Why I’m Leaving Germany

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When it was time for me to leave Japan, I knew it right away. Seeing how my colleagues acted so casually in the aftermath of the tsunami made me start piling up all the reasons why Japan made me unhappy. How I could never fit in. How I had terrible loneliness. How I started acting out when people were ignorant about non-Japanese people and culture.

Now, in Germany, it’s not taken a tsunami to shift me out of love with my life here, but I know for sure that it is time for me to leave. I often think I’m crazy, since I have a job I feel passionate about, and I live a very good life here in Germany. But there are two main reasons why I feel I cannot go on here without becoming very unhappy.

1. Communication.

Tonight I was in the food section of a department store with a friend when an elderly lady fell back and crashed to the floor, knocking her head on a freezer as she went down. Blood was pouring from her head. A man and a woman nearby jumped to help her, and I did too. I helped the lady to her feet then was listening as the woman was explaining to the lady that there was blood coming from her head. I stood around helpless, wondering what to do, what to say. The lady needed to sit down, and the woman spoke with a member of staff but I didn’t quite catch anything about getting her somewhere to sit. I said awkwardly to the woman “there are sitting places over there” but the woman looked at me as if I was a nuisance and turned away from me. In the end, I could do nothing. So I paid up and left.

Even though Frankfurt is an international city, where 99.9% of people speak English, I feel isolated. My German is coming along well and I understand quite a bit these days, but I would need to study German a lot more before I was in a place where it would take away my isolation. In Japan, I wasn’t isolated by a language barrier – but I’d been studying it since I was 16.

I want to be in a place where I can make small talk with someone nearby. Or help someone in the street. Or be able to live with people who don’t have to put any extra effort into speaking with me because they speak in English anyway. Although I have more English-speaking friends here than I know what to do with, the fact that my go-to language isn’t the same as the majority of those around me makes me feel very limited in my world.

2. Information.

I’m in a supermarket in Germany and I pick up a can of soup. I judge it by its price, the design, the ingredients list. That’s it.

Take that same situation in Britain and I have a lot more information to hand – perhaps I’ve seen an advert about the soup, perhaps I saw a review for it in a magazine, perhaps I remember eating this soup at uni and remember whether I liked it or not.

I feel that here in Germany – and, indeed, as an expat in many places – it can feel like such a one dimensional life. It’s almost like being a child, with no prior knowledge on the things around you. This goes beyond a language barrier, it’s an informational barrier. Of course, one could learn more about the things around them – watch the tv adverts, talk about things with locals. In Japan I can’t read the words “ajino moto” or “biku camera” without singing the jingles, and simple information like that made me feel more at home there. But it’s totally different when you’re back at home in your own country and you are holding an item that takes you on a trip down a million memory lanes, sparking recognition in your brain. I want to go back to living around things that I know well, not things that are new and unknown.

Though I look around at the amazing people and the amazing life I have here and feel sad to be leaving it all behind, I get a pang of excitement inside me when I think of being able to live back in the UK again. I’ve been away for so long it’s like a foreign country to me now and I’m even excited at the prospect of experiencing reverse culture shock. There’s nothing like living abroad for understanding your own country and culture, but I feel that when I return and see everything with fresh eyes, I’ll be able to understand what it is to be British more than ever before.

And then I can start writing a whole new chapter in my life.

Things I Ate in London (Week Two)

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As you’ll see, my food-based adventures took a less than healthy turn in my second week. I just went for comfort food all the time, probably because I was pretty tired and the hotel bed was small and not so nice and I was beginning to wish I had British things available to me all the time. Is it possible to feel homesick for the place you’re still in?

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Probably one of my favourite restaurants of the trip was Mother Mash – a restaurant that only serves mashed potato, sausages and pies. I’d found it on the TripAdvisor app but couldn’t really find it. It was only when I got lost in Soho that found it!

I had the colcannon which, I must say, wasn’t as good as the stuff my Irish ex used to make me, but the lamb sausages were really good – and the gravy. Omg. The gravy.

There are vegetarian and gluten free options so everyone is happy!

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When I read that my hotel’s breakfast might not be the best around, I did a little google for other breakfast options in the area. One of them was Koya – an udon restaurant. I miss Japanese breakfasts SO MUCH but don’t have the time to make them at home usually. The above breakfast was pretty expensive at 20 pounds, but to be fair it did fill me up for the whole day and I didn’t eat a thing else until breakfast the next day!

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I paid extra to have natto – fermented soy beans. Very much an acquired taste and they pong a bit too but they are SO yummy on rice. Natto is so stringy I always end up getting some on my chin, which stinks for the rest of the day…

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I’d heard very good things about the cafe at Foyles, a massive (and wonderful) bookshop. There was free wifi, gluten free cakes and so many different teas and quirky drinks to choose from. The seats were old church pews which were nice but made my bum hurt after a while.

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It’s no secret that Camden Market is my favourite place in the world. I stayed very much in Soho for most of the two weeks and only left once – to visit my favourite place.

I skipped most of the market as it just doesn’t appeal to me as much as it used to (it’s so full of tourists and the items on sale tend to be random things imported from Asia) so I headed straight to the food market.

Camden’s craft beer seems to be a big thing right now, and I tried the Hells beer. It was really light which meant it went really well with the food on offer…

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…especially the Christmas cake brownie I chose over real food!! AHHHH that brownie was SO GOOD and the girl selling it said that the Christmas one was the least popular!

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Very near to work was a Mexican restaurant called Tortilla. It’s a fast food restaurant which was a shame as it would have been nice to spend a little longer with my meal there, but it was really yummy anyway. Everything is fresh and this is very much clean eating. There are vegetarian options (though they say they don’t serve refried beans as they are too unhealthy) and I had the corn tortillas instead of wheat.

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TripAdvisor wouldn’t stop trying to get me to go to Bodeans – a BBQ restaurant. I was a little worried about going there since I’d not been eating very healthily but then I gave in and gave it a go.

With all the groups queuing up outside, I felt really cheeky being able to slip through since I was eating alone. Hehe.

One of the things I loved about Bodeans the most was the wide range of rare beers available. It took me ages before I was able to choose which one to have – but it was really yummy!

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A slightly annoying that there were mirrors in front of me – I don’t want to be watching myself eat messy food!

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I chose the pork sandwich, which was apparently voted the best sandwich in London! The sandwich itself was ok. I think I would have been happier with a burger (…I’m always happier with a burger…) but I chose sweet potato chips instead of regular chips and that was a very good decision. The sauce was super yummy too.

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Everyday we would take it in turns to choose where to have lunch, and when I was writing the post about what I ate in my first week in London, I noticed that Leon had a very yummy sounding Christmas wrap so I decided to have that for lunch. It was DELICIOUS. SO good. I love the chips there too – being big and crinkly, it just makes them taste even better.

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In an effort to find the nicest wifi cafe near to me (I’d need a year in London to find the best on in the city!) I went off to 5th View, which is on the 5th floor of the massive Waterstone’s at Piccadilly. Sadly, they’d switched it up a bit and turned it into a cocktail bar and it was so busy I couldn’t get a seat by the windows. I sat at the bar, gazing over the tops of people’s heads to look at the London skyline. I decided not to eat properly there and just had some snack sausages and a lovely cordial drink while I internetted.

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As I was going round the most British of shops, M&S, I decided not to eat out but to eat from their ready made foods. They had a great selection of yummy foods from which a certain amount of the money goes to charity. I had a very yummy and slobby dinner on my bed watching tv!

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On the last night the people I was working with treated me to a slightly posh dinner at Newman Street Tavern. It was a lovely modern pub, with great atmosphere. I started with a chowder (note to self: start making chowder again…)

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And ended with a shepherd’s pie. OM NOM NOM!

Well, as you can see, my second week wasn’t exactly green, but I think at Christmas it’s perfectly fine to eat a little more than normal. Comfort food ahoy!

There were so many places I missed off my list that I hope I can make it to London again soon to finish them all off…though I think London will ALWAYS have something new to try!

Liberty London

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While I was in London I happened to take a new turn and found one of the oldest department stores in Britain – Liberty. I decided to brave this shop in the busiest shopping period of the year in order to get some presents for both my Grandmas and one of my sisters.

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First stop – beauty. It’s really awesome because there are loads of signs explaining why the products are great.

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Grandmas – SORTED. Even though it was packed, the staff still had the time to advise me which was nice.

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Spent way too much time looking over all the different cards. One thing Germany can’t do is cards.

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Onward to the home department…then through to the Christmas shop…

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So many pretty sparkly things!! The head home buyer spends the whole year looking for the perfect collections – and it really shows.

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LOVED these. If I thought I could take them home without ruining them, I would have bought them in a flash.

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Look at this cheeky chappy!

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There’s a fab new show on channel 4 about this very department store – and I’m addicted. I was in the shop before I saw the show, and there really is an amazing feeling about the place. It’s like magic.

Here’s an advert for the show. If you have access to UK tv (*cough*proxy*cough*) then go for it and have a look on the channel 4 website!

Chrismtas Letters

 

I’m back at hooooooooooome! And because I missed two weeks of letters, I thought I’d do a special Christmas letters!

 

Dear London – You were fun but I couldn’t live in you. Maybe near you. But not in you.

Dear London shoppers – You are all idiots and cannot walk at the proper speed. Work it out.

Dear Lufthansa morning flight chocolate croissant – I feel we’re more than good friends now. But I don’t think I can go on much longer with you. I’d like to start seeing other airplane breakfast items, I’m sorry.

Dear home friends – Love you all in the eye. I will be buying some kind of smart car, however.

Dear blog readers – I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas, wherever you are in the world.

 

Christmas linkies!

Rococo Romer posted about the wonderful Wiesbaden Christmas market. I wish I’d have had the time to visit!

I loved these photos from Culturally Discombulated of the elves at Macy’s grotto. I visited a few grottos when I was a kid but I think British ones are a lot less flashy than American ones. Santa must have to put up with our Christmases not being as swanky over here!

Speaking of photos, I LOVED this post from Herding Cats about taking Christmas photos. I dare say my parents have similar photos of us lot!

Back to Germany, here are some really lovely photos from a few years ago of Berlin at Christmas.

Another Christmas market – this time with Steven at the Nuremberg Christkindlmarkt. The mugs look really pretty there!

And a pretty German Christmas pyramid from Confuzzledom!

Over to Japan with Breaking Moulds, talking about being an expat at Christmas. I used to find it so hard being in Japan at Christmas. I’m glad I did it for a few years because I can never take Christmas for granted now. People say that Christmas is all about commercialism and it’s so fake and shallow. But if you are taken away from your family for a few years and cannot see them at Christmas then you really appreciate being able to be there with them to see them open that gift you carefully selected for them.

In Japan, they choose a word of the year every year – and this post is a great look into this year’s word!

Hopping over to China for a hilarious post about keeping your child warm in winter. I love cultural differences posts!

Lastly, don’t forget to track Santa with the Norad tracker! HOHOHO!

 

I’ll be posting throughout the week so don’t worry! I’ll be in Dublin from Friday and so I hope you’re looking forward to even more travel posts!

What I Ate in London (Week One)

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Would you like some London food porn? OF COURSE YOU DO – if there’s one thing I know about my readers, it’s that you like cats and food. I’ve not seen a single cat this week so to make up for the lack of cat pictures have some photos of food.

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YES that’s hummus! It seems the magic phrase here in London right now is “street food” and on my walk to work I noticed a place called Yalla Yalla who do Lebanese street food. I would love to go on a foodie tour of Beirut but unfortunately it’s not the dafest place to be and so I have to make do with what’s available…

The hummus was amazing. Really yummy. And with nice warm bread to dip in…MMMM…

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I also ordered something which I would have avoided normally but the menu told me this dish had won some kind of prize. So that’s how I ended up ordering chicken livers in pomegranate sauce. It really REALLY was yummy.

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Breakfast at Pret a Manger! I have breakfast at the hotel but it’s really busy and also I don’t have wifi there so I like to go to Pret to do internety things for half an hour. Their porridge is pretty good and you can choose from a selection of toppings.

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Probably my favourite food of this trip. I really want to go back to Carnaby Burger Co but I’m not sure I’ll have the time.

I was walking around the Carnaby St area looking for food and saw a sign in the window saying that they had free wifi! Free wifi AND burgers?! Hello heaven!! The burger was really good and the chips…omg the chips…

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Creamy smooth guacamole AND chilli sauce. What a combo! It was heaven.

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Crussh is one of the many “healthy fast food” outlets that deal mainly in smoothies, wraps and sushi. They advertised organic porridge but I chose a breakfast bowl instead – and was shocked to find that it was icy cold!! Probably one for the summer…

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Somewhere in Chinatown I found a little Chinese bakery and couldn’t help buying a bao – Chinese steamed bun with filling. This one had meat inside it…I was trying to find some kind of niku-man like I had in Japan. It wasn’t in any way like that but it was SOOOOO yummy.

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I met up with a girlfriend and went to Shoryu – a ramen place.

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They had gluten free ramen!! It was super yummy and really hit the spot. MMMM look at that kara-age!

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They had gluten free niku-man here but it wasn’t really right…and the gluten free-ness of it made it kinda yucky. Good job the ramen was awesome!!

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I finally found Leon and tried their breakfast pot. It was tiiiiiny but contained everything you’d expect in an English breakfast – beans, sausage, beans, bacon, beans and egg. With beans on top. It was really yummy but didn’t fill my up til lunch, that’s for sure!

I certainly haven’t been eating healthily in London but pfft, it’s Christmas and I’m on holiday and I love food!

Gogglebox – with a Pinch of Homesickness

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Guys, I’m in love. With a tv programme.

It all started when I was skyping my mum and my littlest sister was watching tv on her laptop – a show called Gogglebox, on channel 4. Whenever I go home I get eyestrain from rolling my eyes at British tv; I can’t stand all the Celebrity Strictly Come in a Jungle Factor Live or No Deal. But mum INSISTED I watch this Gogglebox – because there was one episode that was quite emotional and she wanted to know if I’d cry at it. I know. My mum is weird.

I kept my promise and watched some of this show. The concept is this – you are watching people sat on their sofa (or, in one case, in bed) who are watching tv. You can see what their reactions to that week’s tv was.

It’s probably no surprise that this kind of show is popular – we Brits seem to like peeping Tom kind of shows, from Big Brother to this show I seem to remember from ages ago where we just watch a family go about their daily business. We like watching people, then pointing and screaming at the tv with “WE DO THAT TOO!” It brings us all together.

Only, I don’t do that too. Because they are in the UK, watching all the normal tv, and I’m in Germany, putting on a proxy to try and catch up with British goings-on. And I think the reason why I’ve found myself so addicted to this show is because it makes me feel like I’m back home, while making me pretty homesick.

The show itself is hilarious. They’ve got a great slice of Britain – a kind of dumb family, a super smart family, a gay couple…and the posh couple (above) who are my favourites. There was a moment which I think is the most British thing I have ever seen. They were watching the emotional scene that mum wanted me to watch (from Educating Yorkshire, where a little boy with a stammer talks for the first time thanks to some headphones and a bit of music). Yes, it made me cry. It was pretty hard to watch and not get emotional. Posh Lady on the sofa agreed, and started to tear up herself. Posh Man noticed and turned to her to say in the poshest accent ever “Darling, are you having a bit of a cry there?” To which Posh Lady throws back a mouthful of her cocktail, wipes her eyes and denies having emotions. My friends, you don’t get anything more British than that.

I found out about some really terrible programmes through Gogglebox as well. The worst one (so far) is a gameshow called “Release the Hounds” where a man runs down a course with a bag of money on his back, while being chased by dogs. If he makes it to the end then he keeps the money, but if (as happened in the clip I saw) he gets caught by the dogs then he is supposedly bitten to pieces. WHAT IS THIS AND WHY ARE PEOPLE WATCHING?!

Going back to how it kind of makes me homesick, it just really highlights how far away from my own culture I am right now. I wouldn’t want to watch half of that crap, but there was a segment on poppy day and I realised that it was the first time ever that I hadn’t been wearing a poppy – I’d flat out forgotten about the day and the silence. I was trying to tell my flatmate’s girlfriend how it made me sad but it just sounds lame “I forgot to wear a paper poppy to remember the people who died at war and it makes me really sad and I’m tearing up”. No really, I teared up.

I’ve found a YouTube video of one of my favourite parts – Nigella Lawson’s show on Gogglebox. I think this just shows how hilarious the posh couple are. Hope you all enjoy it!

Photos From Home


Here are a few photos that I took at home on my phone…

First there’s a new Screme Egg from Cadbury! It was green inside!

Some nice ice tea from Giraffe back home. I LOVE this restaurant. It reminds me of Urban Kitchen in Frankfurt.

Tescos have this new system where you scan your shopping as you put it into the trolley. Opens up so many opportunities to steal stuff, I think…

I bought Super Scribblenauts to play on my 3DS. I typed in “mask” and got this… ;)

My last taste of England before coming back to Frankfurt.

You know life sucks when this is your week’s alarms.

Hopefully I’ll be up and writing proper posts again at the weekend!

Scenes from China Town (London)

 

China Town in London is another must, after Camden Town! I took a short walk through it and saw some interesting things – not enough to write whole posts about. Hope you enjoy the snaps!

 

Sadly they wouldn’t let me take photos inside the shop, but they were chock-a-block with Japanese cosmetics and beauty products. In general, I saw so many Japanese products on sale, in shops and on markets. It seems that people can’t get enough of Japanese face masks, fake eyelashes, shampoo and everything in between.

 

I managed to find some awesome bubble tea in a place with hand made gyoza. I was going to order some gyoza after but the woman was slightly rude and snatched the menu from my hands…

 

Here’s another new thing – purikura. There were real Japanese machines in here. They were pretty expensive to use though.

 

But these guys sure enjoyed themselves!

Breakfast with Jamie Oliver

 

The breakfast in the hotel I stayed in at the end of my London stay was terrible, so I set off each day to find myself some food. One morning, I just happened to come across one of Jamie Oliver’s restaurant, Recipease.

 

I would never have noticed it if it hadn’t been for the absolutely delicious smell coming from the massive glass building. On the first floor there were lessons going on (some girls learning how to prepare fish and some boys learning to bake). Upstairs was the actual restaurant.

 

Little known fact – I love beans. So naturally, I had the bean breakfast. It was pretty spicy, but I scoffed the lot down and it was SOOOOO yummy. This was about 8 pounds.

 

And of course it would be really rude not to have their homemade lemonade. I must say, though, Frankfurt’s offerings are MUCH better. I wasn’t impressed, Jamie! Sorry!

 

Down in the shop they sold all kinds of yummy things, including these baking kits. All you need to do is as an egg and then bake! They looked so yummy.

A lot of people are very anti-Jamie Oliver, but I quite like him. He genuinely wants to improve Britain and he did wonders for the schools. This restaurant was everything Jamie stands for – learning more about food, simple, home grown yummy stuff and super down to earth and friendly staff. Nothing was ridiculously expensive and I knew I was being fed with good food.

I visite the Notting Hill location but there are 3 restaurants over England to go to! Check them out!