When a Mumbai chi mulgi arrives in Deutschland

Being an INDIAN in GERMANY,moments of culture shock

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For personal reasons, I took the huge decision of moving to Frankfurt sometime last year and then started taking the necessary steps of winding up my life in Mumbai (the only city I had ever existed in). By the start of this year, with all my relevant documents in place, I finally booked a one-way ticket to Frankfurt am Main and boarded the flight with a heavy heart (and heavier baggage!) and was on my way to be with my husband at last.

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Although in my head I was aware of the hurdles ahead, none of them really struck me till I was actually in Deutschland. Language, weather, culture, food – the list is long! But well, since I was already here, I decided to stop whining and start adapting.

About a month later, a mental germ took shape in my brain – how about penning down my initial experiences in Germany.  This could not only help some of you all who might be planning such a move or just arrived OR could just provide some interesting (even amusing) reading material to others!!

 

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So let me take you along on this journey of, me, trying to understand, acclimatize and enjoy my new life in Germany. I am planning to make this a three or four part series, depending on how much material I gather to share with all of you.

In the first series, I thought of sharing some of my first impressions about the behavioral differences between the two cultures. So here are some anecdotes of my experience.

Contrary to popular belief in India, the Germans are quite chirpy and outgoing – almost to the point of being annoying! So where ever I used to go, I would be assailed with happy cries of “Morgen”, “Hallo”, “Tschüss” and “Guten Tag”. Whether it was an office elevator or a coffee shop, a bakery or a U-bahn – these effervescent Germans just wouldn’t let up! And if you are unfortunately not a morning person, God help you, especially if you run into them before your morning poison of coffee or tea! But what I slowly realized is that it is not such a bad thing, after all, to be more upbeat or cheerful and spread a bit of warmth through a smile in the otherwise cold surroundings (weather wise). Would you not like to be greeted with a bright “Hallo” and wished a “Schon Wochenande” (Happy weekend) at the Supermarket at the end of a long queue?

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One thing I have mastered in the last couple of month is to smile a lot…and I mean a LOT, especially since I did not speak any Deutsch. Now those who know me would already call me a smiling personality, but even my jaw is starting to protest because the Germans just love to smile!! They even smile at roadside strangers! Again, I am not saying it is a bad habit, but just not one that we are accustomed to. Being an Indian, I am always suspicious of strangers smiling at me without any reason. If that happens back home, my first instinct is to check for food stuck in my mouth, some spot/ blot on my face, or maybe even the price tag on my clothes hanging about! But here, people are always smiling and wishing each other. So do not feel offended by or leer at, in case someone of the opposite sex just happens to break out into a smile on the station or in a supermarket.

 

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To add to their cheerfulness, they take the word “Polite” to newer levels. Not saying they are straitlaced, but we Indians are so rude and misbehaved nowadays, that their politeness can almost be looked upon as suspicious by some of our nonchalant country people. They will silently wait for hours in queues at railway stations or coffee shops without a single frown or roll of the eyes; whereas I can think of numerous occasions where in India, it would have caused a stampede or at least a surge of fancy creative swear words. So in case of patience is not one your virtues, I suggest to try and sit in a car on the western express highway in Mumbai at peak hours without honking or shouting – FOR A MONTH, before booking your tickets to Germany!!

German discipline is already legendary. In case you think you can run signals, cross haphazardly, go to meetings at 4”ish”, throw your candy wrappers on rail tracks or start checking Facebook in office, just like you are accustomed to – think again (and just stay put in India, I guess!). So yes, you have to wait for the signal to turn green – whether you are driving or are a pedestrian. So yes, you can only cross signals whilst walking and cannot start running across roads. So yes, you should throw litter only in trash cans (and that too in the correct one – yes Germany has about 5 different types of recycling dustbins!). So yes, when you are to meet someone at, say 4, you need to make sure that you reach precisely 4 (a couple of minutes earlier is in fact better!). So yes, social media, and in fact, any kind of personal interactions on your smartphones is not only frowned upon but not allowed in many German workplaces.

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The intention above is not to scare you off, but just to prepare you. More importantly, it is about adaptability – and in my opinion, none of these behavioral changes will leave you short-changed.

Hoping I have not bored you, would you like to read my next edition in the series which would be about my German language class experiences? Trust me; it was one of my most enriching experiences! So till then, as the Germans would say, Tschüss!!

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