Freiburg, I Love You, But…
I love the sound of the trams in Freiburg, as long as it isn’t the one I just missed. It reminds me I don’t have to sit in traffic anymore to get where I’m going. No more rush hour stress, but perhaps a little “will I make it to the tram on time” stress.
I love the sound of the church bells chiming in the distance, even though I don’t attend. Whether it’s Sunday morning, faintly ringing, not loud enough to wake me up, or random weekday mornings as I rush to the tram stop on my way to class, they make me feel like I’ve traveled back in time.
I love never having to look for a parking space, but I miss the solitude of driving. Singing badly to cheesy 80s tunes is just a bit less acceptable on a public tram amongst dozens of strangers than within the confines of my car. Especially since there are no cheesy 80s tunes playing in the tram.
I love how easy it is to get around by bicycle, but I’m too afraid of getting run over to ride mine.
I love it when I can understand a few words someone says in German, but I miss the ease of conversation. Speaking in English is just natural to me, a reflex. Although managing to purchase vegetables or cheese from someone who speaks no English is a triumph I’m trying to give more credit to.
I love the simplicity of German food, even though it often lacks the spiciness I crave. We brought spices back from Turkey, chili peppers are now a must for me during my weekly vegetable purchases, and I’m growing a habanero pepper plant on our balcony. I will add spice to the food myself and continue making my own salsa and guacamole.
I love the international mix of new friends I have, but they can’t replace my friends in the US. A gathering can easily involve friends from Germany, New Zealand, Australia, UK, Spain, Canada, and the US, two or three languages spinning around the table. But we don’t have any history yet, no shared memories, no vault of protected secrets.
I love having a second chance at finding my passion, even if I still don’t quite know what I want to be when I grow up. I know I want to do something in travel, something that involves photography.
I’m trying to be a writer. I AM A WRITER.
I love how organized things are here, but the language has so many parts that don’t make sense. Trash and recycling are divided up into more categories than I can count, people get antsy if a train is even a minute late, but there are virtually no rules in the language about whether a noun is masculine, feminine or neutral. Der/Die/Das has become a constant battle I fear I will never win.
I love the pace of life here, but it annoys me that almost everything is closed on Sundays.
I love how easy it is to reach a different country or culture, but I still feel confined by the practicalities of my visa-mandated German class and Andy’s office job. Yes, he gets five weeks of vacation a year, more than either of us had in the US, but it’s still never really enough, is it? We were meant to travel, and we WILL find a way to do more.
I love my new life here, though I realize every day that it will take longer than I had hoped to fully adjust to living in Germany. The simplest thing seems much harder, takes more effort. But every day is also progress, and one of these days I won’t have to say, Freiburg, I love you, but…
July 9, 2012 @ 10:34 AM
Great post. Now that I am living in Cairo I understand this 100%. Living is way different than visiting a place that is for sure. I can relate to just about everything you mentioned. I know you have been living there for a long time and well me just a month so far in Cairo, but it’s universal. I love Cairo, but hate that I can’t speak Arabic, I hate that when I do speak English everyone looks at me, I hate that I don’t understand so many things, I hate that it’s not organized, clean ah I can go on. Despite all those things though I love this city & am looking forward to two more months of living here.
The good thing is though that living somewhere else really puts us out of our comfort zone & teaches more about life than we can imagine.
PS love the photos of salsa & guacamole… I may just have to make some here.
July 9, 2012 @ 3:55 PM
Thanks Jaime! I’m sure you can relate living in Cairo, and I can only imagine how much more different that must be from living in the US than it is here. Some days are great, but some days I just want to throw things.
If you have a good salsa recipe, please share it with me! I like the one a reader sent me but I’m always up for trying others!
July 9, 2012 @ 2:54 PM
I love that you’re growing a habanero pepper plant and adding spice and flavor to dishes 🙂 I know it’s easy to make gaucamole, but the few times I do choose to have it, I always buy. So silly of me! Oh, and your produce looks great!
I can picture walking down the street and hearing the church bells chime. Brings a smile to my face!
I have no doubt that you two will get to wherever you may want to go with the future 🙂 I’m trying to remind myself too to work toward my goals but to be patient and let the process unfold naturally too.
July 9, 2012 @ 3:59 PM
Thanks Heather, I appreciate that! I’m not sure if I’ve ever even eaten habanero, but I got excited when I saw that they had spicier options than just chili peppers. I know you’ve got a lot going on right now, and I’m sure it gets stressful, but I know you’ll get it all worked out. We both will!
July 9, 2012 @ 8:15 PM
It’s all a learning experience and regardless of if it all goes to plan, you’ll come out of it a better person! Looks like an amazing time though!
July 9, 2012 @ 10:29 PM
Thanks for the encouragement, I appreciate it! It does get easier over time, and it is a great city.
July 9, 2012 @ 9:59 PM
I’ve been living in Italy for 3 years now and still have days when I feel like I’m still trying to figure it all out. But it does get easier.
Friends and family just don’t get it. They think you’re on a permanent vacation or something when things an just be downright difficult at times.
July 9, 2012 @ 10:30 PM
Thanks Jennifer! I guess we all have bad days no matter what our situation or where we’re living, but being here magnifies things. It’s definitely NOT a permanent vacation!
July 10, 2012 @ 12:03 AM
I can totally relate to how you feel. Even though Sweden shares many similarities with the UK, it also feels so alien at times too. I am really battling with the language: the more lessons I have the more it opens up the huge expanse of a new language and creates a chasm that I feel will swallow me up before I can conquer it! I hope you get somewhere with German soon 🙂
July 10, 2012 @ 11:36 AM
Thanks! The language thing is really a tough one. I can handle learning new vocabulary and conjugating verbs, but there are all these weird little grammatical rules we just don’t have in English, and it’s hard to wrap my head around it. I am making progress, but the further I get in the class, the more I realize just how long it’ll take to become fluent.
July 10, 2012 @ 5:29 AM
I can’t WAIT to experience all of this wherever we end up! I also will love it and be frustrated by it all at the same time. Ride the bike Ali…you won’t get run over.
July 10, 2012 @ 11:38 AM
Thanks Gillian! I know I won’t get run over, I just haven’t ridden a bike since I was about 14 so it’s a bit overwhelming. And yes, you will love some things and be frustrated by others when you move abroad. Just don’t expect to enjoy the frustration!
July 10, 2012 @ 11:34 AM
Freiburg is a beautiful city in arguably the most beautiful area of Germany. My sister was there for a year as an exchange student.
I didn’t know you had to take language classes in order to get a German visa. That’s pretty harsh considering how horrible the German language is–and I say that as a native speaker of German.
July 10, 2012 @ 11:46 AM
It really is a beautiful area, and I do like the city. I think if I came here on a work visa, they wouldn’t make me take the class, but my husband has the work visa. I just came over here last year after we got married, so I just have a resident visa, which is attached to him having a work visa. And yes, it is a tough language to learn!
July 10, 2012 @ 11:51 AM
Very eloquently put Ali. I love living in Germany, but my first year was tough. For me the most important things were meeting new friends (people I could really connect with and create new memories) and learning the language, so that I didn’t feel like an idiot ALL the time. Now, I just feel like an idiot SOME of the time 🙂
July 10, 2012 @ 7:53 PM
Thanks Laurel! It is tough, and the language is hard, but I’m getting there. Slowly starting to meet people, slowly starting to understand more German…I’ll get there!
July 10, 2012 @ 11:17 PM
Great insight into what it’s like to be an expat. Although the “der/die/das” gave me shivers thinking back to my school days! And I guess I’ll have to brush up on some of my German for when I’m in Munich next month :-s But don’t worry about your conflicting feelings – everything will eventually fall into place and friends you once couldn’t imagine sharing secrets with will soon become confidants. It will be a slow battle but one that’s worth winning, for sure.
July 11, 2012 @ 1:46 PM
Thanks Julia! I know I’ll get there, but it is tough. I am slowly making friends, so that’s good. As for the German, I know Germans here who can barely understand the accent/dialect in Munich, so don’t worry about it when you’re there.
July 11, 2012 @ 9:14 AM
I feel the same way about Norway. Though I have gotten used to being away from the US by now…Australia wasn’t much different for me than here even. I pretty much just throw myself into my work and don’t think about these things too much. I need to work on my language skills as well. I think it just takes a lot of time, especially with a language barrier. I’m trying to avoid only getting to know expats here as well. My only friend here is actually Norwegian, which I treasure.
July 11, 2012 @ 1:50 PM
I’m sure being away from the US gets easier with time. I can’t imagine living somewhere like Norway with an even more different language and such cold weather. I do have some expat friends, but some German ones as well. I think it’s important to have some of each. I’m sure it’ll be a little easier once I can speak more German too. Thanks Andrea!
July 11, 2012 @ 6:13 PM
That homemade salsa and guacamole look really good. Sounds like you are adapting well to Germany, best of luck to you.
July 11, 2012 @ 10:37 PM
Thanks! I have good days and bad days. It’ll definitely take awhile to fully adjust to living here, but I’m getting there.
Christy @ Technosyncratic
July 13, 2012 @ 2:35 AM
We’ve never really been expats, but we lived in Thailand for four months — it’s totally not the same, but it gave us some understanding of what expats go through. For us integration wasn’t really possible, because we didn’t know Thai and were always pegged as tourists, but it was fun getting to know the locals we interacted with regularly and trying to adjust.
July 13, 2012 @ 3:18 PM
4 months is still a long time to live somewhere other than “home.” It’s fun at first, then becomes frustrating, and it’s always an adjustment. I’ll probably always be an outsider here, but that’s ok.
August 31, 2013 @ 2:32 AM
You are indeed a writer! 🙂
Thanks for sharing some insights, I’d jump at any chance to live abroad, but it’s good to be reminded that life doesn’t turn perfect the minute you hop on a plane.
Also: I now have a passenger commuting with me in my car every morning. I miss singing those cheesy 80’s tunes too! :-/
August 31, 2013 @ 11:15 AM