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.

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!

Accents

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The other day I introduced a new co-worker to my pub quiz team. My American and German friend said that they really loved his accent; he’s a well educated British guy…well aside from the British and guy part, I said I assume he was well educated – you can tell from his accent. I was trying to explain to them that while, on the surface, it seems that Britain doesn’t have class systems anymore, you can tell a person’s upbringing, education and “class” by their accent.

Accent is a funny thing. I read a paper when I was in uni about how different accents make you feel certain ways, and so companies take advantage of this – for example, the Scottish accent will make you warm to the person and feel calm, so they put a lot of Scottish people in call centres. I had trouble in uni because of my accent – I have a typical RP, or “Queen’s English” accent, which usually tells people that you are well off and posh and stuck up. So this is how people thought of me, despite me telling people that I am normal, went to an average school and lived in some pretty rough areas when I grew up. People would take what I said and twist them to make it sound like I was looking down my nose at people, or just make rude and snide comments about my accent.

In Britain there is a north-south divide which I wasn’t even aware of until I went to uni. I’m from the south, and while people sometimes make jokes about Liverpudlians, or maybe about people from Newcastle, there’s rarely any bad mouthing of people from the north in general. The stuff I experienced at uni in Liverpool was just one part of it – when I was dating a guy from Middlesborough and I went to go stay with his family up there, his uncles and cousins had lots of stories and comments about how rude and stuck up and horrible southern people are. So when someone speaks the way I speak, all these images are brought up for a lot of people – even though I’m not like that.

On the flipside, my accent can (sadly) help me out in the working world – or at least in England. I’m not sure how true it is, but I’m told that people with RP accents are more likely to score top jobs and make good impressions in interviews. In an article I read this week, too, a brain surgeon comments that him being an East London boy is an unexpected thing, given his profession. Again, this comes down to accent – people don’t expect people with a “rough” London accent to do such a skilled job as brain surgery. Another good example is this woman from BBC News -

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Most BBC news presenters have “clean” southern accents, but she has a very strong northern accent. She’s the business woman on the show and often explains all the complicated economical news, but some people find her accent very off putting, or out of place in this job.

Even my American friend couldn’t understand when I explained all this to her, so I think maybe, in the English-speaking world at least, it’s a British thing. Are there stereotypes or prejudice placed on certain accents where you are from?

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!

Wheat Free in the Wild!!

I come from a sleepy little town called Bury St Edmunds, in Suffolk, England. It’s pretty normal as far as towns go.

While I was back home, I was shopping with my mum and sisters when they wanted to stop off at Muffin Break, a new (to me, anyway) cake shop in the modern shopping area.

As a wheat free person, I complained loudly that this wouldn’t be the place for me. But how wrong I was!

They sold delicious WHEAT FREE muffins! Albeit it was only one kind, but this is the FIRST TIME EVER (look at all the caps!! The excitement!!) that I have ever seen a wheat free item in a cafe/restaurant.

This is a real step forward and I really hope that more shops will consider allergies like this in the future. The muffin was delicious AND it was jubilee themed! What more could I want!

I’ve noticed that I get a lot of hits from people looking for wheat free stuff. I’d love to hear from some people about their experiences being wheat free.

Scenes from the Jubilee

It was lovely of The Queen to hold a country-wide celebration when I was home the other weekend. She is SUCH a good queen. Here are some photos from when I was home.

Above you can see the bunting mum put up on the gates of our home.

British and royal themed cakes were everywhere!

 

I must say, as someone who never really feels that British, and certainly doesn’t feel patriotic, I really enjoyed the long weekend and felt proud to be part of a country that puts on huge celebrations like this. Britain has, and currently does a lot of horrible things, but even so I think it’s ok to step back once in a while and see all that is great with Britain.

Hope you enjoyed the photos!