for sharing your perspective on your country.
We have talked about it for a long time, and I hope we will spend at one point many years together as agile, purple haired old ladies, drinking Scotch and smoking cigarillos while playing Bridge and chatting about the good old times. That’s at least the plan.
You like to get some more greetings to home? Have a look here.