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moved to Germany

So, I've been an expat for most of my adult life. Spent nine years in Vietnam. I always struggled with Vietnamese for a number of reasons that I won't go into here, but one of them was because one of my pet projects is researching opera and Vietnamese is not an operatic language. I always wanted to learn German, Italian, French, and Russian (the languages I most often hear in opera) and it was very difficult to focus on Vietnamese when my head was in Western languages. (I used to be better at studying Vietnamese, but then my mom died of cancer and suddenly it just became more emotionally difficult to deal with the stress of making an idiot of myself in a foreign language, and especially to deal with the intense guilt and shame of not being able to speak/understand Vietnamese better.)

Started learning German via Duolingo on a complete whim 14 months ago. My favorite operas are German-language, so my initial objective was simply to understand the operas better. I had no real interest in learning to communicate, since I figured I'd never have a chance to use the language. But then I completely fell in love with it. It's so much easier than Vietnamese (at least for native English speakers) and I personally really enjoy the complexity of the grammar. I also really like the way it sounds... Many people associate the sound of the German language with Nazis in movies, but I never really watched movies or TV even when I was a kid, so I don't have that association. All my associations with German are with German-language classical music.

I had not planned to leave Vietnam (I'm a Struggling Writer, and it's much easier and less expensive to live there than in Europe, especially as a non-EU citizen) but after about 6 months of obsessively/intensively studying German, I suddenly got the unexpected opportunity to spend a few weeks traveling in Germany. It was amazing to be in a country where I could understand the language so easily. As soon as I got back to Vietnam, I put all my things in storage and made plans to move to Berlin (mostly because Berlin has tons of opera). It was a bit financially and logistically difficult, of course--I don't currently qualify for a residence permit, which means that I can actually only spend half the year in Germany and have to live out of a suitcase and bounce around a lot--but as a writer I can take my work anywhere, and it's worth it to be in a country where the culture around me is deeply connected to all my research interests (and particularly my language studies). I'm still really shy about speaking German, but I can understand a lot and can communicate pretty easily when needed.

I actually find it much easier to study German when I'm not actually in Germany! My passive skills (particularly reading) get much better when I'm in the German-speaking world, but my active vocabulary tends to decay. It's partly that there's so much to do in Berlin that I'm always out and about, so I have less time to study. But it's also that it's often so much easier to communicate in English, and it's demoralizing to be constantly reminded of how much I still have to learn. But that's OK. I'm currently in Visa Exile for a few months (living in Croatia) and there isn't so much to do here, so I can focus on studying German more intensively again. And living in an area where I don't understand the local language makes me remember how far I've come with German. It's easier to feel satisfied with what I do know, here... My host family doesn't speak German, but they have a lot of old German-language books (inherited from relatives), so I get to feel smart again because I can translate the titles of the books for them. And I don't feel embarrassed when they overhear me speaking German to my computer, since they can't laugh at my accent. So I'm studying up in preparation for my return to Berlin. (I also scored tickets to the Bayreuth Festival this summer, which is an added motivation! It's like Mecca for fans of Wagner's operas. Lots of ugly history there, but that's another issue. There aren't any English-language surtitles, unlike in most opera houses, so I'm going to have to work extra hard to remember all the complicated literary language Wagner uses. I know the operas well already, but you get much more out of them if you understand the individual words.)

Anyway. Kind of a pointless post, and long, but I figured some people here might be interested. My German-born (but American) best friend was so impressed by how much German I've learned so quickly, mostly using Duolingo and Babbel and a few other resources, he was motivated to finally start studying Spanish. Language learning can be dispiriting when you aren't instantly fluent, but it's always good to be reminded that hard work does pay off.

December 17, 2018



Interesting story. I hope you have a great time.


I'm really happy for you! I'm glad you're living your dreams :D


Aww, thanks! That means a lot :-)


Hallo Elyse, danke für den schönen Bericht. Berlin ist mit Sicherheit eine der interessantesten Städte Deutschlands, ich fand es jedenfalls sehr spannend. Ich wünsche Dir viel Erfolg im Beruf und beim Spracherwerb :) !


Es ist eine sehr interressante Geschichte.

I know what it feels like to not know the language. At first, motivation makes you feel good about making mistakes, but, eventually, no matter how good they are in the language learning process, you'll get tired of them.

I also like the sound of German, but it has nothing to do with movies. I don't think it sounds harsh like many others think.


I've got the accent down and I like how it sounds too!


Danke für deine Erfahrungen! Sehr interessant! Ich wollte schon immer in Berlin leben.


Berlin seems to no longer be Germany, at least when it comes to language and depending on where you're going, i.e. the trendy districts which suppose is where you preferably spend your time :)

It's just gotten so very international there. Personally, I like that very much, but I guess that's just my being a German who loves to speak other languages. I'm actually living closer to Cologne, but I'm always astonished given the fact how much Spanish is being spoken there as well.

To dive deep into a foreign language I suppose areas a little less metropolitan would be better. Which is just such a dilemma, but you can't have it all, eh! ;)


Yeah, I actually originally didn't really want to move to Berlin but to some other part of Germany. But Berlin has 3 opera houses, so that was what decided it for me. Went to the opera over 40 times in my first 90 days! But that kind of intensifies the language issue, since so many people you meet at the opera are tourists. The other thing I do is cycle around outside the city, but you don't have many German-language conversations when you're on a bicycle either! I made my first German friend just before I had to leave for Croatia, so maybe it will be easier when I get back.

As someone who's been an expat for so long, I do appreciate being in an area where I feel less out of place and where my weird foreign habits are not so unusual. I do miss other parts of Germany, though... But I suppose I can always spend a few months elsewhere if I feel like it. I might have to, at some point, if Berlin housing prices get to be too much for my wallet. I'll just have to see how it goes. :-)


Germans never laugh at people who are practising to speak German.

I've been in Potsdam for 8 months now, and people love it when you try to speak German.

My trick was to pretend that I don't understand English, cause people try to switch to English sometimes.

But I can totally understand falling in love with the language. I fell in love with the language when I was 9!

Good luck!


Yes, I know... I kind of have language PTSD from living in Vietnam. That sounds overdramatic, but it's bad. Vietnam is still such a poor country that very few people living there have the experience of being a foreigner, so even when they're completely well-intentioned, they can make you feel like a human zoo animal. I had a lot of very stressful and painful language-related experiences. I know it's not like that in Germany, but I still really stress out about making any kind of language mistake. For a long time my mind would completely blank out when anyone spoke to me in German, and I could only think of Vietnamese words (even though my German is much better than my Vietnamese).

I really wasn't nervous about trying to speak when I first moved abroad. Just had too many years in a part of the world that can be rough for foreign women, I guess. I had my wallet stolen at one point in Berlin and it was incredibly stressful (my passport was in it) but it forced me to speak only German, since the people I was interacting with didn't know English, which was wonderful. So I was kind of grinning and panicking at the same time. It's such an awful feeling to have people assume that you're one of those expats who don't bother to learn the local language... It's just something I'll have to work to get over. People are always like "just speak! it's no big deal!" but after so many bad experiences, I just have really intense anxiety that's hard to get through.

Anyway. I'm really looking forward to visiting Potsdam when I return! I hate spending money on BVG tickets (two rides is, like, half the price of an opera ticket...) and it was a little far to ride my bike. Very excited that it will be much closer when I return.


Potsdam is amazing! They say it's the Versailles of Germany!

What helped me was a manager who works home office came in during my third week and refused to communicate in any language other than German. Once everyone else in the office saw this, no one spoke English to me again.

I was always shy to say "Sorry, could we rather speak German" or to start talking German before that. So can completely relate.


Man, you're making me miss Germany even more :-)

That manager sounds like a godsend! People's English is usually better than my German, so I feel embarrassed to force them to deal with my fumbling/nervous speech. And since I work at home, it's easy to get isolated. But I'm starting to make more connections with locals, and hopefully that will help... Even in Vietnam, where foreigners are practically celebrities, it took me a while to make connections and get welcomed into the local culture. So I guess I will just have to be patient and keep working.

Potsdam will be the perfect place to cycle to when I'm living in Charlottenburg! So excited to explore. Having to travel around is a bit stressful, but it's great to be able to discover new places every time I move... I took a lot of rides through Neu-Venedig when I was living in Schöneweide, which is such a charming little place and apparently a bit off the radar, for foreigners. Expats always seem to want to live in the trendy neighborhoods in the city center, but I think it's more fun to be on the outskirts... Anyway. Thanks for your comments!


I have just started the same journey roughly a month ago after being granted an EU Citizenship through my father. Now my dream is to live in Germany as it has always been one of my favorite places to visit.

I hope to follow in your foot steps sir. An amazing and very inspiring story.

My goal is to live in Hamburg which is a bit more difficult in my experience not so many people speak English on the daily.


Ooh, I really liked Hamburg! There are so many lovely places... Only reason I could decide on Berlin was that it has more opera than nearly any other city (and it's still relatively cheap, although definitely not like it used to be--but I was living in the Bay Area before I moved abroad, so Berlin still looks cheap to me in comparison). Good wishes!


Hello Elyse! Der Rosenkavalier ... ja, ich erinnere! Good luck on all your travels, and no matter where you are, enjoy the music!


Haha, thanks! Haven't had a chance to see Rosenkavalier yet, unfortunately, but have seen so many incredible performances and world-class performers for only €12 or €16. And the Bayreuth Festival has been my unreachable dream (I thought) since I first discovered Wagner's operas. Still can't believe I have tickets... It usually takes at least 6 years on the waiting list, but I guess they must have wanted to bump up their number of younger people attending. Probably no one here cares about that, though. I really appreciate the good thoughts!


I actually did wonder about the Bayreuth tickets! My husband would do anything to get there.


He should join the waiting list! I think it's about six years long right now, but it might depend on what price category you choose, I'm not sure... I got €20 seats to each opera, and an Airbnb with a kitchen for $20-ish per night, so the cost of attendance is not THAT expensive, except for travel costs. And I think you can stay on the waiting list if you name comes up and you can't attend that year. It used to be more confusing, but now more of the process is online... You just have to request tickets in September, I think, and wait until they tell you whether they can offer them to you or not.

I didn't budget for it this year, since I didn't expect to get tickets for years, so it's going to be a bit tough to make it work. But it's my #1 "bucket list" thing, and I have no idea what my life will look like in the future, so I figured I'd better do it ASAP. I actually visited Bayreuth last summer just to see the Wagner museum and look at the opera house... There were a bunch of crazy Wagnerites hanging around, even though it wasn't festival season yet! Can't believe I'll actually be going...


Great suggestions, thanks!


Always happy to talk about opera :-) Just be aware that if you don't happen to be quite as passionate about the idea of Bayreuth as your husband is, it might not be much fun at all. It's famous for having uncomfortable seats and getting really hot inside the theater, and for having audience members who are less than tolerant of anyone who isn't fixated in silent, motionless rapture on the music. And Bayreuth is not the best place for sightseeing, either. I've been reading Stravinsky's autobiography, and he took a break from working on Rite of Spring to see Parsifal at Bayreuth and he was miserable all through the performance. Still sounds like my idea of heaven, though.

Munich would also be a really great destination for Wagner... You don't get the thrill of hearing the operas in the theater that was built for them, but I've seen critics say that it has the best Wagner performances in the world right now, and it's certainly a more enjoyable destination for people who aren't complete Wagner nuts. But of course Bayreuth is Bayreuth. And there's always something special about being in an environment where people are really, really passionate about the work they're hearing, and no one pulls out their phone and starts scrolling through Instagram halfway through the Liebesnacht


That's inspirational Elyse, I've been doing German via Duolingo and a few other resources for 3 months or so but was disheartened yesterday that I only scored 52% on the A2 and 70% on the A1 DW Placement Test! I know lots of nouns and verbs (in present tense) and even some adjectives and adverbs but as for all the connecting words in the different cases)that are required to string sentences together, forget about it! No way would I be ready to move to Germany but have to just keep on keeping on! I would have the time but not the concentration to study intensively for hours as a time as some posters seem to do. I like Duo but I get bored with the repetition and cant wait to test out a particular skill! I enjoy the humour in the stories. I'm very impressed with the generosity of posters on the forum who post items and links they found useful themselves. Some day maybe I'll know something useful enough to pass on!


Joan.. it's better not just to do Duolingo but to also take up other ways of learning German too. That's far less boring.

I do about 50% of my learning by Duolingo and the other 50% by other places. (10% through German penpals through the conversation exchange site, 10% though youtube videos for beginners, 5% through using flashcards, 5% from being in a mixed English/German game team and about 20% through German music).

Mix things up so that learning does not become boring.


Don't give up! :-) It took a while for it to really click with me. I've gone through a few cycles of forgetting things and then picking them back up again, but they come back stronger every time. The first time I was in Germany my reading skills got a whole lot better really quickly, which was exciting, but I forgot a bunch of the grammar. So I had to review the grammar again when I got back to Vietnam, but now it seems like it's much more deeply cemented in my mind and much of it comes naturally. Language learning can definitely be discouraging, and I certainly have a lot of progress left to make, but it seems like every few months I realize that I've suddenly made a huge leap forward (often right on the heels of a step back). Good wishes!


Have you ever thought about sharing your time between Berlin and Vienna? Both are German speaking international cities with plenty of culture to dive in.


Based on the OP's mention of a visa run to Croatia, I'd guess that they have to split their time between a Schengen area location and a non-Schengen area location.


Yes, exactly... I did get to visit Vienna and would love to return. I am crossing my fingers that some day I'll be able to settle down instead of having to leave the Schengen zone all the time. But it's really tough to make that happen, as an American, so I'm just taking it month by month. At least this way I don't have to deal with so much bureaucracy (not to mention German taxes and German health insurance costs), so having to move around is not the worst. It does get kind of old to only own a few changes of clothes, but I guess those are the sacrifices you have to make... We'll see how it works in the long run.


I hope everything goes well, and better than planned.


Thank you! It's definitely going better than I expected so far... Keeping my fingers crossed.


Thanks for sharing, very interesting!


Interessante Geschichte, wow! Wenn Du mal ein anderes Opernhaus sehen möchtest: ich stamme aus Essen und lebe nun in Bochum. Wir gehen regelmäßig ins Aalto-Theater Essen, ich finde die Operninszenierungen dort immer wieder toll, aufregend, zeitgemäß, aber nicht extrem modern(istisch). Gerade habe ich eine sehr gesellschaftskritische Inszenierung des Freischütz gesehen und die Inszenierung der Fledermaus (der Graf war eine Art Boy George-Impersonator) und von Turandot waren "der Hammer"! (I hope you can read everything. :-) )


Can read everything, but too tired to write in German :-) I would love to visit! Haven't been to Essen yet, but it's on my list... I really enjoy German opera productions. I like traditional productions as well as modern ones, and the range of productions in Germany is really interesting and thought-provoking to me. And I really appreciate that German audiences tend to be more open-minded in terms of modern productions than Americans are. Definitely one of my favorite things about getting to be in Germany. Thanks for the comment!


Regardless of not speaking the languages, that sounds like an amazing trip overall. Even if you don't speak a word of Croatian, they mostly speak English quite well, I lived there for 3 years and didn't learn a word of it :)

Now a question for you. If your head is frolicking in Western languages, why didn't you go full speed ahead with French while you were in Vietnam? I've never been so I don't know how prevalent it is anymore but it was a colony until '54. Just wondering if it would have been interesting and at the same time somewhat useful while you were there.

ALSO, if you can while you're in Berlin. GO to Prague! It has I think 3 (maybe 4) opera houses as well. All of former Bohemia is very centered on the fine arts and it is a great place to be for that.


It is an amazing trip! I can get along fine without any Croatian, but I still feel guilty for not speaking any of the local language... The wife and son in my host family speak English fluently, but the husband doesn't speak it at all, which is kind of awkward. But they understand that Croatian is really difficult, and that I'm working on my German.

I actually was studying French before I arrived in Vietnam, but almost nobody speaks it there anymore... Younger people study English, and their elders studied Russian in school. I know French is still spoken in a lot of former French colonies, but it really wasn't useful to me at all in Vietnam, so I forgot most of it. And French-language opera is not really my big thing anymore, anyway (I do listen to it and enjoy it, but it's not the tradition that resonates with me the most).

I'm dying to go to Prague! Hope I can make it happen. I just would rather spend my Schengen-zone time in Germany, since it's hard to make connections when you're constantly traveling, and I'm hoping to make real-life friendships rather than constantly ditching everyone every few months. But if I ever manage to get some kind of long-term visa or residency, or if I'm in a less tenuous financial position, Prague is definitely one of the first places I'd be heading. I have to go to Bosnia for a week so I don't overstay my Croatian visa, and then I'll be going to Romania before it joins the Schengen zone, so that's pretty cool in the meantime :-)

Thanks for the comment!


That's great! A couple tips from living in the area. Bosnia is still really torn up, go there for the nature though. It has a beautiful forested countryside.

Also, I lived in Romania for 3 years so take this in that light. Do not go to Bucharest. (That's where I lived ;) That being said, the Romanian countryside is superb. Go out to the west of Romania, reminds me of a more rural Northern Germany with the wheat fields.

Ps, yes Croatian is hard haha. I would talk with locals sometimes and they would say 'why don't you learn Croatian' and I'd try my best to play it off politely 'Well, I'm learning French & bla bla' and I've literally had Croatians be like 'yea, no Croatian isn't worth it, stick with French hah'.


Ha! Yeah, that's what my host family keeps telling me about Croatian... It's supposed to be a bit easier than Vietnamese, but at least Vietnamese grammar is not very complex. German seems so easy to me after struggling with Vietnamese for years, though.

I've been writing about war (WWI currently, but based partly on my experiences in Vietnam, if that makes any sense) so the torn-up aspect of Bosnia is actually one of the reasons I'm going, morbid as that sounds... Helps me connect with what I'm working on. I'm hoping to spend more time there later. My Croatian host family and I end up talking about the war a lot, which is really interesting to me because nobody ever talks about the past in Vietnam. I'm leery of asking questions when it comes to those types of painful subjects, so I'm really grateful that people are so much more likely to volunteer information here.

I actually booked a place in Iași already, even though I couldn't figure out whether it looked like a good place to spend time or boring or what. Just found cheap accommodation there and figured that if I don't like it there, I'll just hole up and get a lot of work done (which is hard in Berlin, where there's so much to do). I think my father is planning to visit me in Romania, so I'll tell him what you said about the western part of the country... He isn't on a tight budget like I am, so I always get to tag along and travel and do all the fun things when he visits :-)


Don't be so wary about questions about the war as elsewhere (of course people could have lost relatives and such) but in Croatia, its really a sense of pride that they won their independence so they'll be glad to tell you about it ha.

Yes I've been to Iasi, right on the river right? I don't remember much of it but my family definitely liked it enough to go on vacation there so, good pick!


Good to hear! Thanks.

I'm so used to Vietnam, where the war is 100% taboo to talk about... Really anything political is verboten. I appreciate the advice!


Nice post! I am currently in preparation for my move to Germany as soon as I'm done with my thesis here in Pennsylvania! Good luck on your future endeavors. P.S. You should check out Serbia, if you're interested in different cultures I can connect you with my friends who can give you a tour of our capital city. Cheers!


Ooh, that's a good idea! Would definitely be interested in getting to know Serbia. Am deeply interested in the culture and history there. I really hope that I'll be able to settle full-time in Germany at some point, but with my low-demand skill set it will be difficult... Would probably have to marry a German, but the thought of getting into a relationship because I want a visa is unappealing in the extreme. Anyway. Will put Serbia on my list of places to check out when I'm arranging my next non-Schengen stint. I tend to go for smaller/cheaper cities because I have to save up to afford Berlin housing prices, but I'll see what I can find! Serbian was actually the first language I tried to learn, back when I was about 15, but I was too young and too intimidated by it to get anywhere...

Good wishes for your thesis, and for your move! And thanks for the positive thoughts :-)


Nice life story :) I plan on moving to Berlin as well in a year and a bit, I am looking forwards to it! Nice to see how someone progresses through a second language over time, thats really cool.


Thanks! Berlin is wonderful... I had to live in the outskirts of the city for my first 3 months because the current housing crisis means that it's tough to get decently-priced housing in the city center, but I actually really loved it there. I could ride my bike 20 minutes and be in the forest! And I got really fit because I rode my bicycle 700 km per month just to get around, since I have a small budget and prefer not to spend my money on public transport. Love how you can get anywhere on a bicycle there.

You probably don't need this advice, but I definitely recommend studying German as much as you can before you arrive... There are so many English speakers in Berlin, it tends to be easier to speak English (especially if you're a bit shy, which is my problem). A lot of long-term expats don't speak German, but that gets really embarrassing/isolating when you live there long-term, and of course it's difficult to deal with German bureaucracy. And it can be emotionally difficult to focus on the local language when you're already dealing with culture shock or loneliness or personal issues (which was my big issue in Vietnam). But of course it depends on what kind of person you are. Some people are really outgoing and don't mind making a fool of themselves, so they have an easier time learning by talking to people. I get really nervous about making grammatical or pronunciation mistakes, so I tend to freeze up when I'm put on the spot. I will just have to keep working on it...


I've spent a lot of time messing up, and practicing lots haha. I used to be like you, I used to be really shy as well, and now with just lots of interaction I love putting myself out there. Plus when you really enjoy something enough, those few or multiple mistakes are just a little speed bump compared to the outcome which is the best feeling tbh. And thats interesting to know that living a bit out of town is close to the forest like that, I love riding bikes, and i think i would almost enjoy living a little bit out of city like i do now. Thanks for your input:)! I'm really looking forwards now haha


I hope I reach the point of not worrying so much! I wasn't always so nervous, but Vietnam can be a hard place to try to learn the local language... People tend to just stare uncomprehendingly and laugh at you, since so few foreigners speak Vietnamese. I always half-consciously expect that reaction from Germans, even though non-native speakers are common there. I get really thrilled when I manage to get over my anxiety and people actually understand me instantly and reply instead of laughing at me. Always a great feeling.

Berlin is so great for cycling! I was living in Schöneweide, which is definitely not the trendiest area, but it's close to these incredibly gorgeous bike paths in the forest. I rode my bicycle through Alt-Köpenick and along the Müggelsee and through Neu-Venedig often, and once I ended up in Woltersdorf, which was incredible. So scenic, and so relaxing compared with the city. And my ride to the opera went past the Berlin Wall remnants and Alexanderplatz and through the Brandenburg Gate and all that. I'll be in Charlottenburg when I return, and I'm really looking forward to exploring the forested areas around there, and riding to Potsdam.

Anyway, hope you have a great time there too! Sorry for the tl;dr ;-)


well thats very interesting! I feel like it would be such a cool experience to travel. Always hearing other people's experiences makes me feel like it is a lot easier and more "worth it". I hope to pursue a music teacher or producer job there, as well as possibly get my bachelors in business just in case. I think it will be really fun to explore areas around the world like that, as ive always been stuck living in the same part of canada my whole life haha


There's always a way to make it work! It can definitely be tricky, and sometimes you have to make hard decisions about what you value in life, but it's possible. I started out by teaching English in Vietnam because I had no money to travel otherwise... There were some long and hard years involved, but it's definitely not as intimidating as people think. Europe is a bit tougher, but if you're willing to pursue a career that's in high demand, you're a step ahead of the game. As a writer, my skill set is definitely not the best (in terms of getting a visa/residence permit) but I know people with more in-demand skill sets who've been able to get well-paying jobs without a huge amount of trouble.

My family never travelled when I was young, and I thought I would never get to see the world. It's still so weird to me that I'm well-travelled now. It's funny because I'm just a shy classical-music nerd, but people are always like, "wow! I've never met anyone like you! so cool!" and then they want to hear all my stories. So different from the rather boring life I expected to live. I always worry about how things will work out in the long run, but at least I will always have those stories and experiences... It really changes everything about your life and the way you see the world and even who you are as a person.

Anyway, good wishes!!


Thanks for all the advice :) take some lingots :p


I'm presuming it's relatively safe there.


Yes, I've never felt in danger. Vietnam was not terribly dangerous either, but theft and traffic and pollution were all real problems, so I feel much safer in Berlin. I'm used to rougher areas (in Vietnam I had to make constant visa runs to Cambodia, which was aways a bit nervewracking because of the intense poverty and because I didn't know Khmer at all, and I also lived in some dangerous areas in the US) so Berlin feels almost quiet and orderly in comparison.


Thank you for your reply Elyse. I do admire you and wish you all the best through your life's journey. :)


well, i hope you have fun in germany! i want to move there one day.

[deactivated user]

    hope ure having a good time!


    Thanks! Great time :-)


    Wow! I really liked reading through your post. What is the atmosphere like? Are people friendly, what does it feel like to be in a across seas, city?


    Thank you! :-) Germany is not famous for being super-friendly, and I definitely miss Vietnamese hospitality sometimes, but I really enjoy the culture in Berlin. I've been an expat for a long time, so being back in the West almost feels like being back home. There are definitely moments when I've found the culture frustrating, but that's true anywhere in the world, and it's just something you have to expect as a foreigner.

    Expats tend to find it a difficult place to make friends, but they also say that their friendships tend to be really rewarding once they do make them. I had some lonely moments, but also some really wonderful experiences with locals whom I hope will end up being good friends. German composers are my favorites, and I'm really thrilled to have so many opportunities to talk about Beethoven and Bach and Mozart and so on... Fellow music lovers tend to be really friendly to me, and people's faces will light up when they find out how much I really love and have studied the music.


    Hi Elyse, I am an American and have been living in Germany since the 80s. Love a lot about the country but the language is something I've learned out of necessity. It is good to remember how beautiful German can be.

    Just a note Berlin is not like the rest of Germany. I tend to find the Berliners more scroff. Like New Yorkers. (Don't want to offend anyone. I was in Berlin looking at a map with a friend. We were trying to figure out where to go when the person behind us said. "Go that way and turn left". Walked a way and didn't wait for the thank you. ) Try coming south. Munich is more like Atlanta. (Same situation I think they'll strike up a conversation and you'll see pictures of thier family before they let you move on. You won't sit at a table alone.) Or Köln the German San Francisco. Maybe Frankfurt (great Opera) or Stuttgart or get into some of the little villages in Odenwald or Taubertal. You won't understand a word they're saying but they're good hearted people.

    Have you read Mark Twain's travels in Germany? Great stories there.

    I have found my home here.


    Thanks for the tip on Mark Twain's travels in Germany. I'll have to source. Good to hear the people are friendly in Munich as I have ancestors there and intend to investigate at some point.


    I'm lucky that I discovered German via classical music! I still get totally weepy when really basic, common vocabulary words come up in my exercises, since they remind me of moments from my favorite operas...

    Interesting take on Berliners! I traveled around Germany before deciding on Berlin, but I only stayed a few days in each place, so of course I don't know them terribly well. I was not terribly enthusiastic about the idea of moving to Berlin, originally--I was aiming for somewhere more "German"--but the sheer quantity of opera there is incredible, which is what decided me. Love being able to see 4 or 5 different productions a week, if I feel like it. I always hear of Munich as having some of the highest-quality opera in the world, but I really enjoy the quantity in Berlin, and the fact that the three opera houses are all quite different. I already have to travel a lot, so I figure I'll keep Berlin as my home base unless I have a particular reason to move... It's nice to feel somewhat rooted in a place. And Berlin still has some much more affordable housing options than Munich and the other notoriously expensive cities with big opera houses, which is a major consideration for me.

    I'd forgotten about that Twain book! Love his writing... Will put it on my list.

    Thanks for the comment :-)


    I hope you have a very good time in Germany and may the very best come your way. Respond to me by telling me what Germany is like!


    Aww, thanks! :-)

    That's an impossible question, I'm afraid, and I don't really have time right now to give a well thought-out answer... Berlin is very different from other parts of Germany, but even within Berlin, people have vastly different experiences of the city. It seems like a lot of foreigners spend their time going to techno clubs and that sort of thing, but that's just not what I'm interested in, personally, so my own experience of the city is almost exclusively of classical music and forests and parks (and of riding my bicycle through the trendy neighborhoods where a lot of arty young foreigners live, but not of actually spending much time there). The edgy side of Berlin influences the classical-music scene, though, which is something I really enjoy.

    Some people complain that it's a dirty and poor city, but it doesn't seem that way to me at all, since I moved there from the developing world... I always laugh when people complain that the train system isn't perfect, or that the parks aren't as nice as they'd like, since to me they seem amazingly great. To me, it often seems to combine what I loved about the developing world (lots of color and variety) with what I love about European capitals (much more well-funded cultural institutions and good infrastructure).

    I got to travel around other parts of Germany before I decided on Berlin, and I remember how amazed I was by the scenery I got to see on my train rides... So much natural beauty! That was the most striking thing to me, after living in Vietnam... It's a pretty densely populated country, and much of the countryside is covered in rice paddies or rubber plantations and that sort of thing. They can be really beautiful, but there aren't many areas where you can see forests and rivers and lakes without lots of people/buildings around. And most of the historical buildings have been knocked down, and everything is very crowded together. So in Germany I love that you can be in a city one moment, and then you can be in the forest 20 minutes later. And I love all the historical buildings and the cobbled streets (even though they're no fun to ride my bicycle over). Like any country, it's not a perfect place, and there are times when I find it frustrating. But that's part of what I enjoy about being a foreigner in a foreign country... You have ups and downs, and there are always challenges, but it's really interesting even when you have a bad day. You're always learning something.


    I've lived here all my life for me its kinda hard to learn German Dutch and French all at the same time but I'm doing it! (Some how). I've often become depressed because I had the same problem my Grandpa died from cancer and it was hard to focus on anything espaicly german But now i'm back!

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