Thoughts on 2012

SONY DSC

As the sun sets on 2012 here in Frankfurt, I thought I should just think over the past year. It’s been a crazy one, but one that I think will still shape me in the months to come.

The highlights of my year were when I went to see my Japanese students graduate – surprising the whole school with my visit, and when my first game came out and I went to see children play with it in the shop.

It’s been a really tough year in a number of ways, too, with the loss of my uncle only a month or so ago still playing on my mind all the time. I think 2012 was a year that made me grow up a little bit more, become a little stronger and find out who I am just that little bit more, as well.

My new years resolutions will be -

1. Travel more. I enjoyed my time in Paris SO much, I need to do it more often. I will start by going to more German towns and then working my way out from there.

2. Chill out and enjoy life. I should stop worrying about what I’m doing and what I think should happen and just enjoy the now.

3. BE BETTER AT GERMAN. Seriously. I need to get this down. I want to be able to have a proper conversation by June. That is my goal.

What are your new years resolutions? And I wish you all a good night and a happy 2013!

London Food – Peyton and Byrne

SONY DSC

While waiting for the Eurostar in St Pancras station, I had a small bite to eat at a lovely cafe called Payton and Byrne. It’s tucked away between many other food offerings in the main part of the station so it’s easy to miss – and in fact was pretty empty too, with just one loud and obnoxious woman and her male friend in there when I visited.

SONY DSC

The muesli was OUT OF THIS WORLD. So good. I cannot even put into words how yummy this was. You need to try it, though. The apple and cinnamon yogurt was also pretty good, and washed down with some apple juice, it was a great start to my day!

The staff were pretty bored-looking and not very lively, but this was the only downside, I think.

Check out their website here, and see all the different offerings this company has! I’d love to visit more of their shops!

Christmas Tag

SONY DSC

The lovely Luchessa tagged me for the Christmas Tag and so now it’s Boxing Day I think it might be a good time to do this!

1. Which holiday do you celebrate?

I celebrate a strange watered-down expat version of Christmas. I’ve been sad that I’ve not really felt Christmassy this year at all but I guess that’s partly my own fault…

2. What are you doing for the holidays this year?

Well I’m in Paris! I came here on Christmas Eve and I’ll be leaving on the 30th. I don’t have any plans other than to go to Disneyland with a colleague on he 27th. I just want to chill out and take in the magic of the city.

3. What’s your favourite holiday drink?

Uhm… I don’t think I have one. I had some nice beers with an old friend when I was back home and that was nice. I do like Starbucks’ Christmas offerings though!!

4. Candy cane of gingerbread men?

Hmm.. neither. These are very American!

5. Favourite Christmas song?

A Fairytale of New York by The Pogues. Every time.

6. What’s the weirdest gift you have ever received?

Last year for secret Santa at work I got a kind of game with jelly beans that were poo and sick and nappy flavoured. It was from someone I really cared about so I was kind of annoyed that they hadn’t bought me a gift that reflects on me personally… Unless I make people think I’m the kind that is into disgusting flavoured jelly beans…

7. Have you ever made a snowman?

Yes, of course! Though not this year. Maybe it’ll snow in Frankfurt again soon and I’ll be able to.

8. What’s your favourite winter fragrance?

Ugh, I don’t know. I know this is about perfume but let’s make it about room smells! I love Christmas edition plug in air fresheners! They are awesome! I pinched mum’s Glade orange scented candle when I was back home. I can’t wait to light it in my room.

9. What is top of your list for Christmas?

Well it’s over now, but I really wanted a new coat, and I got one! Mum bought me the one from Miss Selfridge that I really wanted, but the size was too small! I had the 14 but it didn’t fit over my chest so we went to change it and decided on one from Red Herring (not online) which fit perfectly in a size 12! Just goes to show that sizes are crazy.

10. What’s the most important thing to you during the holidays?

Seeing family, mainly. But also getting a good rest, putting on a few pounds and doing a bit of Christmas shopping!

 

I’m not going to tag other people as it’s after Christmas now. But if you want to do this tag then please feel free and link back to me so I can see it!

Paris For Christmas

SONY DSC

5 years to the day, I stood on a street in Nagoya getting more and more angry at the people around me who were not with their families on Christmas day. And yet, here I am on Christmas Eve on a train heading towards Paris, while my family are at home for another few days before they go to Miami.

I’ll be in Paris for one week, which I planned alone but as it turns out, there are a lot of random people – Frankfurt friends and also people I have only spoken with via email – in Paris at the same time who I will meet up with. When I finally write that post about making friends in Germany, I will speak more about this wonderful website but I’d like to quickly like to sing the praises of Couchsurfing – through which I have met all these people. However, since the website has changed, it’s a lot more difficult to meet such people…

I have wifi in my hotel so I hope to blog while I’m here. Have a great Christmas everyone!

Why You Shouldn’t Speak Your Learning Language With Anyone Other Than Native Speakers

SONY DSC

As I’ve mentioned previously, I am giving myself the challenge of being able to have a proper conversation in German before the summer. In order to boost myself in this, I go to German Facebook meetup every week. Forcing myself to speak German with these people (or, more often than not, forcing people to suffer my German) helps me get the chance to use the language I learn whilst studying. I am ridiculously bad at German. I can barely string a sentence together. But it helps.

However, there is one guy there who is not German. He’s a very nice guy, very welcoming and friendly. But he stands in the way of my German learning, and here is why. When you are pretty good at a language, and you meet someone else also studying that language, then you feel the need to take them under your wing. When I speak with him he’ll use a range of expressions to try to stretch my learning experience. At my level, this isn’t really helpful. With a native speaker, their aim would not be to nurture you, but to have a conversation with you and to be understood by you. Helpful Non-Native’s aim is to show you just how much they know, and try to pave the path of your linguistic learning. But all it ends up doing (to me, at least) is frustrate me as it’s not natural, it’s not helping me and it’s a little off-putting since they are showing off so much I feel lost in my own abysmal level.

If you are a learner who is pretty good at the language, Helpful Non-Native turns into Competitive Non-Native. I find this happens A LOT with Japanese. When you meet someone new in Japan, people like to size you up and see where you are on the scale, to see if you are better or worse than them at Japanese. When I was at uni, I was ridiculously competitive, to the point that I turned into a not very nice person. But once I got into JET, I chilled out a bit. But I noticed the competitive streak in other people I met… they’d mention some Japanese just to test out how much I knew, or even worse, just come out and speak Japanese to me straight off. I don’t know about other languages but it is a real faux pas to speak in Japanese to non-Japanese people unless there is a good reason, ie it’s at a language event or if there’s a Japanese person who can’t speak English there.

So for someone who is learning a language, having someone who is trying to push you along, show how much they know, someone who is trying to show their superiority is not going to be helpful in your quest to learn a language – whether they mean it or not. A native speaker has no hidden agenda, and won’t throw you linguistic blue shells to try and trip you up, either. You’re not distracted by their level because they’re a native speaker and you’re not aiming to be like them any time soon, either.

Does anyone else feel this too? In other languages is there a competitive feeling when meeting a new person?

This is a “write thoughts down” kind of blog post so let’s see if we can get some kind of discussion going!

Why “Little Saint Nick” is a Stupid Christmas Song

Photo credit

I love Christmas songs. I do. But there is one that I hate – Little Saint Nick by the Beach Boys. I love the Beach Boys, they remind me of being 7 years old and starting out majorettes and dancing with pom poms. Nice. But this song is just plain STUPID. Let me show you why.

Little Saint Nick by the Beach Boys

Oooooooo
Merry Christmas Saint Nick
Christmas comes this time each year
Oooooooo oooooooo

Let me stop you there. Christmas comes each year?!?! And at THIS TIME? Like, you mean, December? What happens if you’re listening to this in July? When I used to work at my local library on Sundays, we could play music of our choice and this one day we played Christmas music in July. True story. But seriously, do you really need to point out that Christmas comes each year, at “this time” (which we shall assume to mean December).

Well, way up north where the air gets cold
There’s a tale about Christmas that you’ve all been told
And a real famous cat all dressed up in red
And he spends the whole year workin’ out on his sled

I’m going to give you this “cat” business. American English is a strange thing. But does Santa really work out all year on his sled the whole year? Doesn’t he, like, look over the elves who are making the toys? But you’re saying he’s on his SLED? All year? If you say so…

It’s the little Saint Nick
Ooooo, little Saint Nick
It’s the little Saint Nick
Ooooo, little Saint Nick

Just a little bobsled we call it old Saint Nick
But she’ll walk a toboggan with a four speed stick
She’s candy-apple red with a ski for a wheel
And when Santa hits the gas, man, just watch her peel

What? The SLED is called “Saint Nick”? I think you’re a bit confused. The big MAN in red is Saint Nick. While we’re at it, do you, American men, know what a “speed stick” (which I imagine means “gear stick”) is at all? With your automatic cars? Really? Do you?
It’s the little Saint Nick
Ooooo, little Saint Nick
It’s the little Saint Nick
Ooooo, little Saint Nick

Run run reindeer
Run run reindeer
Whoaa
Run run reindeer
Run run reindeer

If this sled has a gear stick, why does it need reindeer? Stick to one story, please!

He don’t miss no one

And haulin’ through the snow at a frightenin’ speed
With a half a dozen deer with Rudy to lead
He’s gotta wear his goggles ’cause the snow really flies
And he’s cruisin’ every pad with a little surprise

Ahhhhhh
Oooooooo
Merry Christmas Saint Nick
Christmas comes this time each year

Oh hush!!

So do you believe me now? This song is stupid!

Empties Nov/Dec 2012

SONY DSC

Confession – this isn’t even all the empty things I have! I think everything just came to an end this month. I’ll save some of the others for next month.

SONY DSC

Bastiste Dry Shampoo for Brown Hair was pretty good. It didn’t have the white powder effect that the normal stuff has so that was pretty good. I liked the smell, too. I don’t think I’ll buy it again, however, because I’m using a different brand right now which I much prefer.

I really thought I’d blogged before about Nude Magique BB Cream from L’Oreal but it seems I didn’t. I bought this after using the sample which I fell in love with instantly. It comes out as a white cream but blends to your skin tone as you rub the slightly gritty cream in. I really liked this, but I think I got the wrong shade as I had a few comments that this was too dark for me from a few people. I’ll have to get some in England this time and check that I have the right kind. I’d buy it again for sure – it gives a great coverage and doesn’t make my skin greasy at all.

You can check out my review of Bourjois Magic Nail Varnish Remover here, but towards the end it got a bit yucky… the black foam inside kind of broke away when I used it. I probably would buy it again, though.

SONY DSC

I don’t like Benefit that much, but I did like their Get Even face powder. It was long lasting and pretty pigmented. Though I’m not sure it was worth the price tag… I don’t think I’d buy it again.

I got Taaj Eau Micellaire de l’Himalaya in a beauty box a while back. It’s a nice make up removing water which smells lovely. If I could describe it in one adjective, I would say that it smells exotic. Like some kind of eastern themed spa. I’ve never seen this brand before, but if I saw it in a shop, I would buy it again. The thing with these beauty box things is that often I want to buy them again, but I don’t want to go chasing them down on the internet to get them. I want them to be available to me in shops so I can just pick it up again.

The Marvis classic strong toothpaste was also from a beauty box. A bit of a strange thing to put in one, but let’s just roll with it. It’s pretty expensive if you buy it for real, and since it wasn’t anything special at all and no different to any other toothpaste, I won’t buy it again.

SONY DSC

SAMPLE TASTIC!

I’ve always wondered about Kerastase products, so when my salon gave me some samples, I was pretty happy. But I didn’t really think much of this anti-frizz mask as it didn’t really do much… I used it with the oil shampoo (which I’m still using up) which really is bad for my hair so maybe if I’d have used this with another shampoo it would have been better. But as it stands, I’m not compelled to buy it.

This Jane Iredale BB cream was really thick. It made me break out. You only need a tiny bit, so maybe if I’d had known that I wouldn’t have any problems with it. But it’s pretty expensive to buy, so I think I’ll stick to L’Oreal’s BB cream instead. I also have my eye on the Body Shop BB cream too. Something to think about ready for when the weather starts to warm up again, as I’m all about foundation right now.

Estee Lauder’s Double Wear foundation was really nice. The coverage was really good and it didn’t make my skin feel yucky. I would buy it for real, but not just yet as I have a few to use up first.

I’ve already bought and blogged about Lancome’s Teint Miracle but in all these different face make up samples it really did bring back home to me how food this foundation is. I said before that it wasn’t miraculous but I think that now I’ve used some other things I can see just how good it is, and I think I would buy it again. But still, when I’m particularly rich.

Lastly, I was given a sample of L’Occitane Serum Fabuleux which I did find to be pretty fabulous. It made my skin feel fresher and more awake. And I used it on a snow day and my skin stayed nice all day, without it drying out or becoming yucky in any way.

Let me know in the comments if you’ve used any of the products mentioned!

Thoughts on being an Expat

SONY DSC

I love being an expat. I can’t imagine not living abroad for the foreseeable future. I absolutely love living in Germany. It’s safe, clean, things get done and the food is awesome. I couldn’t really ask for more (well maybe 24 hour supermarkets or a few hours’ shopping on a Sunday…) I would recommend expat life to pretty much anyone, and here is why -

1. You make your cv awesome. If you’ve lived for a few years in a different country, this makes you very tasty to employers back home. It shows that you can step outside your comfort zone, overcome difficulties, be your own boss etc etc.

2. You can pick up another language. There are lots of people I knew in Japan, and people here in Germany who do not bother to learn the local language. I think in Japan it’s a lot harder because Japanese people aren’t so forthcoming with their language skills, so learning Japanese is best. Here in Frankfurt everyone speaks English and even when you speak German to people, they reply in English. So it’s a lot more of a struggle because you feel like there’s no use in learning it. But I think it’s polite to the host country to learn it – and I’ve found my life a lot more fun now I’m really putting effort into learning German.

3. You get a deep understanding of another culture. You can acquire a smug sense of knowingness when people talk about “those crazy Japanese and their panty vending machines” when you have been there for a long time, and know that they don’t exist but you can list 10 things you’ve seen that are way crazier than a panty vending machine. You can learn to see beyond the “German people are boring and like to hog the beds beside the swimming pool” stereotype and you know what German culture is really like.

4. You can meet people from all over the world. When I was studying in Japan, there weren’t any other people from English speaking countries and my closest friends were Korean, Chinese and Thai. Our common language was Japanese so we all spoke together and me wanting to get to know them better was my motivation to speak more. I remember there was a day when I looked around the table at all the girls from other countries, sharing stories and teaching each other our languages and cultures (the poor Thai girl spent a whole day trying to get us to speak Thai once…) I just thought, you know, this is my idea of heaven. Being around all kinds of people and sharing stories and learning more about each other. On JET I got the same – even though we were from English speaking countries, I learnt what a Tootsie Roll is from my American friends, I learnt more about Canada, Singapore, The Philipines… and each person was so passionate about their home country or home state that I have a ridiculously long list of places I want to visit because they’ve sold it to me.

5. You can take advantage of exchange rates and gaps in the market. I was ridiculously lucky because when I studied in Japan, the pound was pretty strong against the yen so my student loan went quite far, and then when I worked there the yen was the strong one so when I went to send money back home to pay off those loans a little money turned into a lot of money. Another thing is the gaps in employment markets – this doesn’t affect me here nor did it in Japan, but for example, Australia needs certain professionals and you can get a job as, say, a hairdresser over there much easier than you could in the UK. If I worked as a Japanese translator in London I probably wouldn’t get such a good job over there as I do here in Frankfurt.

But it’s not an easy thing to do. There are huge sacrifices that one must make in order to live abroad. When I lived in Japan I was unable to go home for Christmas and this was really hard to do. My first Christmas in Japan was a very difficult day for me, and I got so frustrated and angry because I was not able see my own family, but the local Nagoya people were – and yet they were still suited up and going to work on Christmas day. I missed the funerals of two family members, and was not told about my budgie dying for a few weeks after the event. When you’re not there in person, it’s easy to miss out on important news.

Friends from back home also move on. Because I’m only in my hometown once or twice a year, my best friends and I grow apart faster than we would do normally. I wasn’t there when a best friend needed me, and I’m not around to share things with her as much as I’d like. This may be true of people who aren’t even expats, but it’s still an uncomfortable feeling to know you can’t be with your closest friends.

Culture shock is a nasty thing, and can turn you into a very bitter and closed minded person. I spent the better part of a year and a half being so bitter about everything to the point that I was almost racist. When things don’t go as you expect them, when people don’t act like they do back home, when you can’t get the same comforts you enjoy at home then it all piles on top of you and eats away at your soul.

It takes a lot of guts to go out of your comfort zone and live abroad. But despite all the negative sides to being an expat, like I said, I wouldn’t swap it in the world, especially now I am in Germany. Look at the world – there are so many opportunities for people. The world is your lobster!

If you have any expat pros or cons that I haven’t mentioned, be sure to leave a comment!