An Ode to My Year in Deutschland [Germany]

Words by:

Nyssa P. Chopra

My, oh my, how time flies…

Deutschland, our one-year affair got off to a very rocky start, but it is with great happiness and pride that I say I truly feel blessed to have lived in such an incredible country. Sure, I bashed every inch of you, called you names, but in the end, it was a conscious decision of mine to remain. It’s hard to believe that the Berlin I am leaving soon was the same city I arrived in 11 months ago. I leave with a deluge of emotion and slight reluctance. It is nice to see the city now beaming with laughter, sunshine, and a friendly vibe. Thank you for an insanely fantastic year, full of ups and downs! I came with limited knowledge of your people and country and today, I leave armed with a wider perspective on everything German – people, society, language, politics, media, education, cuisine, customs, etc. In the process of learning about the German way of life, I learned so much about myself, fostered intensely deep friendships, and created a lifetime worth of memories that I will always cherish!

The adjustment and transition was not easy, and the bitter cold months might have broken my spirit temporarily, but they didn’t dent my perseverance.

You put me through many trials and tribulations, but I can’t forget how many triumphs it produced.

You have your faults and weaknesses, just like any other country, but I have learned three lessons from you: how to show pride, how to be a better green citizen, and how to celebrate Christmas! Your bubbling energy and roaring pride during the World Cup games really was a delight to see and hear. The manner in which the entire country came to a complete standstill and stood for a common cause was ausgezeichnet, wunderbar, super! Never have I seen a more impressive recycling system – two green thumbs up to you! At the risk of turning into human popsicles from the negative temperatures outside, people still braved the piercing climate during Christmas time to spread the special holiday spirit and to enjoy the beautiful, grand markets sprawled throughout the city.

Germans may not win an award for being the most tactful, but they sure do understand loyalty and honesty! Through my varied encounters, I was never left wondering what a German was thinking about a particular subject or person – certainly helped to take the edge off!

As frustrated as I was with markets being closed on Sundays and closing so early, you stayed true to your non-capitalistic ways, and showed me that there is more to life than just making money, which is why you enjoy a much higher quality of life than the United States.

I am still irked by your strict copyright and data privacy laws, but in due time, I’ll understand the reason for it?

You may have missed the memo on beautiful weather because it’s either too damn hot or too cold, but you showed the peak of human adaptability! Deutschland, like my homeland, you have also become a land of extremes for me! Like the United States, it’s hard to just feel indifferent about you.

After meeting someone a few weeks ago who had no clue who Obama was, the American elitist in me was hit with a huge reality check – danke.

It was a delight to see you in all your cultural and artistic glory at Berlin Fashion Week, Oktoberfest, the Berlin Film Festival (Berlinale), and Karneval der Kulturen.

Sure, you made me gain 10 pounds during my months of hibernation in winter, but it gives me more of an incentive to discover by foot the covert charm buried in every corner and crevice of the city.

I may not be in love with your hearty cuisine, but I sure found my favorites: Brezeln, Weiβwurst, Haribo, Lebkuchen, Maultaschen, Apfelwein, Glühwein, Eiswein, Schokolade, and the different varieties of freshly-baked bread.

The latent charm of Berlin only surfaced in the latter half of my journey and it may not have gotten my favorite city award, but so what? It is still a historical gem not to be missed! The sense of history here is extraordinary, so profound and immediate. It’s definitely in my top 5, and I love it.

I must admit, it took me many months to understand and appreciate the depths of German mannerisms and beliefs. You took my lessons out of the stale confines of the classroom and instilled a new sense of vitality into my understanding of the culture.

To my dear German friends, be proud to be part of such a dynamic, fierce country! Your unwaveringly spirited nature really won my heart! And to all my non-German friends looking to visit, please do yourself a favor and only visit Germany during the fall, spring, or summer months, unless you’re strictly going for the Christmas markets in the winter!

All in all, my year-long journey in Deutschland was bitter-sweet, but I’m glad it ended on a very sweet note!

Vielen, vielen Dank, Deutschland and of course, Fulbright for giving me this opportunity! ‘Til we meet again!

Next stop: England!