I’ve been in Germany almost three weeks now keeping busy to say the least, and by busy, I mean I’ve been job searching, house hunting, eating schnitzel, running and finally getting around to binge-watching Stranger Things. Now, as I hang out in our hotel room in Mainz, a town about 27 miles west of Frankfurt, while Mom is at work, I have finally found the inspiration to reflect on my first 20 days in Europe.
Having really only traveled out of the United States once when I studied abroad in Australia, a country that shares our language and to some extent a similar culture, I didn’t really know what to expect when I made the decision to move across the Atlantic. All I could really hope for was the same sentiment I felt when I first arrived in Sydney. Excited for travel opportunities, open-minded to an altered lifestyle and not too overwhelmed by how foreign things may seem.
It wasn’t until we went out to dinner the first night that I realized what I was getting myself into. Luckily we were with Mom’s coworkers who have been here a while and speak enough German to get by in a restaurant. The server, like just about everyone else I have interacted with so far, spoke English and handed us English menus, so the language barrier was not an issue (and hasn’t been to this day).
I felt guilty more than anything else. I found myself wishing that I could have fit a German class into my schedule my last semester of college. Given the world’s current view of the U.S., based mainly on what my study abroad friends from other countries have posted online, I didn’t want anyone to think I was what some may call an “ugly American,” so learning the language become high on my priority list. Once we settle down I am planning to start classes so I can learn to say more than just “Sprechen sie Englisch?”.
While Mom goes to work on weekdays, I take advantage of my alone time learning basic phrases on the Duo Lingo app (apparently I’m 5% fluent), looking for jobs and running along the Rhein River. On weekends we try to do fun day trips. We checked out the quaint wine town of Rüdesheim, just 30 minutes away from where we are in Mainz. On a gloomier Sunday that wasn’t ideal for sightseeing, we went to the Frankfurt Zoo.
My favorite day trip so far was last weekend when we went to Heidelberg. I got to visit my first castle, or “schloss,” and see the world’s largest wine barrel. The town was adorable too. It’s amazing to think that if you saw the same kind of cute buildings in America, they were probably built to look old and European, but this is actually the real deal!
From what I’ve seen of Germany, I love it so far. Here’s why it’s so great:
1. Dogs. They’re everywhere! And so many of them wear jackets and it’s adorable and seeing them makes the cold so much more bearable! They’re allowed in restaurants and stores and suddenly I’m dreaming about having my own to bring everywhere.
2. Wine. I thought I would be drinking beer all the time, but the Rheinland is full of vineyards so wine is just as important to the culture. I’ve mainly been indulging in glasses of Riesling with my dinners, a step up from the bubbly sweet $5 bottles of white zinfandel I drank in college. Once the weather warms up, we plan to go on tons of wine tours and enjoy views of the vineyard-lined hills that surround our area.
3. Food. Eating out is so cheap compared to at home, and having lived kitchenless these past few weeks, we’ve explored a lot of restaurants and discovered they have bottomless brunch and excellent Italian food, my two favorite cuisines.
4. Location. I spend a lot of my downtime looking up flights, road trips and weekend getaways because living in the center of Europe makes all the iconic destinations so easily accessible. Some of my goals include taking a special birthday trip somewhere in the beginning of March, visiting all my European friends from study abroad and running races in as many countries as possible. Oh and let’s not forget all the country concerts that have been announced for the U.K.! I definitely see myself flying to London multiple times per year to satisfy my inner fangirl.
Now, our next step is to move into our new home. It’s a good thing I’ve moved multiple times in my life because as usual it’s been a hectic transition that began New Year’s Day when we started packing up our place in Maryland. Staying in a hotel for an extended period of time is not as luxurious as it may seem. Most of our belongings are on a ship somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic so we’ve been keeping warm with the few sweaters we could fit into our luggage.
After seeing two extremely spacious townhouses (so spacious we wouldn’t have enough furniture to fill them) in the suburbs, we realized we wanted to be in a more lively atmosphere and were lucky to find an apartment in downtown Wiesbaden, a city just across the river from Mainz. It’s by far the nicest apartment I will ever live in and so beautiful that it could literally be a model in an Ikea catalog. It’s about a half-mile walk from the train station and just a couple blocks from the “altstadt,” or old town, so I don’t foresee us getting bored there. As an added bonus, it’s only about a mile from the U.S. military base.
Although I was insanely jealous to hear the weather in Maryland reached 70 degrees yesterday, I haven’t really felt homesick yet, but the base does give me the slightest feeling I’m back in America. It’s the only place I can confidently be my basic American self in Uggs buying Starbucks and Rice-a-Roni.
But I can forget about those things most of the time. I’m okay with this whole German lifestyle.