India is widely famous for the delicious food, the bright colours, the vivid music and the absolute kindness of its people. Before my first trip to India I read a lot about these and I was eager to witness everything. But I was still unfamiliar with the real Indian culture and was therefore unknowingly making many mistakes during my first stay.
Let me tell you about some of my first “culture shock” experiences.
Everything can be finger food: Of course I use my finger to eat fries, a burger or a sandwich in Germany, too. But I was quite astonished by the way most of the Indians use their fingers to eat all the curries and most of the other dishes.
Ripping apart my roti just with the fingers of the right hand was a skill I had to practice a lot and during my first trip I put more food on my face and my clothes than into my stomach. Once I managed it, it became quite natural and most of the time I don’t use cutlery. But I am looking forward to seeing my students struggle with their first dishes and to watching them handling the Indian food better from day to day.
The direct way is not always the shortest: “Being German means to be pragmatic, direct and therefore to be efficient.” How wrong I was! I learned this lesson the hard way, that in India it is seldom the best to say frankly what you want or to expect a short “Yes” or “No” as response to a simple question. It is not only incredible rude to shout out your wishes and demands straight from the shoulder, it can also lead to awkward and embarrassing It was hard for me to understand this and I am thankful I had so patient hosts. In the meantime I learned to relax more and to accept an indirect answer. Only when again I insist to have everything done my way I slowly notice I still have to learn a lot about the Indian way of communication.
Half an hour can be quite a long time: Time zones in Germany and in India are different. In India there is the IST. For a long time I thought ITS stands for Indian Standard Time. It took me a while to realize it’s just an abbreviation for Indian Stretchable Time! In my first exchange year my host told me that we will leave the house in half an hour.
You can’t belief how fast I took a shower, got dressed, had breakfast and packed my rucksack for school only to sit in front of the house for an extra half an hour. Time is relative – Einstein knew that and the Indians do definitely trust him. Nowadays I often leave my watch at home when I explore an Indian city. What is it good for anyway? Things happen, when they are supposed to happen. An understanding I am happy to have learned in India.
Of course there were many more situations that left me puzzled when I experienced them the first time. And I can easily imagine how strange it must have been for my Indian friends to deal with that German teacher who was obviously making a habit of putting his foot in it. I still have to thank them for all their patience!
In the southern part of Germany (Bavaria) school year ends this week. At this occasion all students and teachers are presented a school yearbook in which they not only can find pictures of each class; every department writes about its activity during the school year, too.
Being a kind of highlight of the year the German-Indian exchange project fills some pages as well as shown in the following pictures.
You can read the full article text (only in German) here.
Whoever has ever hosted an exchange student before knows how stressful such a project can be. So, what was it really like to have an Indian in your house?
We asked some of the German parents about their experiences with students of LVIS: “What impressions left the excange project on you or your child?”
Here are some of their answers:
“Die Welt ist sehr verschieden” (The world is very diverse)
“Ein bischen anstrengend, aber es war definitv machbar und eine tolle Zeit, die wir nie bereuen werden!” (A little bit exausting, but definitly possible to manage and it was a great time we will never miss)
“It was a great time because I learnt about India, too. We didn’t have any problems with the exchange partner and we were sad when he left.”
“The culture of the Indian people is very interesting”
“It was interesting to host a foreign teenager from India. Everybody was really friendly and open. It was also nice to get in contact with the Indian parents on skype. We also learned a lot about the Indian cuisine and the indian way of life.”
We are curious about your honest feedback. Have you ever hosted a foreign student? What was it like? Tell us your story in the comment section!
On day four of our exchange all the Indian and German students played Basketball with students of St. Wolfgang school (school for students with special needs). This school has now published an article (only in German) on its website describing this match .
In the article they mention all the school names, the teachers and thank all participates for the great afternoon at Johannes-Turmair-Gymnasium.
The last day in Germany! All students, parents and teachers gather once more to give the exchange an official ending. It is time to say farewell; but luckily the students will see each other again in October. That’s why you can see a lot of smiles; only sometimes you get a glimpse of a tear running down a student’s face.
The weather is just nice, when all family members of our exchange project arrive at Karmeliten restaurant in Straubing. Most of them are dressed in traditional clothes. Indian or Bavarian? That difference doesn’t bother any more. Even at the table teenagers and adults of both countries sit in a mixed way next to each other and chat about their last adventures. Mr Wolfgang Poeschl, teacher of Johannes-Turmair-Gymnasium and project leader on German side, welcomes all guests and invites them to start with the official dinner. Indian curry, Bavarian dumplings and pasta – even the food is multicultural this day.
In the official speeches, the teachers thank the parents for their patience and love, they thank the principals for giving consent to the exchange and of course they congratulated all the students which behaved so well and were great represents of their home countries. All of them get certificates in which every official activity of the project is mentioned. Mr Poeschl also handes over a trophy for Lotus Valley International School. This cup should remind every student of the project “Different country – different sports” which’s German part officially ends with the farewell dinner.
In an now following informal part of the farewell dinner a Bavarian musician plays famous German songs at a hand organ. The German teachers Mrs Wiedemann and Mr Poeschl have to sing along and the laughter is a worthy closure of the evening and the unforgettable stay of our Indian friends in Germany.
This year’s topic is “Different countries – different sports”. But there are much more differences between Germany and India. The German students of class seven asked sponaniously one of the teachers of Lotus Valley International School to teach them about the gods and godesses of Hinduism. Mrs Radhika Babbar was happy to explain the children the concept of that religion and the delighted students of Johannes-Turmair-Gymnasium immedately wrote an article about that interesting lesson.