Freedom. That is what I thought I would get as an International student in Birmingham. Starting again, inventing yourself, without parents and friends and all the stressful leisure. But all of that thinking changed when I moved into an empty house. From now on I am Anita Baumgärtner, lead tenant.
Problems start with my name: despite not being Chinese or something, Baumgärtner has an umlaut in it. Thinking about English keyboards (and people) I had to make a plan. Although “Anita Dollar” (see what I did there?) sounded quite good in my opinion, people kept offering me jobs as a stripper. So, what next, Translating my name into English? Possible, but Treegardener sounds just as dorky as it does in German and reminds me of my dad’s first Starbucks-purchase, where he stumbled something like “just say driii (supposed to mean tree)”. I just had to stick with the boring way of using the transliteration of “Baumgaertner” which makes it neither more readable nor elegant.
I want to spare you with the usual “I-cannot-find-a-clean-house-in-Selly-Oak” and “the-electricity-broke-down-again”-problems and start with my life right here. Since I’ve been alone for three days in a seven bedroom house, I was a bit freaked out every night and broke Bolt’s record time by running up the stairways. With six empty rooms as potential hiding-spaces for burglars, rapists or -even worse- Slenderman. But then there were also the perks – it’s convenient to have a very own kitchen and three bathrooms. I could have got used to it, but then it got crowded in “CASA ANITA”. Now there are 7 people from 6 nations and 3 continents in a comparable tiny space.
A clash of cultures cannot be avoided – there are some quite open topics like the educational systems: the Chinese have to go through quite a different process than we do. Classes of 60 people in highschool are normal. After that, all of the 1.8 million pupils who want to go to University (no matter which subject) are taking the same test at the same time. And I thought my final exams were crazy. And then there is religion. From matters of “which meat can we eat” (not important to vegetarians) to “can I have sex in my house while my parents are home” – everything is up for dispute. These conversations are a life-time memory – not only because they can be really shocking, but because you learn a lot. Not only about other cultures, but mostly about your own.
Still, I cannot understand why there was suddenly an opened – but still full – yogurt in the shelf. Or how someone can eat a 5-course menu for breakfast (while I am proud of my microwaved bagel). But after all, I am here to learn. Cheers!