Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Expat Inquiries: Little ole me

I've run out of interviews, so I'm here answering my own questions:

Where do you live?
- Graz, Austria

little us in front of the Graz Opera House.

How long have you lived there?  And is this your first home away from the States?
- A little over 2 years.  Yes, first time living out of America.

Where are you originally from?
- Houston, Texas

What brought you to Austria?
- Husband's postdoctorate research

What do you do for a living?
- I do blog designs for some extra money, but I don't make a living from it. :)
I never found a job due to insufficient German skills, so I created my own little stay-at-home work.

Do you speak German fluently?  If so, how long did it take you to learn?  Do you find it to be an easy language?
- Um, no.  I took two 3-month / 4 hours a day / 5 days a week intensive courses in the first year we lived here, but when you don't get good, daily real life practice, it's almost impossible to become fluent.  I find I can read magazine articles fairly well and understand e-mails from some Austrian friends, but when it comes to speaking, I am sehr peinlich (embarrassed) and nicht so schnell (not very quick).  I'm not proud that I've lived here for over 2 years and am still not fluent, but the fact that Germans come to Austria, esp. southern Austria, and say they have a hard time understanding the German here makes me feel much better.  We learn one thing in school and hear a pretty mutated version of it out on the streets, which makes it really hard.  There's my excuse. :)

Oh, and to answer the second question, I did not and do not find it easy (Spanish is WAY easier), but if I compare it to Chinese or Hungarian, it doesn't seem quite so bad.

What are the people like?
- The people are more reserved.  At first I thought it was snobby or a bit rude, but what I've come to learn is that that is just what they are used to. They find it fake that we automatically ask "How are you?" and don't always expect an answer.  I do miss the mega-friendliness in Texas, though.  Not the pushy salespeople or waiters...in that regard, I like the Euro leave-you-alone style.

How long did it take until you felt mostly adjusted?

- I would say a year...and you keep adjusting more and more, of course, the longer you are here.  I felt mostly adjusted when I had a set of friends, when I knew enough German to order food and grocery shop, when my house had at least 5 pieces of furniture and when I was calling Graz 'home'.

What were some of the hardest things/aspects to adjust to?
- Language, not working (no routine..at first), the WINTER

What are some things/aspects you don't miss back home?
- Overconsumption (lots of people have said this..it's a biggie), 'Keeping up with the Joneses' crapola, traffic

What are your top three faves about your current city or country?
- Most everything is in walking distance/public transportation (I LOVE this...it makes more of an impact on your life and health (physical and mental) than you think), the old-fashioned charm (buildings, caf├ęs, our apt.) and the simpler way of living.

In what areas do you think moving abroad has helped you to grow?
- I didn't really realize the subconscious pressures and expectations that I felt back home (not really from friends and family, but society in general), until I moved away and felt sort of a freedom. Living here is kinda like a rather long sabbatical.  It gives you some serious perspective to step out (way out across the Atlantic) and see a different way of life than you're used to.

Fave places you've traveled in Europe?
- Don't really have a fave...I've really liked everywhere I've gotten to go.   Europe is wondey like that.


Anonymous said...

Very interesting answers. You've really made the most of your time here - your blog is testament to that. I have a question for you: How do you feel about going back at the end of hubbie's postdoc research?
(Oh and you can interview me if you like - Brit expat in the back of beyond in Salzburg)

Cat said...

I want to hear the answer to Emily's question, too. I think if I had lived there that long, I'd be torn. But, family is a plus in the states. :) Great 'interview'!

Juliette said...

If you go back to the States you should move to New England. From my experience 'Yankees' (w/the exception of NY and NJ) are more reserved and chill and not as consumeristic as other areas of the US. (I've lived all over the US and this is just my opinion of course!) Then you'd still be living in the US, a short flight from the fam, and not have to deal with the Dativ. =) I still owe you an email...

The Rigoloso's said...

I am so glad you did this! Did you get the email I sent you, busy lady? xo

Elizabeth Ann (Elizabeth Ann's Recipe Box said...

Hi friend!!! you can interview my friend, briana!!! http://swisssettlesummer.blogspot.com She knows Jimmy too! :-)

Julie said...

Great interview, Lady!! I was back in Texas last week and I must say it felt really good to be back home -the Tex-Mex, the smells, the sun, the crickets...

jja said...

Well my first job in Germany was with english as company laguage and I am even not native speaker. So I guess, there are some jobs in Graz too for english native speaker. Working at Universit├Ąt you can get well along without german for example.
But you are for sure coming back with one more laguage skill, great thing for your CV.

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- Carolyn