One criterion for selection to do a PhD within the Pathsense (Pathogen Sensing) collaboration was you were required to apply to a university partaking outside of your home country.

I really liked this, as science, natürlich, is international and I always loved the idea of living in other European countries for both culture and language (We only start learning a foreign language once we turn 13, we learn English and Irish before this)

For my Bachelor thesis, both my supervisor and his research assistant were both from Bavaria and from speaking with them, I knew I really wanted to move to Germany for research, it has the highest number of publications per year alongside the UK (but.. Brexit)

What I didn’t expect was how difficult I would find the German language. I had studied French in school- kicking myself now.  I learned Italian when living in Italy, and thought, well Italian was easy, German will be the same! Nope.

But I am learning, living in the country is really the best way. Trial and error.

And do I have trial and errors. To categorize; False friends and downright false.


Downright False: I believe the very first (now) hilarious error I made was introducing myself to one of the PhDs in my department, I thought I was saying “Ich Heiße Maira” à “I’m Maria”. I what came out instead was “Ich Hasse Maria” à “ I hate Maria”

Words that are etched into my brain are “Schneller”(faster) and “Sauber”(clean). From technicians giving me an instruction in German and myself doing the exact opposite. Schell… sounds like snail…. So it must mean… go slower. Nope. Lesson learned.

Sauber(clean)? Picture someone telling you repeatedly “Das ist nicht Sauber (That is not clean)” as you are about to place (slooowly, because of the now unsurety of your action) a dirty glass flask into a bucket of freshly cleaned flasks. I will never forget that word from the confusion alone.


False Friends: No, not actual false friends, but words that are spelled the same in German and English with completely different meanings.

A few I picked up

Hell….. bright.

Paprika(bell pepper). Asked a flatmate for some paprika seasoning and it turned into a series of back and forth confused looks something like this

Pension… I was sure by the sheer amount of buildings that said “Pension” on it, that there was a huge community of people in their retirement…. Acutallly are bed and breakfasts (without breakfast)


Once I learn more of the language though, the more excited I get

“Ich habe meine Geldbörse verloren, haben Sie es gesehen?“ (I lost my purse, have you seen it? – They did, thank God, someone handed it in.

I sent out a mass series of messages to friends and family back home “ I SPOKE IN GERMAN!!!!!!!!! I’M SO PROUD!!!!!!!!!!!!”

At the moment it is understanding commercials and when ordering in restaurants.  Delighted with myself.

However, when in doubt, just say “bitte”