Monday, July 28, 2014

Greece



We decided that this Summer we would go on a family holiday - sort of a mini reunion since we are spread out around the world (Germany, Australia and Ireland). It took some planning to settle on somewhere but we felt Greece would have something for everyone - beach, culture, activities. And we were right.

After my recent stint in hospital I really needed a holiday! Unfortunately the GerMann and I had to miss the original flight and travel over a few days later, but we made it there in the end and had a lovely time. It was also really great to see my family again.


There were no direct flights from any airports near us to Kalamata, so we had get the train to Düsseldorf airport. There had been really bad storms there the previous day and most of the trains were cancelled so we had a very stressful day trying to make it to the airport in time for our flight! But we eventually made it to the resort. We stayed in a lovely hotel beside the beach which also offered lots of activities - sailing, windsurfing, tennis, cycling, gym and fitness classes. I spent most of my time relaxing by the pool though and catching up on my reading - pure bliss!


We ate very well on the holiday! I loved the greek salad in particular, but some other Greek dishes I tried and enjoyed were Moussaka (quite similar to shepherd's pie, made with lamb mince and potatoes) and Pastitsio (reminded me of lasagne but without the tomato sauce). What seemed to happen to us a lot though was we would give our order to the waiter only to be told that they only had a few menu dishes available that day. No idea why they couldn't have told us that before we had spent several minutes perusing the menu and deciding what to order?!

We rented a car one day and went to Ancient Messene to see the ruins. It was definitely worth the trip, even though there wasn't much shade from the hot Greek midday sun! Sometimes I think it's a shame that they don't reconstruct more of the ancient ruins so you don't have to always use your imagination to picture how it used to look back in the day.


The people in Greece were friendly and the beaches were lovely. In the evenings we would get a bus or a taxi to some of the nearby towns and explore. A lot of places did seem quite run down and you could tell the recession has hit Greece hard. All in all, it was a great trip and I wouldn't hesitate to go back to again someday - maybe to the islands next time.


Have you been to Greece? Apparently it can also be a fun honeymoon destination.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Blog Awards Ireland


blog awards ireland


I'm delighted to have made it onto the longlist for the diaspora category (Irish bloggers living abroad) in this year's Irish blog awards. Blogging is a very time-consuming but thoroughly enjoyable hobby! In fact I often get ideas for new topics and start writing them and have tons of partially written drafts but don't get around to actually finishing, editing and publishing them. But I am trying to make the effort to blog more often and give an insight into my expat life.

I also love reading and following other people's blogs (there are so many great ones out there!) in all sorts of various categories (travel, interior design, style, beauty, parent, cooking, technology and just personal everyday life ones). Feedly and bloglovin are both great ways of keeping up with blogs you like. You just find one you like the look of and add it to your account and then any new posts will show up in your news feed.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Deutschlaaaaaaaaaaaaand!


Unless you live under a rock, you probably heard that Germany won the World cup on Sunday for the first time since 1990. The GerMann remembers that year well. As do I since that's the last time Ireland even qualified. I would never have thought when I watched those matches as an 8 year old that I would go on to marry a German man and emigrate to Germany!

Before I continue I obviously have to say something about the Brazil vrs Germany game! We watched it at home - ok I was half watching and also half surfing the internet on my laptop - when Germany scored their first goal at 11 minutes. Yay, go Germany! Then.. just a few minutes later, another goal. Oh my gosh, did that just happen? Then I thought I was just watching the replay of the previous goal only they had scored again. It was hilarious! After that I was glued to the screen. I was also wondering at one stage if someone had paid Brazil to lose or if it was some kind of joke since weren't they meant to be contenders to win? How on earth were they getting beaten so badly!

I think the poor Brazilians were just in shock at the first two goals and then after that were totally demotivated or something. I felt bad for their fans though- seeing them all crying and looking heartbroken! But obviously I was delighted Germany won, and enjoyed reading all the funny facebook comments and tweets about the game.


We watched the Germany - Argentina finale at home. Yep, we're getting old! We had been hoping to go to a local pub to watch it there but we phoned up a few nearby places and they were either closed on Sundays or not showing it so in the end we just got comfy on the couch with a bottle of wine. During the game there were lots of goal attempts but still nothing, it could really have gone either way. Then there was 30 minutes overtime awarded and it was looking like it would end in a draw with a penalty shoot out when finally in the last 7 minutes a goal was scored for Germany! And then a few minutes later it was all over, Germany had won the world cup!

Afterwards people were outside in singing in the streets, driving around, waving flags, playing loud music and there were even fireworks! It's a pity it was late on a Sunday night at that stage and we had to work the next day otherwise the GerMann and I would surely have been out in town partying and celebrating properly with the rest of them.

Everyone was in high spirits at work on Monday, talking about the game. Which beats the normal Monday blues, haha! So now that all the World cup fever of the previous few weeks is over... what now?! If you are having World cup withdrawal symptoms, you might enjoy reading an account of the World cup games written by an American living here with his German wife. Even though I really enjoyed the excitement of the past few weeks, I'm happy to have a break now from all the non stop football talk!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

World Cup Fever

World Cup fever is in full swing here in Germany at the moment. It's fun living in a country while they are competing- there's a great atmosphere! Lots of places offer "public viewings" as they call it where you can watch the games outside on a big screen. This is my second World Cup since I've moved here, and I was also around for the European Championship two years ago when Germany made it to the semi-final.


Germany tend to do well and get far in the World Cup. Unlike Ireland unfortunately who didn't even qualify this year! Last time around we nearly got in if it weren't for Thierry Henry's hand, which Irish people have a hard time forgetting! I enjoyed reading this: Never forget the hand of the frog written by a French woman living in Ireland.


I remember the Summer of 1990 really well when Ireland made it to the quarter-finals in the World cup. It was such a great atmosphere! And the song: "We're all part of Jackie's Army, We're all off to Italy, And we'll really shake them up, When we win The World Cup, 'Cos Ireland are the greatest football team!" which everyone was singing at the time!

Germany's next game is tomorrow evening against Algeria. So if they win everyone will be doing the "autokorso" thing where they drive around in their cars beeping the horn and waving the German flag.


Are you following the World Cup this year?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

What to pack for a hospital stay

The reason I haven't been blogging lately is that I was in hospital recently and then afterwards on holidays. I won't go into all the details but basically my doctor found a large cyst on my ovary and since we had planned to go on holidays to Greece the following week she said I should get it removed as otherwise there would be the risk of it bursting while I was away. It's normally done with a relatively minor keyhole surgery however in my case the operation ended up being a little more complicated and I needed an incision in my abdomen. Overall I was in hospital for 6 days recovering. It was a tough week for me as you can imagine!


The GerMann and I ended up having to miss the first few days of the holiday and get a later flight as I needed to wait for my stitches to be removed and until I felt up to travelling. We were meeting my family there and I was also really looking forward to seeing them. Despite not being able to do much on the holiday apart from reading and relaxing by the pool or beach, I still had a lovely time and was able to recover. Feeling back to normal again now and so much better!

Anyway I thought I'd put together a list of things to pack if you ever end up needing to go to hospital for a few days. Firstly, you may end up having to stay longer than anticipated so it's always a good idea to bring more stuff than you think you will need and pack for extra days just in case.


1) Pyjamas
Think comfortable and loose fitting. You will feel so much better once you can take off the hospital gown and get into your own pjs. I brought a navy polka-dot nightshirt with navy bottoms which I'd bought in Primark. One of the nurses commented that polka dots are very "in" at the moment, haha!

2) Face & hand cream, lip balm, hair comb, tootbrush & toothpaste, mini shampoo & conditioner
Just some essentials to help you feel a little normal and also to not scare your visitors too much! I personally think there is no need to wear makeup in hospital but if you would feel better with some on, then of course go ahead and pack it.

3) Plenty to read
Magazines are perfect as you don't need to concentrate on them when you are feeling tired after surgery and they are nice to just flick through. But also bring a few books along too, ideally ones that are easy to read and get into.

4) Paperwork
Don't forget things like your health insurance info, your normal GP's contact details, and anything that might be relevant- such as the names of antibiotics you might have been on recently or any medication you are taking. My German health insurance was very good, everything was pretty much covered. I only received a small bill afterwards of 10€ per day.

5) Your phone and charger
This was my lifeline! Being in hospital in Germany I felt a long way away from my family and friends from home. So it was great to be able to text and Whatsapp people and I even got a phonecall from Australia! I feel lucky to have such great friends and I was reminded of it again when I was hospital. The ones here gave me a lovely care package, I got sent flowers from a friend living abroad, and a box of irish treats (Cadbury chocolate, Tayto crisps, time out bars etc!) was sent over from Ireland. The GerMann was also in visiting me every free moment he wasn't working - keeping me company and looking after me.

6) Slippers, socks, underwear
Hospital floors are cold, so slippers are a must.

7) A comfortable outfit for going home
Tracksuit bottoms, trainers and a t-shit are perfect.

8) Some cash
You might need money to buy something in the hospital shop. Where I stayed you had to pay extra for bottled water and coffee.


So those are the main things. And anything else that might help cheer you up while you are in there! Like an mp3 player so you can listen to some music. Or a portable dvd player /crossword book /knitting etc. Have I forgotten anything important?

I was so happy once I was released from hospital after my stay there since I was so sick of those four walls at that stage. Once I got home the GerMann made me a lovely cup of Barry's Tea (well known irish tea brand for those who don't know) and then we caught up with the latest Game of Thrones episodes.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

On my first blog post

Helene in Between

I'm doing a blog link up! The theme is firsts (#firstsTOTALSOCIAL) and I thought I would share my initial blog post from nearly 4 years ago. From when I'd decided to move to Germany for "die große Liebe" (the great love!). Yep, I'm one of those expats who moved countries for love. Career wise it also wasn't a bad move for me luckily considering I was unemployed after coming back from travelling (one year in Australia). In the post I talk a little about our background story, how we got back together again despite breaking up a few years earlier when the long distance got too much.

Initially I thought I would move to Germany for awhile and just see how it goes, I wasn't thinking totally long term. It was a difficult year with a lot of ups and downs. After the initial "honeymoon phase" with the country passed I struggled for several months (also known as culture shock). I had a long commute, working in a foreign language was exhausting and life as an expat took some getting used to! I also lost my "suppose base"- family and friends from home. I had the GerMann of course which was great but I've always been very independent and didn't want to rely on him completely so I knew I also had a make a life for myself so I set about going to meetups and trying to make friends anyway possible (even if it meant arranging to meet total strangers off the internet!). And gradually I built up my friend group, improved my German and created a life for myself here.

Four years later and I'm glad I decided to take the leap of faith and make the move to Germany. The GerMann and I are happy newlyweds, I have a great job, circle of friends and despite occasional homesickness, I feel settled and happy and don't regret leaving Ireland 4 years ago!

You can read my first blog post here: Deciding to make the move

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Things I learned from planning my wedding (in Dublin from Germany)

I've been meaning to write this post for awhile now to share some tips and advice I have from planning my wedding last year.

Firstly you should relax and enjoy the initial engagement phase for a few weeks, it's a fun time before you start thinking about the big task ahead of you and getting stressed!

1)Try to book the venue, band and photographer as soon as you can. These all get booked out the quickest! We were very disappointed that we didn't get our first choice of wedding band. I had emailed them to confirm they are free on our date but then we spent about a week thinking it over and when I wrote to them to actually book them, they had been booked by another couple in the meantime! So try to get these big things sorted first.

2) If people offer and are wiling to help, use their talents. When your friends offer to help then accept it, wedding planning is a big job so any help to share the work load is great! Think about what they are good at and ask them to help with a related task. For instance, I had a very creative friend who was great at graphic design who made wonderful table names for each table - each table I named after a place in Germany we had visited and she created table plans with photos of us visiting those places. Do as much as you can over email if you are living abroad and get your team of helpers on the ground to takeover some of the tasks for you since you can't possibly fly over for everything. I was very lucky that I had my family and bridesmaids helping out in Dublin, especially because I couldn't be there for everything. Pinterest is also a fun way to figure out your wedding vision and share photo and ideas with your bridesmaids.

3) Allow plenty of time for the invitations. Especially so people have a chance to book flights and plan ahead. We had a lot of guests flying over to the wedding from all over the world; Germany, the UK, Belgium, even Australia. I think we sent the invites out 6 weeks before the wedding but I should have sent them out ideally at least 8 weeks beforehand. And just start earlier than you might think. It easily takes several weeks between choosing your invite style, settling on the wording, proof reading, waiting for the invites to arrive, collecting everyone's address, and then writing and posting them.

4) Give your bridesmaids some guidelines on what sort of hen party you would like but otherwise leave it to them. The bride has so much to organize which means it's great when your bridesmaids or friends organize your hen party (or in my case parties) so that you have one less thing to worry about. Just give them an idea of what sort of party you'd like and what you'd hate! In my case I requested nothing too embarrassing! I also said that since I don't get to see my Irish friends very often I'd like to have a chance to chat and catch up with everyone- and being in a loud nightclub for instance wouldn't have worked.

5) Ask your married friends for advice - which suppliers did they use and who would they recommend, what tips can they share and so on? When you go to other people's weddings think about what works well, what you liked and what isn't your style. You loved the band? Then get their details from the couple. Close friends will also tell you about how much they paid for certain things which also helps give you an idea of what is good value.

6) Don't stress about all your guest having a good time. I was worried about the German guests mingling with the Irish and whether people would enjoy the wedding until several friends told me to just focus on enjoying the day myself and everyone can look after themselves. And they were right, in the end all the guests mixed without needing any introductions from me an it was a brilliant day.

7) Plan which photos you would like in advance and tell photographer. It's a good idea to give your photographer a list of your must have pictures. For instance if you would like a photo of different relations or one of just you and your bridesmaids. If you can get photos of yourself at the reception with some of the wedding guests it is lovely and a nice keepsake to send the guests a print later with the thank you notes. I didn't make it around to everyone unfortunately, and wish I had! I only managed to get photos with a few people.

8) Negotiate where possible and have a budget. Have an overall budget to keep track of the costs. We used an excel sheet and also had a column for who had been paid in advance and who needed to be paid on the day. Of course weddings are expensive and you won't be able to have everything you want so work out what's important to you. For instance we didn't hire a videographer so we had more money to spend on drinks for the guests. And in the end my cousin did a lovely video for us! There are some things you can negotiate somewhat such as the venue so it's definitely worth doing, or trying at least! Or if you use someone you know sometimes you can get a "friend discount". Every little helps!

9) Don't forget the groom. Haha! Get him involved and helping out with the areas important to him. I asked the GerMann early on which things in the wedding mattered to him the most. For him it was the food and music. So he researched possible bands, planned the playlist and had a lot of say in the menu. He was also in charge of the groomsmen, what they wore etc. I was able to choose other things that mattered more to me without interference, such as the bridesmaids dresses, what the wedding cake should look like and the flowers.

10) Importance of hair and make up trial. It's worth having an idea of what sort of hairstyle and make up look you would like and then bringing pictures with you to the trial. Sometimes something you think would suit you might actually not suit you at all which is also why it's great to have the trial! I tried out a hairstyle like the one on the left but I realised that it didn't really suit my face shape and looked too harsh. So in the end I went for a softer style with a side parting more like the picture on the right which suited my face shape more. If I hadn't have tried out various styles beforehand than I wouldn't have known what was right for me.

I also started getting facials regularly about 6 months before the wedding, increasing my water intake and making sure to always remove my makeup at night and these little things made a difference. You want to be looking and feeling your best on your wedding day- there will be a lot of photos!

11) Have the wedding you want. It's important to have the wedding that is right for you both as a couple and not to feel pressurised into having a wedding that you aren't comfortable with. This is important to bear in mind when choosing venue and guest number. For us we wanted to have a relatively small and intimate wedding so we only had 80 guests which was perfect as we got to speak to everyone at least once!

12) Start getting ready really early on the day. When your makeup artist and hair stylist tell you what time you should start getting ready at, it will probably seem very early but they know best! In my case I wish we had even had our appointment 15 minutes earlier as it ended up going over time which threw everything else off! I had imagined that in the house I would have had plenty of time to eat something, take photos and have chats with my bridesmaids but in the end it felt very rushed!



















And finally have fun on the day!

Everyone says that the day itself flies by and to try to take it all in and enjoy it and they are right- it's a wonderful day, so take a second to enjoy it! Try to find some time where it's just you too. One of my favourite moments from the day was in the car after the church ceremony drinking champagne and having a chat with my new husband before we arrived at the wedding venue.

There are also some more tips here: planning a wedding in Ireland from abroad

Did I forget anything?

Saturday, May 10, 2014

On changing my name after marriage


Well I've finally done it. It's official. I'm now Frau GerMann. As far as Germany is concerned the old me doesn't exist anymore. It took me ages to get around to it but it actually wasn't that difficult. It involved a trip to the local Bürgerbüro with the GerMann in tow and our paperwork- passport for both of us and marriage certificate. I also brought my birth cert but it wasn't needed in the end.

I've had awhile to get used to the name change as I changed it on facebook once we got back from the honeymoon and also at work so I didn't feel anxious about it until a brief second of panic when the lady told me I can never ever revert to my old name again unless through death or divorce. The two scary "D"s! However if I wish to change my name to a double barrel name at a later stage I can still do that. She also told me to sign the form using my maiden name for the very last time! The GerMann also had to sign, that he agreed to me taking his name. Or something like that. So then we walked out, me a new person! Now I just have to get used to saying the new name and signing it.

I should mention I thought long and hard about whether to take on my husband's name. To me my name is part of my identity and it's a little scary and strange to lose that. My whole life I've been known a certain way and belonged clearly to my family and taking on your husband's name also seems a little old fashioned. While I was thinking over the decision I even googled pros and cons! It didn't help that the GerMann said he didn't mind whether I took his name or not.

In the end though I decided to change my name for several reasons. The majority of my recently married friends changed their names, it's still the done thing these days. For our future kids I would like us all to have the same name, it's nice and shows unity. Also it's a German sounding name and I live in Germany- maybe it will also help me feel like I belong here more. And basically I couldn't think of any really good reason not to change!

How about you, would you change your name after marriage or have you already done so?