Above is a picture of me in June 2013, heading to YVR International Airport in Vancouver, before taking the ferry from my home in Victoria, B.C. My bags were packed and I was ready to go, I was moving to Germany with an indefinite date of return! Little did I know the 4 years of new life lessons, challenges, culture shock, new friends and jobs were ahead of me. To be honest, I moved to Germany with hardly any research, with a safety net from my boyfriend, a nice flat to move in to, basic German knowledge, and an internship to start two weeks later. I thought I would figure it all out as I went along, and actually, that's what I did. Every day I am surprised by the way of life here, the small little things that are different, and the little life triumphs, like ordering a coffee correctly in German, that at home would be nothing special. Living as an expat in a new country you often feel weird, out of place and like everyone is looking at you funny. You try to make yourself fit in, but you end up just standing out even more. So, if you're reading this you probably want some kind of insight of daily life as an expat in Germany, so my friends - I will describe this you in memes.
Let's start the Fun...
After taking German lessons for 3 years, I am still not fluent, I get by, but I won't be doing any speeches in German just yet. However, I'm always super proud when I am approached by some lost German on the street and I can help them. This feeling also goes with being successful at ordering something at a restaurant, correctly talking to people in customers service or whenever someone doesn't continue the conversation in English.
Whether out with German friends, or with German colleagues, you don't want to be the person to make everyone speak English. The theory here is that you live in Germany, then you speak German. A dead give away is looking like you don't understand what everyone is saying... which is usually the case. Just nod a lot, laugh when everyone else does, and hope that no one asks you a question.
Working for 8 hours a day, then taking another 3 hours of German isn't fun. Especially since German has the most puzzling grammar, weirdly long words, and letters like Ä Ü Ö & ß. Don't make me pronounce them. I do it because If you don't know German in Germany, you're doomed to fail. German makes the world go around in Germany.
As much as I try to look 'hip' and in 'style', I realized there will always be someone better dressed, with better clothes, better shoes and better looking than you. Ok, that sounds depressing but its hard to compete in the looks department when comparing yourself to Europeans. They are born with a sense of style, and not raised in the land of sweatpants, leggings and Lululemon's. That's probably a good thing.
It took many tries till I was allowed to legally work and live in Germany after my first visa expired. I was even kicked out of Germany. The workers at the Ausländerbehörde (Immigration Office) are not nice - they do not care about you or your life, they do not want to speak English, and they will make it very difficult for you to get the prized visa or german working permit. Do your research, bring all your documents, a translator, and give yourself lots of time as it's not piece of cake. And no, bringing them cake won't help you either.
Ok, I might be all fine and independent when I am here in Germany, living my own life for real. However, when I have a visit with my family, not much is worse than the last goodbye at the airport knowing that you won't see them again for sometimes more than 6 months. The pain is real and so are the cost of the flight tickets.
Your whole life you are used to having the sidewalk to yourself, then you move to Germany, and you have to remember to always look both ways before crossing those dangerous red lines on the sidewalk. If you don't look, sure enough, a speedy Gonzales bicyclist is heading your way ready to knock you out. Thank goodness for bike bells!
A German daily diet is quite different to a North Americans. It is actually quite backwards - German breakfast consists of bread rolls, cheese, deli meats and usually a boiled egg. Lunch is usually 'warm' and similar to what a North American would eat for dinner. Dinner could be again 'Abendbrot' (Evening Bread) which is a thicker bread with a selection of again, meats, cheese and sometimes egg. It's quite simple really, but for me the constant eating of bread and cheese has really done a toll on me. It's so good though, I can't say no.
Germans aren't simple, neither is their language. They even have multiple versions of 'The', which change depending what you are talking about, or maybe just how they feel. I would be fluent in German by now if it wasn't for the confusing grammar which makes it way too intimidating to speak.
Germany is a cash country. I don't know why, but I expect it has something to do with the 'high' taxes. Don't think you can just whip out your credit card everywhere. Most small shops, cafes & restaurants do not take card. If you're out with friends, and there is no ATM around, it can be a big night ruiner or you might not even be able to get home.
Prosecco used to be a classy thing to drink when you felt like spending a few dollars, now it comes in the form of Rotkäppchen Sekt. This is the drink that works for anything. At 3 euro a pop, It's great for all occasions and goes with everything, even cake.
At home in Canada, clubs close at 2 am, lights are on and everyone has to leave. Here in Germany, going out is different. You can drink on the streets, you can take cocktails and beers 'to-go' and the lights never go on. You can stay all night and all day - some people stay the whole weekend.
German cuisine is very traditional, contains a lot of meat, and questionable meat items. I've become very adventurous and have even found things called 'Meat Salad' appetising, but 'Leberwurst (Liver Wiener)' that's still a nope.
Christmas in Germany is Christmas on steroids. German Christmas Markets are these magical places where everyone goes to eat delicious food, drink Glühwein (Mulled Wine), and shop for useless gifts in beautifully decorated and lit up markets. They are everywhere in the cities from late November to end of December, and they are amazing. There are copies of these now popping up in North America, but they can't compete.
In Germany when it rains, it pours. It's time to embrace it. The rain sucks, but we have to suck it up and make the most out of it. Get a cute raincoat, some rain boots, and a fancy umbrella. You and the rain will look better together.
Everything is closed on Sundays in Germany except for museums, cafes and restaurants. A German tradition is to eat 'Kaffee und Kuchen' (Coffee and Cake) with friends or family in the later afternoon or go out for food if you forgot to buy groceries. Cake here comes in many varieties and you won't be judged if you have more than one piece. It will probably be your lunch replacement. Yes, this is the second Tina Fay meme.
Going to parties in Germany is fun, the only things that are not fun are saying 'Hi' to every person at the party when you enter and shaking their hands and introducting yourself. I've tried to just say one big 'Hey' to everyone, but I wasn't really popular after that.
When I finally found other Expat friends, my life here radically changed. Normally a lot of expats are here for the same reasons, whether it is work, life or love - It's definitely easier to find things in common, and know the same struggles of the day to day life of being an expat in Germany. They may not be your friends at home, but the friends I made here are just as important relationships and make #expatlife a whole lot better.
Expat life in Germany has its good sides and bad sides. Everything I've learned and noticed has made me grow into a different person, one who chooses to understand and appreciate another culture, but also be able to laugh at their silliness and my weirdness compared to them. I've realised no one is normal and every country you're living in you will always be different than everyone else. It's what you choose to do while your there, and how you will make the best situation out of it. Whether its to find new life passions, advance your career, hide in your room, or find new friends, embrace your weirdness, as that's what makes you, you.
All the best,
All memes made by travelsbyteslin.
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