Saturday, 11 October 2014

Beth's Simple Guide to Passing as a German

Moin moin!

Update: sorry its been a while since my last post, life here is good, if rather stressful. I've been here for nearly 3 months now! Some weeks things get a bit overly stressful, and all I do is crave my bed/Wales (things escalated quickly there) but the drive to stay and work here never quite disappears :)

Anyway, back to original post (90% of which I actually wrote 3 weeks ago).

I had a little stroke of inspiration the other day (unfortunately in the middle of a project at work so this blog post was born on a couple of scribbled post-it notes) and started thinking of things I do to fit in, at least superficially, when out and about in Germany, and things one can do in general.

So here goes, here's my list of stuff you can do to masquerade as a competent German person.

drink beer
eat schnitzel/bratwurst
wear a dirndl/lederhosen at all times.

Ok ok I joke. Stereotypes don't have (much of) a place in this blog.

Here's the real list:

Have between 1 and 3 side jobs (Nebenjobs) at any one time.
Pretty much any student/young person will have at least one minijob. Pretty much any business, including even offices etc will have someone working for them on a "450 Basis" (i.e you only work enough to earn up to 450€ in a month, meaning its tax free). The more minijobs you hold down, the cooler you are*. Incidentally, this is part of the reason Germany has such high employment rates, as whilst many, many people have minijobs, this doesn't actually earn them all that much.

Shop effectively

  • Go into a shop, say dm (German version of Boots). 
  • Think of item you're looking for (in this case, contact lense fluid). 
  • Think of most logical place for this item in the shop (next to the glasses display, for example). 
  • Assume this is the least likely place it will be and save yourself 10 minutes wandering.
  • Think of least-related item in shop (i.e. condoms)
  • Find sought-after item (contact lense fluid) nestled neatly below random item (condoms). 
...true story. I've given up on going to dm for things I need during my lunch break, I just can't spare the time for the pointless treasure hunt.

Decorate your bicyle
This is a new realisation of mine, that Germans love to decorate their bikes. Mostly this is a sweet, understated twist of (fake) ivy, some multicoloured painting or some flowers dangling from the handlebars. I like it, and will adopt it as soon as possible: it shows you how important bicycles are to this nation, and they brighten up the overcrowded bike stands at u-bahn stations,

Sometimes this fad shows some real extremes though, and the best example is the guy who comes to the fishmarket on a bike completely covered in, well, anything you can hang/wind onto the frame.
One morning Diana and I were at the fischmarket and she started telling me about this guy who comes every week and is famous for his elaborate(ly crazy) bicycle. While she was telling me this, I spotted something over her shoulder and after a few moments she noticed I was distracted and asked me what was up. Gingerly, I pointed to a bike strung with, well, just about everything, about 3 metres behind her and asked "erm, thats not the bike is it"? Unsurprisingly, it was.

I have miraculously found a picture of this guy and his amazing bike on google! Told you he's famous. Ahh awesome Germans.
Wer keinen Stand hat, bringt die Waren eben auf seinem Fahrrad unter.

When its your birthday, remember you bring the cake to work/school.
Not the other way around. I quite like this reversal, it says "yes, its my special day, but i want you to share in it". Plus it removes the awkwardness of hoping someone has remembered its your birthday and could be bothered to make a cake/ mark it in any way. This way, even if all your colleagues don't remember its your birthday, they can take a cue from the cake and hide their embarrassment with an overly-enthusiastic "ALLES GUTE!!!". 

Try not to let it be the highlight of your day when you can provide the grumpy supermarket lady with 12,89 € in exact change.
(But it probably is, lets be honest here)

Grow a magnificent beard.
Bit of a gender-specific one here but I sometimes wonder if I really just like the country for its beautiful variety of well-groomed beards.
Definitely not complaining.

Don't admit to taking painkillers.

It pretty much amounts to admitting to taking cocaine. If you do let slip by accident, immediately try to repair the situation by gushingly agreeing that every other natural alternative that is immediately suggested to you, regardless of form, is of course muuuuch better than those dastardly painkillers.

Litter your speech with the little words which have little meaning but, without it, its just not proper German. 
halt: kind of like, well, "like" (or the usage that your parents, like, tell you off for, like, all the time)
zwar: example of use "ich hätte eine Frage, und zwar..." (I would like to ask a question, and its...). Not entirely sure of the translation but slipping it into my speech helps me sound more "native", at any rate.
nö: (nein)

Schönen Feierabend!: This literally means "nice party evening!" but roughly translates as "enjoy being free from your work for the evening!" and its pretty much law to say it to anyone after 5pm that you take leave of absence from. Whilst this is a nice thought, you realise very quickly the poor shop/bar workers etc who clearly aren't about to finish their shift and have, unwelcomingly, just been reminded of this fact by the smug person who works regular hours.

Queue on a whim
Or not at all. In fact, avoid queuing whenever possible , and if you are forced to stand vaguely behind someone who is vaguely standing behind another person in the vague vicinity of a service you require, make sure everyone knows about your disapproval of the situation. May I suggest an elaborate sigh? Or maybe a gentle but firm elbow in the ribs of another poor sod stood nearby? At the very least, exclaim "oh, man" and, should you have a friend with you, comment on the queue.

I know Germans despair of the British insistence on queuing however. And probably with some justification. But sometimes I really wish queuing came more naturally to our Saxon cousins, you really save time otherwise lost on trying to get served/on the bus as quickly as possible yet without pissing someone off.

That's all folks.
Oh, also, this blog is still getting a crazy amount of views, so I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who actually reads my ramblings :)

*or at least, I think

Saturday, 13 September 2014



Moin is, by the way, the greeting that Hamburgers use which is technically just a shortened version of Morgen (Guten Morgen) yet I quickly learnt that it is appropriate to greet a fellow Hamburger with this at any time of day, dark or light. One more step to passing as a proper Hamburger, check.

Sometimes, just for fun, the crazy Hamburgers add a second Moin in for luck.

Moin moin!

Anyway, this post has clearly started off with the usual clarity, brevity and focus that is typical of my writing.

I've been in Hamburg for nearly 2 months now. It's got to the point when, when people ask me how long I've been here, I can't immediately answer with the exact number of weeks. I like to think this a good sign regarding settling in, but I was always pretty poor at mental arithmetic so it could just be put down to that.


I have a flatmate! She's very nice, even though what with both working full time and our social lives which definitely do NOT correspond, timing-wise, we don't actually see much of each other.
After 6 weeks of living alone for the first time (which, if you remember, I was dreading before I moved out here) I found I actually quite liked it. Or rather, I could handle it what with working full time and craving time alone after work. I prefer living with someone still, but good to know.

I get a bit stressed (understatement) about what I'm going to do after the internship, as basically I've decided I love this city so much I want to stay for a while! Plus, for the last 4 years I've moved house/country max. every 9 months and I'm  getting a strong urge to just stay put somewhere for a couple of years. As much as I love new adventures, a constant lack of permanency appears to be taking its toll. To do this, this requires a more permanent job, ideally one I actually enjoy. And so the job hunt begins!

I learnt the hard way not to cycle on the smooth cobblestones that you see lining the side of pavements in Hamburg in the rain. Having had a wobble on the way to work, I was extra careful on the way back yet not careful enough, and predictably went flying. Luckily I'd bought a bike helmet a week or two before and came off no worse than slightly bruised elbows (and pride). A lot of nice strangers stopped to help me though and I had no opportunity to develop a fear of my bike, as I had to just get back on it and carry on home. So Beth will cycle on another day.

Enough words, now for some pictures!

This is the Binnenalster (Innen Alster) lake at Jungfernstieg, which is where I work. Not a bad place to chill on your lunch break, eh? Yesterday the sun shone through the fountain, causing a rainbow fountain which was a lovely sight to see, but sadly I didn't have time to stop and take a photo.

Part of a culinary festival that was taking place on the sides of the lake (name temporarily forgotten), Warsteiner holds a special place in my heart after my friend Soph and I randomly stumbled upon a museum dedicated to it when we were 18 and unexpectedly in Heidelberg after travelling plans had gone awry (actually, that's a good blog post story, hold that thought!). I always think of her and that weird, weird museum whenever I see Warsteiner.

On Sunday Diana and I went to see the Editors (a British band I obsessively listen to whilst driving) at the open-air stage in the Stadtpark. It was warm, sunny (or at least until night fell) and the atmosphere was amazing. Not even tall people arriving late and pushing in front of us could ruin the enjoyment. Plus the lead singer (Tom Smith, the guy in the picture) has the sexiest voice on earth and knows how to put on a good show.

The Rathaus square is beautiful, all old architecture and intricate façades. I like to hang out there on my lunch break (when I'm not at the lakeside a couple of hundred metres away). The other day however, I realised with horror that I'd been sat next to this WWI memorial for weeks without ever noticing it. It's not exactly small, and it doesn't exactly fit in with the aforementioned architecture, so there is no excuse for my selective blindness. If that's not a reminder of how lucky I am to be able to enjoy this beautiful city despite this country's terrible (and sad) history, I don't know what is. In fact, I only noticed it because there's a man who stands in the square making huge bubbles for kids' amusement (and a few pennies). I was following the path of the bubbles up and away into the blue sky when they drifted past the monument. It was an oddly beautiful view, but triggered a lot of reflection on my part.

Auf wiedersehen!

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

10 Observations

Hello! Guten Tag. Wie kann ich Ihnen helfen?

Sorry, in work mode then. Anyway, welcome to one of my less prose-like blog posts (I can hear the sigh of relief from here). Going about my daily life in Hamburg for a month (!!!) now, I have noticed certain things:

1. Big City, Busy People
I suspect this applies to most cities but I've noticed that living here you automatically adopt one of two mentalities: generally the I've-got-places-to-go-people-to-see-sauerkraut-to-eat mentality. Anyone who dares to get in your way for more than a second is The Most Inconsiderate Person on Earth, and if anyone shouts at you they have no right do so as your business is much more important than their business. Anyone who tries to talk to you can only want something  you don't want to give them (money, your phone number, time). I realised I'd turned into this monster today when, striding purposefully during the mall on my lunch break, a weak voice saying "Bitte, wissen Sie wo..." (please, do you know where...) seeped into my busy busy thoughts and I turned to see I'd walked past a little old lady without even seeing her. It turned out she'd entered the mall on a different floor (the two main entrances are on different levels) and couldn't figure out how to come back the way she got in. She said she'd been standing there for 5 minutes before anyone noticed her. I felt pretty ashamed of myself.

Occasionally, and blissfully, Hamburgers adopt the complete opposite mentality, where they lie in parks drinking beer all day without a care in the world.

2. Areas of the city
Most Hamburgers will talk about certain areas of the city that make them sound like Mordor. Harburg being one, a popular student area the Other Side of the River, which, while it probably does have more problems than your average area, actually turned out to be clean, tidy and with much more affordable rents than the rest of the city from what I gather.

3. Bars
Bars are brilliant in Hamburg! Open all night (which as a Brit still slightly shocks me), there are plenty of rock bars and alternative bars, which play good music. Thumbs up Hamburg!

In Hamburg you get told off for cycling too slow, yet also too fast - someone actually took the time to shout at me and tell me I was going to get flashed (as in, by a speed camera, not by naked body parts, or at least one hopes) for going too fast (I wasn't). If someone decides you're too far over to the left in the cycle path, they tell you off. Which brings me too my next point...

5. You get told off a lot.
I can never seem to do anything right, try as I might. Then again, I suspect Hamburgers just love to complain, so if I'm helping them vent their anger then hey, why not. I'm very practised at letting criticism wash over me. Anyway, its not like I can really judge, I delivered a few choice words through the window of a car that cut me up the other day.

Ironically, the thing I keep doing which I should get told off for (drumroll: hoovering on a SUNDAY) appears to not bother anyone in my building, so I happily hoover away, scot free.

6. Franzbrötchen are lecker!
These are the typical pastries of Hamburg (see below) which are kind of like croissants with cinnamon and butter layered inbetween. Mmmmmmm yum.

7. Rabbits. Rabbits, everywhere.
Seriously, around my apartment there are colonies of wild rabbits who only bother to run away from you when you're a good 2 feet from them, which I find endearing, and the last thing I expected living in a city. Plus its quite calming watching them have their dinner on the grass outside your window in the evening sun.

8. German radio is weird.
Taking a shower the other day, I had my trusty little duck radio going. The concept of the evening chat show? Ring in and finish this sentence: sex ist... (sex is). Cue extreme awkwardness on the presenters part as people rang in with the oddest suggestions, which I won't repeat here, but it cheered my evening up no end.

9. Working full time, I can't be superwoman (or at least, not yet).
I was determined to be that person who manages to work from 9-6 then heads out for an array of exciting and varied evening engagements. I'd planned out my work-to-evening attire (Glamour eat your heart out) and had visions of coming home at 11pm most weeknights, tired but happy.

Shock horror, this hasn't exactly happened. Not that I'm really struggling for plans, more struggling for the energy to carry them out. From 7.30 am I am craving my bed again and it's a guilty pleasure climbing back into it to skype/sleep. I'm working on becoming that überproactive go-getting girl, but in the mean time I'll settle for relaxing evenings (with or without friends), healthy food and a good night's sleep on weekdays so I can actually do my job successfully, and leave the other bits for the weekend.

10. New vocab
I'm currently learning about 3 new German words a day through my job. Who'da thunk it'd be so fandabidozily nutzlich?

Sunday, 10 August 2014

First Week at Work

Hallo zusammen,

I am currently sat in my room on a Sunday morning, my lie-in rudely interrupted by the little boy from the flat above who is a fan of early-morning tantrums. But no matter, I have the whole day to relax, write this blog and clean the flat a bit more, which right now seems like bliss. 

So my first week at work is vorbei! It went really well and is actually more interesting than I expected. The office is nice, there's about 9 of us, though I've only met 7 so far, and we speak a mixture of German and English, though mainly German.

I do a mixture of translation and checking other people's translations: currently more of the latter but I like the puzzle of trying to figure out if what is on the page in front of me is the best it could be. It usually is, but sometimes you get a little thrill when you spot something to improve. (Sad, I know). My German and French are getting a workout too, I've already learnt a lot of new vocab, it feels like such a natural extension of my degree.

The best bit is that, when I don't have any big projects on I can search out my own smaller projects to translate/correct. You are constantly communicating with people in the other branches and it's such a friendly atmosphere.

Anyway, I feel like I'm going to learn a lot about the translation business here, giving me a very informed decision about if that career is for me, which is the one of the main purposes of this internship anyway.

But of course, I'm not one for hanging around at home in the evenings: I've been doing plenty more city-exploring, see photos below!

The Elbe strand beach at Blankensee. Very strange, as you'll be sat there sunbathing and then a MAHOOSIVE freightship will come past, and the water recedes by about 30 metres before coming back in a huge wave, soaking a poor family that was busy enjoying their belegte brötchen.

Not very clear in the picture but this is the Rote Flora house in the Schanzenviertel, which has been squatted since 1989. My couchsurfers and I attempted to go in during the "Offnungszeiten" on a Monday, before it was kindly explained to us that those times were for people who had business at the house, as being able to randomly wander in wasn't really the point of a squat. Oops.

The harbour is a lovely place to hang out at night, I've been to several bars of an evening lately but this photo was actually taken just sat on the wall with a friend, our feet dangling over the water, drinking an Astra (local beer) and watching the sun go down, very nice.

One of the best things about Hamburg is the sheer amount of parks - I keep discovering new ones and during the summer they have plenty of open-air cinemas, waterfall light shows etc. You really get the sense that the Hamburg folk get the most as possible out of their harbour, industrial city. Southampton could really learn A LOT from Hamburg on these matters!

A few little anecdotes from this week:

Geldbestrafung der HVV (fined by the local transport)

Typical German story this: I was shattered on Thursday so got the u-bahn to work and back, which is only 3 stops. I had it in my head somehow that 3 stops or less was a Kurzstrecke (short stretch) ticket, at €1.50. The next ticket up is local transport ticket at €2. Anyway, I got home and blocking the way out of the station was a wall of people. A bit startling of course but I had my ticket still in my hand, and happily passed it over to the middle-aged woman with an official badge and an expression like dirt. Of course, I wouldn't be telling this story if it had gone well, and of course it transpired I'd bought the wrong ticket - the kurzstrecke is calculated according to distance travelled, and I figured out I'd travelled 200m too far. As the Germans say, pech gehabt (tough luck). €15 euro fine and treatment like a criminal followed, because I'd made a genuine error and paid €0,50 too little. Gah, Germany. 

Lesson learnt though! 

Expat world:

I went along to a meet-up for a facebook group called "20 Somethings in Hamburg" on Friday night, which is mostly a way for young expats from around the world to make friends in Hamburg, though there were some locals as well. I'd been looking forward to going along to this for a while (I even mentioned it in an earlier post) and had had such good experiences with CS meet-up, so had high hopes. Anyway, I got there and after an initially friendly meeting I started to feel pretty uncomfortable: I can't think of a better way to put it other than the people were well, pretty full of themselves. Most of them had been living here for over a year yet seemed pretty proud of the fact they had learnt next-to-no German. One British guy was so drunk out of his mind at 10 pm even I could barely understand him. Another guy attempted to get into an argument with me about how the Welsh identity didn't exist. A third conversation ran thus:

Me (in German): so where are you from?
Girl (in German): [A city in Southern Germany] but I study here. *awkward silence, she stares at me*
Me (in German): oh cool, so what do you study? 
Girl (in German) Film. *awkward silence*
Me (in German, panicking slightly): oh cool, so what semester are you in? (which means how long have you been studying)
Girl: (in English, angrily): Wow, why all these questions? You'll want to see my birth certificate next. *another long awkward silence, while she evidently expects me to continue the conversation without asking her questions, yet without asking me anything*
Me: Erm, I'm going to go get another drink? Want anything? No? Oh well! Tschüß!

I left soon after that. I might give the group another chance but otherwise, I think I'll stick to CouchSurfing.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Ich bin ein HAMBURGER(in).

Hello everyone!

I'm here in the huge, crazy, busy city that is Hamburg and I've been here for about 10 days now, though it feels like a month. In brief: I'm happy, haven't been run over looking the wrong way when crossing the street (always a looming threat for me) and so far, so good!

Arriving in the city and having the lovely Diana waiting for me at arrivals set my trip off to a very good start! We headed straight to my new flat, which was much better than expected, if a bit boy-y. I quickly set about putting up all the pictures and postcards and trying to make my room feel like my own.

My new room.  (Paintings not mine)

Including roof terrace straight from my room!

Spot the Welsh flag and the postcards/pictures I talked about in one of my recent posts.

Erm, the half naked woman was definitely NOT my addition but I'm scared to taking it down and marking the wall, so I guess I will just have to get used to it xD

Kitchen! (Blinds aren't broken I just tie them funnily to try and get some light in). If anyone can explain to me how to get blinds to stay put at the top I would be very grateful.

Bathroom: spot the duck!

Anyway, I'm really comfortable and happy here. Apart from the kids in the apartment above. Are children always that loud?

A few highlights (or lowlights as the case may be) from my first 10 days in Hamburg:

Bike Hunting
As some of you will know, I'm of the mini persuasion, and standing at just over 5ft tall this has always posed a problem with bicycles. I will be needing a bike to get to work every day, so tracking one down was a top priority: after discovering I don't really fit on adult bikes, I found a "teenager" bike for sale for €30 in the small ads, rang up the woman and, after being told they would be there all evening, I set off into the city. Unfortunately, I had underestimated how ridiculously big Hamburg is (in comparison with Southampton, anyway) and having travelled as far as I could on the u-bahn and, stupidly forgetting to see if there was a bus I could take (there was) I set off walking the last bit, which was essentially just 1 street.

But what a street! It took 45 mins to walk down it. In that time I could have walked nearly the length of Trier, no word of a lie. Anyway, 2 hours after leaving my flat I finally arrived at the house, red in the face, dehydrated and with very little idea of where I was in the city. Luckily the bike worked and wasn't too big for my little legs so I bought it and then, er, set off pedalling in what I hoped was the vague direction of my flat.

My bike! Very old fashioned, no gears, back pedal brakes (not as terrifying as I thought) and it would be completely useless in hilly Wales but for €30 it more than fulfills my requirements.

Luckily my inner compass seemed to be vaguely working and I found my way to Berliner Tor, which is one of the nearest U-bahn stations to me. Phew.

Very obvious lesson learnt: Hamburg is big!

But I have a bike now, and yesterday I even fixed it with my own hands (rather oily afterwards) ready to start the two-wheeled commute next week.

Making Friends

One word: couchsurfing. I've talked about it before but more in a it-offers-you-a-good-place-to-sleep-and-a-nice-evening fashion. This time I've discovered it's a really good way to make friends in a new city, as they meet up every week in a bar and by definition the people there - whether they're from the city or just passing through - are open, interesting, sociable people.

It was pretty terrifying at the meetings just randomly looking around, picking a table/picnic mat of strangers who looked particularly friendly and asking "darf ich platz nehmen?" (can i take a seat?). Luckily, CouchSurfing has "invasions" where people from far away come to particular cities on particular weekends during the summer, and last weekend it was Hamburg! That meant more social events than I could actually handle and I met a lot of locals too.

I went to the Fischmarkt too, which is so amazing it deserves a post of its own!

Readjusting to German Life

This is both positive and negative, but mostly positive. There are lots of aspects to German life that I'd forgotten about, and so, thrown back into this society, I am constantly being reminded of them.

Firstly, I'd forgotten how German people can be simultaneously so kind yet so grumpy. Examples of kindness include:

  • A man who owned a car parts shop (nothing to do with bicycles) spending 15 mins helping me to find the tools I need to fix my bike seat.
  • A woman who owned a bakery giving me twice as many rolls as I'd ordered for the same price because "I looked like I needed it" (it had been a long day)
  • Many people helping, or offering to help, me carry my bike up and down stairs in u-bahn stations.
Examples of grumpiness include:

  • If you stand in a German person's way for more than 2 seconds you get grumbled at. Often they continue to grumble at you well after you have sprung out of their way - apologising profusely - and you can hear their dulcet germanic tones following you down the street. 
  • No patience! I was standing in a queue to register at the citizens office and they would regularly call out asking if anyone in the queue had an appointment. If so you were allowed to jump the queue. I didn't, so when at the front of the queue and they called out again I hesitated to check no one behind me was coming forward. The oma behind me decided this was unacceptable and started jabbing me sharply between the shoulderblades and shouting at me to go forward. A German person would have put her in her place but alas, the overly-polite Britishness hasn't left me quite yet and I couldn't even quite bring myself to glare at her. The shame.
That said, most of this probably comes more from living in a big city: the people in Trier were occasionally a little like the description above but to a lesser extent, so in this case I'll blame it on big-city life and not the Germans themselves.

I have so much more to write about but this'll do for now - I'm going to Körperwelt (like a scientific/art exhibiton about the human body) and then meeting a fellow intern this evening.

One final note: after registering at the Einwohneramt yesterday, I can now officially say ICH BIN EINE HAMBURGERIN. Woo! I actually really hope I stay one for a long time.


Saturday, 19 July 2014



Last post before I fly tomorrow. The reality slightly hit yesterday and I had a series of mini panics but overall I am still just massively excited and looking forward to everything.

In fantastic news, I am also a graduate of the University of Southampton!

In even better news, I didn't fall over when I met the pro-Vice Chancellor, which I had always assumed would happen. Success!
My housemates and I managed to come freakishly colour co-ordinated: all in blue, black and white. Clearly we have spent too much time together!
Photo thanks to Helen!
My time at Southampton was filled with interesting studies, fantastic lecturers and of course, the best people. I'll spare you any more soppyness, and move on to more blunt Germanic matters.

I haven't really explained the practicalities of my time in Hamburg, so here's a few bits of info:

*I will be living in a WG (flatshare) like last time, but this time the flat has just 2 bedrooms. I don't know who my flatmate will be as we're both replacing two guys who are moving away from the city for 8 months, but I know she's female. She won't arrive until a month after I do, so I will have to live alone for the first time ever. I know its a bit pathetic, but this terrifies me more than moving abroad. I'm not so good with my own company, I find it pretty boring to be honest and other people way more interesting. Still, I have to grow up and learn to be alone sometimes, and I will be at work 8-5 every weekday.

*Although the title of this blog is now a British Intern in Hamburg, I won't actually discuss the company I work for or anything specific about how they operate/the content of my work in this blog. Nor will this be a place to moan about my job, should I not like it (though I'm sure I will). Firstly, that's kind of boring to read, secondly I'd like to actually keep the job! I'll keep work-related discussion to anecdotes and general stories about the day-to-day life as an intern in this city.

*I won't be able to travel as much as last year due to cash-flow and less free time (British council teaching assistantship really is amazingly well paid consider you work 12 hours a week), so I will throw myself into exploring the city of Hamburg instead! Any tips on where to go/what to see very much appreciated!

*Oh, I also don't start my job for another 2 weeks, giving me plenty of time to settle in/sort out a bank account/German simcard etc. And, most importantly, settle back into the German way of life I enjoyed so much on my year abroad

I would like to write more but frankly readers I need to be up at 6 and my stress levels are reaching epic proportions. I'll write a post shortly after I arrive, providing all goes ok.

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

My Fantasy Suitcase

Hey there,

In the spirit of the enthralling activity that is packing I present a blog post on the subject...and no this won't be a list of all the boring things you pack for any holiday (black vest x3, pure cashmere socks x 8, yeti fur coat x 1 etc etc). No, this is a list of the things my poor, beleaguered common sense is saying "don't pack, you really don't need it" while my playground-bully of a heart is screaming "pack it! this [insert item] is the one thing that will make the difference between an amazing life and a sobbing mess during the year!!!!".

So readers, I give you, the list of things I probably shouldn't pack but, if there's room, they will make it in the suitcase somehow.

1. British Breakfast Tea. Lots of it.
Gotta get my fix. (And no, I don't represent PG tips, honest.)

This came up in one of my original posts 2 years ago. I love the German beverages (particularly apfelschorle and, natürlich, the beer) but I'm sorry, my blood is actually 50% tea infused and I just can't bring myself to wean myself off it quite yet. So I WILL be lining my suitcase with as many tea bags as possible, and hopefully won't get questioned about it at customs.
Chance of being packed: 10/10

2. My duck radio.

A present from my housemate Helen for my 22nd birthday, which I adore (even if it is a bit creepy looking into his eyes). I know Germany has radios. Hell, I'm pretty sure they have engineered much better [sic. less bulky] radios that can be bought for a euro or two but I'm a big fan of background noise when at home alone (aka I'm a wimp) and I can't help getting attached to something that soothes me AND reflects my inner child..

Chance of being packed: 3/10

3. My Trier mug.

When you're a tea fanatic like I am, the vessel which transports this treasured nectar takes on an unprecedented importance. When one of these sacred vessels happens to be a) pretty and b) a nice reminder of your favourite German city, the attachment soars to maternal levels. Whilst the rational side of my brain is pathetically pleading that hot drinks taste the same regardless of receptacle, my hands are busily rolling up a pair of socks or two to stuff into it and vaguely justify its presence in the suitcase.

Chance of being packed: 7/10

4. My onesie!

This caused me much deliberation two years ago (read here) but I took it with me eventually. The 2-years-older Beth realises several things: its the middle of summer; I foresee no fancy dress opportunities for a while; I need to grow up. That said, Hamburg is allegedly bloody cold in the winter, and it is invaluable during the chilly nights, so while I will probably leave it at home this week, I may bring it back at the end of October, when I'm back in the UK for my brother's wedding.

Chance of being packed: 1/10

5. Photos/postcards/bunting.

Practical value: 0 (save for collecting dust), Sentimental value: 10.

I've strung lots of these pictures etc together, and sewn others onto a string. Quite aside from reminding me of my lovely friends, they also have a magical power of transforming bare, unfamiliar rooms into somewhere where you feel vaguely more at home.

Chance of being packed: 10/10 (or as many as reasonably possible)

6. A British Pillow

A couple of years ago I had a mini-rant about German pillows and their ridiculousness. Who needs a pillow that, the moment you lay your poor, aching head on it, immediately acts like the red sea and parts in the middle, leaving just two thin layers of pillow cover between you and the mattress, and rendering it essentially useless? To add insult to injury the pesky stuffing fluffs up around your ears, meaning you are simultaneously pillow-less yet suffocated and overheated by its contents.

Picture of what will be my bed, sporting a fine specimen of a crap pillow.

Tylor wrote a similar post complaining about the Atrocious German Pillow . It's a widely-acknowledged expat issue, apparently.*

Anyway, this is one thing that I really think Britain does better, and I will try my best to bring a sensible, rectangular pillow with me. However, due to size constraints, this will sadly not be a priority.

Chance of being packed: 4/10

7. Bovril/Marmite

Toastbrötchen and bovril or marmite is, in my view, the perfect unison of British and German cuisine.

OK, I joke (rather, I don't want to be lynched) but I do love a bit of marmite on toast in the morning and whilst you can buy it in Germany, it is notoriously difficult to track down and costs an arm and a leg. Bovril I have never spotted in 'Schland. So a pot of each will be packed, and it WILL be made to last until the next time I can get an emergency package/return to UK shores.

Chance of being packed: 8/10.

8. My bike helmet.

Ok I know this is definitely something I can get in Germany, but they're kinda expensive and why buy a new one when you've got a perfectly decent one at home? I will be cycling every day to work and back (about 30 mins total) through the city, so protecting the grey matter is pretty important. That said, they are an awkward size and shape, so I may be forced to begrudgingly give in and purchase a new one. Or wear it on the plane, and be THAT person.

Chance of being packed: 5/10

9. Cwtchy ikea chair.

Cwtchy but no...just no.

Chance of being packed: 0/10 (sob)

10. My signed Welsh flag.

Signed by all my home and uni friends on my 19th birthday, this has extra sentimentality. But is it a bit too much? Opinions on a postcard please.

Chance of being packed: 6/10.

11. My cat, Merlin.

Quite apart from the practicalities/illegalities of sending him to mainland Europe in a suitcase, he's a fussy bugger and would probably turn his adorable nose up at German salami.

Chance of being packed: 0/10 : ( : ( : (

If I were to include all of these items in my suitcase I would firstly fill it and secondly have no room for practical things, so I will be selective as possible. I miss the childhood days where your mum would pack all your clothes in her own suitcase as you'd already filled your own with vital things like a one-legged barbie, crumpled books and sparkly feather boas, and this was acceptable.

I'll update this with what actually made it to Hamburg when I've made the final cut.

In other news I've discovered there's an expat community meet-up in Hamburg a couple of days after I arrive. Whilst this wouldn't be my ideal avenue for meeting people, I figure you've got to start somewhere. At the very least it will provide some entertaining anecdotes for this blog, if nothing else.

In other, other news graduation tomorrow!

*Probably not, I'm probably just fussy.