December 21, 2010

Six Months In: A Proper Update of The Experience Thus Far

I have officially been in Germany for six months. I am halfway finished with this crazy adventure and it’s hard to believe that there’s still half of the experience left to explore. It feels like it’s all gone by so fast and before I can even comprehend what has transpired, I feel like it will be all over and I’ll be on that 10 AM flight back to California. The last six months of my life have been incredible and I wouldn’t trade this experience for any other. I hope that the next six months will be just as amazing.

I sometimes find myself thinking back on my first few days here, and even the days before arriving in Munich, and it feels so far away. It was all so surreal – I couldn’t believe that I had actually done it or that any of it was even real. As long as I’d been alive, I’d never saw myself as the girl who got to go to Europe to live this big fancy adventure in a foreign place. I always believed that my life was average, mediocre, uneventful. It turns out that your life will be this way if you don’t do something to change it. When I was 17, I was that girl who thought she wasn’t smart enough to go to college but then I took a chance and tried and six years later, I graduated cum laude from a four year university. This decision worked the same way. I thought I was just going to be another college graduate, out there swimming in a sea of indecision, but I thought, “You know what? Not yet.” And I did something about it. I researched, I followed through, I paid attention. And now, I’m here, living one of the greatest adventures of my life.

Of course, it has been difficult at times. Most everything that comes with this Germany experience has been good but there’s always a down side to some. It was very hard to walk away from my independent, 20-something lifestyle to become the pseudo-slave for a well-to-do German woman. It’s even harder to live in a house with an entire family – where you can’t get away and even when you do, you know that you still have to come back… eventually. I’ve been homesick on occasion. And sometimes it’s an ache that lasts for days. I often miss my family and my closest friends, the comfort of my past life, the convenience of being so close to everything and everyone. It’s been easy to adjust to a social culture that centers on beer and drinking revelry. Of course, having just come from five years of college, I fit into this culture quite well but there are many times when I find myself in stupid situations and there have been many a morning where I am embarrassed of the events of the night before. I usually try to justify this behavior as just ‘part of the experience’ – a result of this ‘phase’ of my life – but sometimes it can overwhelm me. I know that I won’t take anything too seriously until the consequences have caught up with me, which is always a risk, but, so far, things are good and I don’t want to hold myself back from this experience. There’s always a few quiet days in between before things liven up again but in the end, despite the worry and some questionable morals, I have yet to seriously regret anything.

The best part about being here is having amazing friends to share the experience with. I never imagined that I would make such wonderful friends and I consider myself extremely blessed to have fallen in with the friends that I’ve made since arriving here. We’ve all come together through various ways and connections, whether it be through work or local communities, but we all fit together so well in the end. We’ve bonded over day trips that turned into overnight adventures. We’ve bonded over high spirits and drunken shenanigans during Oktoberfest. We’ve spent days and nights together attending dinner parties, birthday celebrations, club nights, summer music festivals, movie marathons, whatever else. In every phase of my life I’ve managed to make lifelong friends and I don’t consider this experience to be any different. I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life knowing these people and having so many diverse places to visit and enjoy.

I took most of these pictures off of Facebook, from my own albums or friends, and they’re just a few of my favorites. I have so much photographic evidence of the good times I’m having here. It’s hard not to want to post them all, all the time. I can’t wait to put together my future scrapbooks!

40698_1455334436347_1622910047_1066122_147429_nWe didn’t know then that we would actually be under water, hypothetically, as we missed our last train and spent half of the night on the floor of a sold-out hostel…

40970_524462351920_83900390_31049193_5793334_nThursday nights, hanging out with the girls have been some of the best!

39509_524396803280_83900390_31047156_6782136_nHelen is the reason why I’m even here in Germany and she’s my oldest friend in Munich. But whenever I am with her – I am laughing. The girl has a gift for that and this picture makes me laugh everytime. Only Helen and I could make this look good!

58625_525756134170_83900390_31087223_583033_nYou can’t really be in Bavaria without tract wear. This was one of the first nights we went out as a group in ours and we had so much fun!

72580_1617839575794_1530510596_1546693_4919334_nLauren has been such a wonderful friend – my fellow California girl – and I can’t wait to hang out with her at Disneyland!

33798_466339604146_676989146_5763489_1515318_nTiago and Jessica are the two friends that I made during my first week here in Munich
and I adore both of them.

39315_524253485490_83900390_31041793_4577576_n
Jessica, of course. She’s my best friend here in Munich and I will miss her
being in the city with me, always waiting patiently for her to return!

Culturally, I’ve learned so much about this new and different place. Coming here I knew little to no German. Sometimes I still feel inadequate but I’m also proud of myself for what I have learned given the fact that I’ve relied only on immersion. I have yet to take a language course and although I don’t feel like I need to take one for any future benefit, I’m excited to do it to pass the time, to have something cool to do, to be able to converse with the locals. If even for a few short months. I can say things to get by – I can order food and drinks and answer very general, basic questions. I can introduce myself. I can count to almost any number. I can recognize some responses such as “For here or to go?” or “Would you like a bag?” And believe me, that took a long time, too. I can read maps and most directions. I can buy train tickets and ask for directions. In most cases, anyway. It can only improve from here on and I’m excited to find out what I’ll know when I’m done.

The food in Germany is amazing. I don’t think I’d ever consciously eaten German food before I’d come here. Bratwursts are a given cuisine, of course, and they are wonderful. I keep telling everyone that it doesn’t matter how many times I’ve had one, whenever I see one, I always want it. And the French fries in Germany are, by far, my favorite. For some reason, they are just so much better than in America. I love them. Some might say I am addicted to them. Whenever my friends and I go out for Bavarian food, I always try to get something new. We don’t do it very often but when we do, I’m never disappointed. Their pork roasts are delicious. And the potatoes – in any shape or form – are always amazing. I’m looking forward to buying a Bavarian cookbook and bringing it back to California with me so that I can keep eating all of this delicious food and on my own time. My future husband will be a lucky man! He’ll eat like a true Bavarian! I can’t wait to get up to northern Germany and try the food there. Of course, they still have old favorites like McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC, and Pizza Hut. But even those taste better here!

35912_522551077130_83900390_30980526_1384053_nBeer braised pork, with potato pancakes, and saurkraut. YUM.

35577_522714195240_83900390_30986825_4247090_nPommes and bratwurst with sweet mustard.

37720_523755363730_83900390_31024782_6124944_nGerman baked goods. Bakeries in Germany are AMAZING.

38927_523755463530_83900390_31024789_2965909_n


As far as the German people are concerned, I have a few impressions. I haven’t made many German friends – mostly because the community that I am in is made up of mostly English speakers – and because I tend to find that Germans, thus far, are fairly unfriendly. This is a massive stereotype, I know, but I’m just going off of what I’ve experienced thus far. I have one, maybe two, German friends and I rarely meet any German people that stick around. What I know of German people comes from my daily interactions with them. The unfriendly ones who don’t return the smile when you pass by them on the street. The ones who stare at you on the train. The ones who walk right into on the street and then scowl at you because it is, apparently, your fault. The ones who tell you how horrible you are for living in Germany and not knowing German. The most interaction that I have with German people is through the family that I live with. The entire family is fluent in English, which is especially impressive for the two girls who are only six and a half. The family speaks in German for the most part, unless they’re interacting with me, and every once in a while we eat German food. The mother, of course, has all of her German mannerisms and quirks, but they’re endearing, to say the least. Sometimes a bit hard to understand but eventually I catch on or just concede. It will be interesting when I’m back in the US and not surrounded by Germans. I think I’ll really notice the difference then!

As far as my job is concerned, I’ve come to learn a few things through this work experience. I am definitely reconsidering a future in childcare and am looking more so towards education or child development areas. It’s very hard to take care of someone else’s children, especially when you’re not given specific guidelines on how the parent wants you to deal with them. This has been one of my most challenging parts of this job – trying to balance what is expected of me and what I think needs to be done. They often conflict and that’s just part of the territory when you’re working side by side with a parent who raises their children in a way that you might not agree with. I don’t necessarily think that the girls are receiving bad parenting but there are often times when I want to intervene, when I think that my input or help could help her manage them, but I hold my tongue most of the time. It’s hard to know when your opinions or advice are wanted, especially when the parent comes from a completely different culture and background than you. I love the children that I care for, they are wonderful girls but we have our days, just like any other nanny-charge relationship. They scream and cry more than is necessary for two children on their way to seven and they get away with it which makes future tantrums even worse and always unmanageable. They come out it fairly quickly but it still frustrates me when it happens, which is much more often than it should. I enjoy interacting with them, playing and helping them perfect their English. They love to color and draw and sing songs and read books. They’re sweet little girls and I hope that they keep this part of their hearts and grow up to be respectful and decent young women.

DSCN5768Au pair Heather with Eenie and Vee

DSCN5464My little monkey girls

As much as I love this experience, I keep trying to tell myself that I am not wasting my college degree – despite the fact that I keep trying to convince myself that I am. This year abroad is going to be killer on my resume, especially if I hope to work as a nanny for the next few years. And I am gaining experience not only in work related fields but also in life – especially when it comes to parenting and perspectives on raising my own future, hypothetical children. I am doing something in an experience related field which is not a waste but with my job responsibilities and the endless amounts of free time that I have, it’s hard to not feel like I’m wasting something. I’m really, really overqualified for this position but I’ve taken to looking at it in a more optimistic manner. I took this opportunity before I had to start my real life. Who knows when I’ll have the time to travel and see the world? Or least bigger parts of it, anyway. I will someday start my career and settle down and have a family and experiences like this will be few and far between. I’m grateful that the timing of my life provided me this opportunity. My last year of college came and I thought to myself, “What the heck do I want to do with me life?” I had no idea. I figured this was a good place to start in searching for that answer. I may fall behind in my debts and lose a little bit of what I learned in college but I have the rest of my life to catch up. I want to hold onto that ideal and live by it. You only live once – I want to enjoy the ‘right now’ and take my life as it comes to me, piece by piece.

I hope to enjoy the next six months and to take home with me every precious memory and ever blessed experience. This can’t last forever, even if sometimes I wish it would, and I will make the most of every minute that is left.

4 comments:

naomichronicles said...

I can hardly believe you've been there for six months already! I remember beginning to read your blog shortly after you arrived there. Sorry I've been slacking on the reading part but I always look forward to the awesome photos you share. I really hope to be able to visit Germany sometime next year. *cross fingers* One can only hope. I'm sure the next six months are going to be amazing!

~Naomi

McGriddle Pants said...

I only hope that you've been kept up to date on our Ridiculous videos....

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lQlIhraqL7o

watch now my young fraulein!!

Alena said...

I'm glad you keep things in perspective! It's hard, sometimes, not to be jealous that you are off experiencing the world while I'm stuck in rural Wyoming, but I keep my own life in perspective too - I may have the most un-adventurous life EVER, but I have a wonderful husband, and that makes up for everything :) I do hope, though, to someday get to do a little exploring of my own. Life is all about give and take.

Talya said...

Hi there,

Your blog is really great! I have been in Germany six months too, and this is my second time around. I worked as an au pair ten years ago, but am back now as a "professional" (ha!) employee. While it is more difficult now than as an au pair (more challenges, more bills to pay, my OWN children to take care of!), I still love the country an enjoy being here immensely.

Thanks for sharing your experience!

Talya

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