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…
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?
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?
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!
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!
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!