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by David Lyons

The sound of screeching rubber or the grind of metal heralds the arrival of every new teacher from Britain. Düsseldorf Flughafen or Köln Hauptbahnhof is where the story starts for Advanx’s native speaking teachers.

After being told scary stories about the wild savages that live on the Continent it comes as a relief to discover that on first impression Germany is not too dissimilar to England. There are of course the ubiquitous international fast food, furniture and clothing chains and an abundance of advertisements in a German/English hybrid.

All these welcome familiarities help to dispel any feeling of trepidation the new teacher has about moving to a foreign land.

My perspective of Germany and that of my native speaking colleagues is clearly influenced by the English oriented environment in which we choose to work. To be pulled towards what you know-other people with the same language and cultural references-is entirely natural.  This provides a buffer zone or obstacle, which prevents any meaningful immersion into the culture/country that surrounds one.

However a lack of any further understanding of Germany hasn’t hindered my enjoyment of the ‘land of beer and sausages’. Although it pains me to say it you do some things better here than in Britain (we’ll get to football later). Pubs (yes, you’re right-this article does reflect the authors’ interests) are a superb example. However, when I first arrived the 0,2ml Altbier glass struck me as effete, and the system of recording drinks drunk on the beer mat as foolishly trusting.

In Britain a man with a beer glass that size is just asking to be ridiculed, and to escape without paying for your drink would soon become a national sport. But it didn’t take me long to realise that this level of civilisation adds to the whole evening-out experience. Another contributing factor, the merits of which I didn’t need convincing, is table service. There’s no need to fight your way through a heaving pub to a crowded bar; breaking the flow of conversation with friends, raising stress levels and getting thirsty in the process.

There is of course the danger that the numerous Feiertages encourage weak willed people such as myself to spend too much time in the above-mentioned places. But this is certainly not a complaint; the more holidays the better.

Christmas and Carnival are two events that have left a lasting positive impression on me. Weihnacht seems to be what the English Christmas aspires too. The seasonal markets of Köln and Düsseldorf, gluwein and the occasional snow flurry give a fairy tale quality that Britain’s offer of gaudy neon Santas can’t quite match.

British people know how to enjoy themselves, but communal celebrations similar to Altweibernacht and Rosenmontag don’t exist. These particular events are for everyone. They cut across age, class and gender divisions. Organised by the community for the community the festivals help generate a spirit of revelry, which everybody can enjoy together. Toll!

 Unfortunately there are numerous pitfalls for the unwary young man new to Germany. First cooking instructions which he would have trouble following in his own language, an unprecedented level of bureaucracy and an illogical road system. Driving on the right, giving priority to the right and speed cameras containing film- whatever next!

Anyway despite not driving on the left Germany’s a fabulous place and thank you for the hospitality. But can someone please tell me what a ‘Groschen’ is?

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