Mr. Gillespie and the good kind of homesickness

I’m in heaven.* This afternoon I finished school after a rather strenuous 3 hours of work and so I decided I’d do my food shopping on my way home. Some of the other assistants had told me about an English shop that sold Irn Bru, so naturally I had to take a look for myself! It’s been 5 weeks since I’ve tasted the sweet nectar that is ginger and I can tell you it’s really starting to get to me (headaches, cold sweats, tremors, etc.), so you can imagine my elation when I saw a whole shelf full of Irn Bru and other stuff like Jammie Dodgers, Salt and Vinegar crisps and HP Fruity Sauce. Ten minutes and about €15 later (totally worth it), I emerged victorious with the most ridiculous grin on my face that continued for most of my walk home.

This brought so much joy to my week. Incidentally, it seems that salt and vinegar crisps are just about the only vinegary product the Germans don't eat!

This brought so much joy to my week. Incidentally, it seems that salt and vinegar crisps are just about the only vinegary product the Germans don’t eat!

Working in a school as an ambassador of British culture means there’s quite a lot of opportunities for indulgent reminiscing about home there, too. In the last few weeks, I’ve shown a bunch of year 9s the “full moon, half moon, total eclipse” Jaffa Cakes advert, spent ages trying to get year 6s to say anemone (think Finding Nemo) and explained to a bunch of absolutely disgusted year 7s that transferring chippy chips from the newspaper they’re served in (“BUT PAUL, VAT IS ZE LOGIC IN SERVING ZEM IN NEWZPAPER?”) and into a slice of stodgy white bread is a completely legitimate meal.

This provided an entire lesson of entertainment. And yes, that is a blackboard!

This provided an entire lesson of entertainment. And yes, that is a blackboard!

My favourite “ahh, home” moment this week came from a year 7 PE lesson that I observed. A lot of the assistants here will tell you that discipline in German schools is slightly more lax than it is in the UK, and I have to agree. None of the behaviour is particularly bad, but talking while the teacher/another student is is generally accepted from what I’ve observed and the kids just don’t seem quite as fazed by a teacher asserting their authority. In this PE lesson, the name of the game was to run around a set of cones as a group for 90 seconds, and then sit down when the leader of the group thought that their 90 seconds was up. The kids all did the running part, but took great delight in tripping each other up, kicking the cones everywhere and just generally messing around. No harm done I guess, but my “ahh home” moment came when I suddenly imagined Mr. Gillespie, my old PE teacher, reacting to that kind of behaviour.


I must admit all these moments did make me a bit homesick, but not in the miserable, depressing way that people in the years above me warned would happen. Certainly when I first got here and I didn’t have a routine, network of friends and any kind of social life to fall back on, things were really difficult but now, having settled in, homesickness is actually quite nice. Just before I came out to Germany I met up with my English teacher from school, Steph Gonda. She’s from Canada, and lived in South Korea for quite a while before she settled in the UK so she knows a thing or two about being away from home. Her advice, which is really coming into its own, was to turn homesickness into something to be proud of – I have this wonderful family, set of friends, culture and language and I’m proud to miss them! I’ve just realised that that sounds really sentimental and soppy but hey ho, I promised myself this blog would be brutally honest and only minimally edited!

We’re now at the autumn holidays so I’ve got a very busy 2 weeks coming up, followed by a visit from my brother who will hopefully be bringing plenty of Irn Bru! I probably won’t get a chance to post for a while, so for now, tschüss!

*Turns out translating this directly into German as im Himmel doesn’t work. I tried to tell a colleague about how my dad was in heaven this summer with the good weather and plenty of opportunities for a barbecue, but he just thought I was describing how my dad had died over the summer, presumably due to some tragic accident involving a couple of steaks and a butane canister!


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