How to follow a fitness studio class in German

"Obstacles are those frightening things that become visible when we take our eyes off our goals”.

By Henry Ford.

Today is my gym day. I have been thinking for a while to share with you a few thoughts about joining a Fitness Club here in Munich. When we first arrived, we googled all the gyms that were closed to our new home in the city. We found four, we visited them all, talked to the managers, did the facilities tour and learnt about the fees. 

We finally chose Body and Soul @Lenbachpalais because the staff is friendly and can speak some English; the facilities are spacious; they offer a variety of fitness group classes at very convenient hours and members are just regular people trying to keep fit.

I have been a member for six months now but I still remember the two challenges that I faced and shocked me more when I started.

Challenge/shock number one: the group classes are in German of course

My favorite ones are: yoga and training for what they call “Rücken und Bauch”, so back and abs exercises. It might not seem a challenge to you but it actually is. 

In language school, everyone learns from day one how to say the body parts in another language. So it is no problem to understand which part of your body you need for each exercise. The obstacle appears when the trainer describes what to do with that body part. That vocabulary in German is not explained in day-one in the school, nor in day-two nor in day-three… they are actually a very specific group of words that you need to learn by doing (or by watching what the trainer or your mat´s neighbor does during the exercise).

Challenge/shock number two: there are not individual showers in the changing room. Thank God that at least men are separated from women! But even though it is uncomfortable to shower “in public” for the first time, when you are used to individual shower booths.

I have discussed this “culture shock” with some people here in Munich and it seems like it is just me who define this as a shock. For the local ones it is regular practice to have shared showers in the gym and they also advised me that the saunas are also shared spaces by men and women. 

I have learnt the vocabulary now and can follow the fitness group classes in German without much difficulty and I have also got used to the shared showers. When you are a new to a country and culture, you need to adapt to the new circumstances, even if there are obstacles like the language or the habits. After all, as the saying says: adapt or die!

Happy exercising!

How to get a haircut

A few months ago I posted the following in Facebook: 

German challenge num.1 of a Spaniard in Munich: "HOW TO GET A HAIRCUT"

  • Locate the hairdresser´s; 
  • Communicate what you want: I want "waschen und schneiden"; 
  • Move your hands like scissors to show how he/she should cut your hair; 
  • Respond with "Ja" to unknown questions like: "Pflege?, fönen oder legen?"; 
  • Pray for a good end result. 
After that, all my facebook´s friends had a laugh and very few of them trusted me or my German skills to suceed in the operation, given that they requested the after-photos.

And the truth must be said, being new in a city can make of regular activities real challenges.

In this occasion, I was successful in the operation and all thanks to a detailed preliminary research.

I identified, googled and site-visited six hairdressers´ (yes, I have a lot free time these days...), all located within 5 to 15 min from my place in the city center. And the winner was:

Friseur Avesta in Schwanthalerstrasse, 19.

It is possible to pop in without a previous appointment; the staff is friendly, professional and they speak some English and above all, the price-quality relationship is superb (in comparison with some of the other "Friseurs" in the city, that charge insane prices - like 56EUR - for a men´s haircut!!!).

It has been a long time since I wrote this blog entry and since my first visit to a Hairdressing salon here in Munich. In this time, I have come to know and try many other hairdressers in the city until I have finally found the one that suits me better and that I recommend although it is not cheap:

Salon VITA in Thomas Wimmer-Ring, 1A (in Isartor, once on the street, walking north, they are in the first turning on the right after the num.1). It is small salon run by two beautiful and friendly Russian hairdressers. You need to make an appointment because they are always very busy, which for me it is a very good sign. Prices are reasonable and the service is outstanding.

Also I would like to mention here, for those of you looking for a more economical option: the L'Oréal Academy in Munich. They are located in Herzogspitalstraße 5, so Altstadt and according to the person who recommended it to me, they staff are not beginners but senior students that are at the end of their training before taking whatever is the official exam they have to take to be certified. She got a haircut and highlights and she looked ver very nice afterwards. 

If you try it, just let me know... I am curious to hear more opinions about this place.

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The Grocery list - Die Einkaufsliste 2/2
German TV explained for foreigners

Is there a life beyond the intermediate level?

This is for those of you who, like me, have been studying the German language for a while and believe that: 
  • can navigate most of the regular dailylife´s challenges (grocery shopping, questions about directions, etc.); 
  • can participate with pride in (non-technical) conversations with native spekers (as far as they do not have an accent and they do no use slang); 
  • can understand enough in the TV to enjoy it. 
Then you, like me, have an intermediate level of the language.

A few months ago, I decided that I couldn´t keep doing German courses in language schools forever. No matter what book, teacher or school, I was always intermediate. So one day I stopped and came to the conclusion that I needed a new plan to improve my German skills. There must be a way to get an "upgrade" and become "fluent", "superior", "upper" German.

So, since that day, I have been researching where to find help to get "my upgrade". And here there are some of my findings that have proven to be very useful to me.

Although I would love to be able to read the Frankfurter Allgemeine; the Süddeutsche Zeitung; the Tagesspiegel; Die Welt or Die Zeit, the truth is that sometimes I do not even understand the headlines. Their language are for readers that have already achieved an upgraded level and are leading to the next one, which unfortunately is not my case. 

So, I find that lighter papers like Bild, Abendzeitung or TZ are easier to understand and because they use a lot of slang, it´s also a good resource to learn new argot.

Die Sendung mit der Maus

The program with the mouse has been on in TV for 40 years already and although it is aimed for kids, it is a very good resource for adults to train listening skills outside the prefabricated listening exercises of the language books.

On TV it is, of course, aiming at kids, because it is on at around 7am on Saturdays. Fortunately at the official site you can watch all the "Sachgeschichten" in streaming any day at anytime. I really enjoy these short stories about common day-to-day facts, science, technique, etc. and other small questions that seem simple like: where the heart shape come from?; how does Internet really works?; how long is a moment of time?; why is the sky blue?; etc.

TV Untertitel
Although I understand good enough the daily news, the commercials and most soap operas in TV, I still cannot enjoy a full film in German. In the evenings (at 20.15pm) some TV channels offer foreign films (mainly from the US) in the German dubbed version with subtitles (in German). 

I might have seen Chocolat a thousand times, but in German, it was still difficult until I turned on the subtitles. Then a whole new world of possibilities opened for me. After that, I have found that Prosieben has subtitles for How I met your mother and that a bunch of other channels offer scheduled programs with subtitels (such as 3sat, ARD, ZDF, MDR, etc.). Subtitels can be found in 149, 150, 160, 444 or 777 in the teletext menu.

Also if you are C1/C2 or aiming at reaching this levels soon, the section "Alltagsdeutsch" from the Deutsche Welle is a good online resource to use, that helps you train your listening skills with podcast or audio stories.

Before I leave you today, I would also like to recommend you: The Awful German Language by Mark Twain.

You can buy it in Hugendubel/Amazon for 4.95€ in its bilingual version (English+German). It is a essay that I recommend every single student of the German language should have at home. Why? because it is funny and it is true. It will make you laugh every time you hit a wall with German. Mark Twain tells about his exasperation while learning German by setting a number of examples. You will identify many of this examples as part of what you are experiencing in the learning of German. At least I do and many other students that I know.

And that is all from me today, as always, drop me a line if you have comments or questions. Goodbye and 'till next time!

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Learning German in Munich

Day 1

Welcome all or Willkommen alle!

I have finally find the time and the will to create this Blog. 

I moved to Munich in June 2011 and since the very first day, I have wanted to share how it is to be new in the city.

Since day 1, there has been enjoyable and happy moments. But there has also been painful and stressful situations. 

In my blog you will find: funny stories about my common language mistakes, reveling that what I wanted to order in a sandwich bar it´s not what they understood; homemade guides on where to shop, where to eat yummy bytes, where to improve your German intermediate level, etc. 

Wait for it, it´s coming soon... as soon as I write it. And please if you recognise some of the situations, you have suggestions, ideas, a different opinion or you just want to say hi, drop me a line: myadventuresinmunich(at)gmail(dot)com