That German Experience That Almost Knocked Me Down. But I Got Up Again.

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I moved to…

Germany in 2011, following a whirlwind decision to leave everything behind me, as my boyfriend found a job in an extremely small city in Eastern Germany. No regrets (well, ok, sometimes I wish we were someplace else, but what can you do…) So we try make the most of this town, after having paid for our rights with blood, sweat and tears..and no rock’n’roll…yet.

Before that I lived in…

Timisoara, Romania, for basically all my life, minus some months when I was in Dijon, Burgundy, France. I studied Medieval history here and fell in love with France.

The reason for moving here was…

mainly the desire to break away from all my difficulties, all wrapped up in a love-coated situation. As corny and cheesy as it may sound, my long-distance relationship needed to be put to the test of living together or ending it. So here I am, trying to lace together work, relationship and being an entrepreneur.

If I were to describe my current city in one word, that would be…

lifeless. After the World Wars ended, this region of Germany did not receive much attention aka investment, just because the average age of the population is 60. Here, on this barren ground, it’s either do something or die. Ride or die, as my colleague Ioana and myself say to each other whenever the going gets though. In this small town I managed to be seen as one of the few foreigners who will not leave at the first sign of difficulties and is passionately pursing the first steps of her dream: to launch her own PR agency.

Spicing things up at the Carnival in Dessau, where I live

Spicing things up at the Carnival in Dessau, where I live

The first thing a new expat needs to know when moving here is…

that without knowing the German language, there is no way to even try and live in this part of Germany. Nobody cares if you learned English from Tony Blair himself. You need German to survive. And mind you, nobody from the natives will help you, unless you manage the herculean task of winning their trust. Good luck with this one….

The language issue…

ah yes, the language thingie… I, after 3 and half years of being here, am still learning German and probably always will, as this language does not suit me and I don’t feel any affinity for it. But as I mentioned before, this is the number one skill one must master in order to try and earn some damned respect…I was fortunate enough to afford language classes, in an organized manner, so that the first layers would be correctly “installed”. Then I successfully passed all my language exams and then came the actual practice, which, as we know, might end up “killing” us. First time I tried to be coherent in German, I got corrected 5 times in a 4 word-sentence, so this made me take matters into my own hands and “educate” myself the way I knew would work. So whenever I was home the TV was on, blabbering in German, and my senses started to pick up different accents, some words and later phrases got stuck in my head and some I learned by heart, to help with the fluency of my speaking. It is all about finding what suits you best and work with it. You like movies and you need to learn the language? Great, watch a movie in your target language and try as much as you can to understand the idea, the sense of a word, phrase, situation. You like reading or browsing the net? Do it in the language you have to learn and do not repeat to yourself that this is something you MUST do, but rather that you would be one step ahead of other people if you learn it. Motivation, people, motivation!

Since I moved here I stopped…

eating without an order and logic. I managed to get my nutrition right, in spite of all the greasy, tasty food and the mountains of sweets and 20 million types of bread. I discovered what fuels my body and brings it to “beast mode”, as this was the only way to get out of bed here, on some very tough days. I stopped complaining and I started doing. I can proudly say that all that my boyfriend and myself have achieved was with our own forces and extremely little external support. I stopped whining, kicked myself in my rear-end and together with my friend and colleague Ioana, we managed to get our site together and to slowly become a house-hold name in Romania at events related to movies and comics.

Fort Knox PR making its way between the industry's selective clubs

Fort Knox PR making its way between the industry’s selective clubs

Since I moved here the new thing I started doing is…

learning how to build our brand and agency and constantly perfecting my people skills. I try to learn something from the people I find most intriguing and so I can add those life lessons to what I already know. I guess I can say I became better at hearing what people rather do not say, than what they verbalize. The idea is to give it a go; whatever shines inside you, follow it and maybe you will find your pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Having the great opportunity to meet and greet the  wonderful actor Tom Hiddleston in  Cologne Germany,2012. After this first meeting, Ioana and myself consolidated our Romanian  Tom Hiddleston fan page

Having the great opportunity to meet and greet the wonderful actor Tom Hiddleston in Cologne Germany,2012. After this first meeting, Ioana and myself consolidated our Romanian Tom Hiddleston fan page

My biggest lesson learnt was…

to keep my mouth shut and smooth the talk as much as I can. Germans will respect two things, as far as I saw: work done correctly and acknowledging that they are perfect at being …perfect when it comes to work and punctuality.

Some weird habits at the locals…

the overload of colors in their hair, mixing all the wrong colors and fabrics when they dress and the way they reject at first anybody who is young and not German. I wish I had more positive things to say about where I live right now, but I sadly had mostly negative experiences these past 3 years, which shaped my opinion about the people here. They are so stubborn in their naivety of not having stepped foot outside this region or even this town, that you really feel the need to put them in a train to Berlin or Hamburg, so that they see how Germany really is.

My biggest cultural shock was…

the specific Sachsen-Anhalt accent, which is hard to be understood even by Germans from other parts of the country. During my first week here, I had a small panic attack thinking I would never manage to understand what were these people saying to me. Till I overcame this obstacle, all I did was smile and wave, smile and wave…

My funniest / weirdest / scariest experience were…

actually a lot of them.. The one that I remember vividly is going for the first time at the office for immigrants, without speaking German. I thought, like all the people who do not speak the language, that this office – which is for foreigners and deals only with them – would have at least one qualified person who can speak some English, but little did I know…I wanted to show them all my documents and asked for some assistance in finding a job, so the first place that seemed fitting was this office. I went all alone and I was “greeted” by an older woman working there, who spoke absolutely no English of course and started yelling at me things in German, which sounded freaky anyway. The one German phrase that stuck to me was “our language is the German language and until you are able to speak it, do not come back here again”… Yeah, imagine my shock when I found out that the one (1) person from all the building who understood a bit of English was on holiday for some weeks and I had to deal with those angry Germans…that was worrying, as I really assumed that the Office for Immigrants would actually be able to offer some assistance. That day I understood I need to get my act together and beat them at their own game – just a figure of speech – which I am trying to do ever since.

What I miss the most from home is…

some dishes like mici and telemea, mamaliga and other traditional Romanian ones. I also miss the amazing nature and how it interlaces itself with our history. This is why I became a History teacher, to acquire a piece of the national identity and be able to pass the good parts to anyone interested.

Whenever I get home sick, what I miss is…

actually not my city, but the seaside, Constanta and Transilvania, both which I love and cherish. I don’t really get home sick and this is a huge advantage when one tries to adapt to a whole new environment. I get home sick for my other “home”, Greece, on a daily basis. I daydream about Greece so much, I could practically become part of their tourism ministry and create campaigns based on my visions of the country.

I go home as often as…

once a year, or maximum twice a year. I really do not want to return for more than 4-5 days. I am very happy with my decision to leave the country and I hope I will manage to settle abroad for a very long period of time. But time will tell…

I keep in contact with my friends and family…

using Facebook, emails and phone. My good friends are both married with children and do not have so much time anymore to chat, but the conversations we have, albeit short, are always meaningful. My other good friend Ioana keeps in touch with me almost daily, as we work together and we always exchange ideas, no matter the day and hour. My family calls me once a week and we have fun talks, most of the time. There are always so many things to say, from this different German culture and they keep my updated with that happens back home, good or bad.

Our dynamic duo, Ioana and myself, at the first edition of the East European Comic Con,  Bucharest,2013

Our dynamic duo, Ioana and myself, at the first edition of the East European Comic Con, Bucharest,2013

My favorite dish/local food is…

…nothing so far. I enjoy every couple of months a good steak with butter on it, but that is as far as it goes for me. I really want to know what it is I am putting in my body so I try as much as I can and cook everything from scratch. I absolutely adore German sweets, this is why I stay away from them, as my sweet tooth is like a sleeping monster which I do not want to wake up again J

My favorite places in town are…

the outdoors, as the air is very clean and nature blooms in all seasons. My absolute favorite place is not in my town, but the neighboring city of Leipzig, all of it. I love it, it is buzzing with life and people, and gives a very good vibe. I try and go there as often as I can, even if only to enjoy a “damn good cup of coffee”, to quote agent Cooper from Twin Peaks. In Leipzig I managed to put some ideas in order and establish contacts with very interesting people. What Dessau gave me is a very good night’s sleep, thanks to its silence.

I get around the city by…

walking 😉 the place is small, distances are more a metaphor than a reality and I try to make the best out of the nice weather and the very clean air. We have no car or bikes, and we try to move and be active whenever we are able to.

Street fashion…

Horrendous. No such thing here, unless you count ‘whatever falls from your closet first’ as fashion…The images hurt my eyes most days, when I see young women and girls wearing dirty clothes…why?…how?….why?…Women from Dessau, y u no buy nice clothes?

My view on people…

Ah, I am constantly surprised by how the Germans think and how they fail to find the easiest ways out, just because they stick to the rules. I learned to live with their way of operating, but it is not easy, especially when you are used to fixing things in your way, faster, cheaper and smoother, without all the bla-bla. Well, I learned to not impose my point of view through speaking about it, but through demonstrating it. Like this, they get a surprise every now and then and agree that maybe this immigrant is actually good at and for something….

Being an expat…

was like caring my own cross on the Via Dolorosa, especially because I came from Romania. People here have the worst (and wrong) idea about our country and Bulgaria, that it takes a lot of self control and perseverance to explain and make them understand that not all of us are up to doing bad. I always wanted to play by the rules and be correct and fair, I learned the language, I did everything by the book and they still give me a hard time, trying to dig and find things they can throw at me. I always describe Romania as one of the most beautiful countries on this planet and urge people to visit it, as it is a special place, full of history and a bit of mystery. I am on a mission to make it happen from abroad and earn respect first in my current country and then internationally. There are moments when the whole immigrant issue weighs very heavy on me. But giving up is not a solution; I did not come here to return home with my head down. So I taught myself to wear my nationality like a crown and to put it all out there, like a shield and by this, disarm people who want to make fun or be ironic for no reason. For this I have to thank my diplomacy studies, I suppose J

In 5 years, I see myself living in…

(fingers crossed) Greece, the UK or in one of those glamorous big German cities, where people have style, class and support entrepreneurs. I see myself as someone who will strike big at a very slow pace, as what we try to do is somehow ‘groundbreaking’ in Romania.  But I have to say that location is a main character in my story, as here and in other European countries, there is a lot of fertile ground for ideas and people are brave enough to pursue what they feel they can do best.

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My name's Miriam, born in Timisoara, Romania, but living as an expat in Germany for three and a half years now. I always wanted to relocate to another country, so finally managing to do so was a huge victory for me, except that Germany is a tough nut to crack... Oh well, we Romanians are fighters not quitters so I move forward. My passions are traveling, everything related to PR and Marketing, reading and working out. Thanks to my life changing move to Germany, I pursued what I knew I was good at, contact with people, all clearly defined in what I want my career to eventually be. I am lucky enough to have a third home in Greece, thanks to the lovely family of my wonderful Greek partner, Giorgos. Deep down I will always be Romanian, with deep roots in its wonderful history and culture.

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