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Why did you choose Germany as a research destination?
I chose Germany for three reasons.
One: during my last year at the University of Buea (Cameroon), I was fortunate to meet my wife who was an exchange student back then and she enthusiastically shared a lot of information on higher education facilities in Germany with me.
Second: as a student of General Linguistics, my most inspiring lecturer (Prof Gratien Atindogbe) was a DAAD alumnus. His accounts of Germany made me dream of this country which offers fantastic training facilities and wherein research/knowledge is valued. I dearly remembered the day he asked me, after a class on sociolinguistics, to follow him at his office. He had just received a new office equipment from the DAAD. This made a lasting impact on me.
Three: at secondary school, German was my favourite subject and I (un)consciously nourished the dream of moving to Germany.
What was your first impression of Germany, the German culture and its people?
In addition to noticing that there was order almost everywhere and almost everything looked very clean, I had mixed feelings. On the one hand, people are well travelled, educated and curious about newcomers but, on the other hand, I was and I am still baffled by the number of people who think that, as a black African, I grew up with elephants. I take pleasure in telling them that the first time I really saw an elephant was in the Leipzig Zoo in the eastern part of Germany, and I had to pay for this experience…
Did you encounter any difficulties while settling in in Germany?
It takes a while to understand the university (focus on students’ inputs) and the social system (for example sorting out the garbage) but always ask questions gently, you will find proper guides because many people here enjoy ‘educating’ newcomers on their cultural practices.
Do you have tips for other international researchers who are thinking about coming to Germany?
1. Take the time in your home country to gather as much information as possible about Germany and the programme you would like to pursue (during workshops and information events at embassies/consulates, DAAD, Goethe-Institute and German foundations abroad)
2. Learn the language as soon and as much as you can since this will be your passport to people’s minds and hearts!
3. Once on site, PLEASE be part of social networks and let people discover your other talents!
4. If you have kids, make sure that you invite their friends at their birthday’s celebrations because celebrating birthdays is KEY here.
Short and crisp: What is your favourite...
- Word: Sch...! (Editor's note: Oooops, we can't spell that out here!) [Crap, my gush] (This is the word I hear most in Germany. Imagine saying it while releasing much air from your lungs and slamming a table. Just beautiful!)
- Dish: Gulasch mit Kartoffelklößen (bitte OHNE Kraut!)
- Piece of German culture: Beer (although I do not drink)
Find out more about Rémi Armand Thchokothe and his research project on the Latest Thinking website: www.lt.org.