Experiencing Cultural Diversity in Germany

Stephen Birk

In the summer of 2012, I decided to take a summer school course introducing Translation and Interpretation at the Johannes Gutenberg University in Germersheim, Germany. I had just graduated from Ohio State in March of that same year and I had no direction with my life. So I thought to myself, why not see the world while I’m searching? And see the world I did.

When I arrived at this little town in Germany, I did not really know what to expect. I had been to Europe before, but every small city or town is quite different with its own respects. I was settled into the quaint town of Germersheim. It was a very beautiful town but rather small compared to what I am used to. Upon arriving, there were some problems with my housing situation, so I was eventually placed into a nice little apartment quite a ways from the town center. This was no problem since they decided I could rent a bike, since I lived the farthest away from the campus. A nice little set-up after all!

The first day at orientation, we did a survey of how many different countries students were from. To my amazement I was the only American there, but there were also people from Russia, Greece, Italy, England, Ireland, the Czech Republic, Poland, Ukraine, Spain, Sweden, and even Kenya. I was no doubt pleasantly surprised that I was going to be experiencing so many different cultures congregating in one place.

There were only a few people that spoke English as their native language, so it was a great experience trying to use my German to communicate with these people from all over the world. My first realization was that the Italian and Greek cultures are very proud cultures. At first, the Italians and Greeks would not interact with each other because they felt they were better than the other, but by the end of the trip they seemed to mix quite well together. The Cyrillic speakers were very to the point when I spoke with them. I also noticed that whoever spoke a Cyrillic language seemed to adapt better to the German syntax. What was the reason? I am not sure, but it was noticeable nonetheless. The Spanish speakers were among the friendliest out of all the different cultures. I felt like I could talk to any Spaniard anytime because of how open they were. The Swedish man was a researcher, just like I imagined all Swedish people were. All these different people were smashed together and somewhat-assimilated into the German culture together.

Each culture brought a new breath of life to my view of the world. We had several weekends to share our own cultures while learning the traditional and modern German culture. Being able to connect with people that have such different views from my own really brings me joy. The power of communication and language is nothing to scoff at. If we could all learn more about other’s cultures, I believe we could really open up our way of thinking and help humanity progress with a more harmonic approach. Cultural diversity is an amazing opportunity to learn something about yourself and someone else.

Germany

Even though I started out going to Germany for translation and interpretation, I ended up getting much more out of it than just that! The world has a lot to offer if you stop to take a look. Noticing the beauty of the dissimilarities can sometimes be a challenge, but if you take the time to step into another way of thinking, you can experience the tremendous multiplicity of ideas aroused from other cultural views.

Taking a step into a foreign land may seem like a big risk sometimes, but the experience you gain from it will forever make an impression on you. Take a walk in someone else’s shoes for a change. Dream another’s dream for a night. Surround yourself in an array of new concepts. Becoming sensitive to cultural diversity can affect one’s entire life. One starts to appreciate how different and similar we all really are. Each day that we become more culturally sensitive, we become more in tune with our fellow brothers and sisters of this world. So let’s keep rockin’ out to that funky beat of omni-cultural acceptance.

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