I moved to the North of England in 2003.
I wanted to discover “real” England, far from Buckingham Palace and the Tube. I was a 90s teenager obsessed with Britpop and found escapism and meaning in song lyrics. My favourite band was Pulp from Sheffield, who sang about things like net curtains, tea time, and industrial chimneys. That world felt exotic to me. It is the opposite of the idyllic valley where I grew up, and it became what I sought out when I moved to the UK.
“My favourite band was Pulp from Sheffield, who sang about things like net curtains, tea time, and industrial chimneys. That world felt exotic to me.”
I applied for university places in “gritty” locations like Leeds, Glasgow, Newcastle, and Preston. The North of England felt a far cry from all tourist book stereotypes, and that’s exactly what I was looking for.
When I first moved to Preston in Lancashire, I thought that it was a super cool place. People kept asking me “why are you moving there?”, but for me that made it even more attractive.
I never planned to stay as long as I did, but I always felt welcome and found opportunities to work, grow, and learn more about British life.
Some lessons were easy, and the language was one of those. Some were exasperating and odd, like that second layer of meaning Brits use to hedge where Germans speak out.
“No matter how well you speak a country’s language, you’re never going to become a cultural native. There’s so much that people share when they grow up in the same country.”
I’ve learnt that no matter how well you speak a country’s language, you’re never going to become a cultural native. There’s so much that people share when they grow up in the same country. When a British celebrity from the 80s dies and all my friends remark on it, I can’t connect to their memories. At work, I relish occasions when I get to work with Germans because I understand how they tick. The sense of home that Germany gives me is never going to go away.
I do many things like a Brit these days, cheerfully queuing and taking milk in my tea. Two years ago, I married my partner. He’s an English native who never thought he’d share his life with someone from another country. We celebrated our marriage twice: in England and in Germany.
When I moved to the UK, I already had an excellent understanding of English. Of course my English has improved over the years I’ve spent here.
My German expressions betray the fact that I speak English as my main language. On a recent trip to Germany, a friend and I went out for a meal. After observing me talking to the waiter, she reminded me: “Du bist nicht in England, du musst nicht immer so viel Bitte und Danke sagen!”. Sometimes I find myself searching for the right words in my own native language.
“Foreign countries are no longer just ideas that you only read about. Now, it’s easier than ever to go there and explore them for yourself.”
Living in the UK has changed my languages in one more important way. Two years ago, I started learning Welsh, another language of this country. It’s exciting to know that I can contribute to the cause of supporting a British minority language. But most of all, I love the feeling that even after more than a decade I still have so many things to learn about this country.
My love of this country is unconditional, and I want to make it the best possible place. When the country faced the tragic EU referendum last year, I was on the streets campaigning for the community that made my life possible. But this is about more than politics alone. It’s about accepting that every person’s life experiences are valid and valuable.
The EU has given us a wonderful gift. Foreign countries are no longer just ideas that you only read about. Now, it’s easier than ever to go there and explore them for yourself.
What surprised me as I moved to England was that Germany has a bad reputation with some English people. Some grew up seeing Germans as the bad guys because their parents lived through last century’s wars. When I can teach them a few words of German, it punctures that barrier and allows for new perspectives.
“If we all keep learning each other’s languages, we’ll get that bit closer to world peace.”
My website is more than a blog about languages to me. It’s about opening up your world and learning from everyone. If we all keep learning each other’s languages, we’ll get that bit closer to world peace.
If You Are Moving to Another Country
Living in another country has allowed me to become a different person and to touch others and show them a real life German. I’m proud to be an ambassador of both countries now.
For those who are dreaming of moving to another country, I would tell you to learn the language but to research more than words and grammar. Seek out books, music, and films from the place you are about to discover. Prepare to learn how reality is different to the image in your head.
Kerstin, that’s me. I founded Fluent in 2012.
I am a native German speaker and come from the beautiful Moselle valley. These days, one of the things about me that seems to surprise people is that my English is almost native-like and yet I never studied a language before the age of 10. It’s possible. You’re not too old, ever.
I’ve had a passion for languages since we danced to odd Hebrew songs in Kindergarten, and have studied English, French, Italian, Latin and Spanish. I’m currently trying my hand at Welsh.
I also teach German to a few private online students, who are nothing short of AWESOME.
Feeling inspired to learn a new language? Check out Memrise!