I have always thought that Germans were focused, methodical, proud and conservative people but my almost 3 weeks experience in Germany in April confirmed and surpassed my expectations. They are all that and more. The people we met from Go Ahead! were intelligent, fun, humorous and very hospitable. At a point I felt like relocating because the love was so overwhelming.
As we disembarked from the airline unto the airport, I found out that Germany and South Africa share certain similarities. Across the five cities we visite
d; Munich, Erfurt, Berlin, Marburg and Heidelberg, the similarities and differences between RSA and Deutschland were almost tangible. The key areas of similarities included food, love for soccer, language (Afrikaans and German are distant cousins) and of course, beer!!!
Our first stop was Munich which could pass for our very own Cape Town - wealth and affluence was in the air. We had the Bavarian white sausage and pretzels for breakfast upon arrival. My high point in Munich was the visit to BMW world and the Bayern Munich stadium. Our next stop, Erfurt, was a warm and friendly student town with an interesting history. The third stop was much like Johannesburg's twin brother - Berlin. A city of too many people in one place and almost as if everyone was in a hurry. Definitely my high point in Berlin was that I could enjoy my new favourite food: Doner, which was of course cheaper here than in Munich. The fourth stop, Marburg, is a city with a ‘communal feel’; quite small in size but not in its love for beer and fun. Finally, Heidelberg - a much warmer city which I could describe as a fairly good blend of most of the cities mentioned; my high point was the University.
Moving on from similarities to differences - for me the key differences interestingly were; discipline, respect for elders and free education. I noticed that the rule of law is rarely flouted; people rarely crossed a red robot even though there was no on-coming vehicles. There were no attendants at the petrol stations, and strange enough, no traffic officers in sight! In addition, I was greatly impressed at the level of respect displayed towards the older generation by the younger generation. For example, many times without fail I saw younger people get up in a public transport system for an older person to sit. Finally, free education at all levels, even up to tertiary! When I heard this, I almost wept for our nation (RSA) and felt like SHOUTING at the top of my voice for our government to hear that FREE EDUCATION IS POSSIBLE!!!
In conclusion, although I was happy to be back in my hood here in RSA, I will forever cherish the friendships, fun, laughter and love that epitomised my experience in Germany.