Letter From Ulm: September in Germany


My name is Emily Bergemann. I am in Ulm, Germany as one of the participants in the Hans Joohs Cultural Exchange Program from New Ulm, MN.

My first month in Germany has been exactly what you could have expected for a first month abroad, challenging and loads of fun. It didn’t take long to abandon the stereotypes that I had pictured in my mind. The people in Germany are not walking around singing polka music, wearing traditional German attire of Lederhosen and Dirndls, eating pretzels, sauerkraut and drinking beer. Well, perhaps they maybe are drinking beer.

I have learned the culture differences exist in the work place, in the household, in philosophy, art, music, fashion, just to name a few. One cultural difference that surprised me is the fact in Germany, it is typical to eat one hot meal a day, usually in the afternoon. The thought is that the afternoon is when you need the most energy to continue your day and have time to burn off the calories you have taken in. The dinner or evening meal is usually a lighter, cold meal of raw vegetables; cucumbers, tomatoes, fresh fruit, or a salad and sometimes bread and butter are a staple. Breakfast is usually a light meal that happens early in the day. Europeans usually wake up early so that they can get to work early, planning to get more work done during the day. Then a hot meal is served at mid-day and a cold dinner is served in the evening time.

Work hours appear to be similar to that of Minnesotans, with an eight or nine-hour workday with both challenging and exciting projects. Where projects are well organized, some tasks can be daunting and physically challenging. Politics is a topic that come up daily and lead to lengthy discussions for those participating.

I was able to be introduced to a prospective of the Arts by visiting and having the privilege of working in the Vanet Haus Art Gallery. The Vanet Haus invited an artist from London to come to the gallery and Vanet Haus hosted an opening at the end of September. The opening was a success and went off with ease. The art gallery involvement, work and art show with the opening has been the highlight of my trip thus far.

When not at work, family time is a priority here. From small day trips on the weekend, local events in Ulm, family meal time and just being together, the family unit is important. The German family home functions best on routines and structure. My family and I went on a day trip to participate in Oktoberfest. The Oktoberfest in Germany reminded me so much of the festivities in New Ulm. In Germany Oktoberfest is a huge event. Oktoberfest incorporates various rides and array of games and many, many enormous beer tents with thousands of people, all different ages and attendance is encouraged for the entire family.

Transportation is often the use of public transportation of the bus or train, however walking and riding bike are also commonplace. It is common to have a 10 to 30-minute walk between destinations.

The bakeries here are like no other, with mouthwatering smells, eye-appealing delicacies and hand-crafted works of art, enticing you in to the bakery, to indulge in a baked gauche. Occasionally on my walk to work, I indulge in a treat, even though it is a surprise as to what I may have just ordered, since I am still building my German language skills. The traditional bakery items are divine as well. Even in Germany, fresh baked goods make any day better.

Being here doesn’t feel too far from home, if you set aside the language barrier, since my German is a work in progress and trying to get past the barrier of the close-knit community and join in the community of Ulm. However, two weeks after my arrival, there was a welcome dinner to meet the host families and employers and participants in the Hans Joohs Cultural Exchanged program. Everyone has extended great hospitality to me and are very welcoming, of which I am very grateful.

Bis Bald (see you soon),

Emily Bergemann


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