Before moving, I told myself that I’d live in Germany for a minimum of three years. I gathered that three years would give me enough time to really improve my language skills, become familiar with Frankfurt and build strong relationships with those around me. What I didn’t consider, is that after three years of giving my all to building up a life for myself, I wouldn’t just want to pack up and leave it all behind.
August has become a month where I tend to reflect a lot. This time three years ago, I had combined my 25th birthday celebration with my farewell party, and I had been in Frankfurt for two weeks, desperately trying to get to grips with things as quickly as possible. It was an emotional rollercoaster, that’s for sure.
But what’s the real significance of living abroad for three years for me? Why is it any different to last year of the year before?
It’s the transition from novelty to normality.
And this needs some explaining…
My birthday is a time to host for others and celebrate with friends. I went back to London for my first birthday after I moved abroad as I felt I knew hardly anyone in Frankfurt. To be honest, if I didn’t have other commitments to attend in the UK throughout the year, I would most certainly milk it and have a double celebration, one in London and one in Frankfurt but for the last two years I have celebrated solely in Frankfurt. It felt weird not to send out invites to all my friends back in the UK, but I was lucky enough to have a friend fly over for the occasion and I now thoroughly enjoy celebrating my birthday here. Celebrating my birthday in Frankfurt has become ‘normal’. It has helped me feel settled in the sense that I can now celebrate here in the same way that I would celebrate in London, it’s a normal thing to do.
Whilst living abroad is fun and games, it’s also real life. It’s not an Erasmus exchange, which is a limited period of time, where your only worry is getting tickets to the next ESN outing or not being too hungover for your next lecture. For me the ‘when you live abroad, you do this’ novelty has started to wear off. It’s not just living abroad in a bubble of fun, it’s living real life. There are still problems and you sometimes just need a shoulder to lean (and cry) on for when the going gets tough. Just the same way that you would normally do so at home.
Having friends who you can rely on makes a HUGE difference when navigating life abroad. Being able to call certain people for certain things and not feeling like you’re being a pain in the arse lightens the load for when you just need some help… because as much as I’d like to be able to do everything on my own, there are just some things in life that are a two-man job.
Feeling at home
This is meant both in a literal and metaphorical sense. The more time and effort I have put into my apartment in Frankfurt, the more comfortable I become and the more I truly feel at home. Adding personal touches like candles, cushions and plants is what removes that temporary, novelty feeling from your home and helps with the process of everything becoming normal.
And I guess that goes for the previous points too, allowing myself to settle in the sense of doing things in Frankfurt that I would normally do in London, and having strong relationships in Frankfurt, just as I do in London, is what prevents that temporary feeling of living abroad and allows you to settle in your new home.
But I do have to be honest, I’m still on a journey and adapting to life abroad is still a process for me. There will always be things that I miss about London but moving back isn’t the option I’d like to take, as I don’t see it as a solution to the hard times. It’s not like life in London would be perfect either! After three years of living in Frankfurt, I can say that the novelty of living abroad is very much wearing off and I’m so happy that life in Frankfurt has become normal.
Happy 3 years to me!
I really enjoy your blog. I remember the 2 year mark of living in Germany. I had expected I would then feel at home here…but that took several more years. Happy Birthday and keep on writing!!
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Ahh thanks Zina! Really appreciate it. Thanks for reading 🙂
Looking in life’s rear view mirror can actually be so therapeutic at times. The most beautiful, thought provoking memories and learning experiences are reflected back. So much ground covered mentally, spiritually, and physically (of course)! Journey on!
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