Adjusting to Germany
So I didn’t really write this summer. I’ve been living with Andy in Freiburg since early July, and I definitely had enough I could’ve written about over the past two months. But everyone reacts differently to stress, and apparently this summer my way of dealing was to shut down. I spent the first couple of weeks dealing with minor physical ailments, registering with the city, getting my resident visa, picking a language school, and going furniture shopping with Andy. Even that felt like too much some days. My brain just didn’t want to function. Sometimes trying to decide on lunch was too much, and I found myself having a mini meltdown in a cafe while Andy ate his food and wondered, is she really crying because they didn’t have fries today?
A few weeks after I arrived, we decided we needed a weekend away to de-stress a little. After some research on destinations easily tackled in a weekend, we spent one night in Feldkirch, Austria, and then the next afternoon took a bus to Liechtenstein for a night. Both were really beautiful, and it was just the relaxing weekend we needed. Andy wrote two great posts about Liechtenstein, check them out here and here.
German class was stressful at first because of the way immersion classes are taught. It’s not like learning a foreign language in high school, where you learn the language from English. There are no direct translations in an immersion class. It’s supposed to force your brain to start working in the new language quicker, plus there would be no good way for them to pick a language to teach from. In any given week (I was enrolled for 4 weeks) my class ranged from 12 people down to 6 people, all from different countries. I was the only native English speaker. I had classmates from Spain, Mexico, Belarus, Poland, Switzerland, Italy, Sweden, and Brazil. Some of them did speak decent English, but I mostly tried to speak Spanish with the girl from Mexico and the 3 from Spain when we were outside of class or trying to help each other in class. After the first frustrating week of barely knowing what was going on, things did get easier though.
I went to lunch with people from school every so often, and one day when I asked some of my classmates about lunch, they said they were going to Strasbourg, France right after class. So I joined them. How awesome that I can just spontaneously go to France for 4 hours? Even if it did take us that long for the roundtrip train journey. The whole time we were there, I smiled at the oddity of going to France with people I met in a German class and speaking mostly Spanish.
Andy and I also went to Spain for a week for Tomatina. You can read more about that here and here, and I will have another post about Valencia coming soon. Andy and I both ended up getting sick towards the end of that trip, and spent the following week fighting sinus issues and fevers. We had plenty that needed to be done around the house (painting, organizing, a few remaining renovation-related things) but it has been unproductive.
So it hasn’t exactly been the summer I expected. But I think I’m slowly learning that expectations aren’t always good to have. Sometimes it’s better to go into something without any expectations. I think my summer would’ve been a lot less stressful if I went into it thinking, I have no idea what’s going to happen, let’s just see what comes my way. Although it does seem odd that I’m trying to embrace a more go-with-the-flow attitude in a country that puts a high value on planning and predictability. Stay tuned as I crawl out of my stress bubble.
You might also enjoy:
- Tales from a German Language School
- How to Throw Out Your Garbage in Germany
- Berlin International Restaurant Project: Laos
- On Living a Non-Traditional Life
September 19, 2011 @ 12:45 AM
Damned expectations – they’re always getting in the way! I’m glad you’re starting to settle in an figure out how this is going to look for you…just as you prepare to head out on another adventure! Well, the opposite of challenging is boring…I think you’re on the right track! Good luck.
September 19, 2011 @ 11:08 AM
Exactly, damned expectations! (I actually have a post in the works about this…) And you’re right, definitely not much boring in my life right now. Thanks Gillian!
September 19, 2011 @ 3:36 AM
Hang in there Alison your doing awesome!
September 19, 2011 @ 11:08 AM
September 19, 2011 @ 4:17 AM
I’m supper inspired by your giant leap… keep it rockin.
September 19, 2011 @ 11:08 AM
Thanks Nick! I hope to see you taking your own giant leap soon too!
September 19, 2011 @ 3:14 PM
“I smiled at the oddity of going to France with people I met in a German class and speaking mostly Spanish.” Lol, isn’t the world grand?
Glad you’re adjusting, though. I think I’d experience the same level of stress after being tossed into a foreign country to live.
September 19, 2011 @ 6:12 PM
Ha, definitely is! Thanks Candice!
Andi of My Beautiful Adventures
September 19, 2011 @ 4:03 PM
You radically changed your life, of course there is going to be growing pains, but it sounds like you’re handling them as well as you can! I wish you nothing but the absolute best in this new journey!!!
September 19, 2011 @ 6:12 PM
Thanks Andi, you’re so sweet!
September 20, 2011 @ 12:58 PM
A big life change like this was always going to take time, it isn’t just like extended travel, you actually have to adjust everything and as if that isn’t taxing enough on your brain you’re having to learn a new language in the mix! But I’m sure as soon as everything settles down you will find your groove and you will probably start doing things easily everyday without even realising it. That’s when you’ll know you’re a true expat 🙂
September 20, 2011 @ 6:16 PM
Thanks Julia! Things are definitely better than they were a couple months ago. I’m about to leave for a 5 month RTW, so I imagine there will be some more adjustment when I return to Germany but second try will be better!
September 20, 2011 @ 1:17 PM
Ahhh expectations how they get us so many times time & time again. I agree with everyone above you made huge changes so of course it will take time to adjust and to gorw into your new environment. The good thing is you are happy and making changes in your life that you know you will not regret in the future. Cheers to a mini break of Germany though as you travle the world soon…lol!!!
September 20, 2011 @ 6:17 PM
Thanks as always for the support Jaime!
September 21, 2011 @ 12:56 AM
Hey lovely, I can only imagine how difficult the transition can be — it’s full of excitement to be with Andy but with all the natural twists that come with so many changes all at once.
I studied Spanish in high school but have never had any type of immersion experience and think it would be a big challenge for me O:-)
Thinking of you and hoping the transition continues to ease with time.
September 21, 2011 @ 4:01 PM
The German class was definitely a challenge! At least I feel better prepared to jump back into it when I get back from my RTW. It does help living in a place where you can actually use the language. Thanks for the comment Heather!
September 22, 2011 @ 2:50 AM
Glad to see your back and doing well. I continue to hope your life is everything you hoped for and more!
September 22, 2011 @ 9:28 AM
Thank you Erik!
September 22, 2011 @ 7:22 AM
I would have a breakdown trying to order in a restaurant when I hate that much on my “plate” as well!
Good lord lady – you need to give yourself a break.’
I do have to give you major props for speaking Spanish in France with your German classmates.
September 22, 2011 @ 9:29 AM
Yeah I’m not so good at just letting go of the stress…but I’m trying. Thanks Erica!
September 24, 2011 @ 11:50 PM
I hope the adjustment becomes less stressful! It sounds like you’re making friends which is great, plus you guys are all in the same boat with learning German so it’s good to have that support system. I know how frustrating and sometimes infuriating studying German can be 😉 Tschuss!
September 25, 2011 @ 7:46 AM
It has gotten less stressful luckily. I’m about to leave for my round the world, but I’m sure my second attempt will be better when I’m back at the end of February! Thanks Audrey!
September 28, 2011 @ 12:16 AM
Ali, So sorry to hear about the stressful first few months but I think it will get better as time goes on. It always does, right? And, immersion classes are HARD – I would rather do it the old-fashioned slow translate-and-learn way even though it takes longer to learn the language. I hope, at least, that you two are enjoying the first bits of married life.
September 28, 2011 @ 12:02 PM
It has gotten better over time, and I imagine it will get better still once I get back from my RTW. And I’ll be taking LOTS more German classes! Thanks!
Sleeping with Germans » Grounded Traveler - Expat Adventures in Germany
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