What does your everyday look like? Describe the scene of your happiest moment of every day.
Scene: Hamburg, Germany
Protagonist: A 37 year old Aussie who is 18 months into her expat journey.
My alarm goes off at 7:45am. That’s much later than my wake-up time in Sydney, but here I don’t start work until 9:30am. I eat breakfast and check my email but I’m nervous. Nervous because I’m riding my bike to work today. Even though the bike paths for the most part are on the footpath, I’m still a little shaken from my accident (yes, I was hit by a car riding on the footpath) and the fact that I’m a pathetic bike rider (this fact has nothing to do with being hit by car). Unlike Germans who seem to be put on a bike straight after they demonstrate an ability to walk, I didn’t really ride all that much when I lived in Australia. Therefore I lack their grace and ease being on two wheels.
I make it to work unscathed and without pissing anyone off with my slow bike riding. Work here in Germany is pretty much the same as work in Australia, mainly cause I’m working for the same company. The only difference is is that I get emails in German and sometimes Dutch. In the past 18 months, I’ve learnt to decipher German emails and I can sometimes make a pretty good try at the Dutch ones too. My German customers still refuse to speak to me on the phone in English, even though their written English is perfect. Fortunately, the rest of Europe doesn’t have a problem talking with me otherwise my phone would never ring.
I chat to my 2 other work colleagues in a mixture of German and English. The poor guys I work with are champions when it comes to putting up with my attempts to speak German. They say my German is getting better but there are times when I think they are just humouring me.
We go out to a restaurant for lunch every day. Today it’s Italian and for just €5.50 I get a gorgeous Pasta with Wildschweinen (wild pig) ragout. I manage to order lunch in German without any problems. The fact I can do this still makes me insanely happy even after 18 months of living in Germany.
The afternoon is spent writing tech documents, talking to my UK manager, arguing with my tech director who is based in Sweden and having a video conference call between my office in Hamburg, Stockholm and New York. I feel like I truly live in the future.
At 6pm my work day is over. I get back on my bike and cycle home, clocking up a 10km ride for the day. Thanks to the fact that they seem to be digging up half of Hamburg at the moment, I seem to walk my bike more than I ride it. I get home at 6:50pm, shit I’m late. I need to do my laundry tonight, but I’m not allowed to run my washing machine or my dishwasher after 8pm Monday-Saturday and not at all on Sundays. My wash cycle takes 1 hour and 13 mins. This means that my washing machine will be running for 5 mins after 8pm. I worry that my neighbours will complain, cause even though my neighbours are lovely people, Germans are well known for their ability to stick to the rules and point out any slight deviation.
With my washing on, I sit down to watch TV. I’ve recently made a pact with myself that I am no longer allowed to watch CNN (the only thing on in English here), only German TV in an effort to improve my ability to understand spoken German. The only exception to this rule is watching IDesk on Mondays & Fridays. The rest of the week I’m either in German class (Tuesdays & Thursdays) or Improv (Wednesdays) with my city’s English theatre company.
I book a long weekend in London online for late April to meet up with some Aussie friends who are travelling through Europe but are unable to make it to Hamburg. I wince at the cost but remind myself that since the cost of living in Germany is so much cheaper than it was in Australia that I have some money saved up and also it has been ages since I’ve had a holiday.
Dinner is Vegemite and cheese on toast – a taste of home. I make a mental note to buy some Vegemite when I’m in London as my supply is a little low. The rest of my evening will be spent watching German TV whilst studying for the final part of my German exam (writing) that takes place tomorrow night.
At around 9:30pm, I will retire to bed with a German children’s book to help improve my reading and vocabulary. Learning German is almost a full-time job especially for someone like me who is not good at learning languages, however, to me, it is worth it. The opportunity to learn a second language is why I jumped at the chance to be relocated here.
Life in Germany is far different to life in Sydney, even when you take the language barrier out of the equation. It seems like there is a different way of doing almost everything you can think of from from taking the garbage out (it has to be pre-sorted first) to even walking down the street (walk on the right hand side & whatever you do don’t walk in the bike lane). But I wouldn’t swap my life here for anything in the world. I’m loving the challenge (although I do complain from time to time) of adapting to German life and learning a different way of living. It has given me a new passion for life.