I have been writing so much for work that my private headlines are not really the most creative. But this one sums it up pretty well. Pouya, me, India. Naturally, the minute I told my body I am going on … 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.
When the 100-year old writings of an Austrian Business dude totally throw you off…
Peter Drucker is the ultimate dude when it comes to leadership advice. Although his works date back to the early to mid 20th-century, his writing still holds true in times of Twitter, digital everything and snapchat.
The Austrian dude has a chapter about time in his book “The Effective Executive”. As he goes explaining how time is the only true scarce resource he consequently states: If you are doing something that is not contributing to your goals, you are wasting your time.
I was listening to that chapter after a not so great day of work that had already been preceded by many not too great days of work which had already been foreshadowed by a couple of meh months at work, you get the idea. And the only thing that kept me sane during this time was my workouts, weekends filled with skiing or other fun adventures and my friends in Germany, in South East Asia, in Boston that never get tired of listening to vents, to complaints, to doubts.
You will just have to listen to the Dudes…
I would not go so far as to say that Peter Drucker told me through the grapevine to put in my 2 weeks notice, but that night when I was chopping vegetables in my beautiful Boston apartment I felt that change was going to come my way and that I would embrace it: The uncertainty, the angst, the excitement, the freedom, the opportunity to work more focused towards my goals.
And enjoy the moments of deepest uncertainty
Yesterday Pouya & I walked to cozy Spy Pond in Cambridge on the first day of sunshine after three days of icy rain and snow storms in Boston (yes, Germans, I knwo . We carried with us the Greens from the Persian Sofra. Tradition has it that on the 13th day of Persian New Year you are supposed to tie a knot into your greens while making a wish and then sending the greens into the water. Obviously, I cannot tell anyone about the wish that I made while brading the greens. I can tell you, though, that sitting by the water, enjoying a sunny afternoon moment filled me with inner peace. After all Lichtenberg said “I cannot say whether things will get better if we change; what I can say is they must change if they are to get better.”
Thanks Dudes! Peter Drucker and Georg Lichtenberg
The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort or convenience, but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy. (Martin Luther King)
Once again I visited the Martin Luther King Memorial in DC and, in deep admiration, paused for a moment in front of his quotes; They are humbling. The above one captured my attention so much because I currently find myself confronted with some life challenges.
When you want it all…and end up on the couch with your solace giving jar of Peanut Butter
Last week I tried it all: working out, eating clean, enough sleep, performing well at work and packing up my apt for a move on saturday. And this is the situation I found myself in most nights: Cancelled all workouts, munching on potato chips with Peanut Butter, sleep-deprived, insanely frustrated at work because for the first time I have taken on a project that does not have clearly defined goals and I am suffering. And instead of packing smartly, I ended up packing “miscellaneous” boxes – basically just randomly throwing stuff in so at least one thing would be DONE in my head.
There is a stubborn inner child taking over at times that can be quite annoying
Surely I could have asked for and I certainly was offered help. But I wanted to get it done by myself. I want to say it’s not me, it is a very stubborn, unreasonable part of me. Once set on an idea or task, however insurmountable that workload may look to a reasonable person, there is no turning back. Or accepting help. I call that part of me my annoying inner child. Why? Have you ever seen a young child throw herself on the floor in the supermarket, screaming, wanting something. Yeah, that’s how I feel at times of challenge.
Just like the child’s conniptions in the supermarket only last a few minutes, my inner child gets appeased fairly easily; Or defeated by exhaustion. Maria Rita reminded me this week that while welcoming bad feelings is crucial, it is just as important to let go of them as easily. So, after a good night’s sleep, after moving out of my apartment and in with my boyfriend and after waking up next to him with the Boston sunlight announcing my favorite day, I am hugging my inner child this morning and tell her: You’ll be fine. I don’t want to get rid of you, I am accepting you as a part of me.
Spicer, Trump and friends keep handing out so much bull, I will keep it lighthearted today and hand you some happy moments of my international love experience. You could also subtitle this one with: Dating a Persian, 101.
Persian New Year
Today is Persian New Year, or Nowruz. Let me start with a cool fact: Persians celebrate their New Year (which is like christmas for Germans) at the vernal equinox. And they are peculiar about the timing. The New Year celebration is exactly at the time of the actual equinox, today at 6.28AM, but changing every year. You would think that if there is any nation in this world who celebrates a holiday ON TIME, it would be the Germans…
Just as christmas, Nowruz comes with a lot of traditions. Before the actual celebration every household prepares as so called Sofra – a table decorated with seven things that start with the letter S. Very typical is the spice Sumac, an apple, Greens which are called Sabzi in Farsi, a mirror, a goldfish…Yes, you read correctly! An alive goldfish is part of Nowruz. Can you imagine my excitement about getting a pet goldfish? Unfortunately, or I am assuming Pouya thinks differently about this one, we were too late and could not get a goldfish, but rest assured: I will be a Sofra earlybird next year…
Let’s talk food. I have had quite some exposure to the Persian cuisine. In Farsi, the word for stomach and heart is the same, that hints at how important and intricate Persian cooking is. While many dishes are absolutely delicious, there is this one thing that I am almost as obsessed about as Peanut Butter, and that is Tahdig. Imagine this: You take a tortilla and butter, and put that tortilla at the bottom of a pan and on top you put cooked rice. Let that sit for long enough and the butter, tortilla and rice form this dark brown crust…Tahdig is also where Persian hospitality comes to a brief pause – because the bottom of a pan is only so big, meaning there is only so much Tahdig and everybody wants it.
So, what happened last saturday at a Nowruz celebration is that, at a certain late-night hour, I found myself in the extremely lucky situation of having discovered that there was a tiny bit of Tahdig left over at the bottom of the pot. I was comforted by the Persians present that under the influence scraping off Tahdig is a very ok thing to do…
Lastly, Persian New Year has a wonderful tradition and that is reading Hafez‘ poems. Traditionally, you are asking yourself a question silently, then open the book and somebody will read the poem to you. Hafez words are so complicated and complex, though, leaving so much room for interpretation that it can take a long time to interpret the meaning of the poem, especially in the context of your question. I will, of course, not convey the question that I asked, but it’s been a precious experience to experience the most important tradition of a culture you learn so little (and that little you do hear is mostly negative) about when you grow up in the Western world.