Expat Qs

Has it really been an entire two weeks since my last post? Wow… sorry. I didn’t mean to stay away that long. I am juggling so many things right now and blogging keeps getting pushed further down my list.
Anywaaay… I stole this post from Kristen because I thought it might be fun and an easy way to get back into blogging. I hate being called an expat (please don’t single me out from other “migrants”!) but didn’t have an alternative title, so it stays.

1. WHERE WERE YOU BORN, WHERE DID YOU GROW UP AND WHERE DO YOU CURRENTLY LIVE?

I was born in Aldershot (“Home of the British Army”) and I guess grew up there, in Northern Ireland and in Northumberland – although, when does the “growing up” stage finish? I was a teenager by the time I moved up North…
I currently live just outside Basel in Switzerland.

Basel
Basel town hall

 

2. WHAT MADE YOU LEAVE YOUR HOME COUNTRY

Originally university. I was studying German and a year in a German-speaking country was a requirement to get my degree. I met Jan there, and after 2 years in a long-distance relationship decided to move back to Germany. Such a cliché.

3. WHAT TYPE OF REACTIONS DO YOU GET WHEN YOU MEET NEW PEOPLE AND TELL THEM WHERE YOU ARE FROM?

It varies. “What brought you to Switzerland?” mainly. A lot of people ask whether I work at Roche or Novartis (two pharmaceutical companies that are the main employers in Basel, particularly of “expats” – ugh, that word again).  When I lived in Germany I occasionally got “Do you really put vinegar on your chips?”, and people would ask why Karlsruhe of all places (I guess most Brits go to Berlin or Munich).

4. WHAT WAS THE EASIEST/HARDEST PART IN ADJUSTING TO YOUR NEW COUNTRY?

To Switzerland? It wasn’t actually that hard because I’d been in Germany for over 8 years and Basel at least is quite similar to Germany in many ways. So I guess that was the easiest part? Going back to not understanding people was difficult – Swiss German is hard! Just yesterday a neighbour came and spoke to me while I was doing laundry and I only understood about half of what he said.

5. IMAGES, WORDS OR SOUNDS THAT SUM UP THE EXPAT EXPERIENCE YOU’VE HAD SO FAR.

Are we talking my entire expat experience? As in Austria, Germany and Switzerland? Because that’s a lot! But as Kristen said, my life here is just life. I work, I shop, I cook, I do laundry just as I would anywhere else. I guess regularly speaking two languages is different, and we eat food that isn’t available in England (and, conversely, don’t eat other food because it isn’t available here). So I guess speaking German and food are my  words? Here’s an image that seems to fit:

fondue

6. YOUR FAVOURITE FOOD OR DRINK ITEM IN YOUR NEW COUNTRY

Oh wow, that’s difficult. Maybe Rösti? Although I rarely eat it because I’m too lazy to make my own 😉 For drink I guess some local beer? I can’t think of anything else that isn’t available elsewhere… oh, except some fizzy pops like “Rivella” and “Flauder” (I do like that second one) but I rarely drink pop soo…

7. WHAT’S THE ONE THING YOU SAID “YES” TO IN YOUR NEW CITY THAT YOU WOULDN’T SAY “YES” TO, BACK HOME?

Umm… I have no idea? I probably wouldn’t have gone hiking at home but only because I would never have had Jan to drag me out 😉

8. ARE THERE ANY CULTURAL NORMS/PHRASES IN YOUR NEW COUNTRY WHICH YOU CANNOT STAND?

Quiet hours! In Switzerland, the law states that from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. and from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. plus all day on Sundays and public holidays are “quiet hours”. During those times you are not allowed to do anything that makes a noise… so no hammering/drilling, no hoovering (vacuuming ;-)), no doing laundry, no mowing the lawn, no playing instruments. And, of course, no using the glass recycling bins. In our building, you are actually not supposed to drill/hammer after 6 p.m. and hoovering and instruments are banned after 8 p.m. (Drums are banned at every time unless in a sound-proofed room). I understand the night-time quiet rules – those with kids especially probably appreciate it being quiet when they’re sleeping – BUT WHEN AM I SUPPOSED TO DO MY HOUSEWORK?! The lack of recycling annoys me as well, especially coming from Germany where practically everything gets recycled! Ooh, and I hate that practically everything is closed on Sundays. I mean, I’m used to shops being closed on Sundays after Germany, but finding a café or restaurant that’s open should not be as difficult as it is! As for phrases… I guess that question assumes I live in an English-speaking country?

9. WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST DOING IN YOUR NEW COUNTRY?

I enjoy going down to the river and just sitting… I love having the river flow right through town. But that’s a Basel thing, not a Switzerland thing. I also enjoying travelling and exploring Switzerland, but I also did that in Germany and would do it even if I lived in England. Umm, does that answer the question in any way?

basel-rhine

10. DO YOU THINK YOU WILL EVER MOVE HOME FOR GOOD?

Nope. A few years ago it might have been a possibility, but after Brexit no way. Why would I want to live in a country where half the population have said my partner is not welcome? And by extension my future kids who will be way more German than British. Of course, Brexit may end up being the reason I am forced to move home if the “hard-Brexit” brigade gets their way…

That was the last question, but I hate to end on a bad note so I would like to add that I love living here and it feels like home more than any place has ever felt like home in my life (I mean, Karlsruhe felt like in the last few years there – and is still the place I’ve lived the longest in one stretch ever – but I felt an instant connection with Basel that made me wonder what I ever saw in Karlsruhe). It’s only been 2 and a half years though, so who knows what the future will hold…

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Recent doings #15

Another month, another link up with Kristin and Gretch. I know the use of the progressive form makes it sound like this is what’s happening right now, but I like the way it sounds, so just think of it as what I was doing in February, okay?

whats-new

Reading. All of these books for the bonus round of Erin’s challenge plus The Mysterious Howling, which is book one of The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place (I had originally planned to use it as my 6 word title for the challenge until I realised the six words were the series title, not the book title. *Sigh*). It was cute and fun and I loved it so much that I immediately ordered book 2 (but have yet to actually read it). I also read a children’s book called Hatching Magic to see whether my little brother might like it. I don’t know about him, but I LOVED it… but what’s not to love about a baby wyvern that’s addicted to chocolate? And right at the very end of the month I squeezed in The House at the End of Hope Street by Menna Van Praag. The author is new to me but I will definitely be reading more of her books! This one reminded me a bit of Sarah Addision Allen or some novels by Joanne Harris (who I adore!), except set in England and with books. It’s very quirky, whimsical and it just made me happy. It’s maybe a little cheesy and some may find the ending too perfect, but I don’t care. This book is like the literary equivalent of comfort food and it was exactly what I needed in that moment.

Watching. An animated film called Igor that featured the voices of Eddie Izzard and John Cleese but wasn’t as good as those names would suggest and Inglorious Basterds, which my mum gave us for Christmas when it first came out on DVD and we hadn’t actually got round to watching until now! Umm, I think I managed to sneak in a few episodes of Pointless as well, but that’s about it. Actually, Jan always has the TV on when he’s home but I rarely pay attention to what’s on it. Boring (to me) documentaries usually.

Celebrating. Our anniversary (way back at the beginning of the month). We’ve now been together for 13 whole years! Here’s hoping that turns out to be a lucky number for some 😉

Eating. Apples. I’ve been trying out that old “an apple a day” thing. I have them with almond purée (which is expensive by the way, even by Swiss standards!). Although I didn’t actually manage to have an apple every single day. I’ve also been trying to have fish twice a week – and not just in the form of tuna pasta bake. I may have resorted to fish fingers a few times… And of course I ate pancakes on Tuesday – some traditions are worth hanging on to!

Drinking. Dandelion tea and ginger & lemon tea in an attempt to cut down my caffeine intake. I still can’t bring myself to abandon my morning cup of normal (i.e. black) tea though!

Designing. My own cross stitch pattern! It will get its own blog post, but here’s a sneak preview of my designing process. So hi-tech 😉

cross-stitch-design

Cross stitching. The above design, for one thing. Also birthday cards – one of which is still waiting for you to guess what it is. Just sayin’…

Buying. Apart from books you mean? 😉 I bought a long black skirt a few weeks ago and have worn it almost constantly since then, except when it had to go in the wash because I spilled almond purée all down it. I also bought a necklace from Etsy. Plus birthday presents for my friend’s son.

Building. IKEA furniture. Technically it was also purchased during February, but Jan paid for it so it felt wrong putting it under “buying”. Elaine was wondering where my tights had been stored before so I took before and after photos for you. The white thing is a fabric storage container that went in Jan’s old wardrobe but is the wrong size for the one we have now, so it had to live alongside it. The chest of drawers makes things look so much neater, don’t you think?

Organising. My books. One of the other items of furniture we got was another bookcase, so some of the books that were piled up on the shelves moved over there while others got rearranged. I’m sure it won’t be long before the chaos of more books than shelves reigns again, but for now it’s looking good!

Enjoying. The fact that it’s actually light when I finish work now! The first time it happened I got so excited that I went for a walk to the further away supermarket then only bought a carton of milk because that was all I could afford.

Going to. Winterthur, near Zurich the day before our anniversary. We walked around the town then went to the nature museum where there was an exhibition about bees. The bee exhibition was kind of disappointing but the rest of the museum made up for it.

Planning. A trip to Berlin at Easter and potentially a trip around Britain in the summer. One of those things is more finalised than the other.

Wishing. I was in Belgium so I could visit Kerri and her new puppy. Seriously, just look at that little face!! I so want a cuddle.

Wondering. Why doctors don’t just let people arrange appointments online already. It would save me a lot of attempts to say/spell my last name over the phone to German speakers who just cannot (or will not?) understand!

Hoping. That things go well with all the projects that Jan currently has going on at work. Please send good thoughts our way!

And just like that February is done and dusted! So, how was your month? Been doing anything fun recently?

2017 aims (or something)

basel-rhine

As I mentioned, today is a public holiday in the part of Germany where I work. However, it is not in Switzerland (or at least not in Basel – I don’t know about other cantons), so I took advantage of having the place to myself to get rid of the chaos of Christmas. The decorations are down and have been put away, as have the Christmas papers, ribbons and other embellishments I was using for my cards. I’ve found homes for the last few gifts and even took away some of the glass recycling, which is usually difficult because both my lunch break and the time I finish for the day are during “quiet hours” when you’re not supposed to use the glass bins. Most productive use of my time.

With the final reminders of the holiday period gone, it seemed like a good time to finally start looking forward to 2017. I’m not making resolutions as such, but I do have a few aims… or maybe guidelines… that I want to bear in mind this year. So here they are. By the way, the photo at the top has nothing to do with anything, I just thought the post needed a photo…

  • Get regular exercise, even if it’s just walking into Basel more often instead of taking the tram (I did this today actually, so I’ve started well!). After spending all of October and part of November hobbling around, I was starting to feel a bit sloth-like, so this year I want to try and get out there and move!
  • Eat healthily most days. I don’t want to obsess about it, and if there happens to be cake on the days I have to go into the office I will definitely be having some! But I do want to try and fit in some vegetables every day and try to have some healthier breakfasts on hand (or eat breakfast at all!). My aim is to experiment with more vegetarian recipes at the beginning the year when I’m still motivated so I hopefully find a few quick and easy ones for later on when I can’t be bothered. A simple way of getting into the routine of having vegetables every day 🙂
  • Try not to stress over things I have no control over. What will be will be, and obsessing over things doesn’t make life any easier.
  • Spend more time with Jan without any screens being involved! Most of our evenings seem to end up with us either watching something (be it on TV or a DVD), Jan on his laptop doing more work or both of us sitting in the same room, but mainly looking at our respective devices. I want to try and have at least some time this year where we’re both in the flat and not looking at a screen! I think I’ll start by suggesting we try to eat at the table once or twice a week and go from there.

That’s basically it. Apart from that I plan to continue exploring Switzerland, keep cross stitching, read lots and basically just try to enjoy myself in the moment. With all the terrible things that happened in the world last year and that are set to continue this year (and I don’t mean celebrity deaths! There were many scarier things going on than that last year!) I want to try and keep my little corner of the world positive and happy place. Here’s hoping for good things this year!

Do you have any goals or resolutions for 2017? I hope it’s a fabulous year for all of you, whatever your plans.

Resolutions 2014 (and a recap of last year’s)

I was going to start telling you all about Madeira today, but the computer is refusing to register the fact that the card reader is plugged in and contains a memory card, so resolutions it is. First, a recap of last year’s (which you can read about in detail here if you so desire):

  1. Get back to doing my exercise DVD. Nope! Failed on this one. But I did start doing sit ups and jogging on the spot, so that’s better than nothing…
  2. Keep on top of the housework better. Hahaha. As if! I kept this up until about mid-February (which has to be some kind of record, to be fair) then decided at various points in the year that I really, really would make an effort to keep the place tidy from now on… it never lasted longer than two weeks though.
  3. Become a better translator. I’m pretty sure my style is still terrible, but I have at least got faster. And this year I’ll be doing all the translations anyway, including the ones that need to “sound good” as well as being correct. My colleague is now on maternity leave for the next year so I’m the only one left to do them! Hopefully there won’t be any complaints…
  4. Finish visiting 30 German towns before I turn 30 and blog about them. Yessssss! This one I actually did, and great fun it was too! You can find a page with all the towns I visited under “Places I have been” at the top.
  5. Save up and do some OU courses. I saved up, but actually spent the money on flights to Madeira (they were expensive!). I did make a list of the OU courses I want to do though, so maybe some time I’ll actually get round to them…

That was all my resolutions for 2013, and I managed to keep a grand total of one out of five. Ooops! Maybe I’ll do better in 2014? Here are my resolutions for this year:

  1. Travel more. Looking at my review of 2013, I did actually travel quite a bit… but it wasn’t enough! This year, I want to make even more of an effort to at least go on day trips. Participating in the Take 12 Trips challenge should help with this one.
  2. Keep not biting my nails. For years and years, my New Year’s resolution was to stop biting my nails, until I finally realised that I was doomed to not keep that one. But when I had my wisdom teeth out this year, I managed to grow my nails simply because I was physically incapable of biting them! I’ve managed to keep most of them long since then (the others were victims of splitting and snapping.. how does everyone else avoid that?!), so this year my resolution is to try and keep them unbitten!
  3. Enjoy the time I have with my boyfriend and stop worrying so much about the future. I’ve decided to stay with Jan, despite the fact that he still doesn’t know what he wants and it’s looking less and less likely that I will ever have children. But even if I leave him, there’s no guarantee that I’ll a) find someone else. b) find someone else who wants to have children (either at all or with me) and c) even be able to have children. The few weeks before Christmas were fantastic and I was really happy… and I don’t want to throw away that happieness just because some arbitrary deadline has arrived. So I want to try and enjoy what we have and not worry about whether I will ever have children. I’m too late to be a young mother anyway, so even if it happens I’ll already be the kind of parent I never wanted to be!

That’s all. Only three this year… I think that’s enough considering I still have my 35 before 35 list to be working on as well! And what about you? Any resolutions for 2014? Or have you taken the more sensible route of not setting yourself goals so early in the year? 😉

Snippets

Monday Blues
Monday Blues (Photo credit: United States Marine Corps Official Page)

The epic what-we-did-in-Ireland marathon seems to have temporarily robbed my of my blogging mojo, so instead of a proper post, today I’m just going to give you some random snippets of information:

  • Today it was hot and sunny for practically the first time since we got back from our holiday (well, with the excpetion of the day after our return). Being the fool that I am, I left both my sunhat and my sunglasses at home this morning. You would think after this incident I would have learned my lesson! Luckily my route from work to the tram stop can be walked in the shade, and back in Karlsruhe I took the tram home… even though it’s only one stop. Tomorrow, rain is forecast again. So much for summer!
  • I know I promised you biscuits (cookies)… and I will be posting about them in the near future… as soon as the very idea of uploading photos to my blog doesn’t seem like a monumental effort. I’m sure you don’t want a post about biscuits without pictures, do you?
  • At the weekend, Jan and I had a very long and very draining conversation about our relationship. I still have no idea where things are going, if anywhere… but he did say the last 3-4 months have been great, which makes him think he does want a future with me. Buuut generally he still doesn’t know what he wants. From our relationship, from life… he just doesn’t know. I’ve agreed to stay until Janaury… again (sound familiar in any way?). Because I’m weak I actually think we make a good couple and I hope things will work out between us. Also, I can’t actually afford to move out right now, so once we get back from our trip to England I’ll start saving up so I can actually pay the deposit on a flat come January!
  • Tomorrow is the quiz and I’ve never felt less knowledgeable… except maybe last month. Ick.
  • It’s only Monday and already I feel like I’m behind on this week’s work. So. Much. To. Do! I think I need another holiday already…
  • Speaking of holidays… only 18 days until I fly to England for a week! I really need to get a move on with finding a dress for the christening…

That’s all I can think of, and I have to get in some exercise before I start cooking, so this is where I leave you. Proper post coming up tomorrow… maybe.

 

Nine years on

Love ? I love love love you.
Love ? I love love love you. (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

Today, Jan and I have been together for nine years! Unbelievable. At the beginning, I never expected us to make it this far. I was on my year abroad, I’d recently broken up with someone else and my longest relationship until that point had been less than a year.

We’ve had our struggles and ups and downs, of course – starting when, after six months of being together, I had to go back to England to complete my degree while Jan went off to America for a year. Ironically, I had previously broken up with someone because I couldn’t handle being in a long-distance relationship – and the distance in that case was only between Northumberland and Nottingham (sorry Jay!!). However, neither of us wanted to break up at that point, so we agreed to try, and somehow it worked! Despite the fact that we only saw each other once, for precisely one week, between my 21st birthday in August 2004 and my graduation in July 2005 (my dad bought me a return flight to America as my Christmas present in 2004).

Long distance love
Long distance love (Photo credit: Dvortygirl)

After another year of long-distance – this time with me in Austria (read that carefully – it’s the one without the kangaroos) and Jan back in Germany, I decided that seeing my boyfriend an average of once a month wasn’t enough for me and made plans to move to Germany.

And now, almost six-and-a-half years later – I moved back in September 2006 –  here we are celebrating our 9 year “anniversary” (I wish I could think of another word for that…). I wonder what the next year will bring?

(Apologies to those who already know this story – probably not many. Pinklea maybe? I’ve gained a few new readers over the past year and I felt it was worth repeating).

In which I overshare about my sex life

NOTE: If you have a problem with the whole sex-before-marriage thing (sorry, but I’ve been with my boyfriend nearly 9 years, living together for almost 3. You really think we don’t do it?!) or just don’t want to read about other people’s sex lives please feel free to click away now. Consider yourself forewarned – and don’t blame me if you get to the end and feel offended! For the rest of you… read on (I promise not to get into too much detail…)

So, over the course of our relationship, the boyfriend and I haven’t always had sex as much as I would like.

No Sex
No Sex (Photo credit: djwingsia)

Obviously during our two year long distance relationship, not much of anything was happening, but after I moved to Germany I expected things to pick up. Which they did, at first but gradually “it” happened less and less often. Then at some point we would talk fight about it, things would improve for a while, then it would dwindle again until we were doing it maybe once a month.

So, a few weeks before Christmas, after getting nothing for almost two months, I told Jan I was thinking about coming off the pill once all the ones I still had were used up – after all, what was the point in protecting against immaculate conception? (Of course I was going to finish the packets I had left – I pay good money for those suckers! Welcome to any country that’s not in the UK…). Not the best start to that conversation, I admit. Inevitably it ended in a fight (you can’t make start a conversation with those words and not hurt your man’s feelings..), I cried, then I had to go to work. Yes… I have great timing.

The next day, I sat down and wrote a letter explaining everything I wanted to say. It had to be a better option than blurting things out without thinking about what I wanted to say, right? I left the letter for Jan to read and (again) went to work – I wanted him to read it when I wasn’t there, so he would have time to recover from his first reaction and really think about what I was trying to say, rather than getting defensive in the heat of the moment. Later, he thanked me for writing the letter. Then we each agreed to work on what was bothering the other person (basically, he says he’s sick of always being the one to initiate things, while I say whenever I try to initiate anything he doesn’t seem interested, and even things that have worked before never seem to work a second time. Like I said, oversharing…). We then went away for Christmas, sleeping in beds at other people’s houses, and I started my period, which didn’t help… so still no sex.

Then, 2 weeks ago, while in bed, I asked him what I would have to do to turn him on. Unbelievably, his first response was that he didn’t know! (How am I supposed to know if he doesn’t?). He then countered by asking what I’d been trying. Apparantly I was too subtle though – he hadn’t even noticed me doing those things!! In the end I did get a few ideas. But the next time we did it, he was the initiator again… so on Friday night I decided to take the bull by the horns (oo-er, I’ve just realised how dirty that sound in this context!).

Romantic film icon created from Nuvola icons
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When Jan got home, I was finishing off the white sauce for the lasagne while the washing machine beeped furiously. Stress! He immediately offered to hang the washing, allowing me to finish tea. I finished preparing the lasagne, stuck it in the oven, and went to the living room, where I found Jan hanging the last item of washing on the airer. Excellent! I saw my chance and started kissing him. Passionately. After a few minutes of this (plus a bit of neck kissing and… other stuff), he asked “Is there anything you would like”. My response “Well… we have half an hour…” I’ll leave the next bit up to your imagination…

… we finished just in time for the lasagne to come out of the oven. I guess I do still have an affect on him after all…

Why am I telling you this? I know I’ve complained on here before about being sexually frustrtaed and worried that my boyfriend no longer finds me attractive… so I thought for once I would tell you something positive… plus I wanted to tell someone, and I don’t really have anyone other than my blog to discuss my sex life with. (HA, I won’t tell my friends, but the Internet is fair game? I’m so not normal…). And if you’ve got this far and are offended/bored/amazed at my stupidity, well, all I can say is I did warn you at the beginning. I make no apologies… I’ve felt happy and confident all day today, and that was something I wanted to share. 🙂 (But I sincerely hope neither my mother nor any of my colleagues ever comes across this blog…)

p.s. One of the suggested tags from Zemanta for this post is “human sexual activity”. Well, yes I should hope so! As far as I’m aware neither of us are dogs. Or aliens…