Yesterday, I hit the five-month mark in Germany.
It feels as if I’ve lived here years already. I spoke to some friends and family about it yesterday, and they all feel the same way. It doesn’t make sense, you know. It hasn’t even been half a year, but it doesn’t FEEL that way.
We’ve seen some major changes in ourselves over the last five months. We do things differently now. Small things, for the most part. Like we buy more fresh food and less frozen stuff, though that may be more because of the small fridge than because of a sudden need for fresh food. We recycle without thinking about it and we’re more sparing of electricity.
There is a bigger change too, though Jan hasn’t been affected as much as I have, because his personality is different than mine. I’ve always been more outgoing and prone to speak to anyone, stranger or not. He’s always been quieter. If he knows you well, sure, he’ll talk a lot. But otherwise, not likely.
I don’t talk to people here. In fact, I tend to avoid people altogether.
It’s pretty strange to admit it, but it’s fact. Now, don’t get me wrong. We’ve adapted well and we’re not unhappy. I could stay here for the rest of my life to give my kid a better future. It’s still safer and more economically stable than South Africa.
But I have had a few bad experiences with the people here and that makes it difficult. We’ve learned that even if we aren’t refugees, we are perceived as refugees in Germany. Economical refugees, believe it or not. The label ‘refugee’ is a negative one, especially now with so many refugees flooding into Europe.
The language is a bigger barrier than I imagined. I’m still learning German, with more dedication again since the holidays have ended. I can understand a lot more than I did in the beginning and I can puzzle out a lot of the language when I read it. It’s difficult to build sentences, but I try. The pronouns and sexes of nouns still confuse me, because it’s either not found in Afrikaans or English, or it’s in a different position in the sentence structure. But I am trying.
When I tell people in my attempt at German that we are South African and learning German, their attitudes change towards us. But only then. Overall, the German people have not been kind or even accepting of us. In fact, many are cold and sometimes rude. Yes, there have been a few German people who have gone out of their way to help us, especially when they know we’re South African and they have actually been in South Africa. South African hospitality is legendary in every country we’ve found ourselves.
The fact that people are so cold here has changed me. It means that I don’t even try to chat to people, even when they can speak English. It means that I would rather stay at home than enter a shop when Jan’s not with me. It means I avoid people as far as possible. That’s strange to me. It’s also made me act more anxious than usual, which means my obsessive behaviours become more pronounced. I find it hard to be calm sometimes and I throw myself at stuff to help me feel better. Of course, obsessing only heightens my anxiety, so it doesn’t really help. 😛
We skype with friends and family often. I think it’s a lot easier to move countries with today’s technology, because it’s so easy to stay connected. I don’t really feel that I miss the people back in South Africa, because I’m still a part of their day to day life. What I miss is popping in for a coffee, or having them pop in at my place, or going shopping, or watching the kids play in the swimming pool. BUT, in spite of not seeing everyone face to face, we’re still part of their lives. That does make it easier and it means I don’t feel so lonely. I still wish I could be there for that shoot, or dress shopping, or the Christening.
We know some people who have immigrated to everywhere you can think of. All of them have told us that the first (insert period of time here) is the hardest. For me, it was the first three months. In that time, we had a lot of uncertainty. We couldn’t find a place to stay and the uncertainty of where we would go next caused me no small amount of anxiety. I cried a lot just before the three-month mark, but it’s dulled down now. I’ve gone into a kind of limbo, where I don’t really allow things to bother me so much any more. I can only really describe it as going through the motions. We’ve found our feet and we’re doing well. It’s just not quite home yet.
I’m sure we’ll get there as time passes. Overall, we’re happy. As long as we have each other and keep positive. In spite of the anxiety I mentioned above, I’m still an optimist. The glass can be refilled, after all.
Tell me your experiences if you’ve moved countries before. Tips? Ideas? Please share.