photo by xNSFoto (me)

From Volunteer to Expat in a Year

Sometimes I forget about how big a step I did just a year ago. But now, as my voluntary service is ending and I will finally become a real expat, it definitely is on my mind.

While realising that I’ve never been that 100% happy in my home country, Germany, and after falling in love with Portugal head over heels in June, I took some really rapid decisions and started a voluntary service in November 2014 – already with the perspectives of maybe NOT coming back. So I gave up my flat, gave away 90% of my belongings, gave 5% to friends and family and took another 5% with me.

Back then this gave me the most delibering feeling I’ve ever had and I don’t look back on a single day I regretted it.

My life changed immensely with this. I discovered a new passion (caring for youngsters), I found love, I found some small jobs, and eventually I found an employment, starting directly after my volunteering ends, in less than 2 weeks. It will be my first real job, in an area I never worked in. And, above all, it means moving in with my boyfriend and also moving TO Lisbon and finally becoming the expat that I’ve been in my heart for months.

A year of mastering the language, adapting to the Portuguese culture (which is definitely quite different from the German one…), fitting in, trying to find a way, being happy.

I’m afraid of the future, I really really am. But I believe that I will make it as good as I want it to be. Although going tons of different pathways, right now it seems as if they all led to this, and now it’s the breaking point to see, if it was the right choice.

I’m excited to, in 10 days, officially register myself in Portugal and cut all (official) cords to Germany. While all those refugee try everything to set a foot into Germany (and above of all Berlin), I leave voluntarily. Do I look back sadly? No. After all, Germany is not that far away 🙂 And the parts of German culture I treasure, I will always carry in my heart.

 

*self-motivational speech out*

(see facebook link at about / life for more photos!)

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14 (German) habits that changed when I moved to Portugal

Being both within Europe, I expected not THAT many cultural differences when I moved from Berlin, Germany, to Portugal end of last year. Except for some things that I already knew, but considered prejudices, I discovered, that there is way more. The following 14 things are just an excerpt of my experiences here …

All pictures (c) NSFoto (me)

1. Regard “5 minutes” as actual 5 minutes on the clock

Although the Latin countries being not on time is a cliché – it is just as true for 90% of the inhabitants. On the contrary, Germans are known for their punctuality, and although personally not being the best example for that, I still was surprised here. If someone tells me “just a minute”, I expect them to take 10, maybe 15min, and if it takes them even longer to ask them what happened. Portuguese just regard time as something way more flexible than Germans. This does not mean that doctor’s appointments or working hours are flexible (a big mistake I made in the beginning), but nobody expects their friends to be at a bar for a drink before an hour after the supposed meeting time.

2. Drinking (American) coffees during the day at work or at home for waking up

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The Portuguese espresso is undoubtedly one of the best in the world. Like Italian? Go to Portugal and you will be even more amazed. Moreover, drinking an espresso in a café, bar, or whatever is cheap. 60c is the basic price, and going for at least one espresso daily is a common social thing and nearly expected of you. Arriving at 11pm in a bar and ordering an espresso? Completely normal.

3. Bothering about my last name. Or, even my first name. Or, real names at all

And for a few reasons:
First, nobody cares much about last names, unless to identify a person (1000s of Joões and Anas, anyone?). Going there with unique looks and a unique first name, nobody cares about my last name. Unless they wanna try how to pronounce it to make fun of the German pronounciation.
Second, because of a way lower variety of both first and last names than in Germany, nicknames here are a given. Especially amongst men, I hardly know anyone usually called by his proper first name. Ranges go from last name, simple short versions, names considering appearances, to ridiculous names know one really remembers where they came from.
And third, as 99% are even pronouncing my (not even German) name wrong when they first try it, and some even keep failing after months, I got used to so many variations, that I basically listen to everything that KINDA sounds like my name. Not kidding. I turn my head thousands of times someone is shouting Gabi (short for Gabriel) instead of Nadin.

4. My view on meals

DSC_0009 (2)Back in Germany, I usually ate a big breakfast early in the morning (7am), a normal lunch, and an early light dinner at 6 or 7, maybe 7.30. The meals consisted of a lot of vegetables, a lot of spices, rarely meat, hardly ever fish, and the food was hardly ever typical German.

Portuguese love their whole culinary – they love their food, meals (at least lunch and especially dinner) are a social event. Their whole way of eating is very different: they don’t use many spices (and even those sparcely), they have this really strange habit of eating rice and fries together, cooked vegetables on the side is a special (although a salad with the meal is normal), and they eat their food cold a lot of times because they get caught up in conversations. Oh, and a meal without meat or fish is not a meal!

5. Being focused on one language

By now I can proudly say I am fluent on a “normal conversation” level in 3 languages, German, English and Portuguese. While in the beginning, I sometimes got confused with only 2 languages, now I can now switch between all 3 within seconds, and even understand a word of Turkish from my flatmate in between. This ability gets lost as soon as I get really tired, but gets doubled with a few drinks 😉

6. Cooking daily

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Eating out is really cheap, especially compared to Germany. And I’m not talking about Fast Food, but whole meals. Plus, drinks are ridiculously cheap from my POV, so why not be a bit more lazy and enjoy a dinner out instead of cooking every day?

7. Actually answering when someone asks how I am

While Germans expect an answer when asking you how you are, and look at you waiting for an answer, the Portuguese “tudo bem?” and its variations is part of the greeting and nobody expects you to give a long answer, or even to answer at all. Seeing someone walking by on the other side of the street? “Olá, tudo bem?” and keep on walking. In Germany, you probably don’t even notice each other because you’re not really looking at who walks by.

8. Seeing my (local) friends once a week max

DSC_0223If I haven’t seen my friends here for 3 days, I’m wondering where they are. People here are socialising a lot, and going for a café or a beer daily or at least every 2nd day is part of the routine. In Germany, even living 15 minutes from one of my best friends, I saw her once a week on the weekend, if even. Completely normal.


9. Being able to go unnoticed

Forget it. Just, forget it. Apart from Portuguese people usually being pretty curious, as a blond blue-eyed girl speaking with an accent, you have all eyes on you within seconds. Especially in Berlin, it’s nearly normal that half of your friends have an immigration background at the least, here people looking like me usually are tourists. Like, 97%. That means that whenever I’m on the streets, I have eyes on me, naturally. Germany is full of tourists and foreign looking people, so nobody cares much about other people on the streets.

10. Vorglühen at home, club later

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In Germany, you meet your friends for Vorglühen at home, a bunch of drinks before usually hitting a club later in the night. But in Portugal, a jantar (pt. for dinner) is the common thing to do here with friends, family, or, even more often, both. You invite them to dinner, have some beer and wine and go to a café / bar later. And if you happen to be really into it, you hit a club in the night. Getting drunk? Not something very usual to do here in general. This is for big celebrations only, not a weekend habit.

11. Thinking of people older than me as people with a lot of dignity and trying to uphold an image

A sorry here to all Germans, but it’s a fact: The major part of Germans is a pretty uptight bunch, at least from age 40 up. Having a woman (not talking about family) that could be your grandma making jokes with AND about you all day is not something I ever saw in Germany. Yes, you see them smile and everything, but gestulating a lot, telling funny stories, even making fun of you? A very rare image and no way anyone would even think of describing a German old lady. Germans seem to reach an age where they think they have to change and go through life with more dignity, they are “too old” for that “young stuff”. But does that really mean having fun in life?

12. Not traveling

DSC_0290 (2)Traveling here is cheap. And you can basically pick a random location on the map, and you’ll find something worth seeing. I hardly ever traveled in Germany – mostly because it was expensive and I thought most beautiful things are outside of the country. This view changed, and if one day I’ll have the time and money to travel around a bit, I certainly will.

13. Not knowing the real differences between German and other European cultures

It is interesting that you actually have to leave your own country to learn more about it, but it is true. Being confronted with a culture, that seems to be so similar on the surface, but is pretty different on the inside, every single day makes you aware of what being German actually means. You learn about prejudices, you understand the small quirks of your native language, the unique things of your culture, etc.

14. Sunny days are special days

DSC_0088 (2)When at the beginning of last December in Portugal there was a day without any clouds and a shining blue sky, I was baffled. In Germany, everyone would have left their house to basically “celebrate” that day. Here, hardly anyone noticed. And I soon saw why, it is just normal.
If the temperature in summer drops below 25, it’s frio. Having clouds on the sky? A bad day.

Once I went into a restaurant and asked for fries and salad. THIS is what I got. Thank god I was starving anyway.

The Portuguese Kitchen – Part 1: Meals and Meat

A cozinha portuguesa …

With my parents coming to Porto in less than 3 weeks, I’m starting to think deeply about how I want to show them the country I fall in love with – and one of the first things coming in mind is, the Portuguese kitchen. No one outside of Portugal and maybe Spain has an idea about what the Portuguese kitchen actually is.

WHY???

It is the richest kitchen I know, it can definitely not be compared to the German one. Apart from some really basic but still really nice stuff like soups, they have quite a few whole amazing meals and foods. Not even mentioning the unbelievable Portuguese pastelaria!!

The downside is: as a vegetarian, the only thing you’ll enjoy here, is the pastelaria. For all meat-eaters: welcome to heaven!

So, let me show you just a few favourites of mine, starting with actual meals (and I’ll probably forget half of the stuff):

Caldo Verde

This kale soup will be the best you ever ate, if you have the luck to taste it somewhere in Portugal / in a Portuguese kitchen. It also contains a bit of Chouriço, which is mentioned further down.

Sopa da Pedra

This soup is not for everyone. But for everyone with a great (non-vegetarian!!) taste.

Bacalhau com Natas

And basically every other bacalhau recipe. Bacalhau (English stockfish) is THE FISH here. There are over a hundred recipes. Not kidding, look it up!

Chouriço

I’m really not a fan of that kind of sausages usually. This actually reminds me of German Salami, and I don’t like that one very much. But Chouriço… Oh. My. God. Really.

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Bifana

Oh Bifana… So simple. Bread. Meat. Some sauce. And so delicious.

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Francesinha

This is the first Portuguese dish I fell in love with. Has to be tried in the Porto area (my favourite can be found in Vila Nova da Gaia, just 10min on foot from Porto. This dish is usually served with fries and an egg on top – I prefer it this way like in the picture, more pure. And with toasts, sausage, meat, a lot of cheese and a ton of sauce, this dish alone is more than enough for me (and I can stomach a lot, trust me).

Alheira

One of the first other meals I tried, after a friend’s recommendation. Totally different from anything I had ever eaten before, and loved it anyway. A very unique kind of “sausage” u won’t regret having tried, promise!

Cozido à Portuguesa

THE national dish. Apparently. Still waiting to try it, but so far I was never let down by a Portuguese suggestion! And I’ve gotten this one so many times. Unfortunately it is a bit expensive compared to the rest I usually eat when I eat out. I’ll have an opportunity with my parents in Porto I guess! =) It is supposed to be a mixture of a lot of pretty amazing typical Portuguese foods. Can’t wait!

Chanfana

Ahah, to be honest – I’m actually ONLY putting this up on here because my Portuguese friends made me swear to do it. I have never tried it in my life. It’s on my bucket list. So, trust my Portuguese friends on this one 😀

So, that’s it for now. And this is just the meals I can think of right now.

You haven’t even gotten me started about Portuguese pastelaria, and also drinks! Watch out for Part 2 and 3 coming soon=)

If I Lose Myself*

… I’ll use facebook like some of the kids from my project do.

When I started using facebook, I was 17 years old, in 2008. It was the time facebook started becoming popular in Germany, and I started using it pretty early. The main reason back then was to stay in touch with a friend of mine, who went back to Egypt. It was already very popular there, so I started communicating with her over this. By the time I started going to university (end of 2009), it had become common and I used it with my study colleagues, and have never left since. Anyway, you don’t need to know facebook’s story. My point today is:

I’m fucking glad facebook didn’t exist when I was a real teenager. Or, god bless, even younger. Some of the kids from my project started adding me on facebook lately, so by now I have like 30 kids between 9 and 15 years old on my facebook. Also, here in Portugal it’s pretty common for adults to use it as well. I totally can’t imagine my parents on facebook, but here this is more than normal.
Really guys, I don’t even WANT to know what I would have posted on facebook with 13 years old, and it would have been on the Internet forever.

Let me give you some examples:

1) They usually are incredibly polite
Let’s start with a nice one. I don’t know about you, but I never commented one of my own photos just to thank everyone for the likes and comments. Let alone thanking every single person so that I end up commenting my own picture 10x.

2) They share everything they like
One of my kids shares absolutely everything he likes. Where normal people give a like, he likes and shares. Every shit. Thank god you can unfollow people without unfriending them.

3) … and they tag every person they know on that until the facebook limit is reached
Not kidding. Tagging 86 people on a picture? Nothing special. Also: tagging other people on your photos although they have nothing to do with it. Ooookay…

4) They share pictures of random people and express their feelings
One of my kids posted a picture from a girl today, with the comment: “beautiful as always! I know your boyfriend, but you will always stay beautiful!”. I mean. Wtf? Imagine an adult doing that. Imagine, for a second.

5) They add people on facebook that they feel they should know or want to get to know
Or at least that’s the feeling I got. Kids have added me on facebook, that I definitely don’t know. Yeah, they’ve probably seen me dashing around somewhere, Lousa is small. But, come on. What for? The guy that did #4 has a glorious number of nearly 2000 facebook friends. at 14. I’m very positive he adds every girl his age whose profile he stumbles over randomly. I see a lot of girls there I have only one single friend with – which NEVER happens here within Lousa. As I said, this is a small town, there are connections ALL over, they’re practically visible like threads woven through the town.

6) They message you. And have absolutely nothing to say
It has happened to me multiple times, that kids have messages me, just saying olá. There is a short exchange of tudo bem? (how are you), and then they stop texting. If you ask a question, they answer. But that’s it.

I actually think, there are a ton more I can’t think of right now. Not surprising: they younger they are, the worse. I really, REALLY wonder how they will look back on their facebook account in 5 years. If facebook still exists then.

*OneRepublic

Anonymous – or not

I’ve been thinking a lot about that topic lately. There is a lot of things I’d like to share, that I definitely do not want many people to listen. Posting Almost Lover here was already a big step. It is very open, and there are definitely 2 or 3 people in this world I’d never want for them to read it – especially THE almost lover, obviously 😀 This blog is not anonymous, obviously. You guys have my name, my photo, you know what I’m doing. But I want to share these things with you, because I’m in general a very honest person and hate to talk around stuff I don’t want to tell. I just tell. End of the story. So far my solution was to be open, but to not link my blog or give it to people I know. I gave it to exactly 2 people whom I genuinely trust. But of course, this is the internet – everyone can find this, and everyone I know would recognise me in an instant.

How do you guys handle this?! Do you simply only share stuff you would also tell everyone around you if they asked? do you stay 100% anonymous?

To Pimp A Butterfly

I didn’t know that Kendrick Lamar was about to give a title to my tattoo 😀 But of course I’ve been waiting for this album. Although only discovering Kendrick Lamar this year, I’ve been crazy about him since. I’m on my 3rd listen of the album and still not really sure, what I think of it.

First listen: I love Wesley’s Theory and King Kunta. Rest? Boring background music.

Second listen: Still love those 2. Actually skipped both interludes, starting to be disappointed.

But now? I’m at my third listen, this time more closely then the first 2, with even more attention to the tracks. Turns out, I actually kinda like For Free?, the first interlude, after all. It’s just so different and unexpected, and jazzy, that’s what made me dislike it in the beginning. And now I actually think it’s kinda genious! I’m still only halfway through the first listen (the still ongoing wifi problems make it very hard ….), but I already like the whole album way more then I did in the first two. I honestly think that this is one of the albums that you have to listen to a few times to really know if you like it or not.

And that appears to be a Kendrick thing for me. I remember, when I first heard Swimming Pool, I liked it, but I wasn’t very excited about it. The more I heard it, the more I loved it, and now I’m using it for my HipHop classes.

What I know so far about the album, is: I don’t love it. Which is a shame. I expected to, and I don’t. It doesn’t go anywhere near the last one, unfortunately. The one thing I love for sure is the title 😀 For those who know me in person, you know that I have a tattoo on my right shoulder, a butterfly combined with a clef. Yep. How to pimp a butterfly, 100% 😉 (you can check my deviantart to take a look at it if you want)

Stay With Me – Or, never mind. Go. Please.

Just a short post, because I want to share a funny story with you guys – Yeah, I had my share of experiences concerning online dating. Always started out of boredom, nothing ever really happened, although I did actually meet some. I simply dont really believe in it, it’s still a big portion of luck – and I’d actually not even want to meet my significant other online.

But sometimes, what you enconter is absolutely hilarious and so worth passing your free time. I’ll probably write more about this at some point, but for tonight just 2 of the worst pickup lines I experienced:

1) A guy whom I started talking over facebook, actually only about a flat in Berlin. 10min after calling me a Nazi girl (long story), he asked me if I want to go out for a drink because I was actually pretty. Guess my answer.

2) This message I just got from a guy I got in touch with a while ago over Tinder (n stopped talking months ago, for some reason he texted me again today). After telling me that I look beautiful etc (ugh. I just kept texting back out of boredom. He already lost his case in the way he said it.), he honestly writes the following “I hate it when girls are ugly.” I answered “I hate it, when guys are unlikeable and superficial. He didn’t get it. Apart from being a douchebag, his intelligence obviously got a big leak somewhere as well.

What’s the worst you heard girls?!

Trouble Sleeping*

So, after nearly 3 weeks away, I’m back home in Lousa. And right now definitely very happy about it. Apart from the obvious problem I’m far away from my friends again, there is another big one: we don’t have wifi until the end of the month because the office moved. We can use the wifi from the bar we live above off, but 1) the connection is bad, and, above all, 2) they shut it down when the bar closes. And of course, weekdays the bar closes at 2. Which right now (2.30am, typing this in word …), is a huge problem for me.

My sleeping rhythm is very night-orientated, I’m a typical insomniac. I also love the sun, which usually results in little sleep. But that’s ok – according to my parents, even as a baby I never wanted to sleep (I must have been awful), so apparently that’s just my nature.

Even before leaving, I was used to going to sleep around 3am usually, getting up at 9 or 10, which suited me very well. I had to get up early for a long time in Germany – I can get totally used to getting up early, but it simply means I have to go to bed early to get enough sleep, and that just doesn’t suit my rhythm at all. Usually I ended up getting way too little sleep overall. So, the past 3 weeks I had been left without any working hours, meeting friends in the evenings / nights (having no trains back to Parede, a small part of Cascais about half an hour from Lisbon itself, between 1.30 and 5.30), living at a friend’s place with a very night-orientated rhythm as well (usually going to sleep at 4 at the earliest, but other than me still sleeping 8-9h), and other friends with even “worse” schedules than me (more about that in the story below). With all of this combined, I got into the schedule that suited myself the best. Which means I usually went to sleep between 5 and 7am, sometimes later, waking up around 12. It just suited me, it was convenient (my friend always slept when I was sleeping, I only remember two exceptions :D), I was fully awake when out with friends, never tired when I had to wait for my train etc. The 4 nights in London did not disturb this. I only managed to arrive at my friend’s place 4.30am (London will probably be the next post) and my friend also never goes to sleep before 2. I actually tried to get back into a more “normal” rhythm again… Well, I managed two nights to go to bed around 3.30, but the other ones I failed miserably.

And I had a good feeling my last night in Lisbon would make all those attempts in vain anyway. I was proven right… I arrived from London back to Lisbon in the afternoon and had already planned to spend another night in Lisbon and only return to Lousa at midday on Wednesday, because I’m working at home on Wednesdays and had to get some stuff I left in Parede anyway. In the evening I had scheduled to go to the rehearsal of a friend’s band again – I had been the week before, taking pictures (don’t have them yet, or I would show some) and loved it, so asked if I could return again. By the way, check them out (Bandcamp), They are amazing! A whole handful of very creative and talented guys.

Anyway. So I went to the rehearsal in Belém at 8.30 (yes, of course I stopped by and got some Pasteis, for the whole band, me, and some for my flatmate to bring home on Wednesday :D). Long story short, I took a train home at 8am. After a night with too little sleep before leaving and having arrived by plane just a few hours before, needless to say I was completely exhausted. I hardly could keep my eyes open, ended up taking a train that didn’t go all the way but went back halfway (and of course only realised 2 stations back in direction of Lisbon again …). I think I only managed to not miss my station completely because of some friends that kept texting with me (they were obviously getting up :D), so I repeatedly fell asleep between stations and woke up again through my mobile. Close call, because battery was nearly dying. I finally was in bed at 9.30 and – surprise, surprise, suddenly awake again of course! Eventually fell asleep around 10.

So. Getting to the point here (I’m obviously bored n wasn’t able to write anything in a long time). Now I have a wonderful night rhythm, that I absolutely love. AND NO INTERNET FROM 2AM! I’M DYING! Especially because I have to finish my work…. And that’s impossible without internet -.- until the end of the month?! How is this supposed to work?? I have my mobile connection with my phone, but my data volume does not even closely suffice to connect my laptop to that.

I would love to hear from all those insomniacs out there – how do you guys deal with normal working hours? Do you sleep when your friends are awake or do you adapt to them? And in general, for everyone – do you think you’re following your natural sleeping rhythm?!

Fun fact: There are a lot of insomniacs in Portugal (or I just happen to know so many!?), but only very few in Germany. I know at least 5 people closely here who usually don’t go to sleep before 2, rather (a lot) later – and a lot of Portuguese friends on Facebook seem to be online in the night as well. Germany? I can only think of one single friend … Just checked my mobile out of fun, yup, 2 Portuguese friends online 😉

Oh well. I will try to sleep now, have my last Portuguese class in 6h. I’m still completely exhausted, but simply not tired – well, I more or less slept until 4pm before finally starting to go home, arrived here at midnight. That’s less than 12h ago…

*The Perishers. Lyrics totally unrelated 😉