Book review: 'Alltag in Großbritannien. Leben und arbeiten in England, Schottland und Wales' by Katrin Koll Prakoonwit, Conbook Verlag, 2013
ISBN 978-3-943176-15-5, 384 pages, €18.95 (in Germany)
If you really want to learn a foreign language quickly, one of the best ways of doing so is by going to a country where it is spoken and living among the locals for a while. Practically every professional translator and interpreter will have done this at some point in their life and then have experienced a 'culture shock' when they discovered life was organised in a different way than what they were used to. This is where books like 'Alltag in Großbritannien' [Life in Great Britain] come in useful – for people who move abroad for a certain period (or even for good) and want to understand the way society works and get their bearings as quickly as possible.
'Alltag in Großbritannien' is aimed primarily at German speakers, but I'm sure it would be equally useful for anyone who can understand German and is intending to move to the UK. It explains what everyday life is like there and points out any obvious differences between British and German life where this is likely to provide some helpful insights.
The book was first published in 2013, which means some sections of it are slightly outdated now (in May 2015), but the publisher saw this coming and has kept it pretty much up to date on its website, providing current information and new material – see this page. A great idea!
Besides being able to refer to these, readers of the book are also provided with a large number of web links to further sources of information on the subjects covered in each chapter.
This practical guide focuses on many aspects of daily life in England, Scotland and Wales and is divided into 24 chapters and five annexes, including a helpful glossary of key terms (what's an ISA? It tells you here), and it has a comprehensive index in German and English as well so you can look up individual terms and see what sections to read.
The book starts with a general introduction to the country's geography and history and then goes on to describe its institutions (e.g. the political and judicial system, the police and armed forces, and the monarchy) and Britain's multicultural society. The next sixteen chapters (3 to 18) each focus on a particular aspect of everyday life, e.g.
- how to look for a house or flat (ch. 3)
- moving to Britain (ch. 5)
- driving (ch. 6)
- public transport (ch. 7)
- looking for employment (ch. 8 )
- insurance policies (ch. 12)
- marriage and family life (ch. 13)
- schools (ch. 14) and higher education (ch. 15).
The author even looks at shopping and British food (ch. 16 and 17).
To help German-speaking readers understand the British mentality better, Katrin Prakoonwit also touches on this subject (ch. 19) and provides some language tips to make it easier for them to communicate naturally with the locals (ch. 20 and 21).
In chapter 24, she comes full circle again by explaining what practical steps are necessary if you decide to move back home again after your stay. You can tell she has put a lot of thought and practical research into every single subject she has covered here. (She moved to the UK herself a few years ago and is therefore talking from personal experience.)
In my opinion, this book is essential reading for anyone who is considering moving over to the UK to work, study or simply to stay for a while. The sections I have read so far are all written in a compact way and yet often make interesting and even entertaining reading. It's an excellent introduction to everyday life in Britain with lots of valid internet references for further reading.
Incidentally, the publisher has also produced six other guides of this kind so far on living in the US, Australia, France, Sweden, Switzerland and even Mallorca (a favourite destination for many Germans). See this page on the Conbooks website for more details.
To order a copy of the book, go to the publisher's website or purchase it via Amazon.de, for example. (The Amazon page lets you browse through parts of the book.) You can also order it from your local bookshop if you prefer, of course.
Hope you enjoy the read.