Today I had lunch with a friend from Boston who moved to Munich with her husband and two kids in June. Without a doubt she is in full cultural shock mode. This is not the first time she had left … Continue reading
I guess they call this culture shock
It has not been four weeks since I landed in Frankfurt. Usually there is a period of enthusiasm, then the most threaded valley of tears, and then you cope. While my period of enthusiasm for my new role at Zeiss, content planning and analysis for digital corporate communications (first results will be visible very soon) is unbroken, my enthusiasm for this country has stopped with the bike shop owner in Aalen telling me that he isn`t sure whether road biking really is for woman.
Before I begin my vent: A disclaimer (My complaints are the results of high expectations)
Before I will be sharing many of my observations over the next couple of days, let me disclaim this: I was born & raised in Germany. This means that I am expecting to feel home in my home country. When in the US, or in Spain, in India, in Dubai things seemed weird, people awkward, chauvinistic, politics insane, I vented, but really it did not affect me emotionally, because – at least that’s what I thought – the motherland is sane and well. And while this country is stunningly beautiful, which I haven’t really appreciated as much beforehand, there are many things I am observing that make me feel very much not at home, not belonging. And that sucks for me right now. But, I guess, at least all of you will learn a lot about Germany through my lens.
Let’s jump right in: There is no separation of church & state in this country and all of a sudden this really bothers me!
I just saw on my first paycheck that I am paying taxes to the church. YES, I was christened and confirmed in the protestant church and that means that I am paying eight (8!!!) percent of my income tax to the church. A church that still refuses same rights for all marriages. You can opt out of the church. However, opting out of church costs a fee and can only be done in person at municipal community where you are registered. Obviously, as we know – most likely a global phenomenon – municipal communities are open pretty much three hours a day, their employees – in Germany lifetime employees of the state – are not the most enthusiastic workers and the three hours collide with every normal person’s working hours.
If you are opting out of the church there are severe consequences
Maybe not severe as in the clergy will hunt you through the streets and declare you evil, but modern world severe as in: You will not be able to get married in a house of god nor will you be able to have your child christened. Yes, now it is time for me to face these questions: How important are these things to me after all? I do not know yet.
Sunday – Funday
Since I already touched upon the churchy subject, let me get my thoughts about sundays out of my system. You cannot do anything on sundays! No supermarket, no shop, no mall, no nothing. Granted, the Southern German region is different than Berlin. However, most shops here close their doors on saturdays around 2pm. That is has become a little bit of an issue for me, since I am so used to starting my weekend with a longer bike ride saturday mornings. Obviously, the sunday is a German tradition. Often have I told Pouya how much I miss sunday afternoon “Kaffeetrinken” / coffee and cake with the family. For a moderately busy person the leisure sundays seem quite constraining.
Speaking of fundays: The beer nation with no beer variety
Countless times have Americans told me how much they dig German beer. While it certainly is an acquired taste I really have fallen for strong, hoppy IPAs (Sip of Sunshine, my American Northeastern friends) or really tart Sour beers. While Germany has uphold the rule of the Reinheitsgebot (beer purity law: beer is only beer if it is brewed in a certain way with certain ingredients) that limits the choices you have. Hefeweizen, Lager, unfiltered. That is it. Sure, there are a thousand Hefeweizens, Lagers and unfiltereds. Still, though, that’s pretty much it. Funny how this nation remains on the global beer throne; reputation is king, I guess.
Complaints are not all I have to share with you
My self help “The How of Happiness” book which I can truly recommend to anyone states that the determinants of happiness are fairly easy: 40% is genetic predisposition (yap, you’re either born a clown or a grumpy cat), 50% is your inner attitude and 10% is outer circumstance. The 10% basically suggests that you will not be happier with 10lbs less, living in a mansion or retired, at least not permanently. The 50% are the interesting part. And that is what I want to finish with.
I am here
I am living with my colleague Petra (the apartment search will be subject of another post, too good to spoil it…), I was welcomed back with a bouquet of flowers, lots of hugs and kisses at work and at home, I have not once had a tummy ache since I have arrived (thank you, EU), and I have most likely produced 10times less trash on an average day because Germans prefer real glasses, silverware and ceramic instead of plastic or paper everything. I refuse to state that I have returned, that I am settling, that I am back. I am here! Working on a job opportunity I have never dreamed of, accompanied by a partner who will most likely develop a Swabian German accent (oh boy!) once he starts learning German in August, six weeks of paid vacation, a company that values work-life-balance and family time and lots of stories to tell.
The day I quit my job I called ata cycle in concord and made an appointment for a bike fit: your body gets measured, the data then gets fed into an adjustable bike and while you’re biking the computer spits out recommendations like saddle height. A couple of days later I picked up a white framed, pink handle barred carbon dream. And I named it Tharros, which is the ancient Greek word for courage.
After a couple of hundred miles in New England, Dubai, Germany and Canada (not all of them on Tharros), I have decided to do my first triathlon this summer. And I will do this one at home. After now four years in Boston I am literally taking my courage and moving to Germany. Almost four years ago I wrote a post titled “Danke, Carl Zeiss”. Since then I have been in touch with colleagues, working as a student during grad school, following company news, stayed in touch with many of my former colleagues. And, you’re probably guessing it already, the story continues: I will be joining the Corporate Zeiss Communications team at the beginning of June, ending my funemployment sooner than I would have thought.
While I will leave a great network of friends in Boston, I am more than excited to write that I will be accompanied by the man who has become my partner, wonderful friend, reliable accomplice and travel mate. Pouya will move to Germany a little later this summer, ready for lots of Hefeweizen, sausage, climbing the Southern German mountains on his bike, learning German (little does he know that he will most likely end up speaking with a heavy Swabian accent) and probably also becoming familiar with German neurotics.
I am leaving you, as always, with some funemployment impressions:
The idea: waking up feeling relaxed, starting the day with a good breakfast, and then jumping right into my “projects I’ll do when I have time”.
The Reality: woke up the first three days at 6, dead-set on having overslept &being late for work. Then realizing that me leaving my job coincided with me buying my first roadbike…so all the other projects had to wait until I am getting to tired to ride (which – so far – does not seem to happen too soon).
The reality of having more time is that you actually don’t get more done. And that’s not what it’s about. It’s about having time. Having time to cook, to walk mindfully through your cute neighbourhood, to take care of yourself, and to reconsider some priorities. To not just keep busy!
I biked 200miles, I swam 5miles, I even ran. I discovered the great Armenian stores in Watertown, watched the Battle of Lexington Reenactment, went to brunch with friends, cursed & loved the New England spring (which really is a comparable to a schizophrenic impersonating monsoon & August), took a roadtrip to Burke Mountain in Vermont and I read and read and read.
And before I knew it became very clear to me that while I still love New England my time here is coming to an end. I am writing this post from the Frankfurt Airport, where I have just met my parents for breakfast. We’re on a layover to Dubai, about to soak in lots of sun, phones off, sunscreen on. Pretty sure that while the saltwater will wash away the dead skin it will also clear my head for new adventures.