Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Winter wonderland

You know you are addicted to blogging when you go out for a walk in the cold with the sole purpose of taking photos for your blog! I awoke today to find a beautiful winter wonderland. On opening the blinds I must admit my first reaction was actually "Oh no, it's snowing!" Last year we had snow in Germany for months and I was completely fed up with it by the end! It also caused me to miss my flight home for Christmas, so I now have cooler feelings towards the fluffy white stuff.

Up till now the winter here has been lovely and mild.Similar to an Irish winter but without all the rain. That is the kind of winter I prefer- cold but dry with fantastic blue skies. Here's some photos I took last week.

However there are Artic winds coming to Germany this week and the weather is about to get A LOT colder. As low as -15 degrees even! Elderly people are being advised to stay inside. I was actually surprised at the number of them I saw out and about just now, many even cycling, ignoring the advice and not looking too bothered. Lots of very active pensioners over here!

Despite my initial negative reaction on seeing the snow outside, there is something really beautiful and majestic about a blanket of pure white snow everywhere. It is so lovely at this stage before it gets all mucky and icy!

Cast your vote

I am really excited that my blog has been entered into a competition:
Top 100 International Exchange and Experience Blogs” of 2012 (also known as IX12).
So thank you very much to whoever nominated me for this! And thank you to everyone who votes for my blog.

To vote, go here
Scroll down till you see "Dubliner in Deutschland".
Select it and then scroll down to the "Vote" button at the bottom of the page.

You have until February 12th to vote. But why not do it now, before you forget! I would be delighted to just make the top 100 list at all! In the meantime, I shall go and work on my award acceptance speech...

 Vote the best IX12 blog

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

German cakes

German cakes and pastries.... they are the reason why I have gained about a stone since moving to Germany. Oh, and the fact I cannot stop myself from eating them!
But I am determined that this year I shall make more of an effort to exercise and stop eating so many cakes. Easier said than done of course. I need more willpower!

As long as I can remember I have had a sweet tooth. In restaurants I tend to read the dessert menu even before picking my main course. And I am lucky that I was naturally slim and able to eat what whatever I wanted and have never needed to diet. Since moving to Germany however, I am noticing that I cannot just eat absolutely anything without weight gradually creeping on.

It's actually also well known that moving in with your partner causes you to pile on the pounds. Women tend to match their dinner portions to their partner's, forgetting that men can get away with more calories and then there are the countless nights in on the sofa together or big fancy meals out. Add that to living in Germany with a bakery supplying delicious cakes and pastries on every corner and it's a recipe for... lots of fun times eating cake!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Fictional expat versus reality

I have recently been watching old episodes of Sex and the City. The final few episodes in particular struck a cord. In case you have not watched the show I will sum it up. The lead character, Carrie, is dating a Russian artist (in the final season) who asks her to move to Paris with him indefinitely. After he asks her she spends the rest of one episode thinking it over and she has a big fight with one of her best friends who does not approve of her new man or the idea of her moving. I thought I would compare my decision to move to Carrie's...

1) Carrie does not speak French, but she plans to learn.
I studied German in college. My level was rusty but I had a good basis on which to build on.

2) Not all of Carrie's friends like her boyfriend. They mainly find him arrogant and Miranda says she does not recognise who Carrie is with him. I also think they have only been together for less than half a year.
Luckily my friends and family all like my GerMann and think we are a good couple. We had also been together before so even though we were only just back together for a few months it was not as much of a gamble as for Carrie.

3) Carrie quits her job to move to Paris. She cannot write her column about dating in New York any more and has to give that up with no idea what she will do instead.
I was unemployed in Ireland and struggling to find work in the recession and my chances of finding something were probably slightly improved in Germany where the economy was stronger. So luckily my career has not been affected too much. Though for a lot of expats it can be, especially if they do not have the language. It is worth thinking about before moving over.

4) Carrie loved living in New York. All her friends were there and that was her life. That said, she was excited about the opportunity to move to Paris, and see more of the world.
Well I loved living in Dublin and all my friends and family were there so that was also a difficult decision for me!! At the same time, it can be exciting living somewhere else- visiting new places and meeting people from all sorts of walks of life. People are more likely to regret things they did not do than things they did. Even expats I have met that have made the move but it has failed for whatever reason- for instance they move over for a boyfriend but it does not work out- do not regret the experience and what they have learned from it.

5) Carrie does not have much in common with her Russian boyfriend. He is also a slightly temperamental artist and he leaves her on her own once she moves over and he is not very sympathetic or understanding when she has problems adjusting to her new life or when she is homesick. She is also expected to fit her life around his. He makes very little concessions for her to make the transition easier.
Having a supportive partner is very important for expat couples! My GerMann is very good at listening to me and being understanding when I am feeling homesick or lonely or just complaining about things! That said, we do sometimes bicker about the differences between our countries and which place is better! I think that's normal.

6) Ok one area where Carrie would win is money! When she moved to Paris she stayed in a gorgeous hotel studio room paid for by her wealthy Russian boyfriend. For me the move was without a doubt expensive especially during the first few months. Flights back and forth to Ireland bringing things over, having to sell my car back home as I won't need it any more, supporting myself while looking for work, paying my share of the deposit on our apartment, rent, new furniture etc etc

Overall I concluded that Carrie's trip was destined for disaster whereas my move to Germany is still going reasonably well thank God! I enjoyed the episodes "An American in Paris" which shows what happens when she moves over and the sparkle fades. At first Paris seems very glamours and exciting but soon she starts feeling very lonely as she has not got much of her own life going on there - no friends, no job. She becomes overly reliant on her partner. A lot of expats can relate to this!

There's the scene where she is sitting in the middle of a group of French people speaking French with her boyfriend and she just looks completely lost and left out. I have had similar moments at German parties where I find it difficult to follow the conversation but it normally gets a little better after the first drink! Then my accent improves and I have lots of interesting things to say! Or that's what it feels like anyway.

After living here over a year, I still have moments where I am with a group of Germans and they are chatting quickly and using slang and I can't quite keep up. Talking one-to-one is always much easier! That said, Germans are also normally very happy to speak English if they think you do not understand something. I get the impression that French people prefer to stick with French. They tend to be extremely proud of their language, whereas Germans think nothing is cooler than English!

What Carrie should have done was to try to find other expats to make friends with who would understand what she was going through. She could have searched online for meetups around the area. And attended some French classes- to improve her French and it can also be a good place to meet new people. Once you do get over the initial hurdles, life as an expat gets better I promise!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

A New Year's Eve concert, a 30th birthday party to remember then back to Deutschland

I'm back in Germany again after two and a half weeks in Ireland. So it's time for a quick update.

Here is how our Christmas tree looked in the end!

This was the longest time I have been home since moving to Germany. The GerMann spent Christmas with his family then flew over to join me in Dublin in time for New Year's and after a week we flew back together. I spent the first week catching up with friends and family which was great- this also included a trip to Tipperary. I just love the cottages with the thatched roofs.
I normally find New Year's Eve can be a bit of an anticlimax. There is always so much pressure to have the best night ever and it can be difficult to decide what to do. The city centre can be overpriced and it is normally nearly impossible to get a taxi home. So house parties can be a good alternative. But I did that the last two years. This year in Dublin there was a lot organized in the city centre. What caught our attention was the New Year's Eve concert at college green. Tickets were only 10 euro and The Coronas, Riverdance and Paul Brady would be at it. The Coronas are great- I had seen them live before.

Finally something a bit different to do on New Year's Eve. But an outdoor concert in Ireland is very risky with Irish weather! So we were hesitating over whether to buy tickets or not. We headed into town on New Year's Eve anyway to meet up with friends and there was a really great atmosphere around Dame street and college green and it wasn't raining, in fact it was quite a mild evening, so we decided to go for it and buy tickets. I'm glad we did as the concert turned out great- and they had countdown with fireworks. Afterwards we meet up with friends for a few drinks in the International Bar and then Dakota.

Since the new budget came in, VAT has gone up in Ireland making everything more expensive except hotels and B&Bs which have had their tax reduced to try to entice more tourists to visit. What that means is that there are loads of fantastic offers at the moment. Through DealRush we bought a voucher for a lovely 4-star hotel in Galway at fantastic value (€119 for 2 nights B&B including a bottle of wine!).

Galway was beautiful- the hotel was perfect and we went for walks on Salthill prominade and ate and drank at some tradional irish style pubs and restaurants. Unfortunately the weather was quite rainy but if I recall correctly it rains the most in Galway out of everywhere in Ireland!

People over here always seem to be asking me about Irish food. Well, here are some examples of what we ate in Galway: Shepherd's Pie, Roasts and lots of fish!

Dublin also has some lovely areas of course.
Dun Laoghaire pier looked great all lit up.

We went for a walk around Kiliney beach one day and even saw some dolphins!
I also had my 30th birthday party while I was home. It was a joint party with my best friend and the whole night could not have gone better! It was great catching up with everyone, the venue worked out well and the cake my friend's sister made was amazing. My little sister also had a birthday while I was home and it was so nice to be there to celebrate with her.

In fact I had such a great time back in Ireland that I was dreading coming back to Germany a bit! But I think a lot of people feel a bit sad once the holidays are over and they have to go back to work. At the moment I am feeling rather frustrated with my career. That's the only area of my life right now that I am not happy with really. Am just not where I would like to be career wise and trying to figure out which direction to go. Am hoping the situation will improve over the next few months!

Returning to Germany was a little sad the first day but now I'm settling back into my life here again.Today I meet up with my other expat pals, which was a nice welcome back to Germany!

A few other pics from the trip: