Guten Tag

In which the author spends a lot of time perfecting her deer-in-headlights expression

I recently applied for and got an offer for a research position based in Germany, with additional fieldwork opportunities in Finland. I’ve never even visited Germany—I have a German last name, but very little heritage to go with it—but my partner and I decided to take the leap and move overseas. This decision was followed by the requisite months of packing, paperwork, spending time with family and friends, and squeezing in a three-week trip to Nepal, for reasons.* Just after Christmas, we started off on our newest adventure. 

After a rather long sequence of security lines, plane flights, more lines, more security, more flying, taxis, trains, and general confusion, we arrived at a place where neither of us spoke the dominant language, hauling precisely 112 kilograms of luggage.** This luggage (6-8 bags, depending on how tightly we packed things into other things) spent the next three days piled across half of an otherwise respectable hotel room, as we wandered around town, picked up the keys to our apartment, and waited for the New Year’s holiday to be over so we could buy a few things. Like bread. And lights. And a bed. ***

The nice thing about moving to a place where you are completely clueless is you get to learn a lot really quickly. In our first week here, we’ve learned that when you step on the bus you’re expected to name the exact stop you’re traveling to; that despite its pronunciation “rathaus” means the city hall; and finally that just because you know how to say “I would like bread and water please” does not grant understanding of the first sentence pleasantly babbled at you when you walk into a restaurant, which might be “would you like a table for two?” or “please choose whichever seat you like” or “isn’t it cold out today” or even “if you’re too stupid to understand German then we’d really rather not deal with you today so please leave.”**** 

We’ve also learned that to get a phone plan you need a German bank account, and to get a bank account you need to be certified at the city hall^ as a resident, and to be certified by the city you need a special signed piece of paper from your landlady that she didn’t give you with the normal rental contract. See? We’re making progress, even if most of it is backwards. 

All of this is to say that upcoming posts will likely be Europe-dominated in pictures^^ (and clueless-traveler-dominated in text). The style of this post (with footnotes) was inspired by Robin McKinley’s blog, except for the subtitle which is A. A. Milne. Tschüss!

————––––

*Photos to come soon. ish. 

**Plus of course a little extra, because we figured they probably wouldn’t weigh our backpacks so that’s where we carried all the heavy electronics. 

***The bed and light acquisitions took one day longer than planned (see note about New Year’s holiday and every store being closed) so we spent the first night in our apartment cooking and eating by flashlight, and sleeping on a rug that was hauled back from IKEA via two long bus rides. Much warmer than our last camping trip! 

****Nor, in fact, does it successfully acquire you normal water in a glass, but rather various iterations of sparkling water or tiny bottles of mineral water, none of which you actually wish to drink. 

^Rathaus

^^Yes, yes, and Nepal

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2 thoughts on “Guten Tag

  1. Back in 1995 I learned that to get tap water in Germany (which is safe to drink) you ask for “leitungswasser”. They won’t want to give it to you. And in my case came up with an ingenious excuse not to give it to me, but in theory it can be done…

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