This week I found myself in the happy position of being free to explore Munich – I finished my 1st semester exams last week and don’t start holiday classes until Monday. Although post-exam burnout caused quite a few lie-ins, I’ve managed to see new parts of the city out with the flat-library-Lidl triangle I’ve been inhabiting for the last few weeks.
Besides from being more touristy that I’ve ever been in Edinburgh, now that I’ve settled into Munich and the LMU life here sometimes doesn’t seem all that different to Scotland. I was terrified in the few weeks before I moved to Deutschland and I wish I’d realised that moving countries (at least, it seems, within Europe) doesn’t have to involve a drastic change of lifestyle. I had an excellent day on Thursday eating ice cream at an Italian cafe, going to see The King’s Speech and shopping with friends from Ireland and England. Of course, it would seem like a wasted experience if life was exactly the same as back home, but I reckon I’d be homesick if I never spoke English and spent time with other native speakers. My flatmate (who’s fluent in 4 languages and competent in 2 others, I’m very jealous) seems slightly exasperated at my continual reading of English books. I know I could make more of an effort with German, but unless you’ve got a lot more mental stamina that I do, I wouldn’t recommend full immersion into another language. Too much stress.
Of course, being an exchange student is a unique experience and I have found myself in situations I can’t foresee every repeating themselves in Scotland. The Germans also never cease to surprise. Generally, they’re very reserved (public displays of affection don’t go down too well and it’s quite common to see queues at even the rowdiest student bars) but for some reason cinemas seem to be the venue of choice for letting their guard down. Despite the fact that we went to the ‘Original Version’ cinema to see The Kings Speech, most of the audience appeared to be German. There was raucous laughter at every punchline and great applause, even cheering from some, at the end of the film. It’s a bit unnerving, but I like it.
I’m still usually simultaneously embarrassed and horrified by German ‘humour’. When I was asked at a party this week about my knowledge of languages other than German, I replied that I knew a little bit of “gaelisch”. The (Bavarian) guy I was talking made the worst attempt at sarcasm ever and asked if this was the language of “die Homosexuellen.” I think I weakly attempted to laugh. This is, admittedly, an unfair example – most of the Germans I’ve met have a pretty distinct sense of humour, and it’s cringy sometimes but they’re still good fun, and they laugh a lot, which I suppose is most important. Humour is mostly capable of crossing language barriers, Germans sometimes excepted, and it’s easy to fall into friendship with people from all over the world.