My last week of school was an idle one: English oral exams were underway so basically half of my classes were cancelled, and most of teachers in the English faculty were occupied with tedious supervising tasks. On Wednesday (29 May) I had my last lesson alone with an unruly class of year 6s. Afterwards, before I could escape the staffroom, the principal and my so-called supervising teacher made an announcement and gifted me a school-branded water bottle and a bottle of (expired) Franconian beer.
There was some sort of school party on Friday which I wasn’t able to attend because the Foreign Office advised me to leave the Schengen Zone and fly to London and back to avoid any problems with the Border Police and my flights were booked on that morning. I flew to London from Nuremberg via Hamburg for a short weekend and stayed in a interesting hostel attached to an opera house in the middle of Holland Park which had 15 beds per room. The hostel bathrooms had bloody bandages on the floor and groups of guys doing cocaine in them. In any case, I spent most of time in London eating burgers.
I was happy to leave London on Tues, but when I arrived in Nuremberg the Border Police barely looked at my passport even though my long-stay visa had technically expired. I’d heard all of these stories about Germany being super strict regarding visas and banning people from the EU for minor overstays, so I was expecting a thorough interrogation. The visa conditions for non-EU residents are so convoluted and unnecessarily complicated that I don’t even think the Border Police understand them.
Once back in Erlangen, I was able to witness the so-called European summer which might even be more unpleasant than Australian summers due to the high relative humidity, lack of cool ocean breezes which most Australian capital cities enjoy, general lack of aircon and the fact that German houses are built to stay as warm as possible. With that said, Europeans do love to complain about the heat.
With the warm June weather came the annual Volksfest in Erlangen, the notorious Bergkirchweih or “Berch“, the biggest event in the city which draws about 1 million tourists per year. Berch is like any typical German Volksfest but has outdoor seating instead of tents and features exclusively Franconian beer. Interestingly, Erlangen used to be a famous “Bierstadt” (beer city) but now only a single brewery (Steinbach) remains in the city.
I visited Berch a couple of times with Josephine and even saw a few of my students there. I didn’t feel that it was as great as people hyped it up to be, but it’s still a decent excuse to wear Lederhosen and Dirndl, consume extremely overpriced food and drink, and walk past the usual stalls.
One weekend I did a day trip with another English teaching assistant who’d recently moved to Erlangen to do an internship. We journeyed all the way to Augsburg in the Swabian region of Bavaria, home to the Fuggerei, the first social housing complex in the world.
The rental price for an apartment in the Fuggerei is less than a Euro per year, but residents must pray three times per day to the owners of the complex. One of the apartments is open for public inspections, and it is by no means a shoddy residence and much larger and nicer than many student apartments. We quickly ran out of things to do in Augsburg, so we then went to Ingolstadt since it was on the back.
Ingolstadt was perhaps even less interesting than Augsburg, even though there was a Volksfest going on. Ingolstadt is quite unusual since the main train station is about a half-hour walk from the old town area.
In no time at all, I was up to my last week in Germany and had brunch with a few of the English teachers from my school and was given a nice goodbye card. Two of teachers even invited me spontaneously to a concert in Munich to see Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, a punk rock supergroup I’d never heard of before, who exclusively play covers, which was an interesting experience.
On the 21st of June, I binged season 2 of Dark in a single day (for those unfamiliar with it. get on it because it’s easily the best show on Netflix), and on the day before leaving I sold my bike for a cheap price (considering that both lights are broken, and it was about to fall apart) and packed my things. Getting home involved three trains and two long haul flights. Luckily, my first train was delayed (danke DB), so I missed my second train and had to take an alternative.
My checked baggage was clearly over the allowed weight limits, but I managed to trick the attendant into allowing it, and she didn’t even weigh my cabin luggage which was also far over the limit. At border control, things got a bit complicated. Since my trip to London and back involved no passports stamps, the Border Police were a bit confused and I had to show them old plane tickets. Many EU and Commonwealth countries are going through the process of removing the need for passport stamps and implementing totally electronic border controls, so it makes sense for Border Police to be unable to deal with the transition. In the end, they gave up and let me through.
When I arrived in Australia there was also no need for a passport stamp, so according to my passport, I’m still in Germany. I hope this doesn’t cause any problems on my next overseas trip, and I really wish they got rid of passports altogether and replaced them with some sort of national identity card, similar to the ones used in the EU, because all of those passport pages are going to be empty and useless now.
Anyway, I’m currently back in Adelaide and, even though I’ve been notified that I can do another assistantship in Germany, I’ll most likely stay here for a bit and complete a Masters in Teaching.
Looking back at my experiences as an English assistant teacher in Germany, it’s clear that the positives outweigh the negatives, but this is not the same for everyone. Your school and location will play a big role in whether you’ll enjoy the experience. The culture shock of both living in Germany and the school culture may be over- or underwhelming.