Reasons to love a German girl
At the risk of sounding really harsh: I didn’t come to New York this summer to make a bunch of new friends. I wanted to meet people, make industry contacts and network, for sure, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I had a handful of friends from school I knew I would spend time with, and I expected to be busy, so making new friends wasn’t high on my priority list.
For one thing, moves, summer camps, and the dispersion that comes with high school and college graduations have taught me that keeping in touch is hard — and building friendships worth the effort is even harder. So I knew it wasn’t realistic to expect to establish lifelong relationships in just 10 weeks. For another thing, I prioritize my plans this summer by what I’m doing rather than whom I’m with (for the record, that’s the opposite of my norm) because I came here with such a long to-do list and wanted to make sure I had the fullest experience possible for myself.
So making friends wasn’t a prime objective of mine. That’s not to say I wasn’t open to the idea, but I didn’t see it as a very realistic result of a busy summer here.
But, as is its way, New York threw something new at me in the form of my fellow Shape intern, Sarah, whom I met on my first day at work. She’s a photo intern from Germany and had been at Shape for a few weeks when I arrived. She invited me to lunch with her, and I went once that week just to talk, but I was focused on being an industrious intern and keeping myself on a budget, so I wasn’t too keen on the lunch dates. I also told her I had taken German in high school but was too rusty and shy to talk with her.
Other interns arrived, and we both got busier, so I didn’t see Sarah too regularly in the first half of my summer, but in the past few weeks we’ve been working together more and talking more. I’ve realized I have plenty of flexibility in my workday to take lunch breaks, and even if I don’t want to spend the money, I can take my lunch with her to go out for an hour or so. I also got over my fear and decided to take advantage of the amazing German-speaking opportunity.
Sarah is one of the sweetest, nicest, friendliest people I’ve ever met.
When she gets an ice cream cone after lunch, she insists on sharing with me. She asks me about my weekends and is so thankful when I help her with random intern duties. She lives on Staten Island and was thrilled when I told her I was going there last weekend. She gave me directions to her favorite beach, and we met up for the afternoon.
We talk about America and Germany and the cultural differences, but we also discuss music, movies, celebrities, family and fitness (she’s also an instructor). When I got over myself and started speaking German, she was ecstatic and complimentary, even as she laughed at my American accent.
She’s so nice, partly, I think, because she’s not from America. That’s certainly why she won’t eat her lunch until I’m seated at the table. That also explains her eagerness to make a friend at the office; she hardly knows anyone in New York and is looking for girls her age to relate to.
So I’ve embraced this friendship with Sarah much more in the second half of the summer. We had a blast at the beach, we speak German over lunches, and when I told her about In the Heights, a musical I want to see, she so politely asked if she could join me (of course!). Apparently Corbin Bleu is popular in Europe. We went to the ticket lottery, and when we didn’t win, she was equally excited to try the next show on my list, Rock of Ages, which is all ’80s hits (Styx, Journey, Pat Benatar, REO Speedwagon).
Turns out she knows more American ’80s songs than I do. I absolutely loved her enthusiasm as she sang along with the show’s stars, and I had to laugh when she asked if Americans make the “Rock On” symbol with their hands.
Also turns out it was her first musical — ever. So I had to explain to her what a Playbill was and where the band sat. When I turned to her after the Act One finale to ask her reaction, she confusedly replied, “It was really good, but that’s a weird ending” and then was relieved to hear there was more (Rock of Ages is a typical American musical in that the leading couple hit the major relationship conflict right before intermission, so that would’ve been a very awkward ending). She absolutely loved the show and the fact that we went together, so we are going to try In the Heights again this week.
Since our little bonding weekend of beach and musical, she seems more excited than ever about being friends with me, and I am enjoying her company and our conversations more and more, too. When I told her I want to eat more ethnic food, she took me to a Korean restaurant she likes and helped me through my first sushi meal. She brought her laptop on a lunch break so she could introduce me to her mom via Skype. She asked if I’d ever been to Germany (no) and if I would like to go (yes) and immediately offered that Ulrike is a great cook and her family has plenty of room.
This is Sarah’s last week at Shape, which is sad for me, but her family is coming this weekend, which is so exciting for her. She hasn’t seen them in three months, and she wants me to meet them. In a teacher-ly way, she says that talking with her Oma, who speaks no English, will be great practice, and apparently her mom is excited to meet me.
So I’m going to dinner with them, and then Sarah wants me to help her show them around New York. I’m excited to show of this city and to see their reactions to America.
I’m also looking forward to meeting the family that raised this wonderfully sweet girl. A girl who, contrary to my expectations, I hope and expect to keep in touch with long after this summer ends. For the sake of my German, which has drastically de-rusted in just a few short weeks, but more for the sake of her being so darn nice, I plan to e-mail her and Skype with her and keep her in my life.
And some day, hopefully, I will get to visit her, talk more German and have her show me around her country.