Where Do I Go From Here?
Lets assume basic needs like food, shelter and clothing have been met. You are now among the enlightened that know that Ausfahrt means “exit”, and is not a town with a weird name.
O.K., you’re ready to meet the natives, get involved, rub elbows at the local Gasthaus and/or meet a charming sexy German man or woman (depending on your preferences). But you hesitate because you feel that your ambitions exceed your knowledge of the language and culture. “How do I meet Germans?” “What do I say when I do?” “I’ll do or say something dumb and embarrassing.” you cry.
Well, one very important rule of thumb is: Don’t be intimidated if your German is next to non-existent. A few words or phrases (even if mispronounced) coupled with some elementary Sign language will go a long way. Also most middle-aged and younger Germans speak English. Many, particularly university students, are quite fluent. Remember, above all, that your sincerity and enthusiasm are part of a universal language, and while every German you meet may not greet you warmly, many will.
“Great pep talk!” you say, now where do I meet these people? For starters, concerts _ be they pop, rock or classical – are naturals. Germans enjoy socializing, and make small talk like anyone else. So don’t hesitate to bum a light, comment on the performance or inquire about the time. Obviously you can go to a concert with a friend or in a group. But don’t hesitate to go alone. It’s more common for Europeans than Americans to go to public places and events unaccompanied.
Likewise, pubs, cafes and restaurants are full of people sitting alone. Common sense prevails: If someone remains engrossed in their thoughts or newspaper after you’ve proffered a casual comment or two, it would appear that they wish to remain that way. However, upon surveying the scene, do not immediately assume because someone is sitting alone that they wouldn’t welcome company. Just remember to ask before sitting down at their table. This is common courtesy. You will find that most Europans do not have the same hang-ups as Americans about inviting strangers to sit at their table.
Another place to meet the locals is in leisure centers, spas, saunas or community swimming facilities. You will find that they range from those with only swimming pools and tanning machines to others which offer a range of water related health activities like Sauna, heated pools, hot tubs, massage and fitness equipment as well as restaurants, pubs and playgrounds. While often frequented by individuals with health related problems, they are also simply a place to go for fun and relaxation and are not to be confused with stateside t1message parlors” and “health spas” which offer sexual favors for pay. There are literally hundreds of spas, pools and saunas in Germany, and are ideal ways to relax and socialize German-style. However, a few words of advice. Some Americans are apprehensive about going to pools here thinking that they have to take off their bathing suits. This is not entirely true. Only in the sauna are you expected to shed your swimsuit and the times for separate (male only/female only) and coed is clearly posted. However, some spas do allocate certain hours on certain days for nude swimming. The abbreviation FKK (Free body culture) is used to indicate this and is clearly posted.
On the other hand, you may welcome the opportunity to swim in the buff. In any event remember that many Europeans do not make a big deal out of nudity. It’s regarded as natural and healthy, and not a perversion as many Americans think. At the same time, do not consider those who participate in FKK as kinky or on the make – more or less than anyone else, at any rate. Leisure centers spas, etc. is community centered in concept with children and adults of all ages enjoying their benefits.
Speaking of enjoying yourself and meeting Germans, we can also recommend recreations centers like the “Tropica Al-Round Center” in Hemsbach (I hope it’s still there), which offers a wide variety of activities for the young and old. Americans as well as Germans frequent centers like these, which are often located near larger cities.
If you enjoy the outdoors, join a ski club or volksmarcking club. You’ll find one or both in most major cities and towns. With German and American members alike they have events and activities for beginner and advanced. Don’t forget that half the fun of joining is to take advantage of the social activities like dinners, after meeting gatherings and dances that membership offers. These are outstanding ways of meeting people with similar intents.
Of course, there are many German clubs, disco’s and nightspots. These vary as far as patrons, prices, entertainment, etc. The best advice regarding them is to ask around to get an idea if a particular place is what you have in mind. For some tips about spots in the Heidelberg area, see “clubs, cafe’s and disco on this web page. It’s a well-written and informative article. And last, but certainly not least are the fasching parties, events and celebrations that will be held through March. Here, you will experience Germans at their best and anything goes!
In all, many opportunities to meet German men and woman exist. We’ve touched on several possibilities and hope that they’ll help. However, the bottom line is don’t be unduly influenced by the opinions of others, keep an open mind and heart, and trust your instincts. VIEL SPASS!