*Yes, that’s how you spell “hobbies” in German
One of the things that I have realized this time around being in Germany is the emphasis people place on maintaining their hobbies. Obviously my first few days and weeks here consisted a lot of meeting different people. One question that they always asked was “What are your hobbies?” Frankly, that’s a completely valid question to get to know someone, but I eventually realized that saying traveling, sometimes sketching, cooking and reading wasn’t going to cut it. It seemed like everyone was expecting me to name a sport I played, or some sort of club I was a member of. The things I named were mostly solitary and not usually a vehicle for bonding with other people. Eventually, I added ‘cooking with other people’ so I didn’t sound like such a secluded person.
Honestly though, in the US I think people would find it hard to really think of their hobbies, and hobby in the sense that it is something you do regularly. Most people have something, like a sport they play, when they are in school, but normally once you get to college or after that it kind of drops away. I was really thinking about what people I know did in their free time. I mostly came up with going to the gym and watching Netflix. As much as I agree that these things are totally valid to do to relax or stay in shape, how many people are actually members of an adult sport league, where there’s regularly scheduled games. Or how many people are part of a club or a dance class with planned meetings, not just getting together whenever you feel like it.
I think its good to not have your entire week scheduled out with tons of different clubs and meeting, but it’s also good to have some regularity, with a specific circle of friends that you have something in common with. So, here is where I tried to embrace the German culture and revive my hobbies. First of all, I went out and bought swim goggles to begin swimming again. I realize that this still wasn’t a group activity with regular practices, but I figured I would start small. I went to one of the pools in Aachen which was outdoors and it was a great time. Truthfully, I was pretty sore the next day. I was using muscles I haven’t really used in a while, but it felt great. It felt good to be able to tell someone though, when they asked what my hobbies were, that I had actually gone swimming the previous day and swimming wasn’t just some activity I did in the past.
Something else I tried to get started with was brush lettering, or calligraphy. Yes, again, this isn’t really something that I would invite someone over to do together, but it was a hobby that I could at least have something to show from. With any artistic hobby, people always ask if you have a picture of your work. I found this out when I told people that I sometimes sketched, but I didn’t have much at the moment to show. So I figured now with the lettering I could make really beautiful birthday cards or really anything and show those to people.
I decided this week to begin taking ballet again. Ballet was something I did for soooo much of my life (16 years), but I haven’t done at all since high school. I wrote a very nice, and in all German email to a studio that is really close to my apartment and decided that on Tuesday I would go to the class for a trial. Just 15 minutes in I was dripping sweat. It was actually really gross. For the most part it came back to me easily. I was a little worried that with the teacher speaking German I would be lost, but like she said, ballet language is universal. I even understood when she told me to put my arm to the side and to tuck my butt under, something I remember Ms. Cindy saying a lot to us. Clearly, I had lost a lot of flexibility and strength, because again like the swimming, I was using new muscles in really foreign ways. I was so extremely dead by the end of the hour. I was scared with every step that my left arch was going to cramp up. I plan on continuing with the ballet:
- because now I can call that one of my hobbies
- because maybe I will form a little ballet group of friends
- because I actually really really do enjoy it
Lastly, I decided to try to start reading more in German. So far, I have read little children’s books, but I want to move up a bit. My friends lent me some German books they had, but I kind of wanted to start with something I know I was interested in, so I began reading Harry Potter. It was actually easier than I expected, obviously there are words I didn’t know, but I was able to get through the first chapter relatively easy, without needing to look up words to fully understand. Frankly, I think people should try reading in another language a bit more, because I surprised myself with how little trouble it was for me to read in German.