Expectations vs. Reality

I’d been living in Germany for 3 months before leaving back home for Christmas holidays, and now here I am – back to Düsseldorf. I can’t say these first 3 months were easy for me – my first projects and seminars, language barrier, family is not around, German sense of humour, Deutsche Bahn, shops and cafes being closed at 7-8 o‘clock from Monday to Saturday (people are having their Shabbat on Sundays – very nice, thank you), “Oh Gott, bist du in Düsseldorf? So posh!”, people thinking that I was surviving not living once I say that I am originally from Russia, and many other confusing and complicated issues to deal with.

NB! : I need to say that the points that I am describing here are specifically mine: my pros and my cons; it doesn’t and shouldn’t mean that everyone would feel the same. I will write more about the projects, meetings, and exchanges in my next post, while now I am mostly speaking about the emotional and personal part of EVS.

I used to feel so angry when I heard that the only Russian surname people know is Putin, while we have Rachmaninov, Tchaikovsky, Malevich, Kandinsky, Chekov, Pushkin… you know. I am into art, music, and ballet – it’s pretty common in Russia – and I didn’t have anyone with whom I would go to the new exhibition or to the Opernhaus; no one around seemed to have any interest in it or they’d just say that it’s zu teuer. Germans think I am too fancy, even though I have decided on volunteering service and am living in WG here. I can’t say I felt lonely (honestly, I never feel like that – mentality-wise, we Russians are pretty self-sufficient) but my German life used to be full of tiny yet significant disappointments.

Alright, I need to stop complaining – as if I’ve been tortured within those 3 months. I’ve experienced so much! I’ve travelled so much! Both for work and for pleasure : ) my work is pretty pleasant here, too: most of the time I do the translation, especially during the projects that AkWO has. After that wonderful project in Dresden (my first project with AkWO!), people were applauding to me – I was so surprised, I didn’t expect to get such a reaction as I was just doing my job! That’s how this international team said “thank you” to me. Oh… now I am recalling it in my memory and smiling. And my team there was incredible; they are so experienced, attached, attentive, professional… 1000 other words to praise every member of it. Honestly.

We are learning how to work together, how to help, support, adapt and be kind to each other, how to work hard and how to relax afterwards – isn‘t it outstanding? I have never said any single bad word about my work here.

For my “private” vacations – WOW! Living in the centre of Europe is so convenient! I’ve seen 1001 artists that I’ve been dreaming to see, the nature and scenery around is so beautiful and diverse – I could do these long-weekends to any European country almost every weekend. Besides that, I finally got the opportunity to meet my foreign friends more often.

That time my life in Germany was 50/50 – half of it was truly outstanding while another half was sehr schlecht und schwer.

Now we are coming back to today’s me who has just arrived back after holidays. I’ve changed my mind-set completely. My mother (quite an intelligent woman) told me: “If you complain about things that can’t be changed, you’ll end up crying and being disappointed all the time. Well, you can also try to change something when possible. You can tell me everything about what bothers you, but try to convince yourself to think mostly about positivity once you’re back – you’ll feel the difference”. It’s not that hard to come to this consideration, right? But every now and then you just need somebody who says it aloud one more time. From that very moment I’ve decided that I need to stop thinking my all-inclusive cultural shock over all the time – it’s not productive!

We used to have misunderstandings with Germans – ok, I can try to be more attentive not only to what I think and feel but to what Germans consider to be important as well. It’s gonna help I am guessing; people’s passions differ from mine – alright, I can’t and shouldn’t be that judgemental, so I am calling my brother (architect and artist) when I am adoring Kunst; Deutsche Bahn funktioniert nicht – I got a second part-time distant job so that I’d be able to afford traveling by plane all the time; a lot of people don’t seem to know much about Russia – alright, I will be the one who tells and shows them more as long as they are interested (well, and they are); they don’t know how Russian people are – ok, at least they say that we are beautiful and intelligent (sometimes people even know that we are good at chess!) which is pretty flattering; I have a language barrier – so obviously I need to study and practice more, which I am doing now: I have taken extra Deutsch Kurs and asked almost everyone who I know here to speak German to me – they don’t mind it at all, especially Germans. A very nice thing is that Germans seem to appreciate it when a person can speak their language at least a bit. When it comes to work, as I have mentioned, I had nothing much to complain about, that’s why I didn’t need to change a lot.

All in all, now I feel way more secure and comfortable. Working, studying, going out – here I am with my regular life, with my habits, with my new challenges. The only difference is that I pay way less attention to intercultural issues but I pay waaaaay more attention to how I can rebuild my life so that it’ll become better and better every day. I’d take it as a thesis and an anthem: think about becoming better and do become better. No matter where you are, where you are from, what your regular activities are, what your goals are, I am 100% sure that it’s doable – well, as long as you DO. Doing EVS in Germany is a really cool way to improve yourself both socially and professionally btw;)

From Anastasiia with love