Culture. Also, Rumbas.

Last night I was invited by one of my students to attend a concert with him and some friends. I figured I could do with some culture in my life, so that sounded like a good plan to me. 

The concert was given by the Junge Philharmonie Erlangen, and featured some 20th century tunes.


With the exception of one concert in Prague of jazz renditions of Beatles music, this was my first “classical” concert. Usually I swing more in the direction of guitars and amplifiers, although I think my mosh pit days are far, far, faaaaaaaaaaaaaar behind me. So this was quite the change of pace. I did get worn out though… some of the applause breaks went on for a very long time, and clapping is hard work! Or at least, clapping through four bows for the conductor/guest violinist is. 

For the Philip Glass Violinkonzert, they brought in a ringer from the Munich symphony. And man… he was impressive. By the end of the piece, I could count at least three broken strings flying around his head, which led to a lively discussion outside about how many strings are actually on a violin bow. One of the guys we were with is married to the second violinist, and she very kindly offered to let her husband and my student count the strings. Apparently there are a lot. 

The conductor was also pretty dramatic, and gave some nice little chats in between numbers. He also organized a bit of audience participation, requiring the different sides of the room to try and sing two different parts along with a few instruments. My student was lovely and tried to translate for me as he went along, which was great. I would catch words here and there but there was no way I was getting all of that. 

The last number was the Ravel Bolero, and this brought an interesting surprise. The viola players pulled out some sweet Cuban-style fedoras, the percussionists popped up wearing Afro wigs, sunglasses/LMFAO-style glasses, and brightly colored shirts or scarves. And then they were off. There was cello spinning, and different parts of the group would get up and do little spins while playing their parts. A couple of the violin players even did a little rumba move. The audience got a big kick out of it, and I was pretty much in stitches at the sight of this very serious-looking symphony with a row of Afro-wigged dudes in the back. Oh, Germans. And people say you have no sense of humor. So untrue. It was great. 

I also thought the hall was pretty lovely in a very woody-and-cubic way. I didn’t want to be the weirdo taking pictures (more on that in a minute), but here’s a good one from the interwebz….

Heinrich-Lades-Hall, Erlangen

 The ceiling was pretty cool. And here’s the outside of the hall…


The inside was all wood, and the outside was all concrete. Very sixties-mod. 

After the concert, my student and I went for a drink, and then headed home. All in all, a pretty entertaining evening. 

Soooo, the downside. If you can call it that. 

Sometimes it’s super-weird to be the only foreigner in a group. 

Secondly, I really am not a fan of being the center of attention.*

Thirdly, when those two things happen at the same time when you first meet a bunch of people, it’s like the perfect storm of me feeling awkward as all get out. 

So the first point: I know a lot of expats might complain if they’re in a group and the other people don’t/won’t speak English. Ooooon the other hand, I feel like a complete ass if 6-7 other people feel the need to speak English strictly for my benefit. Sample conversation:

My student’s friend: “Deutschdeutschdeutsch.”
My student: “No, tonight we speak English.”
Heather: “Yeah, no… that’s really not necessary. Really. German is okay.”
My student: “No, English.”
Heather: feels awkward and looks at feet a lot.
To the second point: I am not a group person. Maybe if I know the people well, it’s okay, but otherwise I’m a disaster. There is an English Stammtisch here in Nürnberg, and I’ve never gone strictly for this reason. I’ve never been the kind of person to walk into a room and start introducing myself. I was taught not to speak until spoken to and I haven’t been able to shake that. So when I’m introduced to 6+ people in about two minutes, and they all feel like they have to speak English and start asking questions…. it’s a lot. 
The nice way to say it would be ‘Twenty Questions,’ and the not-so-nice way would be ‘Spanish Inquisition.’ I’m not a big fan of feeling like a zoo animal… like, let’s all look at the American girl who’s inexplicably here! Fun! So I tried to answer questions, but I feel so weird asking any, so it was just… agh. I’m sure I was completely red and looked at my feet a lot. It’s like being eight years old again except it wasn’t weird relatives you barely know asking you about school, it’s a bunch of Germans asking you…
“Do you like it here?”
“Where do you live?”
“Do you ever ride a bike?”
“What else have you seen in Germany?”
“Do you have a (discussion in German) … what Indiana Jones has? *whip noise* For you classes?” (note: this was said by my student’s colleague, who is in another class taught by a different teacher, Peter. I do not have a whip, nor does Peter, but perhaps it’s a good idea with these guys.)
“Do you like German food?”
“Did you eat the Schäufele?”**
“Why not??”
Thankfully at that point it was time to go inside and get some seats, but agh. I felt very fish out of water and was trying to be on my best behavior, hence the no taking of pictures inside the hall and trying not to put my foot in my mouth too much. Debatable on whether or not that was successful. And I may have agreed to go and eat said Schäufele at some point with these guys, and that stuff scares me a little bit. It’s so much pork! (that’s what she said).

But apart from that, it was a nice night, and I was happy that my student invited me. Yes, it was pretty far out of my comfort zone, but I suppose, that sort of thing is good for me in the long run.  

*There is some stuff coming up that will make this statement sound completely absurd, but it’s true. 

**Schäüfele is an enormous pork shoulder with all the drippings. It looks scary.


7 thoughts on “Culture. Also, Rumbas.

  1. You are really sweet for hanging out with your students. I would never hang out with mine for just this reason. Well, I might have hung out with the five year olds but they never asked me out 🙂

  2. It's okay, it's only a little weird. 🙂 We already went to a movie the other week, which was partially in payment for him fixing my old computer. Which took three visits to my house, the acquisition of special parts, and soldering to accomplish.

  3. gahhh! I love reading your posts since I lived in Franken last year! I was actually in Nürnberg over the weekend (and ate a Schäuferla in fact!). Also, my English friend who lives in Nürnberg goes to the English stammtisch (I'm having one of those “omg small world!” moments, but I digress). Anyway, she was nervous to go at first, but now she loves it and always raves about it. It might not be for everyone, I guess, but you should try it out! 😀

  4. Thanks Emily, and glad that you enjoyed your trip back here, as well as the pork delights!

    I always think about going, but I think I'd have to go with friends or something. Otherwise I'd be that weirdo in the corner sucking down beers at a rapid-fire pace and not talking to anyone. Me and groups are just no good. Someday. Haha.

    I saw a poster for that fest today, actually! I don't know if I'll make it up there before it's over, but I'm starting to get jealous of my students that are hitting three fests a weekend. How do they have all this time??

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