friendship Archive - Anja Angeli

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Expat Loneliness – a taboo subject?

Does this sound familiar to you? It is 9 o'clock in the morning. Your children are at school, your husband is at work or even worse, traveling the whole week. You look at the clock and wonder what you should do all day. 

Seven hours until your children are back from school. Actually you should clear the breakfast table, but you first  should do some sports. But somehow nothing pulls you to the running shoes. Outside is great weather, but the thought of a walk triggers only a yawn with you. Maybe meet with the other moms from school? All smiling and nobody honest about their situation - no, you don't have the strength for that. But  you could unpack a few more boxes from the move. After all, you have time now - or what did your husband say the other day? But you can't get your act together for that either. Well, then take a quick look at your mobile phone to see what's going on. Hours later you eat something and you notice that of course nothing exciting was going on in your Facebook feed, although you tried to scroll through to the end. It occurs to you that you actually still have to do the laundry, but that can wait. At least you sit down and see what you can do next holiday. Finally it is time to pick up the children and you are relieved that you have something to do again.

Do you know this situation? Maybe not that extreme, but at least a bit. The days can be long if you are at home as an expat partner. Boredom catches up with you and there are days when you don't even get to the smallest details. Most expat partners experience this - some more, some less. But hardly anyone talks about it, because somehow it's a bit embarrassing. People are often to blame themselves. 

If you ask other people, hardly anyone admits to being bored. It's better for everyone to tell you how much they have to do. A standard answer  to the question: "How are you?" nowadays is more and more "Busy", ouch, it feels like somebody is rubbing salt into that wound.

Nevertheless, after the first weeks of expat honeymoon where it is very exciting the newness wears off. You feel lonely, a sense of being cut off from others. Even if you have learned german to a certain level, you are managing your daily life - it takes time do develop real friendships and to overcome that loneliness.

A lonely society?

Apart from expat loneliness this seems to a a broader problem also in german society. At the beginning of last year Marcus Weinberg, spokesman of Christian democratic Party (CDU) suggested the installation of a government commissioner to follow the example of the UK in combating loneliness. And also on facebook a campaign against loneliness was launched this year.

The concept of friendship in Germany

An important factor for you to be aware of is that friendships in Germany just take longer than in your home country. People in Germany are more distant, when they don't know each other well they great each other by shaking hands instead of hugging or giving a kiss on the cheek. Smiling at each other is rare. Germans have friends and acquaintances - people you know but don't share private things with. And it takes time to come from acquaintance to friend. Once you have reached that stage - you will mostly have a friend for life - but real friendship in Germany also means that we can tell each other our honest opinion, and if your friends are thinking you are making a mistake, they may tell you so - this is what we call "real" friendship. 

What can I do?

It might also help to be honest and tell people that you are new, feel lonely and are looking for things to do with friends, but that takes courage and is not not for everyone. Join Network Clubs like InterNations or on MeetUP, also these  are often loose networks and  it takes time to get beyond Smalltalk. Get a routine, get out of the house, even though you are not making best friends in the beginning. And be gentle and compassionate with yourself.

Find a meaningful activity

Especially expat partners who have worked before or were firmly integrated into a large family or a circle of friends or another social structure feel the loss painfully. Suddenly you see no sense anymore in the things you do and think that you can let them be the same, because nobody cares anyway. The loss of a meaningful task that fulfills you and makes you happy usually leads to boredom.

Give life a meaning again. That is of course much easier said than done and it does not go from one day to the next. At least not on a large scale. But maybe you can find meaning in what you already do. So you could think about why it is important that you do certain things and what happens and means for others or your life if you don't do it. Which things do you think make sense? And which ones don't? Make yourself a list. You can also look at what is important to you in life in general. What are your values? Which organizations would you like to support? I'm not saying that you have to do that in concrete terms, but maybe you'll notice that you're always drawn towards nature conservation. Then you could look for small projects that go in this direction. Find a project in an area that interests you. Gladly a small, something that satisfies you. It doesn't have to take long. But once you have started to act and done something that you think makes sense, you will get more ideas. You may also get contacts who can give you more ideas or with whom you can do other projects. 

In his book "The Power of Moments" Chip and Dan Heath write: "Insight comes from action and rarely action from insight." This means that you first have to get into action. Then you get insights and can continue to act. 

So, as you can see, there is so much more to loneliness than just the fact that you have nothing to do. You can get out of the loneliness, but it takes some work on yourself. If you are willing to do that,  you will be happier and make your time in Germany a great experience.

As an expat coach I can help you with this and begin to move forward. Together we will find your purpose, rediscover your joy, and help you to make your expat life in Germany a success.

Listen to my webinar today: 5 steps to finding success and fulfillment from an expat life. Find out how I can help you to rediscover your identity and find in your new expat life in Germany today.

Do you agree? What are your experiences in beating loneliness?  Have you got any useful tips on finding a meaningful project or becoming a part of the local community? I would love to here your stories and experiences of life as an expat spouse. Add your comments below. 

Join my FB Group

"Expat Joy and Success in Germany"

a fabulous community - where you will meet like-minded people, exchange experiences and get valuable information and tips.

Why learning German is so important – and a matter of mindset

So you are wondering whether you should learn German? Or should we say whether you have the time to learn German? Whether it is hard to learn German? How complicated German grammar is? Whatever your concerns, or if languages are just not your ‘thing’,  you will be surprised at how beneficial it is for you to learn German.

Let’s take a moment to consider why you should learn German, and I bet you will wonder what you were worrying about. 

Learning the language of a country really does open the door for you to fully experience that place. By learning German you can properly experience Germany as a place to live, rather than a destination. 

What you want, need most of all is to be able to interact freely and confidently. To integrate and understand the culture in which you have found yourself. Ultimately, to make some much-needed friends and have some fun experiences.

Don’t let all of those wonderful moments go to waste by thinking that learning German will be too hard. If you approach the acquisition of language as an experience that will enrich your life, rather than a huge task, you will feel much more relaxed about it.

So think of it in a different way – with a new mindset. This is a new experience for you, rather than a chore, another thing to fit in. This is an enriching, interesting new adventure for you. Like all journeys, it is perfectly achievable if tackled in the right way.

Yes, it may take a little effort and require you to step out of your comfort zone, but as with all journeys, what you will gain as you grow is the fuel that that will keep you going. It might seem tricky at first, but like anything new, it will get easier.

Remember the lesson played out in the Budapest Syndrome (for those of you who are not familiar with it - it is named after the wave of expats going to Budapest and not learning the language because all the other expats said that it is too difficult anyways)? Yes, you can function as a tourist, but as someone looking in, you will always be an outsider. Being an outsider is never enough and very quickly, a lonely place to be.

For your fulfillment, independence, happiness, self worth, you have to step past the position of an observer, and put yourself into the heart of the place where you are. Without language - joy, warmth, interest and variety will be missing from your life. 

Language is the currency that brings enrichment and colour. It helps to keep each day fresh and exciting. As you become part of the German community, the language will take on a new significance whilst you get to know German people, understand German culture and make friends.

With new pals and things to do in Germany, you will be able to practice your German all the time, understand how the language works and make mistakes in environments where you feel comfortable. The best way to learn a language.

Why it is easier to learn German than you think:

What is the easiest way to learn German? There are a number of factors that make learning German easy. 

  1. German comes from the same language family tree as English. The phonetic sounds of many letters and even some words, such as baby, broccoli and chance are the same in both German and English. 
  2. All nouns begin with a capital letter which makes them easier to spot when translating a text.
  3. The tenses are much simpler than in other languages because there is only one form of the present tense to learn. Even better, once learnt the present tense covers almost all of the future tense, and the past tense is simply a form of the present - the present perfect.
  4. Check out this funny video from the comedian Henning Wehn entitled ‘Waiting for the verb’: http://www.bbc.co.uk/languages/german/comedy/waiting_for_verb.shtml
  5. Words with similar meanings share the same root words, such as abspielen (play), spielen (playing) and Spielkamerad (playmate). There are also lots of compound words which make translating much simpler.

It may come as a surprise, but it is actually easier to learn a language when you are older.

The wonderful thing is that you are never too old to learn a language. In fact, the whole experience will be so much better because you are older. You have more maturity, patience and life experience. Lots of people find it a very satisfying experience.

Recent research has shown that learning a new language as an adult is actually good for your health. The guardian.com suggests that challenging your brain to learn a new language enables you to ‘exercise your brain’, keeping it healthy. It is even thought to be the type of activity that helps to delay an onset of Alzheimer’s. 1

What is the best way to learn German?

There is no definitive way to learn any language, including German. Today, there are a range of resources available across the internet. Although the internet does make information easy to get hold of, many people do find it both overwhelming, impersonal and un-motivating.

Learning the language is a crucial part of making your time in Germany a successful and meaningful one.

Don’t forget too, that you can make a start today. Take a big step outside of your comfort zone, get out and about and talk to people. It will take some courage, but after the first few times, it will be much easier. For some support, an expat coach can help you to learn proven ways to meet and get to know new people. 

Listen to my webinar today: 5 steps to finding success and fulfillment from an expat life. Find out how I can help you to rediscover your identity and find in your new expat life in Germany today.

Do you agree? What are your experiences with learning german?  Have you got any useful tips? I would love to here your stories and experiences how you started and with your german and followed through. Add your comments below. 

Join my FB Group

"Expat Joy and Success in Germany"

a fabulous community - where you will meet like-minded people, exchange experiences and get valuable information and tips.