purple flowers garden

Eight Months in Germany

I’ve officially been living in Germany for eight months. It’s hard to believe that the time has gone by so fast. It feels like just the other day, I was imagining what my life would be like here. I’ve decided in honor of my eight months, I will share a few things that I’ve learned so far in the past 240 days.

1. Being an expat is a lot different than studying abroad

Sydney Opera House Australia

My first study abroad experience in Sydney, Australia

I’ve had a lot of experiences abroad. I studied abroad in Australia and lived with other Americans. I studied abroad in Spain and lived in a homestay. I did my entire master’s degree in England and lived in an international dorm. On my various travels I’ve been a backpacker, a vacationer, a visitor, a tourist. But nothing quite prepared me to be an expat. It’s a unique experience that I can’t really equate to any of my former trips abroad.

I think one of the differences is that this is more permanent. I actually live here and I don’t know when I will be home again. There are also no forced activities that you often have to partake in while studying abroad. While it was annoying to have to wake up and go to class, it provided an opportunity for making friends and seeing the city. Now I really have to rely on myself to meet people or participate in new activities, which has proven difficult given that my German is not quite up to conversational level yet.

It’s not all bad though. I like having my own freedom and not having my schedule dictated by those in charge of the semester. I feel more settled than I ever did while living temporarily abroad and more at home in my own apartment. Having a German husband has allowed me to hang out with locals and spend all of my time with people from this country, rather than just hanging out with other Americans while studying abroad. And I get to live my own life that I’ve created for myself, which is a rewarding experience.

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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!

sunset highway sky

Embrace Change: Step One of Expat Life

Change is scary.

And my life is currently nothing but change.

In the past six months I’ve changed everything from my phone number and my country of residence, to my marital status and even my last name.

Change greets me when I walk out the door and I don’t hear my native language. Or when I run out of my favorite beauty product and have to explore 10 stores to find something similar. When I go to sign a receipt, only to realize I can’t use the same signature I’ve had for years.

Some days I feel like I’ve gone through a rebirth. My life looks nothing like it did even just a few months ago.

But change is also exciting.

Moving to a new place means new opportunities, like going on a honeymoon road trip through six countries. Having a different last name feels like the creation of a new part of myself, like I can explore a piece of my identity that I never knew was there before. Learning a new language is a rewarding (albeit difficult) experience that has taught me a lot and challenged me to remain a lifelong learner.

Maybe that is part of the reason why I’m starting this blog. I want to document this season of change. The good. The bad. The reality of what life looks like when you move to the other side of the world.

So I hope you’ll join me on this journey. It’s going to be quite the ride.

building leuven belgium

Top 5 Things to Do in Leuven, Belgium

My parents were here last month to visit. If you are an expat and are close with your family, you know how exciting this is! It was the first time they were able to experience the area where C and I live. I loved getting to show them around and take them to my favorite local places.

Of course we also had to do some traveling. We went to Belgium for a week and I can safely say I’ve had enough fries and beer to last me until next year. We saw a few cities, but for me the best part of the trip was our day in Leuven, Belgium.

leuven belgium top five

I wasn’t sure what to expect from Leuven, as I had never really heard about it as a tourist destination. I only saw a handful of other tourist during the whole day, which for me was a huge bonus. I love just being surrounding by the locals. As the day went on, I was more and more impressed by the city. There was so much history, architecture, and as always, beer. I would highly recommend stopping in Leuven, even if it’s just for a day trip. Here are five of my favorite things in Leuven:

Groot Bengijnhof

Groot Begijnhof Leuven Belgium

Groot Begijnhof

Groot Bengijnhof, known as the Grand Béguinage in English, was by far my favorite area of Leuven. It is a historical area of the city dating back to the early 13th century and has been well preserved. Originally, it served as a community of semi-religious women. Now, it feels like a tiny town inside the city. It was so peaceful and I felt fully transported back in time as I wandered around the cobblestone streets.

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