A rare sunny autumn day in Berlin: Off from work today; watching Atlanta, with the new Tribe Called Quest playing in the background, I’m sitting here and just realized: “Wow! It is already our one year anniversary in Germany”. Who would have ever thought? Beverly and I were a couple fresh out of University, living in Spokane with no immediate (solid) plans on continuing school. Somehow we formulated the idea to teach English for a year abroad in Asia. We both joined the TEFL Academy (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) to obtain our teaching licenses, and, 11 weeks, $1000+ each, and 24 in-class hours later, we both ended up becoming Operations Specialist at Apple and Marketing & Sales at a Startup, Research Gate in Berlin, Germany.
Talk about God’s plan, huh? It was, indeed, a crazy decision to drop (almost literally) everything and move to a new continent; by far the craziest decision we’ve made to-date. But, this has been a decision we haven’t in the least bit regretted. As one could imagine, one year in Berlin has brought an abundance of new experiences: Learning a new language, meeting new friends, travelling to new countries, and, slowly but surely, becoming “Berliners.” In a city, who’s own Mayor refers to as “Poor, but sexy” Berlin is the place to be. It’s a large city of more than 3 million people, one of the highest populations of expats and migrants in the whole EU, and a flurry of different restaurants, museums, parks, bars, and clubs influenced by the many different cultures of its inhabitants. In my opinion, that’s what makes Berlin great. It’s like a mini United States or what it used to be. In a country that still lives in the shadow of its White Nationalist past, and later, a wall dividing East and West, I have been amazed at how the melting pot of culture lives in such a cohesive manner.
In terms of culture, I’ve learned so much from the diverse groups of people I’ve met on this journey. Things like politics, food, lifestyle, and outlook on life, are a few things that vary with all the people you meet. And having moved amidst the refugee crisis, which Germany has been the epicenter of, it has been interesting to see how people react to one of the most relevant crisis in 2016.
Along with this, the burning question on everyone’s mind is always the same: “What do you think about Trump?”. I’ve probably gotten that one at least once a day since we moved here. But, as a person who doesn’t usually like to discuss politics, I find comfort discussing with Europeans how our government along with other American aspects work, and promising them we aren’t all ignorant people. At the end of the day, it’s all about breaking the stereotypes, or as my good buddy Eliseo Sanchez says: “Breaking the bread”.
Time to give my Cliff Huxtable monologue (Bill Cosby): I first “experienced” Europe with my family on the way to Nigeria. Although it was only the amazing Amsterdam Schiphol Airport for a 13-hour layover, as a kid that experience abroad had such an effect on me that I promised myself I’d come back. 10 years later, as a senior in University, Bev and I decided to study abroad in Florence, Italy, for 6 months. After that experience I knew later on, I’d be back to live in Europe for another extended period of time. Lo and behold, the amazing city Berlin, the capital of Germany. They say once you go to Europe, the travel bug never leaves. And through firsthand experience, I can confirm that my bug has become a full blown virus. Since my Amsterdam-Schiphol experience, I have now been to 12 new countries and about 50 different cities and towns. And that list is still growing. I love it here. I have a great job, over 30 vacation days and every day, I wake up in a city that is so rich in history that I consistently remind myself how lucky I am for this experience. I am a firm believer that if possible, everyone should reward themselves in a similar way. We should challenge ourselves to leave our comfort zones and go out and explore the world. Immerse into new cultures, learn new languages, and challenge our seemingly one-sided outlook on life. We should try to learn and hear firsthand the history of countries we only read about in news or see in movies. We should share the nervousness, excitement, and pride a country’s fans experience as they watch their athletes progress through the Euro Cup. We should open ourselves to culture, ask questions and observe each other’s different ways of life. I truly believe the Expat culture will change our world for the better. Society will learn to accept each other’s differences as enrichment rather than impurity. And, from the Expat point of view, nothing beats the reward of enjoying the many wonderful places the world has to offer. So, go out and explore!