Adventures in Germany Fat Americans, french fries and train tickets

By on February 16, 2012

John Lieb and Jill HockerJohn Lieb and Jill Hocker

I wish that everyone could experience what it’s like being an exchange student in a foreign country — alone, but totally surround by new things.

Then they might be able to understand how it feels to have friends on every continent of the world (minus Antarctica, of course), or that loneliness can just be time to get to know yourself better, or that maybe the way we do things isn’t the best or only way.

My past five months in Germany have been a bit of an emotional roller coaster, with ups and downs. I’ve been ignored by all the girls in my class because of rumors. I’ve accidentally boarded a two hour train to Hamburg instead of the 10 minute train to my small village. I’ve stayed up until four in the morning swapping stories at crazy AFS camps. I’ve danced the night away in discos.

I’ve even been asked, "If you’re from America, why aren’t you fat?"

I wasn’t sure if that was a compliment or not.

It’s so cool being able to use a whole other language and to speak it everyday and to everyone. I am in no way fluent, but English is no longer an option I need. My family and I speak only German. My classmates and I speak only German. Even my other exchange student friends and I speak German.

But, I do admit sometimes we need a little break. There are times when people start speaking English with me just because they can tell I have an accent and they get excited since they think it’s their chance to practice their English. This can get a little annoying, but it’s also a little embarrassing.

One time at an ice hockey game, I ordered french fries which, on the menu, were clearly written as "Pommes frites" and so this is what I said. And all because I said that and not the slang of just "Pommes," the man gave me the most puzzled look. And then he figured it out.

"Ah!" he said, "English." And then he continued to speak English me for the rest of the order. That would’ve ruined my night if our team hadn’t won in ice hockey 6-3.

A bad accent can also be lucky to have, I learned. When visiting one my friends, I had to take three different trains just to get to her village, only two hours away. I thought my worked for all three of the trains, but when I boarded the last one and I was asked for my ticket, the man was not happy at all. Lots of angry German was thrown at me and not everything was understood, so I did my own share of fast, frantic English. And that’s how I weaseled my way out of paying 40 euro.

I know that these final five months will go by fast enough, but I still can’t help thinking about what the future will bring. I feel like I’ve learned so much that I would have never learned staying sheltered in America. But I’ve gotten the tip of the iceberg. In my future, I plan on traveling more, continuing to open up my eyes and broaden my mind.

Emily Daniels is a Warwick High School student currently studying in Germany. Her column appears monthly in the Record Express. More GERMANY, page A18

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