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A blog about finding a place to work, live, raise your kids, be yourself and be happy in a brand-new country. More Info

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July 2015
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Wer, wie, wo – here we go

Ring out the false, ring in the true

July 9, 2015

As the second anniversary of our moving to Hamburg approaches, it seems apt to reflect a bit. Isn’t this what we all do – or are convinced we should do – as one year ends and another begins? I hardly buy into the NYE resolutions thing. While I’m strong-willed in some respects, I could never keep to a promise such as “I will go running twice a week” or “I shall up my legume intake”. But I am prone to a bit of a reflection.

It’s easy enough in my darker moods to think that the past 730 days (which, when sitting there on the page, looks like an incredibly long time – although, of course, that’s not how it has felt) have simply slipped by, with little progression in my new life here. But, on closer inspection, even I – a natural pessimist – can see that it’s not true. So what have I achieved? (I’m leaving the kids out of this because my pessimism never extends to them, and so I can see, day by day, how much they’re flourishing and enjoying their German lives much better than they ever did their London ones.)

First, and always important for me, is friendship. (I have a whole other blog penned in my head about this one – it even has a title, “Making new friends in your forties”. Whether I ever get around to writing it is another matter…)

While it is not easy meeting like-minded people, especially when you have no workplace to go to and there’s a language barrier to reckon with, I’d say I’ve managed to bag some of the greatest people to be in my corner. I’ve found people who I can express my worries to, others that I can dance ridiculously with, and still others that I can rely on if I’m in a pinch. All of them can be really funny, empathetic, helpful, straightforward and genuine. Not bad going considering that probably the only thing we really have in common is living in the same city. Moving away from London forced me to be, I don’t know, more me. I feel too old, too consumed with everything, and too wise to play any other part. Now, this can just be an age thing or it can just mean that, once you stop playing a role, whatever role it is, finding good friends becomes easier. Either that, or I just got lucky…

Next is my marriage – or the general improvement thereof. Arriving here, dumbfounded by lack of job, missing friends, missing city life and missing being able to speak without a Wörterbuch, I did what any sensible woman would do: I turned against my husband. Why, I would ask myself, was he the lucky one who still had a job? Why was he the lucky one who could speak German? Why was he the lucky one who got to move closer to his family when I’d moved further away from mine? Why was he staying so calm when I was a mess? Why was he sleeping through the night when I was pacing the rooms, freaking out? Why this and why that ad infinitum.

Until, one day, good sense returned to me and I remembered, “Ah, yes, we made this decision together.” We decided together to move to Germany. No one forced me to make that decision (no one could force me to make any decision), so it was up to me to rebuild things, to look for that job, learn German, make those previously mentioned friends, and try (finally) to accept that his family was also my family and that moving to the US was never in the pipeline anyway. I love visiting the US – my oldest and very dearest friends still live there, and my parents, whom I adore, are thankfully still alive. Throw in a brother, aunts, uncles, cousins – the whole shebang – and you can imagine the tears I still shed every time I leave them. But, after 15 years away from it, the US is just as foreign to me as Germany is, so the thought of moving back there right now overwhelms me just the same. As to what the future holds, who knows…

So, getting back to me and the husband: when I finally accepted that this was something we chose to do together, I forgave him (the incongruousness of this does not escape me), and he (whose patience is astounding) me. And now our relationship has evolved. We’ve grown up and into each other that little bit more. The challenges have changed us and, I think, made us stronger. I trust him more, knowing that, even when I have reached ultimate crazy bitch capacity, he won’t throw in the towel and, even better, he’ll somehow find a way to joke about it later.

And, finally, there’s humility – and while I’m not sure if it can be classed as an achievement, it’s definitely something I’ve gained. Nothing stops your sass like not knowing one street from the next and not understanding someone when they speak to you. London, when I think of it now, was like a big security blanket. I knew the streets, which Underground stations to avoid at which time and why, the best place to go for the perfect salad/card/shoes/coffee/cocktail. I understood the rhythm of the place and always kept in step. I’m still tripping over Hamburg’s toes and expect to be doing so for a while, and that has allowed me to look at things at eye level. It’s sobering, but also, in a way, a relief. I think it goes back to that me being me thing I said earlier. Without a façade to lug around, you feel a lot freer – a lot lighter.

It’s exciting, daunting and, of course, a little nerve-wracking wondering what this year will bring. But I guess that’s what life should be like. Picture me in a cone-shaped hat tooting a paper horn. Moving to a new country certainly isn’t easy, but it’s certainly never boring…



by Jenn. Find out more about Jenn here.