Thursday, September 4, 2014

Really jumping into local life: joining a German club

When I had the opportunity to move to Germany, I knew that I wanted to have as authentic of an experience as possible. The first step to that journey was to learn German; then I wanted to make some German friends. Finally, I wanted to do things that the locals do. I got the bright idea to join a local club.

I have, to some degree, made progress on the first two steps. To work on my other goal, I needed to join a club. Another member of an expat/German organization in which I am a member told me about a club that might work for me. She is German and very kindly offered to accompany me to make introductions and to help translate if necessary. I was struck by her kindness and gratefully accepted her invitation.

I tried not to think too much about the first meeting ahead of time, because I'll fully admit that I obsess a bit and would have worried if I wouldn't be welcome with my weak German speaking skills. Would I be viewed as an outsider, barging in where I wasn't welcome?

I'm so glad that I didn't spend a lot of time worrying because I was welcomed with open arms! It was a fantastic experience. My German Bekanntin introduced me to the group leader, who in turn was very kind and welcoming, smiling warmly at me. The group leader offered to help me with posting to the group's website and if I didn't understand parts of the meeting, I could ask questions or she could translate afterward. I thanked her and told her that I did know some German but would probably have some questions since I'm not yet fluent.

We moved on to the meeting and everyone introduced themselves and gave an update on club events. I'm so glad that I didn't think about this part too much because it felt like an exam where I wasn't ready! Even though I have no problems with public speaking, it's daunting to give a presentation to native speakers, especially because I didn't have all of the needed vocabulary and am very rusty with conversation. I had to pop in some English but everyone was very kind, with the leader and my Bekanntin filling in the gaps. I didn't do too horribly; I understood about 85% of the words and followed about 60-75% of the conversation so I had a basic grasp of what was going on.

Even better yet? The other members were incredibly welcoming too and several ladies stopped me after the meeting because they were interested in practicing English with me. I know that some people have a stereotype of Germans being "cold" and "distant." I can't say that I have had that experience; I have met so many friendly locals in different situations who have been so kind, helpful, and interested in getting to know others better.

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