Today’s post falls into the introspective and slightly whiny category. I wrote it about three weeks ago, but because of visitors, etc., I haven’t had time to post it until now. I was kind of on the fence about it, but it’s honesty, right? Having said that, I’m sending it off after the jump…
In my recent posts, I’ve focused on the enjoyable German activities in the last few weeks. What I didn’t mention before, was that I also had my third anniversary of living here back in June. In a way, I guess it was only fitting to engage in all of the super-fun Deutsch-ness to celebrate my time here so far. Because that is something to celebrate.
While I am happy to be here, and I do feel like I’ve accomplished something in making it this far, lately I’ve found myself more and more frustrated.
Something I’ve realized over the last few years, is that teaching English can allow you to live in a society, but at the same time provide an easy excuse for not entirely assimilating. Of course, it’s more true for some people than others, but I feel like I fall into the slacker category on this one. I can’t even count the number of times that I’ve said, “well, I don’t need German at work, and so it’s easy to get by without it.” And so it is.
In Prague it was even easier to make the excuses, especially since I didn’t plan to stay there forever. Attempting to decipher the seven cases they use in Czech seemed to be a waste of time when surrounded by expats and cheap beer. Three years ago when I arrived here, I was in the midst of a major personal crisis, and I had no idea how long I’d actually last here.
I’m settled. I have a wunderbar German Gentleman. We have a kleine Katze. My excuses are stretching thinner and thinner by the day.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about my attempt to find another job. At the time, I absolutely knew that I was aiming too high, but that didn’t lessen the disappointment in how it went. And chances are, it won’t be the last time. I have a feeling that more disappointments will follow as I look for a way to make a transition.
The fact is, I like it here. I like the quality of life, I like the German mindset, with all its quirks. I like the sense of a place for everything, and everything in its place. Including people. I like the idea that they identify people’s strengths, and guide them into a career that will work for them. I’m tired of the constant worries of freelancing, especially now when the amount of work has drastically decreased. Two weeks ago, I lost 50% of my workload, yet again, and I have no idea what to do about it. At this point, I’m working one day a week. At least it’s in summer, and sure it’s good for the mental health, but on the wallet? Not so much. I’ve felt like this a lot lately…Have I reached out to other schools? Sure…. The thing is, you can be in the pool of freelancers at all the language schools in town, but that doesn’t mean you’ll get any classes from them. And honestly, if one more German (or anyone else), asks me why I don’t look for something else, I might throw something at them. Do you think I haven’t, Captain Obvious? Danke for the tip! (Beats head against wall.)
Perhaps it’s their elaborate system of schooling with apprenticeships, internships and the like. Perhaps it’s the fact that they have the job security that comes with unlimited contracts and unions that still have a say. Perhaps it’s the low unemployment rate. Or perhaps it’s just their infinite pragmatism, but they don’t seem to understand how difficult it can be. If you don’t speak the language well, and you haven’t gone through that whole elaborate schooling system… it’s tricky. Some days I feel like Charlie in that episode of ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.’ I may just keep this video cued up on my phone to whip out when the need arises…
You said it, Charlie.
And yes, I do live in an area with major international corporations. Siemens is here, Puma is here, Adidas is here, and those are just three of the big ones. And they do have jobs on offer, but thus far I haven’t found anything that I would be qualified for, either because of my crappy German, or because of my lack of business background. Internships are on offer, but they usually they’re looking for enrolled students, which I am not. Maybe I’m missing something, but I don’t know where other people find these magical, mystical, non-German requiring, international jobs. Personally, I don’t think they really exist. So now what?
At this point, something has to change. I have so much here that is good, but this one area is just causing overwhelming frustration. BV and I have discussed moving, and neither of us have a problem with the idea, but we won’t do anything about it until he’s done with his university program. Who knows if and when we will actually go somewhere, and that’s not what he needs to worry about right now. I want him to focus on his studying, and not worry about my lack of career. Even if we do move, any major changes are at least a year and a half away, and I don’t want to wait that long to come up with a plan.
I was talking about this with a friend the other day, and the fact that it’s such a first-world problem to have. Like, ‘oh, poor me, I’m not working enough and it’s stressful.’ I feel almost stupid for whining about being stressed when I have a place to live, food in the fridge, and I can deal with the stress by jogging and painting picture frames. Sadly, no one is paying me to nap, jog, paint, or do any of my other pseudo-Hausfrau activities.
Yes, there are much bigger problems in the world. Yes, I struggled with even writing about this here in this space, but since I’m here to share my reality, here it is. This space has been my writing therapy for the last years, because life isn’t Pinterest-perfect. Not every day is a fest, and while I have been out enjoying the gorgeous spring and summer we’ve had, the worry has been constant whether I’m indoors or out.
I wrote this while sitting on a bench during my Wednesday break. I was surrounded by the town’s old city center, with its Fachwerk houses, young and old zipping past on bikes, people eating ice cream for lunch, and the tinkling of water. There were fountains in every direction I looked; the sound of the water neatly lessened the noise of cars parallel parking a few meters away.
Although I got some odd looks – perhaps people aren’t used to seeing someone madly writing with pen and paper anymore – I felt comfortable. I feel comfortable here most of the time. On the surface, I fit in. Generally, people don’t know I’m a foreigner until I open my mouth, when it becomes oh-so-clear.
I’d like to get to the point where I don’t panic when asked a question spontaneously. To where I can follow the dinner conversation of BV’s friends, and to where they don’t need a drink to break out their (perfectly fine and no need to be nervous) English skills. Honestly, these are two of my biggest hurdles right now, and crossing them might take longer than I’d like to admit. Following the conversation of seven to nine other people in your native language can be exhausting. Add to that the German factor and the fact that they’re almost all engineers, with a dentist and a Ph.D. thrown into the mix and… yeah. It’s a bit like being a kid at the grown-up’s table. They have all been nothing but nice to me, but I spend a lot of time listening with my head going back and forth like I’m at a tennis match. It’d be nice to get the punch lines without poor BV translating the finer points. He’s good at it, very good in fact, but it wears him out too.
Do I ever think I’ll stop being a foreigner? No, no I don’t, and I don’t want to lose that part of my identity either. What I would like to do, is to be able to use my words. My words are one of my better assets, and if I could use them to articulate myself the way I want to in German, and not just to order a pretzel, then… well then I would really feel like I’ve accomplished something. It’s been three years, and it’s time to buck up. Less English rambling, more butchering of ze Deutsch. On that note, I’m off to my books.
Got any advice on free language improvement techniques? Send ’em my way!