Winifred Hanke: At the beginning, German culture is completely alien to our volunteers and their lives here are very different to home. Even just finding their feet in a new life, a new city and a new environment is a challenge in itself. It's also not uncommon for them to be faced with major communication barriers when they first arrive. Not only the language, but also the German communication culture in general can be difficult for them. How should they communicate and when, and when shouldn't they? For example, when should I greet a stranger on the street and when is it better not to?
The overall experiences of our volunteers can be very different, and everyone has their personal take on things. In my opinion, this fact is often given too little consideration in the context of international exchanges. We tend to want to make sweeping assumptions and to generalise cultural differences. In doing so, we often forget that there can be huge differences even within the same culture – when it comes to the personality of the individual participant and their personal background. It is thus particularly important to have an even more nuanced view and to question cultural generalisations.