Sunday, January 25, 2015

January

This picture pretty much sums up my school life :)


I just got finished writing yet another political science essay on the EU.

OMFG.

Political science is not my thing guys.

Fingers crossed I make it through finals, turns out my masters program is actually really very difficult considering I have limited time and a small child.

Seriously, pray for me.

x
Sara

Friday, January 9, 2015

Insulation vs. immersion

I've been thinking a lot about the degrees of immersion or insulation expats experience in Germany and how that effects their overall experience in the country.  There is a lot of variation due to personality and individual flexibility but overall the level of immersion vs. insulation can determine how well someone integrates into German culture. 

High levels of immersion come from things like speaking German, having German friends, having German family, living in areas where people do not speak English, the amount of time spent in Germany, sending your child to German schools and kindergartens, living outside of city centers, having a job that requires you to speak German and work with Germans.   On the other side things that insulate foreigners from German culture are having international friends, spending a limited amount of time in the country, speaking your native language, remaining within the boundaries of cosmopolitan areas, international or bi-lingual schools, working at international companies and having a spouse and family not from Germany.

Now most people will probably assume that a high level of immersion will result in successful integration.  Paradoxically, most expats I know actively seek to insulate themselves as much as possible from a high level of immersion.  Why would foreigners here for the most authentic 'German experience' not fully immerse themselves in Germany?

The answer lies in the deep-seated sense of order and precision in German culture.  For all its progressive politics Germany is a traditional country with tradition values.  Just because Germans are open minded about public drinking, prostitution and gay marriage doesn't mean they will allow you to drop your child off half an hour late to Kita.  Just because Germany says it wants to combat sexism in the workplace doesn't mean German companies are going to start hiring women as their CEOs.  This is what I like to refer to as a politically progressive but socially restrictive cultural norms.  Germany does much better on paper than in real life. 

Not following the unspoken social norms results a lot of covert or outright social aggression.  Because foreigners will naturally posses different cultural norms a high level of integration can result in experiencing a lot of 'correction'.  Correction might not seem malicious in nature but it is in fact one or more individuals trying to impose their norms or preference on another.  Since social correction is abrasive and intrusive many foreigners will seek out more international areas of German society where individuals are likely to be more open minded and understanding.  Many foreigners will need a certain amount of insulation from too much correction.  They might find solace in their spouse, friendships with other foreigners, or by exclusively speaking thair native language.  Successful integration rests on a balance of being immersed without being overwhelmed.   If foreigners can maintain this balance then they will find they can ease themselves into the more open areas of German society.  Not having this balance is akin to being a seal thrown into a tank of hungry sharks. 

Lately I've had a totally backlash against all things German.  This is probably a reaction to the high level of immersion and low level of insulation I am currently experiencing.   Criticism comes from every area of my life and the cracks are starting to show.  I'm so sick and tired of being told what to do, how to do it, being reprimanded, reminded, challenged.  I'm tired of arguing with sales reps and receptionists.  I'm tired of people telling me what I should and shouldn't post on Facebook, tired of being talked about, of having my every word picked apart.  I'm tired of people trying to out-parent me.  I'm tired having to be precise and exact in what I say.  I'm tired of being told not to talk about things, to keep this and that a secret.  I'm tired of pointless drama.  I'm tired of everyone taking themselves so mothertrucking serious.  I want everyone to mind their own business and leave me alone for a while. 

Which we all know is not going to happen.

This weekend will be dedicated to finding ways to insulate myself against the constant (seriously, seriously constant) barrage of criticism and correction before it drives me batty.

x
Sara

Friday, January 2, 2015

goodbye 2014, hello 2015

Sometimes around this time of year I do a yearly recap.  But in 2014 Redgie died.  The year was not all bad, mostly because I got into grad school, but it wasn't the best year ever.  Lots of not so good things happened. Lets move forward.

I spent the last two weeks not studying, not working out, not eating healthy, and not exercising.  My scale is reflecting these lifestyle choices but I can't bring myself to face the rain-sleet-snow that's been plaguing Brandenburg for that last four weeks to do my usual cardio.  I wake up every morning hoping the seed of motivation that spurred me to run rain or shine the last six months will have germinated again but it remains dormant.  Maybe I'm supposed to be hibernating?  I don't know.   Hopefully muscle memory will get me through these dark icy months.
Horrible awful weather.
I am going to miss my Christmas tree is a couple days when we have to take it down.  After the holidays the rest of the Winter is just dull, dark, cold and wet.  I'm hoping to find some non holidays themed lights and lots of scented candles to get us through the rest of the Winter.

Since we didn't go anywhere during vacation we did a little more sprucing up around our apartment.  The more work I put into this place the more I like it and the more I see it's potential.  It is starting to feel more like home and less like some place we're just renting.  My last project was to make the kitchen a bit more homey.  I spend a lot of time in there cooking and it was thrown together haphazardly with odd pieces that didn't fit anywhere else in the house.  We picked out a sideboard in less than an hour and made our way back home.  City Ikea is a nice idea but in reality I wish Berlin had an Ikea closer to the Autobahn.   The city Ikea is always packed and crazy, plus it's kind of hard to get there. 

Way better than the triangle patio shelf we had in the corner before.
It has taken constant vigilance to keep Sophie's blue play dough out of the new rug but so far I'm winning.  On the other hand I seem to have lost the glitter war.  After letting off a few table fireworks and doing lots of glitter crafts I'm finding sparkles and confetti everywhere.  No amount of vacuuming seems to make any difference.  She'll be going back to her kindergarten next week so I can tone down all the art and crafts that we've been using to keep her from getting bored during the awful weather.  The sideboard has a couple of drawers where I can stash our growing hoard of toddler art supplies.

We had a lovely New Year.  Last year was relatively quiet but this year all our neighbors were out celebrating.  It was sleeting again all day and night which didn't exactly make being outside setting off fireworks super fun.  I love the German New Year.  This year I decided I would be celebrating in my yoga leggings and fleece with a nice bottle of champagne.  After all the dressing up and party attending around Christmas it was the best thing ever.  No one around here is looking forward to the end of vacation. 

I find it hard to believe it's already 2015.  I have no idea what this new year has in store for us but tomorrow I'm determined to go for a run and do a completely healthy zero junk good grocery store run.

Happy New Year!

x
Sara

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Zara's Winter sale has begun

Zara Winter Sale



Zara pink sweater, €33 / Zara sweater, €41 / Zara kimono, €33 / Zara coat, €125 / Zara lined jacket, €98 / Zara zip jacket, €98 / Skirt / Zara mid-rise jeans, €41 / Zara short skirt, €25 / Zara handle handbag, €98 / Zara handbag, €49

Just a reminder that everything is on sale right now at Zara in stores and online.  Hopefully you all aren't like me who already way overspent my clothing budget for like the next five years.  Happy shopping!