highway fog road

A Year of Transitions

If you’ve started to follow this blog, you know that I recently made the move from the U.S. to Germany. Moving across continents is not the easiest transition, as I’ve talked about in a few previous posts (like this one or the classic tale of getting trapped in a foreign grocery store). But now I’ve made my latest transition because C and I have moved across the country from North Rhine Westphalia to Southern Germany.

It’s not permanent, at least not yet. We are here for a trial period as C completes his master’s thesis and an internship with a local company. We just arrived a few days ago and it has been a challenge so far. I was really hoping for a smooth transition but I guess that’s not always how life (especially expat life) works. I’ve been attempting to live with the attitude of embracing change, but I guess we can all admit that it isn’t always easy to do.

drake change blog

Source: micdotcom.tumblr.com

So what has made it so stressful? It was extremely difficult to find a temporary apartment here, so we went with a choice that seemed decent and had a great location. Then we show up, and it turns out to be a flat share with five other roommates. Now some of you may be thinking, what’s wrong with that? And I totally agree with you. I’ve lived with strangers before and it’s been completely fine. I promise you, I am not usually the diva type. To convince you, I’ll share one of my favorite fun facts, which is that I’ve lived somewhere without running water and didn’t shower for a month.

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girl beach ocean

The Outsider Syndrome

Feeling like an outsider is an inevitable part of being an expat. For me, it often happens when I’m in a situation where I can’t communicate, and this has been occurring fairly frequently since I am a newbie with German language.

I try my best to listen and engage, but sometimes there is only so much you can do. At times like these, I occasionally feel like retreating to my bedroom, packing up my suitcase, and going home. It’s easy to think that home would solve all my problems. I could call up my best friends and forget about ever being the outsider.

Please don’t do this. All of us have this thought from time to time. And when this happens, take the time to really think about what going home would mean. We all leave home for a reason, whether it is for a job, a new experience, or a significant other. I left to not only be in the same place as my husband, but also because I wanted to live abroad. I was always dreaming about being in a new place when I was home.

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Grocery Store Bananas

Trapped In A German Grocery Store

Today I got trapped in the grocery store. Yes, that’s right… the grocery store.

I was in line with C (my husband), when we realized that we had forgotten something. I went back into the store and when I returned it seemed like 50 people had gathered out of nowhere. I could see that C was almost at the register, but I wasn’t able to get to him without asking at least 10 people to move. Now on a good day, I would have bravely marched up to the long line and used my mediocre German skills to explain I needed to pass them. Unfortunately today I just decided to stop, stare, and panic.

Kaufland Germany Grocery store

Kaufland: A German grocery store

I attempted to get C’s attention but that didn’t work. Then I went to exit down another aisle, only to learn that in Germany the empty aisles are locked. When C finished checking out, he came over to the other side of the locked aisle and asked me what I was doing, to which I replied, “I have no idea.” I then had to go back through the entire store and exit through the entrance while setting off multiple alarms.

This was one of those days where instead of feeling like an expat, I felt like a big, green, alien that everyone was staring at and wondering where I came from. I think that is one of the most challenging and also rewarding experiences of life abroad. There are times when I can’t complete the simplest of tasks, like shopping at the grocery store or ordering at a restaurant. I have to allow myself to make mistakes, get messy, and learn how to live life in a new place.

Trust me, while no one wants to be that person who is constantly looking like a fool, it really is worth it. I’ve learned to laugh at myself and not take life so seriously. I’ve grown in ways that I couldn’t if I just lived in a place where life was easy for me. I’ve been pushed out of my comfort zone and realized that I am capable of more than I ever thought was possible.

I know that I’m giving this sort of sad/funny story a happy ending, but the truth is that is how I feel. I would always choose this lifestyle, even if it means occasionally getting trapped in foreign grocery stores.

Do you have any funny stories of trying to complete simple tasks while abroad? I would love to hear from you!