“I don’t mind what happens.”
– Jiddu Krishnamurti
It feels like only yesterday Odd was struggling to get in touch with IKEA, trying to get furniture before our August arrival. Restless and frustrated – waiting, waiting, waiting in an empty apartment without any sign of a delivery truck. (Yep, IKEA has delivery options – who knew?) Without internet available in the apartment, he was unable to connect to work, check email or find contact information. His patience ran thin. No mattress to sleep on and no chance to leave to get food (just in case the truck arrived) only made matters worse. Let’s just say, he was not a happy camper those two days between work travel.
Fast forward one year. “Every first is always the hardest,” I’ve grumbled many times this year. We have crossed the halfway mark and beginning our second year so things should be better, right?
In honor of our first year abroad, I thought I’d mention a few things I have learned along the way.
The one thing we did right…was pack only what we needed even if it meant squeezing it all in two bags per person. Yes I can’t believe it either! I brought it down to the bare essentials. I have learned to live like a minimalist, more or less – certainly very challenging with a teenager! It’s not always easy to adapt but we try. For some reason, kosher salt is not available here nor is good peanut butter so those are pretty much the two staples I have asked visitors to bring along. I can’t tell you how a good PB&J always makes me feel – although almond butter is beginning to take a close second.
The one thing I would do over is…ask a German speaking friend to come with us when registering for residency or dealing with Government related issues. Not all government employees speak English. One would expect this but from our experience it hasn’t always been the case. Blergh.
The hardest part has been…again, the language barrier. It is one thing to order food at a restaurant or give directions to the nearest Bahn station in German but it is another to follow a TV show or a conversation in German. By the way, shows are dubbed in German here without English subtitles. Thank goodness for Netflix.
What I have learned to love is…water with carbonation or “mit sprudel”. The flavor takes time to get used to but I actually enjoy it now. Odd prefers to mix Gerolsteiner’s mineral water with apple juice at home. Restaurants and grocery stores sell it as Apfelschorle. When ordering in restaurants, be prepared to order water with or without “gaz”. They always ask if you prefer a small or large bottle (for sharing). They do not serve tap water or ice in their drinks either.
Believe it or not, I have also learned to enjoy sun-dried laundry. I know it sounds strange but I actually love the whole ritual of hanging clothes to dry and enjoy the way fresh laundry feels once it has been drying under the sun. Is that hard to believe? Talk to me in the winter when we’re back to “crunchy” towels. Argh.
What I miss most are…family and good friends. When the kids were transitioning from pre-school to kindergarten, I remember them singing, “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other is gold.” Still rings true today. So staying connected using FaceTime, Skype and Google Hangout has been amazing and helpful!!
The best part about moving is…learning a new culture. Germans are very social and enjoy group activities. They are a very calm, focused and organized society as a whole. Some things they like to do together are playing tennis, rock climbing, gathering at beer gardens, swimming and sunbathing. They are very relaxed about sunbathing. I mean Full Monty relaxed. Simply being “au naturel” at parks, lakes and saunas is very normal for them and take it all in stride. “Your body is a wonderland…lalala…”
The one thing I should have done earlier is…nest. I don’t know why it took me so long. It has been a year and only now, have I decided to paint the two alcoves that were once a bold orange in our hallway. It surprises me how a small thing like paint (even if it’s Arctic white) and a few pictures with our own story can make the apartment feel a little more like home.
While renewing Karina’s passport a few months ago, we discovered a café called the Oslo Kaffebar. Naturally, it’s next to the Scandinavian Embassies and such a welcome surprise. I love how Karina sips my coffee because normally she doesn’t like it at all. I also love how Odd steals any occasion to impart some knowledge her way. This picture probably doesn’t mean anything to you but for me, this simple moment makes me happy. I have learned to surround myself with images that make me happy.
The reality about moving is…the grass is not greener on the other side. It’s just a different shade of green. I have learned to allow things to unfold as it should and am slowly learning to “not mind what happens”.
Boy, this is the longest blog post I’ve done! Hope you stick around for Berlin Version 2.0. Round 2. Here we go…