Tougher Stuff

Moving abroad in itself, is tough. You have to adjust to a new culture, hearing and learning a new language, everything being different…. and importantly, realizing who you are in this new place while never forgetting who you were back home. But there are other things, little things, that become more frustrating over here than they ever were over there.

This week I was supposed to start work, but unfortunately, my work visa/permit hasn’t come through yet so I’m still sitting on the sidelines until that changes. I’ll admit, I’m never very excited about work, and that’s not because I don’t like working. On the contrary, I enjoy working. I just don’t begin the enjoying to work part until I understand fully what I’m doing and how to do it everyday. That can be a few days into my new job or a few weeks, but I always get there.

Being an American, and a poor one at that, I’ve had jobs it would seem all of my life. I babysat, I shoveled driveways and walkways, I helped people with their groceries, I cleaned antiques at the antique shop on Main Street, I also was a housecleaner for the lady down the street,  and then when I was 14, I got my first official job at our local library putting away books and organizing. I did that for the next 3 1/2 years, and that was to this day, my favorite job. I have a deep love for books and librarians, something I later pursued after my pastry degree. I’ve had several jobs after that; food writer, Resident Assistant, Senior Resident Assistant, lesson developer for a culture and language institute, President of the American Library Association, graduate research assistant, pastry chef (a few times), bookseller at a bookstore, pastry creationist (only RISD would have this title), baker, I worked at 7-Eleven for a few days, Young Adult Assistant Librarian, tutor, Preschool teacher which I will do now for a second time. This may be boring to read, but I have a point. 

I’ve worked most of my life and I’m 26. I’ve never felt that anything was ever handed to me; I worked for everything. My parents didn’t support me, whether they wanted to or not, they made me independent enough so that by 14, I could afford to buy my own groceries, tell myself when to sleep or do my homework, make my dinner, wake myself up, go to school, go to work, perform in the school choir, apply to college and scholarships…. I’ve done it all on my own for a very long time. But being here in Germany, especially with the G-Man, means having to depend on someone else for a time. Right now he is supporting us, and that makes me uncomfortable. I cannot do a lot of things on my own here, I have to rely on his help and wait for a work permit to be processed. I tried to make phone calls to the immigration office and they told me they don’t understand my German. They told me that this is Germany and that I shouldn’t call them unless I can speak better German. In the end, other people had to call to figure out something I should have been able to figure out myself. I broke down in tears, confused and frustrated. Moving abroad means you have to be built of tougher stuff.

You have to get tough to have a voice. They don’t know you other than being an outsider in their country. Sometimes it feels like you have to prove that you have the right to be in their country. This week I fell short of that, but next week I will go back at it. I’m determined if nothing else just to be happy. And I’m fortunate for the first time in my life to have someone who I can rely on, and a family here that I can feel included in. I’m strong, and smart enough to know now that  you can’t do everything alone. Hopefully this will work out.


4 thoughts on “Tougher Stuff

  1. I hear you… this week more than I would have last. I’m German and live and work in the US and understand what it feels like having to prove your existence and right to work all the time. Just yesterday a co-worker slipped into an otherwise harmless conversation “well, if you didn’t have this job, an American could”. I have been in this job for almost three years and gone through a lot of trouble to get the right paperwork, visa, and whatnot. I was/am hurt and furious and still can’t look her in the eyes for fear of saying something extremely inappropriate… Aaaah, the joys of being an expat.

  2. You should be furious and hurt, that’s a messed up thing to say! You gotta stick up for yourself lady. It is pretty cool to speak someone in an oppositely similar situation though, and I may have questions for you at some point too. Hopefully I’ll adjust better, I know this is my home now but it just doesn’t feel like it yet- you know what I mean?

  3. Wow. I know people that live and work here without knowing German. Their companies brought them and they support the economy through these companies. This is a valuable thing for Germany, where it is common to see articles about lack of skilled people and that some take advantage of the welfare system, I am surprised that the Amt is not more forgiving to the lack of German. I do hope you get the visa you want.

    My wife is having to learn some of this reliance as well. Lean on your guy and know that if he loves you, he won’t mind supporting you as a pair. It can be hard as an expat, but it is also quite rewarding in the end to know you can do and survive these things.

  4. Very good post. Hang in there! All I can say is that it does get better!

    Our stories are very similar. I am an American and my wife is German. I have been living and working in Germany for over 9 years. I have had the same experiences. Moving to a new country. Learning a new language. Getting the work permit. It was all extremely frustrating and tiresome. But in the end, it is all worth it.

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