Culture & Art

 A different culture – a different life? 

In times of globalization, people aren´t staying the whole time in their life on the same place. It becomes normal, that people spent their time in different cities and different countries. In this area, migration is very important. But what does migration mean exactly?

Migration is a widespread term. Migration means movement of people to a new area or country in order to find work or better living conditions. The reasons why people migrate, have to migrate or only want to live in a different country or culture for a temporary time are diverse. Common reasons are political, social, cultural or environmental reasons.

In migration, you have to differentiate in internal and international migration. Internal migration means, that you migrate to another area but you still stay in the same country. International migration means that you join a new country. In this time, a lot of people also aren´t forced to migrate, they do it voluntary, because they want to extend their life horizon.

The both students Carmen Weber from Bremen, and Sikuma from Lalitpur spent more than half a year in Nepal respectively Germany. Germany and Nepal divorce not only 57 years and 4.45 hours. The life and the culture are completely different.

In an interview, they speak about their different experiences.

Interviewer: Hallo Carmen, Namaste Sikuma. Thank you for making time for the interview. Let´s start with the first question. Why did you decide for a semester abroad? 

Carmen: I wanted to go abroad, because I think it´s always good to broaden your horizon and get in touch with a new culture. As a journalist I think that´s not only good but really necessary, you have to know about other cultures to be a good journalist. And that´s why I also wanted to go in a developing country, so it was great that our university had this cultural exchange program with the Kathmandu University. I think it´s just good to get in contact with other cultures and see how they really live, so I did not just visit as a tourist and then go back after one week, but to get really in touch with the people and culture. 

Sikuma: Our University was offering the scholarship for the first time for media students. I thought the opportunity was not to be missed. Six months in Germany could help me learn living in a foreign all by myself. So, everyone from our class applied for it, but only three of us were selected. 

I: Why did you choose Germany/Nepal? 

C: I chose Nepal, because I wanted to go to a developing country and the exchange program already existed. And it´s not really common, a lot of people go to Britain or to the USA, but I wanted to really have a totally different culture. 

S: It was the only option. 

I: How big was the cultural shock? C: I never had this typical culture shock, that first you think everything is great and after some time you think everything is shit. I more had like several small culture shocks, even when I arrived my first thought was a kind of: “Oh my god, what have I done?” Especially when I saw the traffic and the pollution. I had some moments when I really wanted to go home. And I had also moments where I just had no energy because just being in this country was consuming so much energy. So I didn’t leave the house for two or three days. But I think that’s part of the experience and that’s okay. I had some cultural shocks obviously. But my guest family really helped me to get over it. My guest sister was always there for me and that was pretty nice. And also my guest family was like a real family, which was a big plus. They supported me a lot. 

S: Though I was preparing my mind for the differences, I guess I wasn’t well prepared for the language barrier, which was the biggest shock. To not have a community that speaks your language or at least English made it difficult to socialise or even explore more. The working style, education system, policies and law of the country were also difficult to understand. Punctuality is something that I learnt in Germany, but after I came back to Nepal I had to adapt to the style here, otherwise I would end up being frustrated every day. Also, as an international student it was hard to make any German friends in general, except Mario and Carmen. Everyone was busy with their own studies and work, that we became more foreign even in the classes we attended. The cultural shock was huge especially during classes of an American professor, who was straight-forwardly rude and offensive; we just couldn’t understand her way of teaching and behaviour in general. 

I: How much time did you need to settle down? 

C: Actually I can´t say how much time I needed to settle down. It was more small steps one after another. I settled down pretty quick with my guest family. Within one week, I felt like kind of a member of the family. And after three weeks, I was ok with the public transportation. But it´s very complicated, I still struggled with it after six month. Often I didn´t really feel settled down, because I´m used to live on my own, so that I can go out whenever I want and come home whenever I want and no one is asking “why have you been out so long?”. But here I can´t go out long, because I can´t get home with a public transportation after 7 p.m. And also at night it´s dangerous to leave the house. That was really strange for me. I also did 

not have to cook for myself. Only my guest family’s mum was cooking all the time. And I really had to fight for my right to wash dishes. 

S: I’d say it really took us the whole six months to completely soak in the cultural differences. Tiny differences like roads and transportation were easy to deal with. But food, language, education system were still not understandable. These things made it very difficult to stay in Germany. 

I: How difficult was it, to be the only German/Nepalese? 

C: It was pretty tough to be the only German. Not because I missed other Germans or something, but more to be the only exchange student. I think there were one or two other exchange students but we never got connected, because the university didn´t have some kind of international office. The other students were really nice but there was a kind of distance, because they know after half a year, the person would be gone. We did not really find to each other. 

S: I had fortunately two other Nepali students and a lot of other international students at Jade University, but as I said, I did not have many contact to German students, which is sad. 

I: What are the biggest differences in terms of culture? 

C: I think the biggest difference in culture is, that Germans can move out in a very early age and can live on their own and most Nepali young people stay with their family until they get married. So they have to be at home quite early and we Germans are free to do a lot more on our own. Also religion is a big topic. Most of Germans aren´t really religious and here it´s really part of the daily life of the people. But there are a lot of differences because it is a completely different culture. 

S: Biggest differences are the food, language, socialising habit and the individualistic attitude, and yes it all made it difficult. 

I: Did you have problems with the food? 

C: I didn´t really have problems with the food. I got a little bit sick of all the Dal Bhat, because we had it twice a day. I´m not used to eat all the time all the same. I got health problems because of the food two or three times during my six month stay. Actually I liked a lot of the food, like Momos, Kati Rolls and especially Pani puri. 

S: Yes I had problems with the food. Here I am used to spices on the food. The raw fruits and vegetables here are more flavourful than in Germany. Not to sound so snobby, but 

except chocolates and breads, I hardly found good food that fit our budget. We used to go to Chinese restaurant almost every day. We loved the fried rice there and soups. 

I: How did your language skills develop (German, English, Nepali)? 

C: I think my English speaking skills developed a lot, because I needed a lot of words that I didn´t know, because you normally don´t need them, if you just talk in English for a short time. But in daily life you need them. I think I learned a lot about these and also to be confident in speaking English. My Nepali skills are very very little. I know some basic words but it was so hard for me to pronounce them. Often people wouldn´t understand me. 

S: For language, we had to take beginners German class which was twice a week. We also attended German class in the summer semester break. That was how we were able to adapt to some extent. Shopping, reading public notice, transportation schedule, etc. became practicable. 

I: Can you imagine to live permanently in Germany/Nepal? Why, why not? 

C: I can imagine to live in Nepal for a longer time, and I will definitely come back. That´s for sure. But forever I don´t think so. Here washing machines and radiators are luxury goods, so I would need a really good job. Also I missed the western food. And as I’m german, punctuality is something I appreciate, but here in Nepal no one ever is punctual. Also the health care, pension system and insurance system is better in Germany and I want that for my future family. 

S: Until and unless I speak fluent German, I don’t see myself living permanently in Germany right now. And if the place is more of a city, doesn’t matter if it is a small one, I could give it a chance. But I haven’t thought about it yet. 

I: What did you miss most during your semester abroad? 

C: I think I missed bread a lot, because we Germans are really keen to dark bread. Also I missed good chocolate. German chocolate tastes different than Nepali chocolate. A lot of things here are really spicy, so sometimes I really missed western food. Besides of food I of course missed my friends, my family and especially my boyfriend a lot. And also things like radiators or a washing machine. 

S: Food, family and friends- I missed the most. 

I: What can you suggest to other students, who also want to do a semester abroad? 

C: I don´t really know what I suggest students that go abroad. It depends a lot on where you are going. Inform yourself a lot about the country. I didn´t do that so much before, because I didn´t really have time and that hit me few times. You should know about culture shock and 

about the public transportation and other stuff that´s necessary. And you need to prepare a lot in advance. Especially scholarship applications need a lot of time in advance before you go abroad. But in general I think students should go abroad, because it give you a lot back. Even though I sometimes really hated everything, it was a good experience after all. I think there is always something you don´t like. But this experience no one can take away from you. And another suggestion is to not give up. There will be hard times, you need to be tough for it. I had some points where I said: “Screw it, I´m going back home.” For example when I needed a bank account for the visa and the visa for the bank account it seemed insolvable. Just go on, there is always a solution. That will make you stronger for your further life. 

S: Suggestion for other students: If you are applying for the study abroad program, make sure the university offers the courses you want to study, and you know the basics of the language and would not mind learning more. And try to be more extroverted so that you can explore more. However, I do not regret going to Germany for six months. The difficulties are a way of learning to live life and handle upcoming struggles. It made me appreciate my family, friends in Nepal and my roots. I learnt that there will be a lot of cultural differences all around the world and you need to respect the differences, not complain a lot and try to mingle despite the differences. It can be hard at times, but that is life. And above all, Germany stay provided me opportunity to travel to Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris, London, Bremen, Berlin and Nurnberg, which were amazing. I appreciate it. 

I: Thank you for the interview guys.


A text by Pascal Fianke

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