We are not off to a good start. This was written on Saturday afternoon. However, the internet at my boarding house is terrible so I have to wait to post it Monday when I get to the office. But here we are! I’ve been here ten days now. And here are the things on my mind from this week…
Time: I’m still figuring out the time difference, when I can talk to people. I’m used to Gchatting with a couple of friends throughout the day and we haven’t quite figured it out now that there’s a six hour time difference. Ditto with my weekly Skype date with Mom. Also, this is a seriously first world problem but all my internet things are being updated at odd times. I need to get that aligned and find more European things to follow.
Internet: The internet at my boarding house is really, really terrible. It wasn’t bad the first few days but a few other people have arrived since then and the internet cannot take the strain. I can’t watch The Daily Show! Sure, Trevor Noah is still not quite cutting it, but I would still like to be able to watch it. There’s a nice restaurant at the train station that has great WiFi. I might have to go have dinner there sometime next week and use their internet…
Okay, done whining. I get to live in Germany for a year! Let’s not bitch about the internet connection. Other non-negative things.
Cost of living: Groceries are insanely cheap. The restaurants are about the same as in Indianapolis and I haven’t had to buy gas yet, but the groceries! I went to the store this morning and could not believe it. I bought groceries for the weekend for less than ten Euros! Am I underestimating the buying power of the Euro? Even the cafeteria at work is significantly less expensive than the Indy counterpart. But much better – the cafeteria at work is pretty great. And the espresso machine! So I’ve got that going for me this year.
Language: I’ve had years of German lessons through work, but chatting in Deutsch once a week does not a fluent speaker make. And it’s so easy to get by in English here – almost everyone at work speaks great English, and has to speak English for most of our vendors anyway. The majority of customer service employees around Mannheim speak English. This morning, after groceries, I stopped at a bakery to get some bread. The woman didn’t speak English and I was not awake enough to try my German, but between points and nods we figured each other out. My two attempts at speaking German since I’ve been here did not go well – both Germans quickly switched to English as soon as they heard my butchering of the language. Yesterday, while at work, my colleagues had to switch to German during a meeting because they were having difficulty getting to the point in English. Five minutes of heated debate followed, me picking up every tenth word or so. It makes me feel guilty – here I am, in their country, making them switch to my language because I’m too lazy to learn a second language. And then every meeting begins with: we have to speak English because Nicole is here… On Thursday, we had someone from India who didn’t speak German either and I wanted to give him a hug. It’s not just me!
World Events: We’re not in Kansas anymore. The refugee situation is real here. The sexual assault case happened in Cologne, which is less than two hours away. Paris is only three hours away. It has come up in casual conversation several times since I’ve been here, met with everything from a shrug to serious concern. Germany is in the middle of Europe and everything has so much more importance. BBC World News is reporting that Taiwan just elected its first female president. I’m glad I saw this because it will definitely come up in conversation on Monday. If I had been back in Indiana, it might have been something I scrolled past on my Twitter feed, nothing more.
Driving: I have a car! I didn’t last time. It was alarmingly easy to get a car in a foreign country. It’s a Volvo and I still haven’t figured out all the buttons. I miss my Prius – I had no idea how reliant I had become on that backup camera. But it’s a very nice car and I’m grateful for work to provide it. I’m excited about the potential – drives to Heidelberg or along the Rhine. And it’s an automatic! Most of the cars here are manual and they may have thought ‘lazy American’ when they gave me the automatic, but I’ll take it. I haven’t driven a manual in years and I’m struggling enough as it is without having to worry about shifting.
Work: It was a very busy and full week at work. Which is good. They’re paying a lot of money, putting in a lot of time, to have me here. I need to really contribute so the longer my to do list, the better. I spent a good chunk of the week settling in, taking care of administrative things related to moving, but by Friday it was honestly like I had never left last year. And by the end of next week, everything will be totally settled – I will move from my boarding house to my permanent apartment where I will be the rest of the year. I’ll trade in my American laptop for a German one. I’ll have a bank (and get my first Deutsch paycheck). And then it’ll just be the next 50 weeks.