Well. Today is my 365th day in Germany. The past year can only be described as a rollercoaster. There was the fun in getting here, finding an apartment, settling into said apartment. Then there was the 3 month hassle of plumbing issues with said apartment.
And though it’s been a rollercoaster ride and at times it felt like those fun stand up ones and others one that takes you thru the loops backwards, I don’t regret my decision to upheave my Vancouver life for the lands of Bavaria one bit.
Things I’m glad I enjoyed
- My dog having the time of her life living in Germany. Seriously. It’s like doggy paradise. She gets to go everywhere from restaurants to electronic shopping. Watching her adjust to being a German city dog has entertained me for hours on end. After a year, she’s even figured out that the automatic escalator is not akin to the gas chamber!
- Having an amazing, and I mean AMAZING social circle. In a year’s time, I have no shortage of friends or social activities to choose from. Without them, I’d be curled up into a ball under my bed afraid to expose myself to the big bad german world
- Exploring anything within 500km of me. Coming from Canada, where if you drive 500km, you’re still in the same province, I enjoy the fact that if I drive 500km East, West or South I can be in several different countries. And by several, it’s probably like 8 or 9.
- I have the BEST and I mean best hairdresser. I’ve never loved my hair so much. And to think, it’s only taken me 38 and 11/12 years! (it’s the small things we have to appreciate)
Things that have pushed me to the edge
- German bureaucracy. Seriously. I don’t know where this country got the myth of efficiency, but it couldn't be further from the truth.
- The Franconian mentality. I live in a part of Bavaria that’s called Franconia. The best I can surmise it is a region that wanted to be it’s own region, but instead is part of another. In Canada, the closest we have is Quebec. They don’t want to be part of Canada, but grudgingly accept it. Franconia is like that, except 1/100th of the size and they (arguably) speak the same language. Even Germans call the Franconians cold and unfriendly. Most of my neighbors appear to be from Franconia because
- As an auslander (foreigner), I MUST be responsible for all of what’s wrong in Germany. And I’m lucky. At least I’m not a visible minority! And as long as I don’t open my mouth, I could be from around here. But as the only auslander in my building, I’m responsible for all that goes wrong. Storage locker break in and bike stolen? It must somehow lead back to me. Animal waste in the garden? Again, my fault (well, at least my dog’s, I like indoor plumbing too much). Those 5 cats that troll the garden? They’re franconian and would NEVER shit in the garden.
- “not my fault, not my problem, not my job” seriously. If there was ever a motto for Germany, it would be that. It’s amazing the deflection and shirking of responsibility that happens around here. I never considered myself a die hard capitalist, but I’m convinced this attitude is a remnant of socialism.
So, after a year can I say I “like” living in Germany? That’s a loaded question. I like 6 weeks vacation, I like living in Europe, I like that I can almost add a 4th language to my repertoire, I like my friends and I love that I can buy a bottle of prosecco for 1 euro. However, I despise the shirking of responsibility, the figuring out which hoops to jump thru (which, even if you know the language is a hassle), being verbally assaulted by people’s opinions because they’re having a bad day and even though you understand 90% of what they say, there’s no way you can verbalize a sarcastic, witty response back. I’m starting to learn there’s a REASON prosecco is 1 euro a bottle (because it helps after a bad day and considering the amount of bad days….)
A year ago, people would ask me “so, how long do you plan to stay in german” and my standard response was “well, indefinitely!”. After each month that passes, I now find myself saying “well, who knows, there are other places I’d like to try living and the sooner, the better!”
Even though the past year has been far tougher than I could ever bargain for, it’s given me a lot to be thankful for. Like the fact that I have a much tougher skin. A few weeks ago someone called me “a bloody cow” for daring to open my car door on the street. I smiled at them, gave them the finger and went on my merry way while they steamed off.
A friend of mine inspired me this morning and wrote me an email saying how she just listened to the Christina Aguilera song “fighter” and if she replaced one of the words to Germany, it was a perfect analogy. I completely concur. So thank you Germany.
'Cause GERMANY makes me that much stronger
Makes me work a little bit harder
GERMANY makes me that much wiser
So thanks for making me a fighter
Made me learn a little bit faster
Made my skin a little bit thicker
Makes me that much smarter
So thanks, GERMANY, for making me a fighter