Let me be honest: I love my job, but I am struggling! 

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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.

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My first soy cafe latte in Germany. Würzburg has a vibrant hipster scene. From what I have heard an oatmilk chai is a favorite here…

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And for lunch: Milkrice with cinnamon and sugar 😉

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The view from Würzburg’s Marienbridge: a good destination for sunday fundays where a glass of wine costs 3dollars.

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Würzburg’s streets

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My flowers and new desk (and, more Swag)

 

 

 

 

Enough Courage to Come Home

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:

 

Peter Drucker made me quit my job…well kind of

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.”
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Thanks Dudes! Peter Drucker and Georg Lichtenberg

Yearning for German Christmas Traditions

Yesterday, December 6th, is Nikolaus. The only day I voluntarily cleaned my shoes. Why? Because – that’s the tradition – children put their clean boots in front of the house the night before December 6th, hoping that St. Nikolaus will reward them for having been on good.

As a strong believer that you shall never fully grow up Nikolaus continues to be a very special day for me & my family in December. This morning I woke up to so many Nikolaus messages from my whole family and yesterday I picked up a package filled with Nikolaus goodies from my Mom, just in time.

Yet, this 2016 Christmas season feels somewhat more intense to me. I was lucky enough to have my first warm Christmas wine, a real German Marzipanstollen (sweet bread with Marzipan, raisins and powdered sugar) and roasted Almonds at the Christmas market in Toronto last week and it felt a little bit like home.

I have not been home for one full year. Funny enough, my chronic complaints about Germany and some cultural features slowly turned into a romantic yearning for everything German & christmas, and I indulge in it (I even had a bread with Nutella for breakfast the other day). Obviously, this might change the moment I touch ground in Frankfurt.

I also have a feeling that this desire has to do with the fact that I will not be returning to Germany alone…and I am extremely excited to show Pouya my Germany during this very special season, including watching Sissi (a trilogy on the Austrian Habsburger queen Elizabeth in the 19th century), drinking lots of calories like spiked eggnog and hot cocoa with rum and eating Goose.

Meanwhile, until we land in Germany, I will hopefully be able to enjoy first snow and lots of seasonal adventures in Boston.

What a month: A perfect New England late summer

Fall has definitely arrived in Boston.Rain, cold winds, hot cocoa time. For me the start of fall also comes with a desire for reflection. I was feeling pretty tired and worn out yesterday and as I was scrolling through my September/early October pictures it is no wonder I am a little exhausted. Late summer is my favorite time of the year, and these last weeks have been as eventful as can be with my parents visiting from Germany and many other splendid moments.

Still learning a lot about myself. Everyday. And instead of complaining, here is my reflection shared with you in pictures.

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In early September my Mom was here for my birthday and we did a roadtrip to Maine. This is the picturesque Nubble Lighthouse. Looks more romantic than it is.

 

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My mom had not been to the US for a while and although she loved Maine the trip made her realize how much more she appreciates Germany now 😉

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One of my all-time favorite spots: The USS Constitution

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During one of those “why not”-moments I signed up for the Tufts century ride. The University invites all alumni & students to ride at the beginning of each academic year. It was a beautiful experience…

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…with lots of unhealthy food afterwards 😉

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A week after the bike ride I walked the Jimmy Fund marathon & raised money for cancer research. Not only do cancer survivors walk with you, the Jimmy Fund Walk brought out amazing people…

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…like these two: If you take a closer look at his shirt, it says “20 years and still slicing”. They stood at the famous Heartbreak Hill and provided everyone with sliced oranges, having a blast.

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September was also a long good-bye/see you later for me and Maria Rita. I have grown so used to having many close friends in Boston, but given our hunger for adventure eventually we’ll all move on. Maria Rita is the first to leave to spend four months in South East Asia. I am hoping to meet her in India early next year. This was her good-bye dinner party.

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September also brought a lot of magical and romantic moments. This is the sunrise over Walden Pond. Waking up to go swim in a cold-ish lake before 6AM, yup: It was one of the best dates I have ever had.

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Just like this one: I was taken to one of Boston’s “Hidden concerts”. Although you have to get the ticket months in advance, you only learn about the artist & the location 24hours beforehand. 

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Speaking of magical moments: I was introduced to Persian breakfast: The triangle shaped pieces on the plate are eggs with lots of herbs and this is called kookoo sabzi. If you like omelette, turmeric and herbs, you will love this dish. 

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Last week, my Dad was here and we took a roadtrip to New Hampshire to enjoy fall foliage.

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This is one of the selfies at the beginning of our hike at Mount Lafayette in the Franconia Notch

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This is the view into the Franconia Ridge. 

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The Welch-Dickey trail gifts you this beautiful view on a clear day.

Father’s Day

It is Father’s Day. And since this is the 30th year of my Dad’s fathership, it is time to reveal some special moments, those that stick in your memory and make you smile (I am sure that lots of Dads and Daughters can relate to this)

  • When I was in third grade, my Dad gave me my first career advice. I had to write a paragraph about what I want to be when I grow up. I had no clue what to write. I vividly remember him sitting down with me, asking me about activities that I enjoy doing and finally saying: You choose something that makes you happy and you will be excellent at it. 
  • Every time we went to the bakery together to get fresh breakfast rolls, we shared a “Berliner”, a jam-filled donut on our way home. It was our well-kept secret. Father's Day
  • When I introduced my first boyfriend to him, Dad was very polite and welcoming. Yet,he gave that poor boy that stare that only Dads can do. The “if you break her heart, I break your legs”-stare. It made me feel very protected.
  • When I had my first skiing accident, my Dad climbed up that steep Austrian ski slope to be there for me. When we were buying new ski boots for me this winter, I was trying on racing boots. The shop owner, an elderly Austrian all mountain guy, said to my Dad that these boots require a lot of strength and he would not recommend them to women. My Dad looked at him, smiling and replied: Well, you do not know my daughter.
  • This is my third year living in the United States and we do not see eachother often. I miss my Dad a lot and I know he misses me. Never, though, has he asked me to not do something, to not go places if I wanted to do it. His parental love is unconditional and I can only thank him for that.

Today is Father’s Day in Germany. Actually, it is a national holiday called “Christi Himmelfahrt” (Ascension of Christ), which is broadly recognized as Father’s Day. If you were taking a walk through the fields in Germany today, you could see hordes of men, pulling a child’s wagon filled with beer, celebrating father’s day.