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Living in Germany has had it’s good, bad and neutral moments. There have been times when I love my life here and begin to feel really settled into my new home. Then, there are times when I feel really lonely and the reality of living 7000 kilometres away from your family kicks in. The anxiety of what the future brings, how long can you only rely on yourself and whether or not you made the right decision to move abroad. I guess, only people who have lived way outside their comfort zone all alone in a new country can understand how this feels. It’s never really black or white. Living in Germany is no different.
As many of you already know(if you don’t read why I moved here), living in Germany has been a conscious decision I made a year and a half ago to challenge myself into living a life where I knew nothing and no-one. A life where I couldn’t even communicate with the majority of the people on a daily basis. A place where I had no definite future. Of-course, doing this has come with its own set of learnings. Living in Germany has not only taught me many things about the world, but most importantly it has taught me the most about myself. This is not a post to toot my own horn, but only a conscious effort to realise how living in Germany has really impacted my life. In some ways, that I really never saw coming.
Gosh, where should I even begin?
I care more about my health and fitness than I ever did in my life.
I have always been a fairly athletic person in my school days. I was into dancing, basketball, swimming, badminton and whatever else my father could find a summer camp to send me for. However after getting into university, I probably got into the most unhealthy phase of my life. I guess it is the usual case with most people in my generation, but my health got worse after getting into a business school. I stopped working out, ate a lot of junk-food, stayed up late nights and on some days even forgot which day of the week it was. Three years since, I can safely say a lot of that has changed. I’m still not as disciplined as I’d like myself to be but I make sure to dedicate time two or three times a week to some kind of sport. Even if its only biking around my apartment in circles, I move. I do something.
Living in Germany surrounded by people who love sports and staying fit as much as they do on average, makes me inspired and not feel like the odd one out. In India, if you go running on a regular basis, you’d probably get more questions than you would get support. Going to gyms is fairly more acceptable (not to mention safer for women) in India, but the idea of working out on machines just makes me not want to do anything at all. For me, sport should make me feel free, breathe fresh air and give me time to calm down and be alone. Living in Germany, if you don’t do any sport, you’re more likely the odd one out.
I care about my environment and making sure my ecological footprint is minimised.
I guess when you see almost zero litter and people who are aware of such a thing as climate change and follow steps to help their environment such as recycling and effective garbage disposal, you want to follow. This is really one of those things where I thing one’s environment and how the infrastructure supports your daily life influences you a lot. Not to mention, if you screw up and litter, you’re probably going to hear sharp disapprovals from older folks in Germany. There’s a lot of trust and good-will that the German society runs on, and I’d like to be able to contribute more than I want to pollute and destroy. I’m still struggling to decide whether or not I should buy a car. Simply because I know I can use public transport and a bike and still get from point A to B. However, the idea of run-away road trips on the famous Autobahn are too tempting. Ahhhh.
I don’t care if I look like a million bucks.
Germans at best, dress quite functional. In the last year or so, I have really understood how much I do NOT like wearing Jeans. I have truly embraced the leggings/treggings/jeggings (or whatever else the cool kids call it these days) culture. On most days, I couldn’t care less about how I look. I also feel like there is zero pressure while living in Germany to “dress up”. In fact, if at all there is more pressure to “dress down”.
In general, the less the better. I also think it’s a good approach for my skin, hair, time and pocket to consume less but better products. I wouldn’t call myself a minimalist as I think I would never be one. I like buying and hoarding shit just like any other average human. I just want to make sure I buy comparatively less but higher quality products. One great dress is better than 5 average ones. It’s not a monumental insight, but it has changed the way I look, feel and perceive fashion.
You may also want to read more on how I think German girls dress in the summer.
I have understood which of my relationships will stand the test of time.
Moving abroad really stretches all your personal bonds thin. I wrote more about how my friendships changed after moving abroad. In general, I think moving to a different continent from where most of your loved ones reside has given me great clarity on which friends and family I really can rely on, and which ones were just riding on the good times. Life is not easy living all alone, in a country where you never lived before and do not speak the local language of. People that are able to still support, love and grow with you in such a phase of your life, even if they haven’t themselves ever done it, are really the ones worth sticking it out for. You all know who you are, I send my best!
I do not enjoy small talk anymore.
I guess living in Germany and amidst Germans, you do tend to pick up social habits that are well pretty much the norm. Germans are not known to be huge fans of small talk. I guess for most of them talking should eventually have some kind of purpose. Especially between two absolute strangers. Now, I just get kind of plain awkward if I have to say anything more than hi/bye to any stranger. It’s not that I actively avoid it, just that I would rather spend my time with my close ones talking and catching up and much like any other person, I do NOT like to waste my time. No hard feelings against strangers, I just don’t care enough to ask two random questions and then never see each other again.
I do not want to share everything on social media.
Privacy is HUGE in Germany. A lot of my friends either don’t have Facebook or are barely active, if at all. Going on with my social media detox this year, I went ahead and deleted my Facebook simply because I don’t see the point of reading news from 700 odd friends that I will most likely never see again in my life. People will ask, why be active on Instagram or LinkedIn or any other platform? I can’t answer for anyone else, but for me being on those platforms serves a certain purpose.
I like LinkedIn because I still very much want to have a job and it enables me to connect to great minds across the world and only use it when I most need some information. Instagram gives me a way to channel my photographs/creativity which complement my blog. I don’t necessarily show everything that goes on in my day and people can decide whether or not they follow me once they see my feed or stories. There is absolutely no entry or exit barrier. Facebook however, as soon as you become friends with a person, you are blasted with so much jargon that you’ll possibly never use or need. If the whole point of Facebook is to connect, I can just do it with my ‘actual friends’ who have my phone number. The truth is, if you don’t have my phone number in today’s day and age, I don’t want to spend my time digging, being blasted with updates or stalking up your information online because whether or not you got married does not make an iota of difference to my day.
It also saves me from 2 hours of mindless scrolling everyday, which translates to roughly 30.4 days a year. You know what I’d rather be doing in that time, spending it with people I do want to hear from, writing,traveling or learning a new skill that will make me tremendously more satisfied.
I have realized the importance of simply switching myself OFF.
Continuing on the thought above, the idea of ‘me time’ is so well understood and integrated in the German culture that I no longer feel guilty for disconnecting. There are days when you will find me extremely active online or chatting with various friends at the same time, and then there are days (usually my holidays) where I just want to disappear, turn my phone off and just be in the moment. I think solitude is so underrated in our ever online generation, we have forgotten what it feels like to trust ourselves enough to just enjoy our own company and needing absolutely no one else to provide us happiness. Why should any one else be responsible for our happiness anyway?
I get that the world is really more similar than it is different.
No matter how often we’re led to believe by media, news and otherwise that we’re so different from each other, I have found that people are really more similar than they are apart. We all have the same problems (that fall in our locus of control) can broadly be categorized into two main problems, a)finding true love or b)finding a job that you enjoy.
Everything else just follows as a sub-set of the two as we get older. On days that I have no idea where I am going or feel completely lost, it gives me comfort that the majority of people my age are probably having the same issues, if not worse. Remember, these are only things we can somewhat control. The state of the government, health, family is something all of us do not necessarily actively choose. (making them in general outside of our locus of control)
I have come to understand that I am not a city-girl.
Sorry, Carrie Bradshaw. Much as I love the idea of being in love with a fast moving, crazy, stepping on other’s toes kind of world in the media and television, I on the other hand do not love living in a big city. I loved visiting Barcelona , Paris , Jakarta, Bangkok, Amsterdam , etc but given a choice to live there versus a medium sized town, I would pick the latter in a blink. A lot of it has to do with the fact that I grew up in a moderate size town (for India) with less than half a million people, and then for the last 7 years (before Germany) always lived in huge metropolitan cities.
Living now in a somewhat small town again, brings me back to my childhood days and how much I loved the freedom of not always having to rush. I think for a hyper-active control freak like me, the bigger the town, the more it triggers me to panic. I’m still going to love being in cities from time to time. I just prefer to not live in a huge one anymore.
I have made peace with the fact that you cannot have it all.
I guess living in Germany, where it’s okay to take your time to study (it’s not unusual to be in university until your 30’s), figure out where you want to work and then finally settle down at your own speed has helped me turn away from the ‘rat race’ Indian mindset that many of you would also be familiar with. Why do I need to be first/best/fastest at everything? I mean does it matter if I get to point A in 1 year or in 5 years? We all have our own pace of doing things and having completed an MBA before the age of 25, working in 3 kickass jobs, multiple internships all the while living in 3 countries has not made me better than anyone else. It has just made me, me. I guess, this is the most important lesson for me, if at all. That I do not need to have everything. I just need to have what I think is best for me, my mental and physical health and overall happiness. What anyone does out there, or achieves is irrelevant to my own personal development goals. As long as I can be content with what I have, I do not need to complain/worry or run after all the time with what I do-not have.
Living in Germany, has changed me. For better or for worse, only time will decide. Has living in a new country changed you?