Brett Macdonald: An international education

Sabine Devins
Sabine Devins - [email protected]
Brett Macdonald: An international education
Photo: Sabine Devins

The Local's series "Making it in Germany" presents Brett Macdonald, a Canadian teacher at an international school in Munich.


Name: Brett Macdonald

Age: 29

Originally from: Nelson, Canada

What did you do before coming to Germany?

I lived in Scotland where I was teaching at an international school for two years and before that I was in Canada where I went to the University of Victoria to get my Bachelor’s degree in elementary education.

What brought you to Germany?

I was at a job fair in London and received a job offer at a school in Berlin. I had been to Berlin before and I was really excited about going back. I had enjoyed it so I thought I would take the chance to go somewhere new. So I moved to Berlin in August 2007, but now I live and teach in Munich.

How did you become a teacher at an international school?

I've always been really big on travelling and around the time I graduated from university, there weren't a lot of jobs in British Columbia. A recruitment agency came to our school, so a friend and I thought this would be a great way to travel and start our teaching careers as well.

What were your challenges when you were getting started in Germany?

Getting used to the new culture and the way they do things here, adjusting to how the educational system works and how people interact in that community. And then there was just getting by with the new language and not understanding what’s going around me. Trying to communicate with my hands and the little amount of words I knew.

What about in the work place?

I was at a school that had just opened and a lot of energy was spent learning how we were going to do things and working with new people. Working with German children was also a challenge. I just didn't know what they were saying if they weren't talking to me! I'd have to do a lot of reading the tone of their voice and how they were saying things to infer what they were actually saying, then trying to react to it.

How much German is involved in your day to day life?

At work, there is no German involved. Outside of work, a little more so. Living on my own requires me to get through the supermarkets and be able to ask where things are and how to get help.

How does your professional life look today?

This fall I moved to Munich to take a position here where the students come from all over the world. It's a good school that’s challenging me a lot but I've also been able to use what I've learned over the last couple years in my international career. I feel like I'm growing a lot and still enjoying the international life.

Have you had some different experiences moving from Berlin to Munich?

Absolutely. Face-to-face, I find the people are a little bit friendlier down here. They look you in the eye and they greet you. I found in Berlin, people are more in their own space and unless they are talking with you, they do their own thing. That makes the feeling of the cities completely different. Munich is more conservative, but it’s got its special nooks as well, you just have to seek them out.

What do you love about living here?

Oktoberfest! Well, that and I love the honesty of the German people. I love the almost laid-back ways of Germany as well. That you can go to a park and just sit there with a few friends or read a book or barbecue in the park. I like the availability of travel and how easy it is to explore all sorts of different cultures and places.

What do you dislike about living here?

The moment of realising that the way something is here is the complete opposite of how it is in Canada that makes you sometimes think: "What is this?" But that usually evolves into a more open mind and then you start to see why it’s done that way here. But that moment before can be really frustrating.

How has living in Germany changed you?

I think it’s made me more understanding of different cultures and more open-minded to how different people around the world do things. How we do things in Canada isn't the way things have to be done. It's been a whole process of learning new ways and meeting new people.

What advice do you have for someone who is looking to ‘make it’ in Germany?

Be open-minded and be understanding. And be willing to look at things from the local point of view. Don't see the German abruptness as a negative thing against you and just understand that they have somewhere they have to be and they want to get there. Give them a second chance!

Know someone who's "made it" in Germany? Email us at: [email protected]


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