Hamburg, Germany.

October 13, 2008
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The old, badly painted, commercial airlines plane started off slowly, the end of the runway seeming far out of reach. The engines then roared to life and the plane began to move faster, its speed increasing steadily. The front of the plane tilted upward, beginning to take flight as the end of the runway neared. The seats shook, and all the passengers swayed from side to side, until at last the plane was in flight, starting off on it’s long, sixteen hour journey to a new world.

This is how my life changing adventure began. I was on my way to Hamburg, Germany to finish the exchange program I took part in last summer. For one month my German partner Elena came over to America to live with me. Now it was my turn to visit her.

Germany really is a beautiful place. The old worn buildings and cathedrals are brilliant in architecture with timeless stained windows to match. The cobble stone streets and old outside beer gardens are something I won’t ever forget. Not only are the old towns something beautiful to see, but the urban cities are just as wonderful. Though no matter how beautiful Germany may be, it was not the scenery that made an impression.

The whole time I was in Germany I never once heard anyone say “Lernen Sie Englisch sprechen!” (Learn to speak English!) Every restaurant, museum, amusement park, beach, hotel, park, and subway station I went to, had an English translation. Whether it was a brochure, sign, escort, or menu, you could find it in many different languages.

Even the people who did not speak English very well tried their hardest to help me, or try to make me understand what they were trying to say. I went to Germany expecting people to walk away from me when I didn’t speak German. That’s what I saw people do in America. They didn’t even stop to say sorry. They just kept walking. So naturally I didn’t expect anyone to help me.

I was entirely wrong. Every time I needed help, or if I didn’t understand, someone would try and help me. Now I did not only go to the happy, love and peace parts of Germany. There were some places we passed through that had seen better days. However I found it easy to ask almost anyone for help. Sometimes people would point in the right direction, or draw pictures so I could understand. Others sometimes went and asked someone who did speak English to help me out.

When I came back to America, I realized something. Many Americans don’t care or take interest in accepting and accommodating other cultures. I know that at least once you’ve probably heard “Learn to speak English! You’re in the U.S.” How rude. Even if you don’t speak another language you could still try and help a foreigner.

Something else I’d like everyone to take into consideration is the stereotypes of Germans. No, they are not all the harsh, strict, war crazy, drunk, liver wurst eating, blonde haired, blue eyed, Nazis we make them out to be. Now, a commonly known stereotype for Americans is stupidity. We throw little hissy fits when other countries claim that Americans are stupid. We also expect other countries to have English translations on the spot, yet we do nothing to return the favor. I think the common stereotype for America should be hypocrisy.





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leverkusen said...
Jan. 12, 2009 at 10:12 pm
Having lived in Germany for 4 1/2 yrs a find this article spot on! Americans need to learn to expand their horizons just like this young woman did.
 
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