I received a reminder in my inbox today from my co-blogger Hyde calling to my attention that I had missed my Monday deadline to post here on the German Way blog. This was another casualty of my most recent move. In case you haven’t been keeping up with my personal expat saga, my family and I just moved to Essen in North Rhine Westphalia having left the small Swabian city, Aalen, where we had lived a total of seven years as a family. Continue reading
I have moved a lot in Germany. Like 6 times in a year a lot. This is mostly due to poor planning, short-term sublets and an inability to commit to things like buying a full kitchen (welcome to my madness), but the positive byproduct is that we got really good at moving on the cheap.
As we initially moved to Berlin with just two suitcases, it was possible to make our moves purely by public transport. Nervous about our limbs simply falling off during these moves, we limited our purchases and kept our possessions down to 2 or three loads …at first. But, inevitably, we managed to accumulate more and more until our hobo moving method was no longer an option.
Despite not being military or part of any diplomatic corps, my family and I move frequently. We moved in 2010, and then in 2012 – not counting the two additional moves within the same town from one temporary flat to another and then into the house we bought, and now we are moving again later this year. We’ve been trying to declutter to avoid moving unpacked boxes from one house to the next, but we realized that we had to finally close out and submit our damage claim from our big move in 2012 before we moved again in 2014.
We had delayed submitting the claim because as mentioned before, we had moved several times in 2012 and decided to wait till we had received all of our things from the move from America to Germany to submit one big claim. In retrospect, that probably wasn’t the best idea. In fact, what I took away from the experience is that it is best to submit the claim as soon as possible while you are still feeling incensed that your beloved leather dining sofa has never-before-seen cuts in parts of the leather or a favorite side table now has three legs less.
So goes the life of an expat hockey-wife, I am once again preparing to move to a new land. This move is one like no other as it is taking my husband and me to the most foreign place we will have ever lived: Russia.
After six years in Germany and Switzerland, I really feel like I am leaving a home. Though I have lived in three different cities over that time, the constant German-speaking bubble that I have traveled within has provided me with a level of comfort, continuity, and confidence that I grew very fond of. Now I am again starting at square one. I will once again be the new kid on the block, the one who will need help with everything, who will be nervous and unsure, and at times frustrated and embarrassed. I will once again feel that gut-deep feeling of homesickness, but this time it will be for two homes; one I know I will be returning to as I have each summer, and another, my German-speaking bubble, which I may never return to again.
The friends we left behind in London all had one thing in common – their desire to get themselves on the property ladder. Had we stayed I suspect we would have started hunting around for somewhere to buy in just the same way. It is simply what you do when you’re a young professional in the UK and if you don’t you worry you’re going to be left behind, you’ve not made it, that you’re destined to be one of those unsuccessful people who only ever rents a flat.
What a surprise then to move to Germany where being ‘only’ tenants instead of homeowners does not come with such class associations. That Germany has the lowest rate of homeownership in the EU has been written about elsewhere on this blog. What I am interested in here, is how this phenomenon effects the experience as an expat of first finding a flat to rent and then living in a rented flat in Germany in contrast to the experience in the UK. Continue reading
You’ll have to accept my apology for the delay in this post, but I have been busy sorting my rubbish. As those of you know, thanks to previous posts by Hyde and Ruth, this is serious business here in Germany. I am reacquainting myself with what goes in the Gelber Sack (yellow bag), Biomuell (not to be confused with Compost), and Restmuell (anything else).
You can purchase and sort with strategy in order to reduce your consumption, eliminate some of your clutter and save some money. First off, I would recommend to any Americans preparing to move to Germany to take the time to sort through your things there. Take advantage of the convenience of your rubbish being collected frequently and of the tax benefit for donating things. You will avoid the cost and hassle of having to do so in Germany. It is likely that you will be moving into a smaller place anyway so downsizing your things will pay off in the end. The hassle in waiting for the next paper pick up, now that your container is bulging with all of your back issues of untouched In Style magazines will be eliminated. And don’t forget the tax advantage of getting a receipt for your donation to your local American library, where you could have unloaded those back issues. Continue reading
We have now arrived in Toronto and are busy setting up our new house. Like any move, this one has had its share of surprises, including our air freight sitting in Germany for two weeks because the movers forgot about it. Flexibility is key, and a very long fuse… so far I have managed both quite well, and have just a few more days (hopefully!) until our big container arrives with the bulk of our things, including all the furniture.
As we have explored our new city and found our bearings, we have of course scoped out a few locations that make us feel happy and connected to “home”. That has become a relative term for me, as my upbringing was in the Pacific Northwest in the US but my adult life has been spent in Europe. I am a terrible foreigner, I pick and choose all the things I want to retain from my home culture, and I am equally selective about what I integrate from my host culture. I’m definitely not all-or-nothing when adapting, constantly seeking a balance between retaining my own identity – cultural and individual – and blending in with those around me. I never was very good at fitting into a group…
We’ve returned to the Fatherland after the grueling process of packing up and moving a household of a family of five. We drove six hours from San Diego to Las Vegas listening to Die Zaueberfloete non-stop. We saturated in ueber-Americana for three days on The Strip. We flew eleven hours from Vegas to Frankfurt. We we drove three hours from Frankfurt to the tiny dwelling called Haeusles outside of Mitwitz which is nestled in Frankenwald (the Forest of Franconia) for a few weeks of decompression. Continue reading