Sunday, June 17, 2012

Stream of Consciousness Sunday - Culture shock is a strange beast


Tonight I was talking with a friend about life in Germany and said to him, "culture shock is a strange beast" and so goes the title of this post. Well, here it is. The second stage of culture shock. Yep, it's called the "Negotiation stage" where everything that is different suddenly seems very different. Things that seemed cute at first suddenly become irritating. You get homesick, frustrated and upset more easily and find yourself shutting people out at times. It's like the stages of grief in that you don't always feel everything in the exact order that they predict and you often have mini stages of all of them at times. Also, everyone experiences culture shock to varying degrees. I know I still love Germany and all the wonderful things I have experienced so far are still clear in my mind, but I have felt the reality of living here, of living abroad, of being far from the comforts of home, of feeling like I'm not making progress in my new language...all of it feels like it's in my face right now. I almost feel like I want to give up on speaking German because every time I do someone either corrects me or laughs. I want the language to be easier. I want to be able to talk to anyone about anything. I want to connect. I know I'm lucky because so many people speak my language here and there are so many great expats that I am friends with already, which helps a lot, but it is hard to feel like you are on the outside of a culture and that you can't communicate what you really want to say. I know I will not give up on German and that eventually I will see the progress I've made, but it's just one of those days, one of those weeks. It's the negotiation phase. Next stop - the adjustment phase. Really hope I don't have to wait six months for that one like Wikipedia tells me....;)



This was my 5 minute Stream of Consciousness Sunday post. It’s five minutes of your time and a brain dump. Want to try it? Here are the rules…

1. Set a timer and write for 5 minutes.
2. Write an intro to the post if you want but don’t edit the post. No proofreading or spellchecking. This is writing in the raw.
3. Publish it somewhere. Anywhere. The back door to your blog if you want. But make it accessible.
4. Add the Stream of Consciousness Sunday badge to your post.
5. Link up your post. 6. Visit your fellow bloggers and show some love.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Stream of Consciousness Sunday - Old habits die hard


One of the things that many travelers hope for is a renewal of self when we move to another country. We hope that somehow, magically we will shed all things old and become all things new. This is true to some extent, but in the past week or two I've been reminded that old habits die hard. That in order to reinvent yourself you have to work hard at it. It's anything but magic. The magic comes from having the guts to be out of your comfort zone and somewhere new and experiencing those travel moments where everything is new and exciting and special. But, since I started working full time again a few weeks ago I have been going non-stop and suddenly I realized - I have just the slightest tendency (okay maybe a big one) to overdo it. Last week in my Sunday post I talked about balancing work and life. This is sort of a continuation of this theme. Somehow I think I can do everything and still take care of myself. I just love so many things, I love people, I want to give my all to all of it. I want to be good (or even great) at everything I do. I want to be the perfect friend, the perfect girlfriend, the best blogger, the perfect aunt, the best market research decoder (my latest new job), the best English teacher etc. etc. But you know what? You can't do it all. Or at least you can't do it all and not completely crash at some point. You can't make everyone happy either. You gotta make you happy. You have to be okay with saying no to things, disappointing people, letting a few things go. It's okay. Just always remember, "Wherever you go, there you are."



This was my 5 minute Stream of Consciousness Sunday post. It’s five minutes of your time and a brain dump. Want to try it? Here are the rules…

1. Set a timer and write for 5 minutes.
2. Write an intro to the post if you want but don’t edit the post. No proofreading or spellchecking. This is writing in the raw.
3. Publish it somewhere. Anywhere. The back door to your blog if you want. But make it accessible.
4. Add the Stream of Consciousness Sunday badge to your post.
5. Link up your post. 6. Visit your fellow bloggers and show some love.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Sunday Stream of Consciousness: Work - how do we find that perfect balance in life?


So for two weeks now I've been back to the 9-5(ish) working life and I have to say I have mixed feelings about it all. I've been thinking about work a lot lately, what I want to do in that area, what structure makes me happy, how we balance work and life and still do everything we hope to do. There is something about working in a foreign country when you're there for the experience that definitely makes work more enjoyable. It becomes a cultural experience as well, it doesn't feel so....serious somehow even though I still work just as hard as I do back home. I'm lucky enough to be working with a very nice group of expats and that makes it a lot of fun, but suddenly having my days structured, my free time taken after a wonderful three month break has been challenging. How are people supposed to balance it all? How do they do it? I don't even have a partner or kids to worry about and yet I never seem to have the time I need to get everything done. And I want to do so much. I want to be blogging so much more. I want to keep traveling tons and blogging about these travels. I want to be improving my photography skills. I want to finish writing the novel I started. I want to cook wonderful creative and healthy meals every night and try new recipes all the time. I want to work out every day and join a sports team. I want to play my saxophone in a band again. I want to keep teaching English as well as working for a market research company during the day, plus take on private students and also study German intensively. I want to spend time with people. I want to get to know Hamburg much better. I want to talk to people back home and write to them consistently. I want to volunteer for a worthy cause. I want to climb mountains. I want to ski. I want to run a half marathon. Phew....I'm exhausted just writing this all. I love so many things in life. I have many passions and many things that are important to me. So when I come home from a day of work and German class and I'm exhausted and can just barely find some food and then collapse for a few hours and I don't get any more done, I feel mad at myself. But then, this is life. You can only do so much. What is the answer to all this? What is the magical balance?
This was my 5 minute Stream of Consciousness Sunday post. It’s five minutes of your time and a brain dump. Want to try it? Here are the rules…

1. Set a timer and write for 5 minutes.
2. Write an intro to the post if you want but don’t edit the post. No proofreading or spellchecking. This is writing in the raw.
3. Publish it somewhere. Anywhere. The back door to your blog if you want. But make it accessible.
4. Add the Stream of Consciousness Sunday badge to your post.
5. Link up your post. 6. Visit your fellow bloggers and show some love.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Stream of Consciousness Sunday - Berlin vs. Hamburg


My head is filled with the events of this weekend. My first weekend in Berlin. My first weekend attending a blogging conference in Europe. My first time seeing so many historical places that I've read about. My first time being surrounded by so many fashionable European women all in one place. I went to Berlin for the Hive blogging conference which my sister Holly told me about when I moved to Germany. The thing about Europe is that everyone has a story and often has about ten different countries they've lived in or are from and ten different languages they speak. This is the norm here. It's a different mentality. It's one of the things I love about Europe. Berlin is in your face about this. Hamburg is very multicultural but less edgy. I feel like Berlin hit me smack in the face and didn't let up the whole time I was there. I feel the dirt of the streets, the grittiness of this huge, artsy, funky, new centre of Europe. I feel that I was experiencing multiple levels of culture shock that I'm still processing. I love Germany so far. I love the frank honesty of Germans. I love the high quality of everything. I feel like Hamburg is polished whereas Berlin likes to be unpolished. Each city with its own unique set of admirers and adorers. Each passionate in their own ways. I want to experience Berlin more, I want to visit every historical site. I want to feel the weight of a city that was divided for so long. But I feel my comfort zone, my happy place now lies in Hamburg. Hamburg is my Vancouver abroad, but much cheaper...although sadly without the mountains.
This was my 5 minute Stream of Consciousness Sunday post. It’s five minutes of your time and a brain dump. Want to try it? Here are the rules…

1. Set a timer and write for 5 minutes.
2. Write an intro to the post if you want but don’t edit the post. No proofreading or spellchecking. This is writing in the raw.
3. Publish it somewhere. Anywhere. The back door to your blog if you want. But make it accessible.
4. Add the Stream of Consciousness Sunday badge to your post.
5. Link up your post. 6. Visit your fellow bloggers and show some love.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Stream of Consciousness Sunday - Need a little humility? Just learn a new language!


Learning a new language in a new country has to be one of the most humbling experiences of my life. I have a new appreciation for people who are illiterate. I now know what it's like to try and read a sign and have no idea what it says. There have been some days in the past five weeks where I have felt like a five year old, starting all over again. And yet, when you do start to make progress it's one of the best feelings in the world. When one day I understand even just one word I didn't understand the day before, I'm proud. I was only able to study German for about six-eight weeks before I came to Germany (other than a brief stint back in high school) and although I have studied other languages and feel I'm a pretty competent language learner I felt and feel like an idiot many times a day.

I guess you could say that I'm lucky in that most Germans speak some English so when I'm stuck they will almost always switch into English and help me out, but on the other hand it doesn't force me to learn as quickly. Many Germans also love to practice and speak English so they will often switch just because they enjoy it too. If I had a penny for every time a German has said to me "Oh my English isn't so good" and then they speak to me in excellent English, well, I could have paid for my flight over here by now. In any case, although I know I'm slowly making progress it is the most frustrating feeling in the world not being able to communicate with someone. There is a Polish girl in my German class who seems very nice, but all we can do is speak to each other in basic German. There are only so many times you can say things like "Today it is sunny" and "We will bring bratwurst to the picnic" before the conversation kind of comes to a halt. I want to be fluent already, but I know it's going to take...well...A LOT of time, a lot of practice, a lot of patience and a huge buckets full of courage and humility. I have so much respect for people who move to countries where they don't speak a word of the language and yet somehow get by. I've had support here and yet there are still days and moments where I feel entirely helpless and isolated due to my lack of German skills. There are days I just want a website to be in English so much it hurts. And yet, I'm also grateful for this. I'm grateful for German dubbing that makes me watch movies and TV shows auf Deutsch. I'm grateful for websites that aren't translated into English...it's forcing me to learn. And maybe in six months from now I will be able to read the news on the TVs on the trains and understand every word. Here's hoping.
This was my 5 minute Stream of Consciousness Sunday post. It’s five minutes of your time and a brain dump. Want to try it? Here are the rules…

1. Set a timer and write for 5 minutes.
2. Write an intro to the post if you want but don’t edit the post. No proofreading or spellchecking. This is writing in the raw.
3. Publish it somewhere. Anywhere. The back door to your blog if you want. But make it accessible.
4. Add the Stream of Consciousness Sunday badge to your post.
5. Link up your post.
6. Visit your fellow bloggers and show some love.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Stream of Consciousness Sunday - Facebook envy and our online lives


What do we really know about someone's life? I've been thinking about social media lately and the effect it has had and will continue to have on our lives as it grows and develops. I remember reading something recently about something jokingly called “Facebook envy”, about how we can present our lives in one light on social media very easily. How people can interpret us as having either perhaps a perfect and wonderful life with nothing wrong or the worst life ever if all we post all the bad things that happen. I've been thinking about this as I travel, as I start fresh in a new country, as I post pictures and stories of my adventures. I keep worrying that people will think that every day is perfect and wonderful and that travel and living abroad is easy and always fun. I think those who have lived abroad realize that's not really the case, but I think about it anyways as I put my life, my photos, my stories out there. I think about being real, about really telling the story, about staying true and authentic, yet positive and appreciative of each moment. I think it's a fine balance. I think there's nothing quite like this experience to make you dig deep and really put yourself out there to the world. But you know, it's okay to have bad days. It's okay if Facebook doesn't always present the true story of our lives. No matter where someone is at, whether traveling, living abroad, living at home, having a baby, getting married, getting divorced, we can never assume anything about someone else's life. So, where will social media lead us? How transparent should our lives truly be? Where is the balance in this new world of electronic record keeping? I guess we'll see! Like I'm saying all the time these days...if nothing else, it'll be an adventure!
This was my 5 minute Stream of Consciousness Sunday post. It’s five minutes of your time and a brain dump. Want to try it? Here are the rules…

1. Set a timer and write for 5 minutes.
2. Write an intro to the post if you want but don’t edit the post. No proofreading or spellchecking. This is writing in the raw.
3. Publish it somewhere. Anywhere. The back door to your blog if you want. But make it accessible.
4. Add the Stream of Consciousness Sunday badge to your post.
5. Link up your post.
6. Visit your fellow bloggers and show some love.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Stream of Consciousness Sunday - moving to a new country

So I arrived in Germany two weeks ago today. New country, new language, new living situation, new food, new drink, new...almost everything. My last day of work before my leave also happened to be two months ago today. It's a strange thing to pack up one suitcase and leave your life behind and go to a place where you can completely re-create yourself and your life. And yet, wherever you go...there you are, right? It's true. I think that the essence of ourselves shines brightly when we are put in a new situation. That means the good, the bad and the ugly, but also the amazing. It's like throwing yourself into the deep end of the pool, shouting out for a life preserver because you feel like you're drowning, but then suddenly realizing, hey this water is warm and I like swimming. Oh yah.

A friend of mine told me that highs and lows of travel and living abroad are what make it such a rich experience. Your highs make you want to sing on top of a mountain like Julie Andrews. Your lows make you want to drown your sorrows in great German beer and then jump on a plane home where everybody knows your name and you don't have to think hard before ordering food. And yet, would any of us trade an experience like this? Of course not. You grow and you grow...much faster than at home. Sure, at home is easier, comfortable, safe, cozy, you're loved. But I'm learning you can be loved anywhere. You just gotta throw yourself in. Let yourself feel it all and then just walk. Walk and walk and explore and discover and let yourself be foreign. Let yourself be stupid and make dumb mistakes. Who cares? They don't know you. You can always use the line "I'm foreign." Works every time...mostly.



This was my 5 minute Stream of Consciousness Sunday post. It’s five minutes of your time and a brain dump. Want to try it? Here are the rules…

1. Set a timer and write for 5 minutes.
2. Write an intro to the post if you want but don’t edit the post. No proofreading or spellchecking. This is writing in the raw.
3. Publish it somewhere. Anywhere. The back door to your blog if you want. But make it accessible.
4. Add the Stream of Consciousness Sunday badge to your post.
5. Link up your post.
6. Visit your fellow bloggers and show some love.