Part of fully integrating into foreign cultures is obtaining a social life. This could be the single greatest fear of a potential au pair: “Am I going to be lonely for the next x months?? Will the children be the height of my social interaction? The house…a prison?” If you’re considering au pairing, you have to accept the fact that you may be sans-friends for, well, the first month (at least). Depending on the networking your host family is able to perform, you may be luckier than others.
Last night, I was fortunate enough to be invited to a birthday party of a friend of a friend. Bavarian themed, I donned a Dirdl [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dirndl] and jumped head first into what was bound to be a long night of trying to digest German. Luckily, this was not so much the case and I was pleased to discover that Germans know A LOT of English and are quite happy to speak it. I was even more pleased when I met another au pair! Phenomenal, this is the best possible scenario for a friendless Canadian au pair. Why you ask? Well, once you find someone English speaking in a foreign nation you’re bound into a network. I gave said au pair (Lorna from South Africa) my phone number* and I pray she’ll contact me…otherwise I’ll have to start again from scratch and sniff out some others. She seems pretty cool so fingers crossed!
*Telephone numbers: I have no idea what my telephone number is. I don’t have a “Handy” yet (this would imply that I have friends to call on my Handy). The other day I was dropped off in town and instructed to walk the rest of the way to my language school. The instructions were clear enough, so I jumped out of the car and was on my merry way. Half way there, I had a startling thought. “What if I don’t find it? What if I get lost? What would I do? Ohmygod, I don’t even know my goddam phone number!” At this point I thought it to be in my best interest that I learn my phone number. (I may get lost…I may make a friend…what if I don’t know it?!)
Returning to thoughts on linguistics for a moment. I asked Lorna if she had taken any German language classes. She told me that she had indeed, for 4 weeks when she had first arrived (she’s since been here for a year). Given that so many people here speak English so willingly, she usually responds in English while people speak German to her. Hmm…well if the Germans don’t mind it…why bother hey? Are we snobs, or are they indifferent? I think they are just plain tolerant…consider the French, or the Italians. If you can’t speak their language, they don’t give two shits about you. Thank god I came to Germany. Even if it isn’t very exotic, its a good place to be an expat.
There’s a soapbox derby happening all day here in Celle. The woman I went to the party with is competing and was unenthusiastic about getting up so early in the morning. Naturally I assumed that we would be in attendance until midnight (toast to the birthday boy, “Prost!”) and depart. I was severely mistaken. We rolled out at around 3:00am. I was concerned that as the hours crept by I was going to be the embarrassingly drunk foreigner. The Canadian lightweight. Someone though, at some point in history realized that an excess of Weissbeir, Sekt, Waldmeister [http://www.lebensmittelfotos.com/wp-content/gallery/getraenke_hg/waldmeister_500b_rimg0071.jpg] and cigarettes* makes for a short night. Hence the abundance of food: dinner at 20:00, desert at 21:00, dinner ii at 1:00, snacks at 2:00. I owe my preserved dignity to pretzels..no way around it. I have not been up so late in months.
*It’s completely plausible that I may become a smoker here in Europe.
Before I wrap this entry up. There was a particularly comical, Bavarian game being played at this party. When I return to Canada, it’s imperative that I introduce this cultural gem to my friends. So, we’ll need:
- A hammer
- A bag of nails
- A stump
Are you shaking with anticipation? So, the rules. Two players have an equal number of nails each, pushed only far enough into the top of the stump to stand upright. Player 1 attempts to drive the first nail into the stump. After this he must turn the hammer upside down and use the tiny end to drive nail #2. If he misses, it becomes Player 2’s turn. It’s hardly a game of intelligence, but I assure you it becomes increasingly difficult (for obvious reasons) as the night progresses. For further reading on “Stump” game follow the link: [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stump_(game)]. It’s sure to be a hit in Prince George!