Interview Series #1
Everyone was once a beginner!

In the first interview Chiu Kit LAM will share with us the challenges which he had to face when he arrived in Germany, and the reasons why he decided to move to Germany and to find his second home there. 

Hi Chiu Kit, finally meet you in person! I always follow the articles about Germany and the German culture on your blog and Facebook. When did you actually go to Germany?

It was year 2010 – to be exact 16-07-2010. I know the date so accurately because the itinerary of the unused return flight is still lying in my postbox…

My adventure started in a small village called “Müllen” in Germany. It’s just hard to believe that I’ve already spent almost 9 years in Germany! Actually, I didn’t really “plan” to move to this country in the first place…
 
我老婆嚟自位於Offenburg嘅Müllen,一條唔夠六百個居民嘅村落。你諗下,由一個七百萬人嘅大都會,搬去一個『與世隔絕』嘅地方,如果怕寂寞的話,都幾慘下!
©Chiu Kit LAM
Arrived in Müllen, a village in Offenburg with less than 600 inhabitants. You can imagine the difference of a metropolitan and the middle of nowhere in Germany is huge. Not everyone can enjoy the loneliness!
 
Why did you pick Germany as the country in which you want to stay?
“Pick” is not the right word – the decision was made without any intention. As a kid I was always dreaming of studying in another country. In year 2009 I started my study at Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) and I met an exchange student, who come from a city in Germany called Offenburg…Yeah, this is the power of love! As you could guess, she became one of the reasons why I wanted to go to Germany.

She is now my wife and we have a cute 7-month-old son as a family. Because of her I realized that students, even foreign students, do not have to pay any tuition fee if they study in German universities! The idea popped right up: why shouldn’t I continue my study there?
 
有時候,一個對話,真係可以改變一生。我當時入宿,喺樓梯見到一個女仔,同佢打咗個招呼…十年之後,我就同佢喺地球嘅另一邊,搵到第二個家。
©Chiu Kit LAM
Sometimes you just cannot believe how a dialog can change someone’s life: I said hi in the staircase of the hall to an exchange student and ten years later I shared a second home with her in Germany. 
 

Was it for you a difficult dicision, leaving Hong Kong for a long period of time? And how did you prepare for the departure and the new life in Germany?

Not for me. It was not difficult for me to make the decision. I often thought in this way: What I have to lose if the plan wouldn't work at the end? Maybe a place at the university? Maybe 2 to 3 years in another country? On the contrary I could realize my dream: working as an engineer in Germany – the country in which the most talented people work in industry and the country which has the strongest medium-sized companies. Of course, I would also like to stay with my girlfriend. If you put all the factors into consideration, the decision should not be tough at all.

However, my family was so worried – they think studying in Germany was too risky. But “the biggest risk is not taking any risk”, as Mark Zuckerberg said, right?
 
奧芬堡位於黑森林嘅邊緣,我以前聽黑森林呢個名,就淨係知道黑森林蛋糕…到我嚟咗真-黑森林之後,就即刻愛上咗呢度嘅靚景!
©Chiu Kit LAM
Offenburg is at the edge of black forest. I only knew black forest from the black forest cake. After getting to know the “real” black forest I fell in love with the wonderful landscape here. 

 

How did you feel when you started your new life in Germany? What was the biggest challenge?

It was a complicated feeling which I can’t really describe! Maybe a combination of excitement, determination, hope but also worry, stress and uncertainty? Can you juggle? I can't, but it felt like I was trying hard to balance three balls at the same time in my hands: the study itself, learning the German language and struggling to make a living in Germany. I knew exactly if I let one of the balls falls down, the consequence will be the return ticket to Hong Kong!
 
The most difficult thing I encountered at the beginning was to bear the feeling that I could only behave myself like a baby…I truly missed the ability to freely express myself using my mother tongue. Every time when I was in a group of Germans, I felt like being an alien!
 
當時讀書,我同女朋友搵咗間WG(合租公寓)住喺海德堡。搬入新屋,最重要係咩?梗係買返個新廁板嚟坐啦!無同屋企人住,就要自己去買餸,煮飯,搞簽證之類嘅嘢,逼下逼下,學德文就會快好多。
©Chiu Kit LAM
As a student I shared a flat with my girlfriend in Heidelberg. What did I do right after moving in? Buy a new shiny toilet seat! Shopping, cooking, cleaning and organizing everything on your own is a great way to teach yourself some German vocabs! 
 

What would you do today differently from the beginning?

It’s an interesting question! A lot of people know that I’m teaching German now and I especially like to explain the German grammar in detail using my mother language. I have to confess: After learning the language in the course, I was still feeling so insecure putting what I had learnt into practice. I could have talked to so many people about their interesting stories. Now I might be able to accept my mistakes better and could have used all the chances I got to improve my German language skill. You know, everyone was once a beginner!
 
我之前成日以為德國冬天漫天飛雪,肯定浪漫到爆啦!點知第一次喺德國過冬,感覺就只係凍冰冰,灰灰暗暗,一過咗四五點就天黑!好彩,雖然德國人唔興開冷氣,但係暖爐係家家戶戶都一定會有的。如果你嚟到德國,覺得間屋好凍的話,記得搵下窗口下面有無一嚿奇奇怪怪,灰灰白白嘅暖爐啦!開到盡啦!
©Chiu Kit LAM
I pictured nicely before, that the all-white and soft snow could be so romantic. Disappointingly, the first winter in Germany was for me just freezing cold, gloomy and completely dark after 5 O’clock. Luckily there are no ACs in Germany, but heaters. My tip for all newcomers: don’t forget to turn the wheel up on the weird block of metal mounted on the wall!