Before we go any further, I would like to introduce myself first. My name is Kenny Buntara and I graduated from the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor at the end of 2013 with a Master’s degree in Materials Science and Engineering. With this degree and other achievements, I was fortunate enough to land a job in Continental AG, a tire company based in Hannover, Germany. For the first six months, I was working in its Research and Development division as a trainee before officially being placed in. You see, I am used to moving around the world, be it Singapore or the United States, however, that time was slightly different – Germany was a completely new and unfamiliar to me and, to be frank, I had my doubts about moving to Hannover. Ultimately, after I consulted with my parents and peers, I made my mind up and decided to accept the offer. It was certainly difficult to leave “home” again but at the same time, I was excited to start a new chapter of my life.
Let’s skip a few months of holiday and jump to my first few days in Germany! Upon reaching Germany, I was as blind as a bat, everything was basically in German and, despite the fact that I had taken some German courses prior to my departure – many times I found myself relying on my traveller instincts to find my way to the city centre. Luckily for me, the city is pretty small, so I was able to follow the crowd and find my own way around the city. As I travelled to my new home and looked around the scenery, I thought to myself, “I guess this is what I will be seeing every day from today.” I was given a room in an apartment to stay during my transition period of three months and luckily – it was not too far from the “bustling” city. For some time then, I experienced a culture shock; ridiculed for trying to speak German in a restaurant and not being served because I was not able to speak German were just some of the things that were normal to me at that time. Trust me when I say this, but the first few months I was there, I felt homesick. Thankfully, I was occupied enough and my job was there to keep me company.
Now, let’s fast-forward to a year later, including Oktoberfest, Weinachtsmarkt (Christmas Market) and other festivals. After experiencing a ‘culture shock’ during my first year, I have grown accustomed to drinking out on work nights with colleagues and actually speaking German in a restaurant to order my favourite dishes, “einmal Schweinhaxe, bitte!” Not only was I able to blend in with the locals, I was also able to mingle around and work with people all around Europe such as the Spanish, Portuguese, Czechs, Russians and others. I guess that was the greatest benefit of working in the headquarters of such a huge multinational company. I did not only spend my social life with them, but I was able to find a group of Indonesians to spend time with. We, Indonesians, tend to gravitate towards each other and speak our national language. In my opinion, having this community is very important anywhere in the world as you can discuss the differences between living in Indonesia and Germany.
For those two years, I had spent living by myself, I realised that Hannover was too boring and the company did not give what was needed for evolving both myself and passion, thus I decided to head back to Indonesia when I hit the two-year mark. Now that I am back in Jakarta, I do have some complaints about living in Germany and also some positive things that I miss about Germany.
The list below contains some of the things I found irritating during my long stay in Germany:
1) All mails are in German, even official ones such as banks, salaries, wifi and housing contracts, and these documents cannot be translated by the company.
2) Most shops (90%) do not take VISA or Mastercard as a form of payment. You either have to pay by cash or EC-card (debit).
3) Most people are just lazy to speak English even after I ask them whether they could speak English. Yes, they can speak perfect English!
4) People walking on the streets are always in your way and would not bother to move.
5) Racism exists! I did experience it when someone tried to knock me out of my bike for no reason at all.
6) English movies are such a rarity, they usually have only one film’s OG (Original) version compared to the multiple German-dubbed ones. Yup, there are no subtitles.
7) All shops, except restaurants and the main central station, are not open on Sundays at all.
8) The autobhan is technically not a no speed limit highway as there are many areas that you have to slow down at.
Nevertheless, I also value the time I spent there and here are the things that I like the most about Germany:
1) The ability to ride bikes safely in the city thanks to bike paths and clear rules.
2) Festivals are always fun! (Oktoberfest, Weihnachtsmarkt, Schutzenfest, etc)
3) One can travel around Europe easily using trains or cheap airlines. This one is my favourite!
4) The city is relatively safe.
5) It is always refreshing to see a great scenery with beautiful architectures.
6) People are fit and sports events happen often.
7) Football! (or soccer for some)
8) BEER! (It is cheaper than water)
Maybe the German lifestyle is not for me, but it might be for you! If you are thinking of moving to Germany for work or perhaps to study, I say GO FOR IT! It is certainly an opportunity of a lifetime to experience Germany. I know for a fact that a lot of my Indonesian friends love it there and thought that I was crazy to move back to the congested and polluted Jakarta. All in all, I had no regrets moving to Germany as now I have fond memories and a vast European network that I know will be beneficial for me in the future. So let me end this by saying “Good Luck!” for those planning to work or study in any city in Germany or “Viel Gluck!” in Deutsch.
Featured image: http://www.visit-hannover.com/en
Photo credit: Author’s collection
Editor: Deandra Madeena Moerdaning