Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Merry Christmas

Wishing everyone a happy Christmas season and a great 2016! Or as the Germans say, einen guten Rutsch ins Neue Jahr (a great slide into the new year).

We'll be spending Christmas here in Germany this year with the GerMann's family and then flying to Dublin afterwards for about ten days. Looking forward to meeting up with everyone and of course enjoying Irish food which you can't get over here (such as yummy mince pies)! And here's hoping 2016 will be a great year.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

IVF Diary - it's all over

Well as the title suggests, sadly this pregnancy was very short lived.  I was almost five weeks along and one day before I would have had my first ultrasound and seen our baby. We went to the doctor at my clinic who confirmed that I was having an early miscarriage. She was very kind and said how sorry she was. We asked what went wrong. The embryos looked great apparently. They use a rating system here of 1 to 4 where 1 is the best and one of ours rated 1.5 and the other 2. The doctor said that miscarriages are very common sadly and there was probably just something wrong chromosomally with the embryos. She also said next time I could try a different combination of drugs to hopefully get more eggs and increase our chances.

All the hormones from the past few weeks have left me with some ovarian cysts which would need to clear up before we would be able to do another round. The doctor was qutie positive about our chances of IVF eventually working since the fact that I was able to get pregnant at all was a good sign so I've been clinging on to that hope. It's very common for a couple to need to go through several rounds of IVF before it works unfortunately. I think the average number of cycles for a live baby is 3. Normally if it's going to work at all it would happen by four attempts, after that the odds are very slim.

Right now I just feel so emotionally drained from the rollercoaster of the past few weeks and months that I'm planning to take some time off from it all and focus on enjoying my life again. When you are going through the process everything else can get put partially on hold. I had cut down on social events so it's going to be nice to start meeting up with friends more often. My plan is to just try to relax the next few months and then face the second round of IVF once I feel emotionally and physically prepared to go through it all again.

Obviously I'm feeling sad and very disappointed that it didn't work out... It would have been so nice to have been able to go home at Christmas and announce a pregnancy. And a summer baby next year would have been lovely. But I'm trying to stay hopeful for 2016. 

Sunday, November 29, 2015

IVF Diary - Barely Pregnant

It's three days since I was told the "mixed news" that I'm pregnant but with a very low HCG value of 28. I had the idea of taking a home pregnancy test to see if the second line would get darker. On Friday I tested and had a faint but visible line. This morning I tested again and this time the second line was barely visible at all - instead of getting darker, it was even fainter! You probably can't even make out the second line in the pic below. 

Surely the line should be getting darker since the HCG value should be increasing each day so I have already started trying to prepare myself emotionally for the worst. Maybe this might not be our time. However, later I was googling and I read that home pregnancy tests are not very accurate for measuring HCG levels. They can tell if you are pregnant or not but not how pregnant. Some forums I read said that the line can even appear darker or lighter depending on time of day or how dehydrated you are. The only really accurate test is a blood test. I'll have to keep waiting until late next week for that. 

So much waiting. I just want to know if this pregnancy is viable or not! I don't have any symptoms yet either, just possibly sleepiness and an increased appetite. So right now I feel barely pregnant, like this pregnancy is hanging on by a thread. Bring on Thursday so I can have more an idea of what's going on! In the meantime I've been trying to send positive energy to the baby and praying that he or she is a little fighter.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

IVF Diary - Mixed news

Before work on Thursday I went to the clinic and did a blood test and was told I would receive a phone call between 1 and 2pm later that same day. I had taken a half day off from the office so that I could be at home for the news and have some space and time to process it, good or bad.

Waiting by the phone was tortuous and 2pm came and went and still no call. I tried phoning the clinic only to get their answering machine. I gave it a little more time and then was about to go and do a home pregnancy test when the call finally came. The doctor's asked me to confirm my name and date of birth and then said the news was mixed..

I'm pregnant but my HCG hormone level is very low, only 28, which could indicate an imminent miscarriage. They scheduled me an appointment for a week's time for an ultrasound though I might not still be pregnant by then, will have to just wait and see.

I was totally confused and in shock after the phone call. I'd been expecting and preparing myself for either a clear yes or no, good news or bad new, not mixed! After googling more information on what HCG values are normal, it seems that having a low one might not be so bad if the levels start increasing dramatically over the coming few days (though anything under 100 is considered low for an initial value). It's just too soon to tell basically.

Later that day I started feeling happy and more positive and decided I'm going to enjoy being pregnant for as long as I can. At this stage it's so early and it could really go either way but I'm cautiously optimistic!

Monday, November 23, 2015

IVF Diary - Schröndinger's Baby

Right now I'm reminded of Schröndiger's cat.

I could be pregnant and have a baby already growing inside me or it could be over already but I won't find out for several more days. Time is passing by really slowly. I just want to know already! Although if it's bad news, a negative result, then maybe I'm actually not in a hurry to know...

I'm starting to get anxious, a positive result would just be the first hurdle, I'm sure I would be nervous getting through each stage as the risk of miscarriage after IVF is higher than normal.

I don't feel particularly pregnant which is a little disappointing though it's still very early days. I just feel normal. Well apart from the sore throat I have and feeling run down which could also just be a side effect from the hormones. I keep wondering how my little snowflakes are getting on. Have they implanted or not? Potentially I could end up having twins if both embryos stick around. According to my doctor there is a one in five chance! 

It would be devastating to get a negative result. I'm worried that I might have done something wrong. I could have eaten healthier the past week. And maybe I should have rested more and not let myself get this cold. I was telling the GerMann some of this stuff and he said that I haven't done anything wrong and if it doesn't work, it's not my fault and not to blame myself. Thought that was sweet of him to say. 

How do other people survive this waiting?!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

IVF Diary - two week waiting

I've heard it said before that worst part of the IVF process is the waiting to find out if it has worked or not. Certainly time seems to be moving much slower than normal for me as I countdown the days until my appointment at the clinic for the results.

Two days ago I had some cramps, which could have been from the embryos implanting, though it also could have just been something I ate! Apart from that I haven't noticed any potential pregnancy symptoms at all. This morning I woke up feeling very run down, like a cold is coming on. I'm not surprised as there have been a LOT of bugs ground around lately and yesterday a guy near me on the train kept coughing!

I started worrying then immediately and feeling cross that I let myself catch a cold as maybe my body will now decide that it needs to focus on fighting the cold and this isn't the month for me to get pregnant. On the other hand, I was googling post transfer symptoms and some girls experienced cold-like symptoms or even caught a cold as apparently when the embryo implants it makes the immune system a bit weaker and it's normal to come down with something then. So I'm hopeful that I'm still in the game...

Nearly one week down in the two week wait. Another week to go!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

IVF Diary - embryos on board

The transfer could not have gone better. Both embryos are doing great and according to the doctor are "schön" (lovely/beautiful) and 8-cell which means they are growing well. The transfer was completely painless and afterwards I just relaxed for awhile at the clinic. I was also feeling really happy and hopeful. It's so exciting knowing that I'm currently carrying the embryos which could potentially grow into one or even two babies! I was so excited I texted several friends letting them know even though I realise it's probably not a good idea to tell that many people since I don't want everyone to be asking me the result in a few weeks time but I couldn't help it!

The rest of the day today I went for a walk, had a nice lunch with the GerMann and just had a relaxing day. I have to keep taking the progesterone tablets and give myself two more HCG hormone shots, one two days and the other six days post transfer. The HCG hormone is the same one your body produces when you are pregnant which is why if you take an early home pregnancy test you might get a false positive when it's still in your system and therefore they say it's better to wait the full two weeks until the blood test to get an accurate result. The waiting game begins...

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

IVF Diary - the phonecall

Well they don't compare IVF to an emotional rollercoaster for nothing! This morning I was more or less waiting by the phone for the call from the clinic to let me know how my eggs were getting on. I started fearing the worst, for instance, what if neither fertilize which would mean I wouldn't have any to transfer? That can actually happen.

Finally they called and I was told that BOTH eggs fertilized! I was so happy I burst into tears. It could also be that I'm extra hormonal at the moment, but I'm delighted to think that we have two embryos growing right now after the disappointment yesterday.

So now I just have to hope that our little snowflakes survive a few more days until I have the transfer. This whole process is really taking it out of me and I'm not quite half way yet! From now onwards I have to take progesterone tablets, three times a day, roughly every eight hours, and tomorrow I have to give myself another shot of the HCG hormone. Apart from all the emotions today, physically I feel fine after the egg retrieval procedure and have been just been trying to take it easy.

Monday, November 9, 2015

IVF Diary - the egg retrieval

For anyone who doesn't know the basics of how IVF works, it normally goes as follows; the woman takes hormones for around two weeks to stimulate her ovaries in order to produce a lot of eggs. After this there is an egg retrieval procedure, usually done under general anaesthetic, when the eggs are removed. On the same day the man provides his sample. The eggs and sperm are then put into a petri dish together and left overnight to see how many fertilize and become viable embryos. Several days later one or more of the embryos are then placed into the womb and then all you can do is wait and hope that at least one of them implants and becomes a viable pregnancy.

I was feeling very nervous about the the egg retrieval procedure, especially the few minutes right beforehand. The nurse told me to think of a nice place like a beach and then when the doctor put the anesthetic into my arm I remember thinking, "I'm still awake, don't start yet!" but then starting to feel drowsy very quickly afterwards until I was out completely.

The next thing I recall it was over and I felt like I had been woken from a very deep slumber and I still felt very sleepy and could barely keep my eyes open. The nurses helped me back to the recovery area where I dozed for the next hour or so on and off while on an IV drip. I remember feeling quite shivery at one stage and I needed several blankets to keep warm. Also my blood pressure went really low so the nurse gave me an injection into the IV in order to kick start my circulation. After that I began to feel more and more awake.

The GerMan and I waited until the doctor was able to see us again for another ultrasound to make sure everything looked ok after the op. It was then I was finally able to find out how many eggs were retrieved. Of the six follicles four were empty so the doctor only ended up getting two eggs which as you can imagine was very disappointing. Two eggs doesn't give us great odds (I read somewhere recently that fifteen is the ideal number to lead to a live birth), and I definitely won't have any extra embryos to freeze for any future attempts.

I was told not to give up hope, though, as quality matters much more than quantity. The doctor has seen some women with as many as forty eggs from a single retrieval who don't end up getting pregnant and others with only a single egg who you just never know really. The clinic will phone me tomorrow to let me know whether the two eggs fertilize or not. It's going to be totally nerve wracking waiting for that call, I can tell you!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

IVF Diary - day twelve

The second ultrasound appointment went fine. This time I had a different doctor and I asked what it means to have six follicles and how many eggs I can expect at the retrieval. She explained that follicles can have either one egg in them or none at all, so I could end up with 6 eggs or maybe only 3. I do have a few smaller follicles starting to grow which is promising and could mean more eggs, although they might not be big enough by the time of the egg retrieval.

I had to keep giving myself the hormones for three more mornings so altogether it's been twelve days of injections and then this evening at exactly 10pm I had to do the HCG trigger shot. The trigger shot brings on ovulation 36 hours later. Monday morning I'll have the egg retrieval procedure and the embryo transfer will probably be three days later.

Physically I feel fine at the moment. A little bit bloated and tired but no more stomach cramps. Another good thing is I would definitely say that the injections have gotten a lot easier. The first few days I found them a real struggle and it would be on my mind a lot, but now I just do it and it's not fun obviously but it's not the worst either.

Since I already know that I might not get that many eggs I'm prepared for that. I'm really hoping that the other follicles will grow by then though. And then the next thing will be praying that lots of eggs fertilize and keep growing over the subsequent three days so that I have one or two to transfer. 

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

IVF Diary - the first ultrasound

When I had my first ultrasound since starting the hormone treatment I found out that I have six follicles growing (three on each side) but they only measure 1.3cm and they need to be over 2 so I need to do an extra three days of injections. The doctor didn't seem to have any issue with me only having six but I'm disappointed. Six follicles doesn't seem like a lot especially when I was hoping for 8-12 eggs. Also during the information evening at the clinic we were told that they would only freeze extra embryos if they have at least 5 good quality ones which means it's already looking a little unlikely that I might have any extras to freeze for the future.

My worry is that if we only end up with a few embryos and then I don't get pregnant this month, since let's face it there's a 70% chance it won't work, and if we don't have any frozen embryos to use then I would have to do a second full round of ivf again. And right now I'm just finding it all hard going, and I'm only one week into it the process! I would definitely take a several months long break afterwards before being able to face the idea of a second round.

Oh well... Six eggs is better than none I suppose, I should probably look on the bright side and try to stop worrying so much! Easier said than done of course. I've another appointment at the clinic tomorrow for my next ultrasound so I'll find out then if any more follicles have grown in the meantime. 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

IVF Diary - the first few days

Tomorrow I go back to the fertility clinic for an appointment. I'm dying to find out how everything is looking, for instance how many follicles are growing. If you have too many then you are in danger to getting hyper ovarian syndrome which sounds really awful. But too few eggs gives you a lower chance of IVF working and less potential embryos leftover to freeze which is also not great! Obviously I really hope this works for me so that I don't have to do several rounds of IVF however if this attempt were to fail and I had some extra frozen embryos then at least I could do a second round without having to go through all the injections and egg retrieval procedure again which would be a lot easier to handle.

I have six days of injections behind me now. This morning the pergoveris burned a bit going in again and was very unpleasant. I've been warming the bottles up with my hands a little first as maybe the fact they were in fridge and therefore cold, is the reason it was burning. I tried that the past two days and it seemed to be helping as the mixture didn't hurt going in. All in all I would say the injections have been getting easier. That said, it's still the least fun part of my day and my stomach feels like a pin cushion!

Yesterday I had some stomach cramps and felt bloated and uncomfortable, probably since my ovaries are starting to grow to produce lots of follicles. I was out in town with some friends but wasn't able to stay out too long. Once I got home I put a hot water bottle on my stomach and changed into comfortable tracksuit bottoms and then I felt better. Apart from the cramps which come and go I've been feeling mostly fine though, no nausea or any other bad side effects so far.

Will let you know how tomorrow goes. Let's hope everything is looking good!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

IVF diary - Day two

I was dreading doing the injections today since yesterday hadn't gone so well. This time I put two tablespoons in the freezer a few minutes beforehand and then used them to numb the area on my stomach a little before injecting. I also tried to jab the needle into my skin faster this time and the needle didn't hurt at all although the pergoveris mixture still burned the whole time going in. 

I've been feeling quite tired and run down lately, but that's the only symptom so far. I would love to know what's going on in there but I have to wait another week for my first ultrasound to find out how I'm responding to the hormones and many follicles are growing.

Emotionally I'm finding it a little hard, trying to go about my daily life acting normal when I've got this huge thing going on, but I'm managing. I don't have anything on during the week which is great as it's so nice to come home from work and then get cosy on the couch and either catch up with my favourite tv series or get lost in a good novel. Before starting this treatment I ordered several books so I had something to help me get through the process. I had also read that it's a good idea to clear your calendar before going through ivf and just see how you feel day to day so that's also what I'm doing.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

IVF diary - Day one

Today was the first day of the ivf process and, to be honest, the injections were more difficult than I was expecting!

The whole thing took about twenty minutes - getting all the stuff ready, reading over my notes again, preparing the meds, psyching myself up and then injecting.

I was really nervous and when I tried to inject myself I did it too slowly and instead of breaking the skin it just hurt and bled, and I did that a few times before the injection went in, which is not the way to do it obviously. Also when I pushed the injection mixture down it really burned going in and was very unpleasant!  Maybe I'll try icing the area first tomorrow.

I hated the whole thing and was glad once it was done. How am I going to get through another week or so of this? I guess I'm just going to have to try to take it one day at a time and hopefully it will get easier. 

Monday, October 26, 2015

IVF diary - As ready as I'll ever be

Yesterday I went to the doctor, he gave me an ultrasound to check everything looked ok, then told me to start with the injections tomorrow morning. They should be done at the same time each day.

The plan is that after a week I'll go back for another ultrasound and then he'll be able to tell me when the egg retrial procedure will be. I really just want to know already. Some friends were texting me about meeting up next week but I don't know yet if that will be a good time or not. I imagine that the evening before the egg retrieval process I won't be up for meeting anyone and for a few days afterwards I'll be recovering.

After seeing the doctor I then was given a tutorial by the doctor's assistant on how to prepare and administer the injections. It's quite tricky! I'll have to give myself two injections, on alternative sides of my stomach and switch sides each day. One is called Decapeptyl and that is to prevent me from ovulating, and the other is called Pergoveris and is to make my ovaries produce loads of eggs. 

The Decapeptyl is quite simple, it comes already made and you just have to inject it, but the pergoveris is trickier. It comes with two vials of liquid and two vials of powder. You get the large syringe and suck up the liquid then push it down into the powder then do the same for the other vials and then suck all the mixture up into the one syringe. And once that's done you change to a smaller needle.

The medicine has to all be kept cool so the pharmacy gave me a cool bag to bring the medicine home and now I have to keep it all in the fridge. Tomorrow is day one!

Monday, October 12, 2015

A tea for everything #MicroblogMonday

*cough* *sniffle* *cough* I'm feeling rather the worse for wear at the moment. One by one I noticed more and more colleagues and friends come down with something or other and it finally got me too. I've a head cold and sore throat. 

 At least Germans have a tea for every possible ailment. I couldn't choose between "cough and bronchial" or "throat and neck", so I bought both. As a child our family cure for sore throats was always 'hot honey and orange' which consisted of boiled water, orange juice and naturally lots of honey! I've been drinking a mixtures of those and just trying to get plenty of rest. Hopefully in a few days it'll be gone. The worst is coughing at night and then not being able to sleep.

Unfortunately I also gave my cold to the GerMann so now we're both coughing and sniffing. We didn't have any big plans last weekend though so we were able to take it easy.

What's your go-to cold curing remedy? 

Monday, September 21, 2015

On your bike #MicroblogMonday

If you live in Germany, you really have to get yourself a bike. I bought one in Penny, a discount supermarket, shortly after arriving here. It was a city bike and lasted for about five years until it started causing problems - gears not working properly and then the pedals looking like they might fall off!

When I brought it to the bike shop to fix, they said it would cost about 150€ to fix all the various things wrong with it and it just wasn't worth repairing since second hand it would probably only cost 50€ to buy.

So I decided it was time for a new bike. That decision was more complicated than I realised. Do I want a rally, mountain or city bike? How many gears? What size frame? And then whether I should buy it from a discount supermarket again or go to a fancy bike shop this time and spend more money on it. The general consensus among my German friends is that you should spend at least 800€ to get a decent bike. However then you also have to worry that it might get stolen so you also need to fork out for an expensive lock or two and probably invest in bike insurance as well.

In the end I decided to go for another discount bike from a department store and found a nice one for under 300€. The deciding factor? I loved the colour, as you can see it's bright orange. At least if it does get stolen, it will be easy to spot!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Irish blog Awards - the voting begins

This year I've made the shortlist in the Irish blog awards in the Irish disapora category. That's the only category that's open to me actually as for everything else you have to be resident in Ireland. I was excited when I found out that I've made it one step further than last year!

I'm delighted to have just gotten this far but if you have a moment and would like to vote for me, click here. The vote is open until September the 21st.

If you've just come to my blog for the first time from the Irish Blog Awards website, then welcome! Relax, pour yourself a cuppa and stay for awhile.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Where the bleep is my stork?!

Every so often facebook shows you memories from that particular day in the past. Recently it showed me a picture of the GerMann and me on our honeymoon. It made me feel sad to think that two years later we are gearing up to start IVF treatment and I don't know if it will even work and whether we will ever be able have kids...Though I'm really trying to stay positive and am hoping that this time next year we might have our miracle baby.

I've been wondering about whether to talk about this topic or not but in the end I decided that having a blog is a way to share thoughts and make sense of things and it might be helpful to have an outlet while I'm going through all this. So I'm going to create a series of rather personal posts about what's been going on the past few months to fill you in.

Girl meets boy. They date, fall in love, get married and then start a family. Right? Unfortunately I'm learning the hard way, it's not so easy for everyone. One in eight couples these days experience infertility, which is defined as not getting pregnant after one year of trying. That's a lot of couples dealing with something that people don't really talk openly about so you can end up feeling quite lonely when going through it and it can feel hard to find people who relate. You also experience such a rollercoaster of emotions; hope, guilt, depression, anger, sadness - it's a lot of ups and downs.

When we started trying for a baby I was worried at the back of my mind we might have difficulty as my doctor here had warned me as due to my having had surgery when I was younger I probably have scarring around my fallopian tubes. But still I was hopeful. The first six months I wasn't overly worried or thinking about it that much as I'd read it could take some time (up to a year is still normal) but I did start to try other things at that stage such as improving my diet, trying acupuncture, using ovulation sticks, the list goes on. During a HSG test where they put dye through your tubes to see if it can flow freely I found out that one side was blocked but the other side looked fine. And I'd read a lot of women also fall pregnant shortly after that test- maybe the dye helps clear our any old cobwebs, haha!

Unfortunately though, after several more months of nothing happening once we reached the one year mark it was time to make an appointment with the be continued..

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award

It's always nice to get recognition from other blogs. Meredith from Kaffee und Kuchen recently nominated me for a Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award. It's similar to the Liebster Award in that people thank the blogger, answer a set of questions and then nominate other bloggers with new questions.

Thanks so much for the nomination! Here goes...

  1. What do you mostly blog about?
    I mainly blog about what it's like being an Irish expat living in Germany - learning the language, fitting in, experiencing German culture, dealing with homesickness. However I also write about my life in general with my German husband, nicknamed the GerMann. And I love to travel so I like to blog about some of the trips we've taken.
  2. What is the best city you have travelled to and what are your recommended ‘must sees’ in that city?
    We recently spent a few days in Dresden and I definitely found it worth a visit. We drove to Sächsische Schweiz and went on a fun hike there. The sights from the top were breath taking and the area itself was very pretty. And in the center of Dresden the Neustadt and Altstadt are separated by the river and both completely different and worth seeing in their own right. The old town was beautiful and the new town was cool with lots of quirky bars.
  3. What 3 items do you always pack on a trip?
    Let's see... my smart phone, usually with the local map downloaded, some comfortable walking shoes as I enjoy exploring new places by foot to get a sense of them, and one fancy outfit in case we go out to a nice place some evening!
  4. What is the best meal you’ve ever had and where did you have it?
    That's really hard to answer! I've had lots of great meals but difficult to pick one in particular. Italian cuisine is my favourite and when I travelled to Rome with my family a few years ago I remember eating some really delicious food there - pizza and pasta! 
  5. Which destination is on your ‘must see’ list? Why?
    Barcelona, as I've heard from lots of people it's really worth a visit and that it has beautiful architecture and design. And I love visiting Spain. It strikes me as a place that has the best of both worlds- lovely beaches for relaxing in the sun, but also lots of culture. 
  6. What’s your favourite way to spend a free weekend afternoon?
    Meeting up with some good friends for a chat over tea and cakes, going for a stroll around the town and then afterwards having a date night with the GerMann, maybe dinner and a movie
  7. Who would you pick to go on a cross-country road trip with you? Why?
    My sister! I don't get to see her often enough since moving to Germany and it would be nice to spend some quality time together. She's good fun to travel with and we could share the driving.
  8. What are your blogging goals for the coming year?
    To make more time for blogging and to take part in the monthly #ExpatLifeLinky.
  9. What’s your favourite blog post that you’ve written? Please share the link!
    After about a year living in Germany I wrote a post called What sort of expat are you when I was coming to terms with integrating into my new life in Germany. 
  10. What’s a new blogging skill that you’ve learned recently?
    To focus on one main topic or theme per blog post and organize my thoughts better.

My nominations are:
  1. Around the wherever
  2. Nearly Irish
  3. Starting over in Stuttgart
  5. California Globetrotter
  6. Diary of sugar and spice
  7. Three sons later
  8. Everyone else but me
  9. Allie and the German
  10. Expat eye on Germany

And now the questions;

1. Which celebrity would you like to invite to tea?
2. What do you normally blog about (link to some posts)?
3. Any good movies you watched recently you could recommend?
4. Likewise, any good book recommendation?
5. What meals can you cook well?
6. What is you favourite dessert?
7. If you could have a fictional character as a best friend, who would you choose?
8. If you won the lotto, what's the first thing you would spend the money on?
9. Who would play you in a movie?
10. What makes you laugh?

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Surviving culture shock - what you can expect

When you live abroad (for longer than a few months) you will inevitably face some form of culture shock, which has also been described as feeling like a fish out of water. I've mentioned the term briefly before on this blog and I just thought I'd explain it a bit better and write about the different stages. I haven't met a single expat who hasn't gone through a rough patch after moving countries. It can be a real rollercoaster of emotions that first year!

  • The Honeymoon Phase
  • This first stage when you just arrive in a new country is overwhelmingly positive. You're seeing everything with rose-tinted spectacles and it's exciting and fun. Everything about my new country is wonderful! What a great adventure! I love it here.
    My first week living in Germany

  • The Rejection Stage
  • After awhile though you start to see another side to the place and begin to feel somewhat disoriented and frustrated. Why is it so difficult to fit in? I don't understand the language. No one gets me.
    When I was experiencing this, I started going back to Ireland as often as possible, which needless to say didn't really help me adjust to my new life here.

  • Depression Stage
  • This is the hardest. You will feel depressed, lonely and homesick. You start to idealize life "back home" and compare your current culture to what is familiar. I'm stuck here. Is this my life now? Did I make the right decision moving here? Some people give up when this happens and return home.

    I mention the rough patch in my second blog post (long commute, feeling homesick, not many friends here, finding the German language difficult.)

  • The Acceptance Stage
  • This is where you start to appreciate the new country and feel like you fit in and belong. Yes, I can do this! It's not so bad. I'm happy here. You are now able to compare and appreciate aspects of both countries. You start to feel at home in your new home. For me what helped a lot was when I started to really make more of an effort to integrate myself here, for instance taking German lessons, going to lots of meetups to make friends, getting to know the area.
    When I started to really settle in and look on the positives.

Some useful tips for fitting in as an expat here.

If you are living abroad, did you experience culture shock? How did you cope?

Expat Life with a Double Buggy

Monday, July 6, 2015

Surviving a heatwave German style #MicroblogMonday

We are currently in the middle of an extreme heatwave in Germany. Even Ireland is experiencing one at the moment, though a heatwave there is just like a lovely summer with weather around 26 degrees Celsius, and a nice breeze whereas here it is more like 35-40 degrees and unbearable!

Thankfully my office has air conditioning! It's interesting seeing how the Germans dress in this extreme weather. One guy at work wears socks with his sandals - keeping that particular stereotype alive and well! Others wear shorts and even flip flops. The girls at work mainly don summer dresses. Pretty much anything goes I've noticed!

In general German women don't tend to dress up much or wear feminine outfits. For instance, when they attend birthday parties or events they normally go casual in trousers and a nice top so it's been unusual seeing them all wearing pretty dresses now! It's a good way to keep cool in this weather.

At weekends the best option is to go to the local pool or lake for a swim, or hang out in one of the many beer gardens. We also recently bought a new fan for our apartment, which helps.

I'm hoping this Summer I might manage to get a nice tan. Right now I'm as pale as ever. That's the problem with having Irish skin! We go from white to pink. I have to always make sure to apply lots of sun cream and then maybe I'll get a light tan after a few weeks.

How do you manage to keep cool in a heatwave?

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Other expats come and go but I'm still here

One of the problems with making friends with other expats is that a lot of them are only living in Germany temporarily and eventually move back to their home countries (or some place else). In the almost five years I've lived here I've had to say goodbye countless times and it doesn't get any easier.

Finding people you really click with and building up the friendship takes time and when they leave, you naturally lament their absence. It's great that I now have lots of connections around the world, and these days with skype you can still keep in touch pretty well, but day to day I miss hanging out with the person.

Of course you're probably thinking I could make more of an effort to make German friends. And I do and I have some great ones now but in general I still find I have more in common with other expats and tend to connect with them faster.

I guess it's just a downside to living abroad, that you get to meet some great people and have them your life for awhile but then they move away. In another year or two everyone from my initial friend group here will most likely not live here anymore. Sometimes I feel like the last guest left at a party! At least I still have the GerMann to hang out with. And I can plan some more trips back to Dublin when I start feeling homesick.

Expat Life with a Double Buggy

Monday, June 8, 2015

House hunting in Germany #microblogMonday

Last week we almost bought our dream house. We've been looking on and off for over two years at this stage and rarely has something come up that's right for us as normally anything we like is either well outside our price range or in a location we're not so mad about. However this time we saw a great house for sale in an area we love and we both knew we had to go view it. Unfortunately loads of other people also saw the ad and the realtor was inundated with calls and visits.

The viewing went great so we arranged a meeting with the bank to get mortgage pre-approval (the low interest rates at the moment means the timing is really good) and then we made an offer! After that all we could do was to wait and cross our fingers (or press our thumbs as the Germans would say- Daumen Drücken!). Sadly we heard back a few days later that we didn't get it.

It was so disappointing. We had both gotten really excited about the house and I had decorated all of the rooms in my head already! So that's where we're at now, back to square one with the house hunting again.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Well...Are you fluent yet?

Without a doubt the top question people from home ask me has always been “are you fluent in German now?" They pretty much started asking me that from my first few weeks living here!

When I think of the word “fluent” I imagine understanding absolutely everything and since I'm not quite there yet then I feel bad about why not and tend to answer "no". However, a better definition of fluency is actually the the ability to get by in most situations, to make oneself understood and to be able to go about daily tasks such as working, going to the doctor, post office and so on without language problems or barriers.You might still have your accent and not sound like a native speaker but that's ok!

Often I'll be sitting in a meeting at work and have no problems keeping up with the conversation and tricky technical speak and I'll feel confident and fluent at that moment but then at another time I might be on a night out with a group of Germans in a noisy pub and I find it hard to follow the conversation with the background noise and then I feel a little lost. I used to ask people who had lived here a long time at what stage they felt really fluent and I was often told it took them three years living in the county but others said it took them at least five years.

Recently, I came across an article that helps explain how to tell whether you are fluent. One of the ways is that people don't modify their language for you anymore. When I first moved here I noticed that a lot of Germans would try to speak Hochdeutsch (high German - without using dialect or slang) and speak clearly to make it easier for me to understand. Now they talk quickly and normally using local dialects, which I'm now able to keep up with. Also I can watch TV shows and read articles in German and understand without having to stop to think about the translations in my head or acknowledge that it's not English, which is great.

My first month or so living here I found myself exhausted each night from the effort of having to constantly translate everything in my head, formulate an answer in English and translate that before speaking. Now something like 90% of the time I understand what's being said without having to try to think of the English equivalent. So I guess I would say I am fluent now!

If you speak other languages, at what stage did you feel truly fluent? Or do you think you will never reach that stage as a non-native speaker?

Expat Life with a Double Buggy

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Run for your life

To be honest I don't particularly enjoy jogging like some people seem to. Once the weather started to improve here recently I decided I would take it up again but I knew I needed some kind of extra incentive to motivate me. The GerMann and I follow the zombie TV series The Walking Dead and when I heard about a zombie jogging themed app I decided to give it a try!

The full app for your smartphone costs about four euro but I went for the smaller version that is focused on training you for a 5k marathon and costs half that. The idea is that you listen to it while you jog and using GPS it can determine your route and speed. There are different chapters or levels and as your running improves the story progresses. You are known as "Runner 5" during a zombie apocalypse world and you are sent out on mini missions to help the base camp, such as to find medical kits or bring back supplies.

The story began with an exciting start when my helicopter crash-landed into an area surrounded by zombies who I had to then escape to reach the base camp. Through my earphone I had the voice actors telling me whenever any were close and when that happened, they would shout "move!" and I had to run faster. It was really quite realistic - I could hear zombie groaning in my ear if I wasn't running fast enough!

At one point I was getting really into it and nearly jumped out of skin when a cyclist whizzed past me from behind just as I could hear zombie groaning in my earphones. And I found myself scanning my terrain for possible weapons to defend myself from a zombie attack..such as big sticks or rocks.

I've only done a few missions so far and the first was the most exciting. The ones after that so far have just been more or less training drills with a mixture of walking then running in short bursts back at the base camp.

What's good though is that you can choose your playlist from music on your phone and the songs will be interspersed throughout the story. However, it made me laugh at one point as just after escaping a zombie, the Sugababes Get sexy song blasted into my ear which somehow just didn't seem appropriate during a zombie apocalypse!

I've signed up for a 6km marathon in less than six weeks so I'm going to have to try to aim to get out running twice a week if possible. Once I've completed more "missions" in the app I'll let you know how I found it!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Hey You! The tricky subject of the German "you"

Something that causes a lot of confusion for English speakers here is figuring out which form of "you" to use. The formal "Sie" or more casual "du". The rules go something like this...

If the other person is around your age or younger or a good friend then you can probably use "du" when referring to them. If the person is older, someone you don't know or someone deserving of respect then you should use the formal "Sie", unless they tell you it's ok to use "du".

And when you use "Sie" it also means you would refer to the person using their surname. Germans use their surnames a LOT. When I go to my hairdresser they always say "Guten Tag Frau X". Hello Mrs. X. It makes me feel a little old!

Normally if you meet someone and as you become friends they would probably ask "Können wir uns duzen?" Shall we refer to each other using the informal "you"?

At work, a lot of companies have a general "du" policy where employees refer to each other with the "Du" form. The boss may still be "Sie" though and any clients would naturally be the more polite and respectful "Sie". It's also considered an insult if you had been on "Du" terms with somebody and then you start referinig to them with "Sie".

I was also recently told by someone that you would use "Sie" during self-defence, which surprised me. I thought that if someone was hassling you then you would not feel like using the respectul "Sie" term but my German friend pointed out that anyone listening to the conversation would more likely come to your aid if you used "Sie" as then it would be clear that the person is a stranger to you. So you would say something like "Hauen Sie ab!" Get lost! or "Lassen Sie mich in Ruhe!" "Leave me alone!". Just something worth bearing in mind if you ever find yourself in that situation!

Some more tips and rules are outlined here.
Even Germans can get confused sometimes about which they should be using! So I wonder what hopes us non-native German speakers have of getting it right!

Monday, April 13, 2015

The perfect Easter break

We're just back from our latest trip to Ireland. This time we went for just over a week and it was perfect as it meant I had time to properly catch up with everyone but it also allowed for plenty of family and chill out time! The weather also played along and we only had one rainy day!

Easter is a great time to visit Dublin I find and because of the public holidays I didn't need to take that much from my annual leave. The weather is also nice this time of year and tourist attractions aren't as crazy busy as they might be during the Summer months.

I was chatting to a Spanish girl recently who lives in Dublin and she was saying that people working abroad should be allocated extra days off to cover trips back to their home countries. It can be tricky when you live abroad as you don't want to spend all your annual leave visiting your home country as you might also like to go for a proper holiday. So I liked her suggestion!

Though in fairness the amount of annual leave is really great in Germany; you get nearly six weeks off in the year and there are lots of public holidays! The only problem is that the public holidays aren't very spread out and if they happen to fall on a weekend then you just lose them.

The GerMann had been complaining recently that we never get to do that much sightseeing during our trips to Ireland, so this time we left Dublin and spent three days in a hotel in Wicklow, south of Dublin, commonly known as the garden of Ireland. We stayed in a place called Brooklodge and it was fantastic, with a lovely spa where we spent two mornings and I got a very relaxing full body massage.

The breakfast there was delicious (organic porridge with honey, full Irish breakfast, scrambled eggs and salmon) and the restaurant food, though pricey, was also great. They primarily serve healthy organic food and even have their chickens freely walking around the place!

We visited Parnell house and gardens, where one of the leading Irish political leaders lived, one one afternoon and enjoyed some lovely walks there and later on went to a 7-foot high maze which was also fun.

We went for lunch in Dun Laoghaire and then walked along the coast, which was just beautiful. And of course we found the time to indulge in afternoon tea! And apart from that we dined in lots of good restaurants and ate yummy chocolate eggs (including a huge Guiness flavoured chocolate easter egg!). On Easter Sunday itself we went to mass and chatted to the priest who married us and jokingly asked if we are "still married?" which gave us all a chuckle.

We are hoping to plan another trip back to Ireland in August so looking forward to that!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Paddy's Day - different but still good craic

Saint Patrick's Day, which is a national holiday and a big deal in Ireland, feels very different in Germany where it is more or less a non event in most places. This year I worked, which felt somewhat strange (normally I take the day off). The majority of Germans don't seem to even know what St. Patrick's Day is or even if they do know, they forget which day it is. In fact in Germany it's just a normal day in most places. I've heard in the States it's common to pinch people who aren't wearing green on St. Patrick's day. Well if I were to do that here, it would have been a very busy day of pinching! It would have been faster to point out the people who were wearing green.

After work I made my way to one of the local Irish pubs, and that felt more like it! There were lots of people, singing songs, drinking, laughing and it was just a great atmosphere! And of course there was lots of craic, which is a special fun atmosphere that only Irish people can produce.

Then last weekend we were also invited to a Paddy's Day themed party hosted by another Irish-German couple like us, which was also good fun. We watched some of the highlights online from the St. Patrick's day celebrations in Ireland. I hear that is was a four-day affair this year with loads of different events organized. And everything green of course!

Several Germans asked me about Saint Patrick, the man himself, and embarrassingly I couldn't say much apart from him being the patron saint of Ireland and that he got rid of all the snakes! And they also asked me about typical food we eat on the day, which was also difficult to answer. It's not an event revolving around food (but rather drink!), it's more about celebrating everything Irish!

Hopefully some year we'll make it back to Ireland for the few days. Flights then are always extra-expensive, of course. In the meantime, all the Irish people abroad can get back to planning our secret mission of world domination or - at the very least - world inebriation!

Did you celebrate St. Patrick's Day where you are?

Monday, March 9, 2015

What's your word? #MicroblogMonday

There was a scene in the well known book and subsequent movie Eat Pray Love where the main character has to think of one word that defines, drives and inspires her. While chatting about it with some friends at the weekend we tried to come up with our own words for ourselves and each other.

One chose Beauty. Not in a superficial sense, but beauty that can come from within and as a creative person she finds it in lots of things. Another friend chose fun as to her that's what life is about, craving enjoyment. The other friend chose drive as she is very motivated and driven in each stage of her life.

Thinking about what my own word could be I initially came up connection or meaning as I tend to want to find deeper meaning in things and connect with people. Family also came to mind as very important. My friends however choose the word, loyalty for me. The reason being that I'm a very loyal friend and I value loyalty in others.

I asked the GerMann what his word might be. He didn't like limiting himself to one and mentioned wife, health and wealth. Talking some more about what he meant exactly I came up with well-being as his word to try to convey a sense of how he values having a good work/life balance, standard of living, being healthy, exercising and having a companion.

What about you? Is there a good word that describes you or your life motivation?

Saturday, February 28, 2015

An Irish Summer in Lanzarote

We spent last week on holidays in Lanzarote, one of the Canary islands. When we were in Mallorca before, we couldn't help noticing how many Germans there were. Well Lanzarote seems to be a top destination for fellow Irish people as we heard familiar accents everywhere we went!

We also lost count of the amount of Irish pubs there are in Puerto del Carmen, the region where we stayed, but we managed to have a drink in several of them - I always try to support other Irish people living abroad! We enjoyed some great live music in one and even took part in the karaoke evening at another.

The Canary islands belong to Spain but because of their location close to Africa it is normally much warmer compared to the rest of Europe. We were rather unlucky with the weather while we were there though, which was reminiscent of an Irish summer - very changeable - one minute sunny and pleasant and the next overcast and rainy. so yeah, I felt quite at home, haha!

Puerto del Carmen has a seven kilometer long promenade beside lovely beaches and there are plenty of great restaurants, pubs, and cafes. The island is also covered with volcanoes and an excursion to the Timanfaya National Park is worth a visit. We opted for a half day trip which included some wine tasting. It probably sounds bad if I admit I was more looking forward to the latter, which ended up being a little disappointing with only one half glass to taste! There was also an option to ride camels up the volcanic mountains, which neither of us particularly wanted to do so we wandered around taking photos at that stage and then went back to the bus when it got too cold.

Visiting Lanzarote in February is still a little risky if you are counting on great weather and a beach holiday. The lowest temperature there during Winter would only be about 14 degrees so it's really quite pleasant all year around. That said the evenings were chilly and there was a very cold wind!

Still though, we had a fun relaxing time. Our next trip planned will be Dublin over the Easter break.

And our karaoke songs of choice in case you are wondering? I attempted "Help" by the Beatles and the GerMann had a go at the Garth Brooks classic "Friends in Low Places". Neither of us can sing particularly well but didn't matter since nobody knows us in Lanzarote!