Tuesday, December 13, 2011

It's that time of year again

Every year Christmas always sneaks up on me too fast. You would think I would have had enough warning what with the Christmas decorations being up in town since November. Somehow I always end up wandering around the shops last minute stressing about what to buy everyone! I actually hate Christmas shopping! The crowds of people at the till, at the changing rooms, everywhere. Stressful shopping is not my thing! If I can buy something online, I will.

Well I didn't manage to find any suitable presents for anyone so I bought myself new shoes to cheer myself up. Very unsensible shoes but quite possibly perfect for my 30th birthday party.

This year we decided to get a Christmas tree for our apartment. We ordered an artificial one from Amazon which arrived a few days later. Not bad for 20 euro!

And here is how it looks after a few cheapy... I mean colourful, decorations from Aldi. Now all I need is some tinsel and an angel to go on top!

Recently the GerMann and I had an anniversary. Since we were together and then not together and then together again it was very tricky to work out when the anniversary should be. So I just choose a weekend in November when we had nothing planned. It is about two years since we got back together. About a year and a half since I moved over to Germany and we have been happily living together since. On the morning of our anniversary my GerMann surprised me with breakfast in bed and a present of flowers and chocolates. Who says German men can't be romantic?

Now if only I could figure out what to get him for his Christmas present!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Strasbourg at the weekend- living the glamerous life!

Some of my American expat friends were telling me that Americans think the idea of living in Europe is all terribly glamorous. Personally I would think of living somewhere like Paris or Rome, or maybe Munich could be very glamorous, but not just anywhere in Europe- it would definitely depend on where you are. The thing is though, wherever you end up living, life -real life that is- is just not glamorous!

Real life is not perfect like on tv. In the real world you have to spend ages doing boring housework, you have countless embarrassing moments (doubled when trying to converse using a foreign language if you ask me), you have lots of big setbacks (like when my flight home for Christmas last year was cancelled due to the snow and I missed Christmas at home with my family for the first time ever)... I could go on, but you get the idea! What I'm trying to say is Life may appear quite glamours and magical when you emigrate to a foreign country but after awhile it is just real life.

Last weekend however we took a trip to Strasbourg with friends. We spent the Sunday wandering around the city, visiting the Christmas markets, drinking Glüwein and eating crepes. Afterwards we went to a traditional style restaurant for delicious Flammkuchen.

At one stage we were walking around "Le petit france", an absolutely gorgeous part of the city, and I had a moment where I was remembering the conversation about living in Europe being thought of as glamorous, and I felt like yes, I can see it! Look at me going to France for the weekend, visiting a beautiful city, wandering around speaking a second language, German. Not a bad life! I'll try to remember days like that the next time I am feeling homesick.

Enjoy the photos!
What a fantastic Christmas atmosphere!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A weekend visit back to Dublin

Last weekend I was back in Dublin, for another one of my flying visits- where I basically go home for about 3 or 4 days and try to fit in as much as possible during that time and practically plan my time down to the minute. This time I actually didn't fully book myself in advance as I wanted to have more family time. And also not stress myself out! I had one free afternoon and at first I did feel a bit guilty that I should be meeting someone during that time, but I ended up just hanging out with my sister and doing a bit of shopping.

I arrived home on a dull rainy Friday afternoon. Why is it always raining when the plane touches down in Dublin airport? Murphy's Law I suppose! Still to me it felt familiar and nice to be back!! Here's a picture of Dublin airport in the rain.

And Sandymount strand out the window of the aircoach:

Friday evening I visited an old friend- old in the sense that we have been friends a long time! Since I was 4 and she was 3 to be exact! One of the things I love about friends from home is that we have such a shared history. Was lovely having a good catch up over a bottle of wine.

On the Saturday evening I went to a friend's 30th birthday party. Mine will be the next one! When I just turned 29 I did go through a stage of freaking out a bit at where on earth my 20s went and feeling incredulous that I would turn 30 in the non too distant future when I still feel like the maturity level of a 25 year old! As you get older, I think you feel exactly the same (though a little more forgetful), but all of a sudden you are expected to do more and more "grown up" stuff! Friends start buying property, getting engaged or even having babies! It's gradual but it's becoming more frequent! But once the "woah I will be 30 soon" phrase passed I started to feel better about it. People who have passed the "30" milestone tell me they feel better in their own skin, more self confident and happy with themselves, and I am feeling that way too now. I have decided to embrace turning 30 and along with a friend, we are planning a big joint birthday party in Dublin.

Speaking of big events, last weekend I got some exciting news from that friend. She has asked me to be a bridesmaid at her wedding next year in France! This is the first time I shall be a bridesmaid and I have no idea what it all involves yet but I am very much looking forward to it nonetheless! I am also grateful that we have been able to maintain our friendship so well despite living so far away from each other.

The morning of my flight, it was a nice dry mild autumn day and I went for a walk on Dun Laoghaire pier.

What did I bring back with me? A suitcase full of irish goodies and a cold from the plane.

Here's a pic of some of the stuff I brought back. I might have gone a bit overboard!

It was a really great weekend back home and I love that I am only a two hour flight from Dublin. But the bad side to my frequent trips back is that I get hit with an extra big wave of homesickness once I get back to Germany. It normally takes a few days of feeling down before I am back into the swing of things with my German life!

This week I am looking forward to attending two Thanksgiving parties! Yep, you heard it, two! That is the advantage of having lots of American friends. I am hoping to try to bake something irish to bring along- like irish soda bread or tea brack.

My GerMann and I have also booked flights to visit Berlin next year. I love to travel but trips back and forth to Dublin don't count. Lufthansa were having a flight sale and Germans cannot resist a bargin so my GerMann came to me with the idea of a trip next February. Since we both have not yet been to Berlin we have decided to go there as I have only heard good things about it!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Getting my wisdom teeth removed

A while ago I noticed a pain in my jaw at the back-where my wisdom teeth were growing. It was bad for a few days and I decided I had better make a dentist appointment. My first time going to a German dentist.

I explained to the dentist that I'd been having some pain in my jaw but stressed that the pain was now gone- I was trying to underplay it as much as possible- I was really hoping he would just say it was normal pain from the teeth growing. But he just took one look at my mouth and said something like "Die zwei mussen unbedingt raus"- those two have to go. And then sent me for an x-ray to see about the other teeth. When the x-ray was ready we both looked at it together. Everything looked great to me, but he said that all four would have to be removed. The news I had been dreading! So I made an appointment for when to get it done. The two left wisdom teeth first and then the right two about a month later. He told me he would perform the surgery on a Wednesday morning and write me a sick note for work for Wednesday through Friday. So I would have those days to recover- then the weekend and then be back to work on Monday.

Yes I went home and googled it, and asked friends about their experiences if they had had theirs removed.Some friends reassured me- it's fine, it's over in no time, don't worry about it. And others told me their horror stories- needing 8 injections as they didn't take effect, a black and blue face for days, not being able to eat for a week and my favourite, drooling blood- yuck! The main advice was to stock up on soup and soft foods like yoghurt and ice cream.

One of my ex-pat friends kindly offered to accompany me to the dentist. It was really nice of her and we chatted in the waiting room which helped distract me. Once I went in to the dentist room I started feeling really nervous. The dentist came in and had a look at my teeth and gave me three injections- one in my top left gum, bottom left and one in the top of my mouth. The injections were not a problem-not really sore or anything. He left me there waiting in the chair while the injections started taking effect. After a few minutes he popped back and asked if it was working. I said it was. He asked if my tongue and lip were getting numb. I said my tongue felt weird but not my lips. He went off again. When he came back after another 15minutes I told him my lips were still not numb and he said I need to be numb till the middle of my lip- so basically my entire left lower face. So he said he needed to give me more injections- I counted 3 more but it could have been 4. It was fine- at this stage I was so numb I couldn't feel the injections at all. And I wanted to be totally numb so that I wouldn't feel the teeth extractions!

So then there was more waiting for those injections to take effect- I must have been about an hour in that chair waiting. I just really wanted to get it over with! So finally the dentist comes back in with his assistant. At this stage I was numb on the left side of my face to the middle of my lips. He gave me another injection just before he started and he told me that if I could feel anything to let him know.

The actual teeth extraction process only took about 5-10minutes; well that's what it felt like. I felt some tugging on my teeth and a bit of pressure, but it wasn't sore- just a bit weird and I was trying to not think too much about what was going on. At one stage he used a drill but I kept my eyes closed and it didn't hurt at all. I opened my eyes a minute later to see the dentist with big pliers in his hand and I could feel pulling on my teeth then- and at that stage I felt scared that all of a sudden my tooth would come flying out and I'd feel pain, but I honestly felt nothing. I didn't even realise the tooth was out already until I realised he was doing stitches- also not sore. And then it was all over! What a relief!! .

So I would definitely say that the wisdom teeth removal itself is not that bad! The recovery is not so great! I think I was so focused on the dentist tooth pulling out bit that I didn't think much about after. But as the numbness started to wear off my jaw was really sore- it hurt to talk too much even. I took a strong painkiller I'd been prescribed but it was still a constant pain all day. I had some soup, ice cream and some drinks. But I also distracted myself by watching films on the couch- which was nice. I took another painkiller before bed and I slept ok- I made sure to only sleep on my good side.

The dentist was really nice- said I was very brave and even gave me a hug- I felt kind of like a little kid! And he gave my friend in the waiting room a little toothbrush and toothpaste as a thanks for being so patient. But apart from giving me special mouthwash and an ice pack I wasn't given many instructions. When I came home I immediately drank some water though a straw. It was only later I read online that you should not use a straw as it can cause a nasty thing called dry socket.

I woke up to bloody stains on the pillow- yuck- but no pain. Today I haven't needed to take a painkiller. I can also open my mouth more and have been able to eat a bit more- chewing on the good side of my mouth. But the numbness has still not completely gone!! Even now the left side of my chin and lip is numb- and it's been about 28 hours since the operation. My GerMann phoned the dentist for me to ask if that was normal and they said that in some cases the numbness can last up to two weeks!! But it will go away and as long as I can still breath ok, there is no need to panic. I have been reading online that it can happen that a nerve ending is damaged during the wisdom tooth removal and a new nerve has to grow which can take awhile. This is more likely to happen when you are older getting your wisdom teeth removed as the teeth have longer roots.
Well I am glad I will get feeling back eventually but I actually hate the numbness. Such a weird feeling. And it's tricky to eat. Hey- maybe I'll end up loosing some weight! This Saturday we are going to a 30th birthday party so I hope I am fully recovered by then. I also hate the thought that in a month's time I am going to have to go through all of this again with the other two teeth. I won't be as worried about it I suppose as I now know what to expect. .

Well I hope this post hasn't been too negative for anyone who is about to get their wisdom teeth removed. It's not painful- just a bit unpleasant, and yes you will need at least a few days recovery time at least so rent some good dvds and stock up on the soup beforehand! It's not a pleasant experience but you will get through it! My souvenir teeth:

Sunday, September 25, 2011

What sort of expat are you?

I have read that there are three different kind of expats. The ones who completely integrate in their new host country and adapt. The ones who don't integrate at all. And the ones who adapt to some customs of the new host country while also keeping lots of their own. I see myself as belonging to the later group.

There are also many reasons for becoming an expat- moving countries for a job, sense of adventure, moving for love. Some expats come and go - they live in Germany for a few months or maybe years but ultimately return to their home country- their Heimat. There are fewer of us however, who are probably going to be here for the long haul.

There have definitely been times when as an expat, you can feel like a fish out of water. Like you don't belong. I could relate to this post by fellow blogger about the isolation you can feel living in a new country:expat isolation and loneliness

Travelling home, I've had moments where I just felt such relief once I got to the airport and heard other people with Irish accents around me and just to be able to understand everything! And once home, it's so nice to be able to talk to someone in a shop or a restaurant and be understood, and every little thing, doesn't feel like an ordeal! That was was how I felt at first. My German has improved a LOT now, so that most times out and about in cafes, restaurants, trams etc I am understood.

How will living in Germany change me? Sometimes I feel like I am more shy here and not myself. That's mainly due to the language. But this is getting better. I have heard lots of people say it took them 3 years of living in Germany before they were really fluent. Maybe I will become more "European" like one of my aunts said. What would that entail exactly? One positive aspect of being an expat makes you more independent as a person- you realise you can cope in a lot of situations you didn't think you could!

I mentioned earlier that I have to carve out a life for myself over here. When I first moved over and started living with my GerMann, I was very dependent on him. I didn't have much of my own life here at the start at all. That was tough at times. Once I got a job here that helped a lot. And then the more I gradually made friends and developed a routine the better things got. It's not too hard to make acquaintances but it takes time to make really good friends. Ones who you can talk about everything with and depend on. I have reached the stage now that I have some great friends here, but for a few months at the start it was tough. Apart from my boyfriend I didn't really have anyone to talk to- past the chit-chat/small talk level.

I have heard from some long standing expats that you feel gradually more distanced from you "home" country as the years pass. So that you don't feel "at home" in either country. Another (and much nicer) way of looking at it though, is that you have two homes. Germany is gradually feeling more and more like home to me.

My wish for the future would be to adapt to German life, while still remaining me. I would love to reach a level of complete fluency in German - spoken and written - where I can handle any situation, but also not lose my Irish accent (when speaking English)! The GerMann and I have discussed it and it probably makes most sense for us to stay in Germany. So I shall continue with my ex-pat adventures!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

An undomestic goddess

Yesterday we were at a wedding and today I am feeling exhausted and just a little hungover. The apartment is looking very untidy and cluttered and there is a big pile of laundry and dirty dishes in the sink. Sunday is normally my day for catching up on housework. During the week after coming home from work, housework is the last thing I feel like doing, so I tend to leave most of it till the weekend. On days like today though, I'm not feeling very motivated! What I'd rather do.. sit down with a nice cup of Barry's tea (I bring it over from Ireland) and watch the latest X-factor episode! I'm following the UK X-factor this year. Nice to keep some habits even though I live in Germany now! I tried watching a bit of the German Xfactor and I just couldn't get into it.

The tea in Germany is awful! If ask for tea in a cafe, nine times out of ten they bring you a glass of lukewarm- not hot- water and a tea bag beside it, and no milk. You put the tea bag in, and the tea barely even changes colour. And then you ask the waitress for milk and maybe after asking them several times, they might remember (customer service is also lacking) and bring you hot frothy milk like the kind you would put in a cappuccino, or else they bring one little container with about 2 drops of milk- like the kind they give you on airplanes. But at home, I can make my tea just how I like it!

Typically how tea is served in Germany:

You try to squeeze the tea bag as much as possible:

Then you add some milk. And it tastes like milky water with a hint of tea:

This is how it should be!! Proper irish tea you get served back home:

I think I will do some quick 'maintenance' housework now- a quick hoover, clean the dishes in the sink, tidy the mess from one pile to another, and do a bigger tidier another day. Both me and the fella have similar housework styles- don't do any for a few days, and then do a housework blitz and spend a few hours- this often coincides when we are about to have visitors! During the week, my GerMann often cooks since he gets home from work earlier but then I try to cook weekends. Sometimes I feel inspired on a Sunday and cook something adventurous, like a lasagne, or my speciality chicken and broccoli bake, or maybe I bake some buns or scones. I don't think today will be one of those motivated days!

Yes as you have probably noticed domestic tasks are not my speciality! You could say I'm tired after working a 40hour week or you could say I have a lazy streak. Yesterday was a long day at the wedding though (up at 8.30am) and a late night (didn't get home till after 2am) with too much wine, so I think I have earned an easy day today. Next week I'll catch up on the housework I think! Oh how I wish we had a house-cleaner sometimes! It would seem indulgent though since there are only two of us in a relatively small apartment.

I am really enjoying this year's Xfactor with the new judges. Kelly has a real likeability factor. I find the show tends to make winter more bearable when the days get short and dark too. I used to watch it together with my sister back home, but we can watch it separately now and then discuss it on skype and it's nearly the same!
On Sundays my GerMann is always very busy preparing classes for school the next week. It's a hard life being a teacher! I don't envy him! Sundays are therefore my time to meet friends for coffee, skype friends or family back home, study German, mess around on the internet, catch up on housework or just relax and watch my shows.

Back to blogging

Recently I have become addicted to reading blogs from other expats living in Germany. They have inspired me to start blogging myself again, this time more regularly. Why did I stop before?

Firstly, blogging can be very time-consuming and I was just busy doing other things. Settling in to my new life in Germany. But secondly I was concerned about privacy issues... How much of my private thoughts and photographs did I want floating around on the world wide web?! My boyfriend also pointed out that I need to be very careful what I say about my job - his view is I shouldn't mention my job at all. I can understand that... But it left me thinking, well what CAN I write about? And what sort of pictures CAN I put up? And in the end I just thought it was easier not to blog at all.

And thirdly I wasn't sure what my blogging voice should be and I thought that writing about day to day life could be a bit boring for readers. But after reading other expat blogs I was reminded how interesting the expat life is and there is actually a lot to write about. And us expats need to help each other out. If we learn something the hard way, why not write about it to stop someone else making the same mistake?

Anyway so I'm restarting my blog!

I've been living in Germany just over one year now. And I feel settled and happy here now. I still have moments of homesicknesses but they are getting less frequent.

I love German festivals- there always seems to something on- summer festivals, spring festivals, wine festivals, octoberfests, Christmas markets etc.

And I love the lakes. It was nice to have a proper Summer this year. Germany is a great place for cycling and I enjoy cycling trips here and the outdoorsey lifestyle. I love that I have met loads of new interesting people this year, and I feel proud of myself for surviving with a foreign language and doing so well.

I only ended up being unemployed for a month before I found a great IT job not too far from where we live. So now my commute is a dream! It only takes less than a half hour to get to work and when the weather is nice I cycle. I'm also really enjoying my new job! The work is interesting and my colleagues are very friendly.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Nine months later..

Ok so I've decided to start writing my blog again! And it's only been nine months (yes, I'm being sarcastic). Obviously a lot has happened since then as you would expect. The first two months were fantastic- it was Summer, I was cycling to and from the train station so getting good exercise, work was going well, and I was generally enjoying all the new experiences-and also getting on brilliantly with the boyfriend. At that stage I was convinced that moving to Germany for love (and a job) had been the right decision!

Then in September we moved from one Baden Württemberg town to another for my bofriend's job. We got a nice maisonette apartment 15 mins on the S-bahn from town. Only problem is the commute to my work ended up being a lot longer and difficult than I was expecting. I had to get two trams to the train station, a fast train (IC) for 50 mins and then a tram one stop and a 5minute walk on the other side. All it all it was one hour and 30 minutes door to door. But sometimes, the train was delayed and it ended up taking one hour 45minutes or even 2 hours to get home. I had thought that well I can manage a long commute for a short time- like a year, but in reality it was tough! I was leaving the house at 7.15am and not getting home till 12 hours later. So like most commutes will tell you, my evenings were really short and I was pretty much living for the weekend.

That said I got it working for me as best I could- I used the train time to catch up on my reading. The boyf bought me a portable dvd player at Christmas and I watched dvds on the journey. But I would usually find that by Friday evening I was exhausted from the week.

It took us a few months to really settle in to the new apartment and get it fully furnished, and we didn't have any friends in the new town. And there were times I got really homesick- and times when I got really frustrated learning German. So yeah, times when I wondered if I should have stayed in Ireland! I read about culture shock and was able to relate to most of it. And I made friends with some fellow ex-pats (mainly American girls who've also moved to Germany for love) and it was nice to find people to really relate too. I suppose it was a mixture of good and bad days!

I went home for Christmas and it was great to see everyone back home. I returned with new motivation- I would stay in the job with the awful commute until July then try to get something in the area where I live now. Or if I was loving the job and made permanent, maybe we could move apartments nearer the train station. And we planed to take a weeks holiday around Easter and go on a package holiday to the sun, and another week or two in June to spend in Ireland. And from Easter I could start looking out at what other jobs could be available.

But the company I was working for weren't doing well and in February I got my 6 weeks notice. I didn't really see it coming! The fact is though, it was probably a blessing in disguise. Now I could look a job nearby without having to stay a full year or two for my CV!

Anyway so I finished up the end of March and I've had a few job interviews already in and around the town where I live. Am also enjoying the lovely Summer weather and having the time off! And the social life has improved a lot by this stage- I have two German tandem partners who have become friends. And am friends with other Americans living here I've met through expat meetup groups.And my German is a lot better now!! Though not totally fluent yet.