You have to live in a country quite a few years before you begin to really understand the people.
In China, I would have to say that was a negative experience at first, we all experience culture shock, as foreigners. And China was a big culture shock.
I had no inclination to learn Mandarin at the beginning, like many foreigners. Or when I did try, it was too hard, or frustrating, because, even though you learn how to say the words, when you go outside, into the public arena, most of the local Chinese will simply shake their heads, not understanding you.
Now there are two trains of thoughts on why this occurs. Most Chinese and those expats, whose self-esteem mainly comes from the fact they have studied Chinese (so they continually want to indirectly tell you that they are superior to you, based on the fact that their Chinese is better than yours) will tell you that you are simply not saying the four tones right.
As an aside, when I was acting in Beijing, I was told, on set, about a previous expat who refused to ever speak English, though he was an American. Even the Chinese I talked to found that weird.
He went on to write and self-publish a book, which I flicked through one day, while waiting for classes at the same school he taught at, and I eventually got busted at, for having a faulty visa (supposedly).
The book was a piece of shit, which is what the top Chinese cop who busted me said, about my book, The Fake Celebrity in China, though he admitted to have only read one sentence online, when I quizzed him about where he got a copy of my masterpiece.
His female Chinese cop colleague, had to help him with the word, “sentence” on the journey to the cop station.
Anyway, I digressed. And I don’t think I need to name the title of that book, as, like I said it was a piece of shit, in my humble opinion, and many people will know who that guy was anyway.
The problem with that first train of thought, is when you actually do learn to speak Chinese, to the point where the locals can understand you, you realise actually the tones are not that important. Pronounciation is important, a slightly different animal.
So, after a few years in China, I was in a very nice Shabu-Shabu in Beijing, fairly comfortable with my Chinese, and this young Chinese waitress, looking like she was from the countryside, just couldn’t get the word tu dou (which means potato). Slightly embarrassing for me, as I was trying to impress someone who spoke no Chinese.
After many attempts, she just shook her head dumbly.
Now this is where the second train of thought comes in. As another expat friend of mine used to say after he had a few, they just don’t even try! They simply turn their ears off to foreigners, until, you can convince them, to their satisfaction, that you can in fact speak Chinese.
Sitting next to me, that time at Shabu-Shabu, was an attractive looking Chinese woman, who seemed to be middle to upper class, and she stopped eating for a few seconds and then shouted at the young waitress, almost in disgust, TU DOU!!
The waitress, then went, something like, oh tu dou…
The exact same thing I had been telling her deaf ears, a minute before.
As far as the two trains of thoughts go, I think, like most things, it is somewhere between the two.
But this brings me back to Germany.
One of the great advantages, of living in a foreign country, is in fact that if you do not know their language, and you are not really a people person, or you get easily pissed off by people, is that in fact you really have no need to interact with them. If you do listen to them, you may become angry, or insulted. Like I do in New Zealand, for example.
In China, I did see this happen to people. I mean people who madly learned the language, and then were literally driven mad, when they could understand people talking about them.
But at some point, usually around five years, in my experience, you need to decide, whether these people are for you, this country, this environment, and this culture.
And for me, somewhere inside, I decided I liked the Chinese people. Not the corrupt cops, not the politics, but the people.
Now, back to Germany. I have lived there a few years. And I genuinely have made the decision, that I don’t like the people, or the culture. I mean I don’t hate them, I just don’t warm to them, or their culture.
The geography is OK. The weather is great. Hot in summer, months of snow in winter.
Here is my summary of the people.
The Germans, are overly friendly on the outside. Especially to foreigners.
But on the inside, they are as cold as winter steel. Which of course, is their real selves.
But due to the past, their past, they do not want to be seen that way.
They rarely say thank you.
And when you get into any dispute with them, you realise they have this inability to see outside the square. Their lives are determined by strict regimented rules. And they will NEVER bend them.
Be it work, or a lease.
It is what defines them.
I have heard Germans describe themselves, as horses with blinkers.
I have no care about this.
Like I said, I like the geography and the climate.
I have never had the inclination to learn any German, unlike Chinese.
So it all works very well.
You can define a place by how you feel when you arrive and leave. If arriving feels good, like I feel when I arrive in China, or Paris, all is good. Sad to say that leaving Germany always feels better than arriving there.
When in Germany, I can survive, move around them. I really do not want to know what they are saying. And, being an Anglo-Saxon, they never talk about me, as I look the same as them. Though, after living in Paris, I do have to say they always watch you. They stare, rudely. Who knows why? You would need to ask them that, and like I say I do not like to interact with them.
And also, if you ever need help, as a foreigner, they will be overly friendly, they usually can speak English, and they will do their utmost to help you.
So, being a foreigner in Germany, is a good thing.
That is what I am.
Just don’t be an employee, or a lease holder.