Chelsea self-reflects due to a busy schedule
Hi there – you should know me as the creator and author of this blog. I started the Power Frau series so that people could get to know some badass gals living abroad in German and their unique stories. And for this month…well…it was a bit busy and I didn’t have the time to organize it. But in order to keep the ball rolling and have a spotlight for each month this year, I thought why not put myself in the spotlight?? And maybe roast myself a little while I’m at it!
So enjoy the following interview with myself and maybe you’ll get to know me a little bit better. 🙂
What initially brought you to Germany? And is it why you’re still here?
What brought me to Germany initially was a combination of love and studies. I had met my German partner initially when we were studying together at my American university in 2012-2013. We started a relationship and did the long-distance thing for one year when it came time to make a decision, because long-distance was not for us. I knew I wanted to continue my studies, but I didn’t know where, so Germany seemed like the best compromise. I always wanted to study abroad anyway, but never really got the chance either due to timing or finances, so this was a pretty good plan! Add on top the fact that I wouldn’t add to my student debt because public universities in Germany are essentially free, and I was ready to fly, baby.
The reason I’m here is pretty simple – I’m working and living life!
What do you love most about living in Hamburg/Germany?
There are so many things I love about living in Hamburg specifically. I always wanted the opportunity to live a ~city life~ and Hamburg is a really great city for that. It’s quite big with a population of about 1.9 million, so you get that metropolitan experience, but it’s not HUGE like Bangkok or London, for example, where you feel completely overwhelmed by the bustling atmosphere and skyscrapers. You can still enjoy all the benefits of a major metropolitan area, like having an airport and other transportation readily available or having the ability to see concerts and other cultural events. But all this without it feeling like too much to handle.
Germany in general? Well, I cover a bit of this topic in this other blog article.
What’s your go-to routine on a rainy day in Hamburg (which we know happens all too frequently) vs. a sunny day in Hamburg?
There are usually one of two options to a rainy day – lounge around at home or actively make plans. When I’m doing the former, I might be binging the latest release on Netflix, reading, or playing around on Procreate on my iPad. Or maybe I take it back to my roots and do some artwork on ‘real’ surface, such as practicing my watercolor technique or making something with acrylic paints on a canvas.
As mentioned, the other option is actively making plans to go out and do something (I don’t like to cancel unless I’m not feeling well, so I will always follow through). It may be annoying to trek through the rain, but I almost never regret going out and meeting a friend for coffee or seeing a movie.
When it’s sunny, I like to take advantage of that and get some vitamin D outside, whether I’m getting on the water on the canals of Hamburg or just meeting a friend in a park or one of Hamburg’s cool beach bars for a drink.
Let’s talk about your German language-learning journey. How did you start, how has the process been, how do you feel about your abilities now, etc.
My German learning journey is a bit of a long one if I include everything…therefore, I won’t. 😀
I had taken a beginner course in college on Germany, but it wasn’t very intensive. It was learning the very basics and a bit about German culture. Therefore, when I first arrived in Germany, I could really only say a few basic phrases and I didn’t understand much.
Even though I wasn’t going in to more debt during my master’s program, I was still a poor student. That’s why I decided against paying for any actual courses and thought I would study independently instead. I knew my partner would help me as well, so that was my plan.
I feel pretty confident about my skills nowadays. I speak German regularly at work and in everyday life, but of course there are the typical things that trip me up all the time, like declension. If I’m unsure, I just take a stab at it and hope it’s right! And if I can remember, I’ll check later to see if I was actually correct. If not, I try to learn from it.
What are a few things that most people don't know about you?
Well, I’m an only child and I resent comments that say that only children are brats and can’t share! (Wait, does saying that make me a brat?) I may not have grown up with any siblings torturing me, but I don’t think that has had an impact on how I interact and deal with others. I’d say I’m quite an empathetic person and I’m always willing to give people the benefit of the doubt, although some might call that being naïve. And I must admit that after living in a large city for a few years now, you do have to learn the line between needing to step in and help someone vs. ignoring them because they want to take advantage of you. I’m a people person, but not 100% an extrovert because I do need alone time regularly to recharge.
Another thing that many people might not know is that I can play the flute! I’m not an avid player anymore, in fact I haven’t played consistently since high school. But I can still play it and read music. Give me a few weeks of practice and I could join a band for fun…but I don’t think I’ll be doing that any time soon. I would rather focus on other creative hobbies like art and blogging. 🙂
Can you tell us about a time where you said the wrong thing or misunderstood something in a funny way?
There are too many to count or even remember, to be honest…
Let me start with the fact that I was saying die Käse for about a year, because there’s a general rule that many words ending in ‘e’ in German take the feminine article die. Finally a close friend told me, “Chelsea, you know it’s der Käse, right?” Clearly I didn’t!
There have been so many times at the doctor when I either didn’t know the right word or didn’t know the word that ISN’T colloquial. For example, I once had to mention something to a doctor about my butt area?? I don’t really remember exactly what for… Anyway, all I could think of was Arsch (ass), and clearly this is not the level on which I want to speak with my doctor.
I worked at a bakery once for 3 months (truly terrible experience, would not recommend). At certain times, it gets very busy, especially if there is a contractor crew nearby that takes their break all at the same time. A customer came and said he wanted two bags with a total order of two pretzels and two pastries. Typically, people don’t like to mix their sweet and salty snacks, so I started putting two pretzels in one bag and two pastries in another. He said no no, this is not what he wanted and he repeated what he initially said. I think I gave a blank look and he repeated it again, word for word. I still wasn’t getting it AT ALL, and he wasn’t helping by not reformulating what he wanted in a different way, just looking at me like I was stupid. Eventually he started getting upset as well as the other people in line, so I asked my colleague to deal with it. Guess what? He wanted two bags, each with one pretzel and one pastry (je eine Brezel und eine Nussecke). The reason is because he was taking them to his children and they get jealous or upset if it’s not in their ‘own’ bag. *facepalm*
One more doctor story…I was once at a doctor and was trying to describe an issue that I was having during exercise or working out. I said something along the lines of Wenn ich meinen Körper belästige…which loosely translates to ‘When I molest my body…’ After a moment, I realized I needed to use the verb belaste (strain) instead and quickly repeated the sentence, but I had a nice chuckle about that later. You can see how similar the words are, right??
How is it possible to make friends when moving to another country?
Making friends as an adult who is no longer in a student environment is generally tough. (Even when you’re studying and in a student environment it can be tough!) It’s even tougher when you add having a job and trying to settle into your new country, i.e. finding an apartment, learning the language, navigating new cultural customs, etc. So my biggest tip is one you’ve probably heard time and time again: put yourself out there. Especially on the internet.
When I moved to Hamburg after my studies and to start my new job, I didn’t know many people at all. I got to know some of my colleagues, but I didn’t want to rely on socializing with my colleagues both during the week and on the weekend…that can be a bit much. So I made the conscious decision to put myself out there. I began going to international events based on activities I enjoy, such as crafting events or art nights. I made my instagram profile public and started interacting with people I found through other friends and reached out to them if I thought we might have some things in common. I joined Facebook again (anyone who knows me will say how loud I am about my hatred of Facebook, so this was a big step for me) so I could join some of the big, well-known groups I’d heard about such as Girl Gone International and Expats in Hamburg.
Joining a sport or exercise group can also be a good way to get to know some local people, I’ve heard. I’ve also heard about Bumble BFF, which is a spin-off of the original dating app and is designed to help people make friends.
Overall, you have to be brave and put yourself out there in some capacity. If you never share anything or reach out and make the first move in any way, people aren’t going to be banging your door down with offers to connect or hang out. Don’t be scared and share some of that data, baby!
Finally, in your opinion, what makes you a Power Frau?
One of the similarities between all of these Power Frau stories is that we had the courage to leave what we had known and start a new life in an unfamiliar place. Although we all have this in common, I don’t think it should ever be overlooked or taken for granted. It’s absolutely terrifying to move country or continent to start a life that you’re not sure is going to make you happier than where you were before. So making this leap into the unknown is a huge achievement on its own.
Something else I think that makes me a Power Frau is that I am always trying to reflect and improve myself. I have a passion for learning, not only to work my brain intellectually, but to better myself as a person. There are so many things to learn in this world and so many ways to do things better for the planet and for others, and I’m really trying my best. I make mistakes – a lot of cringey ones that I sometimes lie awake and think about at night. But this just motivates me to learn from them and improve in the future. It’s a shame when others don’t take time to think about how they could be doing better and just continue to do things that may be hurtful to themselves or others when they have the power to learn and make meaningful changes.
I think I’m also a Power Frau because I try like hell to help other women shine and succeed. None of this catty, competitive BS. We all have something to contribute in our own unique way, and I love recognizing that and feeling empowered from other women who are doing great things. As Maya Angelou said, “I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass.”