Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Humble Advice for "New" Immigrant Germans

With the door swinging open and the media doing almost nightly updates on the refugee and immigrants coming into Germany.....I'm going to offer up non-German advice on how it is, and how to fit to some degree for these new Germans (soon to be).

1.  Stop whining about the high cost of living in Germany.  I know it's a heck of a shock to stand at some grocery and realize that sixty Euro is gone in a matter of a minute or two.  But this is the place that you picked to settle into.  I know your research didn't include talk about milk costing this much, or bread costing that much.  But here's the reality....Germans expect a number of things, and by the time you add up the infrastructure, the inspections, the quality, and the grocery margin of's hefty.  Just get used to the pricing.

2.  Sie and Du (the German forms of you).  For the next year or will always be address by sie, and it'll be an accepted thing after a while.  Then one day.....either at the local social office, the work place, or at some neighborhood park.....your German associate will use the word "du", and you will stand there and be shocked to some degree.  Yeah, it took a while, and it's something you'd bring out a beer for or dance till midnight over, but it's a big deal.  And maybe in a couple of years, you actually have five or six people use the word "du" with you.

3.  There will be these occasions when you stand there and hear some German spouting off "It's a scandal"....all hotly spoken and hostile about what some store, airline, or individual did to them.  Frankly, don't pay much attention or rate the event an automatic "scandal".  A handful of Germans might overuse the term, and there might be less to the episode than it appears.

4.  German language being tough?  Well, yeah.  Again, if you'd done research and decided to play the refugee should have noted difficulty of language being a top ten issue.  Germans have been around for thousands of years, and spent a lot of effort to be very precise in detailing their feelings, their desires, their requirements, and their descriptions of things.  There are thousands of German words that will never be used by the typical average German over a seventy-year lifespan.  Germans know it's not a simple language, but the last thing they'd want to throw out some words that have been around for a thousand years.

5.  Politics in Germany.  My humble advice is to simply watch and view all the political chatter from various political groups, and stay at an arm's length from people who get hyper about their brand of politics in Germany.  Frankly, most all German political figures make promises....of which most never reach any level of fulfillment.  Some Germans will even admit that they get into the political talk more for entertainment purposes, than actually achieving anything.  The neat thing about German politicians is that they rarely get into fist-fights as you'd see from some countries.

6.  Sex and hot stuff on German TV.  Maybe you did come from a fairly conservative land, and there just wasn't any lusty stuff to view on your local TV options.  Well, this is the other side of the spectrum, and things are fairly acceptable here.  If it really bothers you.....dump the TV entirely (saving money on that stupid TV tax anyway), and settle back to read a book nightly.  Some Germans will tell you there's simply not that much lusty stuff on TV.....but these are mostly the guys who watch soccer and Formula One racing.  To be honest, you could probably watch a hundred hours a week of German TV and never see anything much of a sexual don't get freaky about it.

7.  Dressing for the occasion. This is simply my humble advice.  When you have to go to an appointment with any immigration office or German government office....wear something presentable.  I'm not saying a tie and jacket, but you need to put on some type of attire that says 'respectful' in terms of the meeting.  If you were going to a street fest, you'd dress in a t-shirt and jeans.  If you went to a funeral, you'd dress in black clothing.  All I'm suggesting is that you try to say something with your choice of clothing for each meeting with Germans.  You will notice after a while that even on voting days....some Germans will put on a tie and jacket, just to vote.

8.  German history matters.  The blunt truth is that German history doesn't start in 1945, as some might suggest.  It goes back well over 2,000 years...has a twist of Roman involvement, Catholic Church domination, various civil wars, bouts with the plague, and two world wars (not one).  It may not seem important to review this long history, but it explains a number of details about why Germans get fussy about church corruption, taxation, and foreigners in Germany.  Being so long and complicated, I'll take you several years to really get through the information and really grasp the big picture, but it's a necessary thing.

9.  Snow and summer heat.  Germans thrive on snow storms and summer heat periods.  They will talk for hours over such-and-such winter storm, or the right winter tires to use, or how to cool off on a 38-Celsius July afternoon.  Maybe weather wasn't a big deal in your former land, but here in is a daily topic.  Summer hail storms will lead onto lightning storms, and onto local flooding.

10.  Why does German life always seem so complicated?  Germans are precise about matters, and want a full-safety net over life.  There probably are a thousand car-safety rules that you feel are too excessive.  There probably are various forms from German government offices that want more than just a little bit of information.  The German pool in your community probably does have twenty rules written at the entrance.  The parking lot at your local German grocery probably does have a billboard with five rules about parking there.  The train you rode this morning has at least ten rules for riding.  Germans demanded a society that repeats processes daily and they get used to the rules.  You need to get used to them too.

11.  Why are there so few public toilets?  When you go to your local train station....there might not be a public toilet.  Walking through a shopping district?  There might not be a public toilet there.  There was probably a peak of enthusiasm for public toilets in German that stuck around till the 1980s.  Between drunks, homeless folks, and drug-obsessive folks....German public toilets got around to being a toxic area that no wanted to visit and everyone wanted to blame on some city official.  So they got smart....they got rid of the problems.  And they aren't coming back.  So use your home toilet before you leave the house, or find a decent pub or restaurant to visit during the day.

12.  The German drivers license procedure is a bit complicated.  In most countries, the handbook for study might be twenty pages, and any idiot could pass the exam.  Germany is a bit different.  The last time I looked at the was well over one-hundred-and-twenty pages.  There are countless scenarios built into the manual and it accurately describes ninety percent of the episodes that you might run into over a fifty year period.  The sign portion is long and complicated, I agree, but necessary.  The key thing is that unlike ninety percent of the nations on the Earth.....this is one country that allows unlimited speed limits on the autobahn.  You need some people thinking and reacting all in the same way....for this act of unlimited speed to work.  Yeah, it might take three weeks of study to pass the driver's test.  It might require twenty hours of hands-on driving with an instructor in the car, but it's all driven by necessity, trust me.

13.  This bio market stuff.  Basically, some salesmen have sat down with the environmental crowd, and devised a thoughtful marketing strategy of bio-type foods.  I know, in your sounds pretty stupid, but Germans have bought into the discussion and every single grocery has a bio section, and the foods are usually (not always) a good ten-to-twenty percent higher than the non-bio items.  My advice, your budget isn't going to allow for such thrills, so just skip this section entirely and don't waste a minute worrying about your lifestyle, or the terrible things used to grow fruits and vegetables.

14.  Thinking Germans are all rocket scientists?  Well, no.  Germans simply sit and think a lot about how things are, and it bothers them.  They eventually sit and think of a solution to fix something.  I would agree, they spend a lot of time thinking and pondering.  It might be a national obsession, but these are the people who invented gummy bears, aspirin, airbags on cars, the MP3 format, helicopters, jet engines, the scanner, ABS brakes, and the record player.  It could be said, they are the last people on Earth to be satisfied with things staying the same.

15.  Criticizing Germans?  Well, you kinda picked Germany as your immigration point or refugee status country.  It's in bad taste to say anything much negative about them because they were being nice enough to allow you to stay.  They've extended a number of things out to you, and they were trying to comfort your situation.

16.  Rising above shelf-stocker?  Here's the thing, you as the new immigrant in town....don't have an abundance of skills, certificates, or degrees to show for much.  So, when the work office finally finds you a job and it's stocking shelves at the grocery or loading the delivery just need to accept that.  The German system has various ways that you can move ahead, get more education, certify yourself, and climb up the ladder.  It means taking free time from your family or private life, and spending hours studying for tests.  If you are unhappy about the job that the Germans dumped on you for the beginning of your refugee period, then don't whine....just ask about local classes and get active.

17.  German TV.  Generally, there's something for everyone....just not tonight.  My general advice is to cover the 8PM news on ARD (Channel One), which will give you all the national news that you need to know.  There are close to thirty German channels with some form of news, entertainment, sports, or documentary.  Don't get disturbed over marginal single-dimensional murder mysteries, slanted political chat forums.  There's always something to pick from.

18.  Thanking for Germans for kindness.  It never hurts, and it's something that most immigrants won't really apply much in life.  Germans didn't have to be friendly or accepting of your situation in life.  They didn't have to put state funds across to help you.  They could just send you onto the next place.  They were going a step beyond what most would expect.  So, when you notice this little bit of help by any German.....simply thank them for their help and kindness.  Don't go overboard....but just say it nicely.

19.  Religion in Germany.  Frankly, religion has a long history in Germany, and it's not very entertaining or pleasant to read over.  Some people have passed on, due to their religious thoughts, or the negativity by the 'other' folks.  If you have a religious preference, enjoy it in the presence of your home or local structure....don't make it a public event.  Nor should you try to bring your religious attitudes into local German just won't work.  Believe me....they've seen every trick in the book over the past two thousand years, and it's not that easy to just overlook it.

20.  Finally, never admit that coming to Germany was a mistake.  You were a refugee with hardly anything of value on you when you arrived.You might do better, but after a period of will come to associate some valuable lessons to the episode.  In the end, you will be a German, and feel some connection to the society.

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