"The sensible do not ride their bikes here.
Others are forbidden."
Photo by me. Want to see on Flickr?
I agree largely with this, and am trying my best to see that different vision of life for a few weeks. It has been hard, when most people speak English in Germany, to force myself to speak German, but I am trying. The good news is that when I have had to speak in broken German, I've been quite successful.
It's made me realize how much I don't understand. In my head, it always seemed to me like I would be able to translate a story - roughly - into English, at least get the gist of it. But I realized that my understanding of the story is details, usually I understand where, with whom, and small ideas of how. The plot for me is usually lost. This makes it interesting for me to listen and try to figure out what the story is about by watching faces and hand gestures, but it's not very helpful when I want to be able to laugh at the joke without it having to be said slower or in English.
Not speaking the language of everyone else has had some effects on me. It has put me in a position of accepting, that most things are not my problem, and even if I wanted to, I wouldn't be able to change them, or put in my input. I thought that this would be a bad thing, me being a quiet observer, and not an active one. I believe everyone needs a bit of that every once in a while. It's stopped me from talking so much for a while, and has made me just observe. This takes patience, and a lot of concentration to understand the story. So far, I'm not yet at the level where I can half-listen to the conversation and get it. But give me time, and I will be.
I'm very grateful to be in Germany, and amazed at what I can learn from these Germans. After all, over the years they've come up with their own words for everything.