Life in Germany: Not all plain sailing

Culture, Frankfurt, Hope City Church, Life

Since my last post some unexpected things have happened.

Firstly I found myself jobless after nearly three weeks in the foreign country I have chosen to call home for the next year or so. Secondly, I was also potentially homeless.
What happened? I hear five concerned voices ask as they read. I could, at this juncture, go into some epic tale telling the woes of a English aupair, who struggled with a family who knew not her mother tongue. That however, would be a fabrication of fiction. The truth is, as is often the case, a little duller than that.
As previously mentioned, the little girl I had been charged to care for over the next three months did not know any English and I, for my part, had extremely patchy German with comparatively less knowledge about Deutsch than Eurozone politicians have on how to solve the international debt crisis. However, despite the challenges, I was confident that, given time, the child and I would eventually form a bond that bridged our language barrier and actually end up conversing in a glorious mix of German and English. I might not have been being terribly realistic I know, but I was willing to give it a shot.
This was not to be. Three weeks into aupairing, just as I managed to win over the girl and place the first foundations of our wonderful bridge, the mother tells me she fears the challenge of language between her daughter and I is too big to overcome. Another childcare solution would be found and I was free to look for another job and she would be willing to give references.
With that one sentence not only was the job that bought me to Germany gone, so too was the home I had planned to live in until my flat became available.
Most other people would, I suppose, accept defeat, move back home and try again later. I, however, am not most people. Instead I’ve chosen to believe that somewhere out there (are you paying attention Germany?) my perfect job awaits. And the housing thing? Well it just so happens that wonderful friends of mine from the UK who have also moved to Germany have a spare room. Sorted.
No one ever said living your dream was easy.
Germany, bring it on.

Life in Germany: Ist gleich England. Almost.

Culture, Frankfurt, Hope City Church

Would you believe I touched down in Germany ready and raring to completely immerse myself in German life, German culture and hopefully to at least gain an understanding of the German language a mere three (ish) weeks ago?

These weeks have simultaneously felt like an eternity and yet have wooshed passed in a flash of coffees, German verbs and cake; not to mention the wurst, kase and brot! In that time, whilst I still frequently have a blank look on my face as someone talks merrily away to me in Deutsch, I have to some extent gained a grounding in a language I could only before butcher everytime I opened my mouth. (That’s not to say I don’t still destroy it – I continually deal with Germans looking at me in incredulous disbelief after I’ve said something. And the little girl I look after tells me I don’t know German – which, ironically, she says in German.)

Hopefully the title of this post translates, roughly as “Life in Germany: It’s the same as England. Almost”. And really it is. I think I was all prepared for something completely and utterly different but actually, it’s not all that far removed from English life.

Have you ever seen so many varieties of Heinz sauces?

Sure, there are differences; driving on the right, (multiple) bins in train stations for all sorts of waste and attitudes towards smoking.

In Germany it’s much more acceptable to light up and cigarette advertising is prolific. In England, I forget the last time I saw an advert for cigarettes or any adverts where cigarettes featured in some small way. Here it’s hard to go more than a few 100 metres without bumping into something promoting smoking or cigarettes. You can even buy your ciggies from vending machines on the street! In the supermarkets by the tills where in England you’d find sweets and chewing gum and other ‘last minute buys’ you will find cigarettes and little miniature bottles of booze alongside the confectionery.

And I’m pretty sure I’ve never even SEEN a bin in an English train station except maybe in a quintessentially old English village in the backwaters of the countryside where it may quite conceivably be the ONLY public bin for miles. I’ve also never seen so many different Heinz sauces in one place, which a brief trip to the local store recently revealed. It was eye-opening, let me tell you. I didn’t even know half of those sauces existed!

I guess other people’s experiences might be hugely different, but for me, aside from wondering first thing in the morning what the strange language going on around me is, Germany isn’t as drastically different as I perhaps imagined it would be. Culture is all about “the way we do things ’round ‘ere” and I’m sure, as time wears on, more differences will arise, particularly when the time comes for me to brave things on my own. At the moment I am blissfully unaware what is a typical German trait and what is a quirk of the family I’m living with.

So for now, I’ll embrace the little differences and oddities that have cropped up into my everyday life and, at least for the time being, I’ll not be too upset about swapping my tea for coffee. I’d been going off tea anyway.

Hello Germany, I’m here!

Culture, emigration, Frankfurt, Hope City Church, Life

I made it. I actually made it.

Four (quite long) days ago I stepped off a plane and made my way to the Arrivals lounge of Frankfurt International Airport. There I was greeted by three Germans, ready to welcome me into their family for the next three months.

I type this in my new home in the middle of the German countryside watching Fireman Sam, or rather Feuerwehrmann Sam. It’s not quite how I remember it growing up as a child in England. Sam et al appear to have turned into Pontypandy’s super rescue A team; not only putting out fires and saving kittens from rooftops but becoming Pontypandy’s coastguard too.

I should probably point out that I’m watching Feuerwehrmann Sam on my own. Anna, the five-year old girl I’m here to look after for the next three months, is at Kindergarten. The TV is on to try and ease the eerie lack of noise in my new home (and also to help with my learning the German language.)

Everyone warns you moving country is a big deal, but no one quite prepares you for the change!

And it has definitely been a change. Taking everything I want for my life in Germany, and using only a plane to take it, somewhat limits what can be packed. Despite moving house over 12 times in the last eight years, I’ve often failed to clear out unwanted items; habit, time and personal nature resulted in me chucking most of what I own into the back of a car and hoping for the best.

This time, packing a Ford Feista to its gills was not an option. This time, I had just one large suitcase, one small suitcase and a handbag (thank God for BA’s generous hand luggage allowance!). This time, my whole life had to fit into 46kg give or take a few hundred grams.

I’m a natural hoarder (a gene I’ve inherited from my father who would keep anything ‘just in case’), so ruthlessly going through my clothes created THREE bags of items I no longer wore, and several pairs of shoes that had seen significantly better days. Not to mention the collection of general things I no longer used, picture frames, cables, jewellery, little gifts from people I’d never opened, unburned candles, endless toiletries I didn’t need. However even after getting rid of several bags worth of items it took me days to make everything I wanted/needed to fit in my suitcase. (And we’ll just not talk about the small collection of items I’ve wistfully left in England with the plea to anyone coming out to visit to bring an item or two with them…)

Now the drama of the cases is over and done with – well until the next move – the next challenge is settling into German life, learning the German language and not forgetting to drive on the right (so far I’ve not actually got behind the wheel of a car though so that’s not such a problem).

I do, however, really miss breakfast cereal.

2012: Time For A Change

destiny, emigration, Frankfurt, future, Germany, Hope City Church

Over the last few months this blog has somewhat been lacking posts and for this I apologise. It is not because I have become slack at blogging. Far from it in fact. For the last few months I have found myself writing, editing and running blogs for others (most notably Anya 17 and Hope City Frankfurt). Only thing is, between that and holding down two part time jobs, it left me with no time to write in my own blog (although with probably only six readers in the whole wide interweb I doubt my ramblings have been missed too much!). But now it’s 2012, it’s time to pick up the old keyboard and screen and start over. 

I don’t believe in New Year’s Resolutions (mainly because I am abysmal at sticking to them), but for me, 2012 presents a long-awaited beginning which should at least be documented in the semi-permanence of the internet [purely for it to be lost in cyberspace and then one day rediscovered by some unsuspecting hacker who probably hasn’t even been born yet, you understand].

The dawning of 2012 marks the final steps towards probably one of the biggest and slightly more mental decisions of my life. In a matter of months, nay weeks (job, flights and accommodation permitting), my pale little English face will soon be finding home amongst throngs of German ones as I set up life in Frankfurt.

Yes, at 26 bizarre and wonderful years of age, I am going to leave my mother country and attempt to live in a land where to be honest, I can hardly order a coffee and my ability of asking for cake with it involves saying “Kanne Ich……….. [long pause as I point widely]…die kucken?” (Apologies to anyone who can actually speak German and is aware of the shocking language assault I just performed, please bare with me.) 

It might seem like a mad, hair-brained idea (my mother is less convinced it is now following several lengthy discussions about it over the last ten months) but I’m a believer of destiny and calling and I’m as sure as I can be that moving to Germany is part of an incredible plan for my life. Sure, if you’d told me three years ago that this is what 2012 would look like, I’d have probably thought you were, well, not altogether there, shall we say?

It certainly wasn’t part of my original life plan dreamt up years ago when, aged about six, a teacher asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. In that version of my life, I was probably the secret sixth member of the Famous Five, grew up on the dark Heathcliffian moors and could talk to any book character I pleased. Or I was a secret mutant human, part of Xavier’s school for the gifted, best friends with Bill and Ted and able to ride any horse I wanted. I probably also told this teacher I wanted to be a jockey or a vet or a Thunderbird or something. I definitely never imagined living in another country (living in fiction was enough, obviously). Not until I was 13 at least and began to harbour desires of being a journalist in the Big Apple a la Sex In The City (although I had no idea who the heck Carrie Bradshaw was) did my life plan ever consider a bit of healthy emigration.

But now, now I’m actually alive in 2012 and it isn’t some ethereal, slightly futuristic number given to a year in the distant future, now, I’ve come to realise that my life plan doesn’t really matter. What matters is that I live in the destiny I’ve been called for. I cannot wait to live in Germany no matter how daunting it may seem. There’s only one go at this life so I might as well give it my best shot and take the bull by the horns. 

You’re welcome to join me for the ride.