Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Expat Inquiries: Juliette in Germany

Juliette and I met through the blogworld way back when I first started blogging.  She's got a great blog full of crafts and creativity and can do something I envy: sew.  It's crazy to think we've never actually met...maybe someday?

Where do you live?
- I live in a little university town right in the middle of Germany. It's pretty cute here (we have a great little 'old city'), but it rains a ton. It's also really hilly here. There are two little 'jokes' about our town:
1) It's a university that has a town, not a university town (said because e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g. here revolves around the Uni!).
2)There are more stairs in the city than in the houses themselves (I totally could believe this!).

{Juliette's university town}

How long have you lived there? And is this your first home away from the States?
- We just hit the four year mark this month, wow! I can't believe it's been so long, but at the same time it's like nothing. This is my first long-term home outside of the States, however different chapters of life have seen me living 3-6 months in other countries, even Germany (!).

Where are you originally from?
- This is always a funny question to me considering how much my family moved when I was growing up, but I have aspects of home attached to the South, California, and the Boston area where I attended college and stuck around for years afterward.

What brought you to Germany?
- I married a wonderful German man. =)

What do you do for a living?
- I'm a freelance editor for English-language publications. The bulk of my income comes from helping medical researchers polish their manuscripts before submitting them to journals like Nature, Science, The British Medical Journal, etc. I do anything from basic copy editing to almost full developmental editing. However, nobody likes to be too house-bound, so I mix it up by teaching English at our local university's Modern Language Institute, teaching a "Scientific English Writing Lab" for PhD students at the university, as well as working with a few private clients. I love being my own boss and I hardly miss a thing about working in an office like I did back in the US!

I also blog, but not for money. It's my creative outlet and makes me feel very left brain/right brain about my life....for better or for worse! Learning how to sew overseas has been an interesting challenge for me, but, like cooking it's fun in the way that organized mess tends to be!

{Juliette (far right) meeting fun fabric Queen Amy Butler (center) earlier this year in Germany at a trade show}

Do you speak German fluently? If so, how long did it take you to learn? Do you find it to be an easy language?
- German and I have long been acquainted. I took German in high school (back before the spelling reform) and again in college and had to re-learn some things post-spelling reform. Once we moved here I had to take classes again. After not being in school for nearly 10 years, going back to school for German was pretty anticlimactic, however, I did end up taking the Zertifikat Deutsch exam and getting a decent score, phew! German is HARD. The der/die/das thing is just KILLER. I'm technically fluent, but not yet proficient. I keep telling myself I'll improve with time...

What are the people like?
- If you mean the Germans, I like to call them the Über-Yankees (my husband finds this funny and offensive at the same time). The people in northeastern USA are called Yankees and are known for being a tough bunch. Since I lived in the NE area during my last 10yrs in the US, Germany was just a more intense version of the same sort of people. My experience with Germans is similar to my experience with Yankees: if you happen to be able to crack through the outside you'll find a pleasant inside. The other nice thing about Germans is that if you finally make a friend (it can take a while), you'll generally have a friend for life. People aren't mean here or anything, they're just polite and reserved.

How long did it take until you felt mostly adjusted?
- This is strange for me. I think having moved so much growing up, as well as having spent time abroad in the past, really helped me transition well. However, there are some situations and life moments where I really miss the US!

What were some of the hardest things/aspects to adjust to?
- Three things that never cease to annoy me here are:
1) There is no space available to bag your groceries at the grocery store. I don't mind bringing my own bags and bagging my own groceries, but I DO mind when you don't give me ample space to do so. I also mind when the people behind me glare and imply that I'm not getting out of their way fast enough. Chill already!

2) Patient privacy in medical situations. This is probably aggravated by the fact that I worked at one of the largest hospitals in Boston before moving here, but doggone if it doesn't just make me mental! From simple things like not having privacy screens between patients when you have to share a room at a hospital to seeing a semi-conscious person wheeled in on a gurney to wait in the hall where everybody can see them (while waiting for their own Dr. appts)...yeah, not cool. If I have to be a patient I'm already out of my comfort zone and I don't need it to be made worse by lack of privacy. Of course my definition of privacy is based on where I was brought up, but that's what makes it an 'adjustment' here.

3) The 19% sales tax on most things. No wonder Germans love eBay like Americans love Craigslist.

What are some things/aspects you don't miss back home?
- I don't miss seeing the gajillion plastic bags at every store, overflowing in my pantry, and perpetually woven into random chain-link fences. I don't miss the stress/sadness/worry that came over me when people lost their jobs...and their health insurance. I also don't miss the prescription medication advertisements everywhere or the SUVs that most people really don't need to be driving. I definitely don't miss the consumerism. I know America is a capitalist society and that brings a lot of benefits, but can we all just chill a little?

What are your top three faves about your current city or country?
1) The chocolate...um, yeah.

2) People are more balanced here in terms of stepping away from work. In Germany the minimum amount of vacation you get at a full time job is 24 days. Again, that's the minimum, not the average (don't quote me, but I'm pretty certain about this). Even with those regulations Germany still does awesome in terms of world finance. And yes, people actually do take those vacation days and use them to get away. Props to them.

3) Healthcare. I might not like the privacy stuff, but -generally speaking- people are not financially scared to go to the dr. or hospital. Many medical procedures here cost 1/3 to 1/8 of American rates.

In what areas do you think moving abroad has helped you to grow?
- I once read that being an expat accelerates your brain's creative problem-solving section and I totally believe that's happened with me. I've been able to become my own boss and start to try and find my niche both in work and creative efforts. 
(Love this answer..so true...you were a huge encouragement and help to me in starting my blog design business!)

{So cute: felt cookies (Leibnitz!..my fave), cake and table linens Juliette made for her niece.}

Fave places you've traveled in Europe?
1) Tallinn, Estonia! It's cheap, the people are friendly, and it's really pretty and has tons of history. We want to go back sometime and explore the countryside and coastline.

2) Stockholm is pretty cool if you've got money to blow (and it will go fast there), but Finland was just awesome. Why does nobody write about Finland? It's gorgeous, chill, has amazing design stuff, and Helsinki is an Art Deco/Nouveau lover's paradise! (and it's a short ferry ride away from Estonia) Finland is totally unique from other Scandinavian countries; it's like it takes Sweden, Norway and DK's cool aspects and puts its own fingerprint on it all. It's also not as jammed as those countries, which is nice.

Thanks, Juliette, for such great and thorough answers.
Loving your Über-Yankees term!
The differing mentality in vacation time between here and the States is one we discuss often with friends. I think know people are more productive when given breaks...I mean, the Germans are probably the most productive people in the world.  It's a reason some of my North American friends consider living in Europe forever.  It makes a big impact on the quality of life.  (And let's not even get started on maternity leave.)


molly b. said...

Juliette, you are a delight and a wealth of knowledge!

Carolyn, I love this series. Think I could qualify living in NYC? It is kind of it's own country. I kid. ;)

Now I want some chocolate.

Cathy McConn said...

Love Juliette's birthday cake for her niece! And exactly what is the name of her university town? So very pretty. She is a talented lady!

Juliette said...

Thanks for the great interview questions Carolyn! We'll definitely have to meet up sometime...somehow! Next layover at the FRA airport? (we're just north of it)

Valentina Fussell said...

What a wonderful interview! Juliette and I met via the blog world and she has become a dear friend. Now I just need to go visit her university... ummm... town, I mean!

Julie said...

Love.this.series! Juliette...you met Amy Butler??! So impressed; she designs great stuff!

Kelly said...

What a great interview! I'm already a Juliette fan, but it's fun to learn things I never would have thought to ask. :-) Love the photos.

Katie @ makingthishome.com said...

Love this interview! Juliette and I got to meet when my Germany husband and I were in her town. She's seriously just as sweet as can be, and I was totally nodding to everything she said.

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- Carolyn