Expat Diaries

Expat Diaries: Learning to Slow Down

2020-07-12

In a country famous for its unlimited road speeds, I slammed the brakes on and learned to slow down.

10 months into my journey here, I am slowly beginning to enter the ‘Acceptance’ phase. Accepting that this is the life I have chosen. Oddly enough, I have the global Coronavirus pandemic to thank for that. I would not be in this place of calmness right now were it not for being locked down for 3 months. 

Unlike many stories I have heard from German citizens, I happen to think the situation was handled quickly and extremely well. I am thankful that during this period, I have been in the second safest country, with a low death rate and a low infection rate in my region. Life here has returned to some sense of normality. The wearing of masks in public is normalised (not least because there’s potential for a 5,000 € fine) and the track and trace app is super helpful. 

Looking into the UK from the outside has made me upset and angry. I pay more attention to the news now than I ever did when I lived there. I see the UK from an outside perspective now, and it looks messy and chaotic. It pains me because the UK will always be my home and there are parts I love and miss so much, but right now I find it hard to look at its almost self-destructive behaviour. 

Anyway, I’m not here today to discuss the different strategies for dealing with the global pandemic. I’m here to tell you about the biggest lesson I’ve learned since moving to Germany: how to slow the f*** down.

Full Steam Ahead

When I first moved to Germany in September 2019, I experienced more culture shock than I thought I would. Perhaps because Bavaria is like a different country within Germany itself. It was like I had moved to two new countries at once. 

Nothing is open 24 hours here. Supermarkets close at 8pm sharp. Most local stores will close at 12:30pm-2:00pm for lunch. Everything apart from the bakeries and pubs are closed on Sunday’s. There is a big focus on free time, family time and hobbies here. 

It was a big shock to the system. I have been caught out on more than one occasion having run out of an ingredient for dinner midway through preparing it. 

Prior to moving, I had a full-time office job and a part-time side job. I regularly took part in volunteer events. I trained in the gym almost daily, had a social life, made time for family and maintained my relationship. Life was pretty full-on. And I genuinely loved it. I would love to be that level of busy again one day.

Emergency Stop

When we moved, I gave all of that up almost overnight. It was like someone had suddenly slammed the brakes on my life.

To begin with, it seemed kind of fun, like a holiday. I spent my first few weeks in my new town and city getting to grips with how life worked here and where everything was. I tried all the new things I hadn’t tried before, met new people and attempted to learn the language at home.

My new friend and neighbour had helped me write out my CV in German, and I had started applying for jobs here. Having never had to struggle to find work in the UK, I went into this with a very privileged, naive and rose-tinted view. I thought it would take me no more than 1 month to find work. 

Frustration

As someone who has always enjoyed being busy, the magic of doing nothing wore off pretty quickly. I dedicated my time to learning German and searching for a job. Of course, I managed to fill the rest of my time with activities like reading, yoga, running, and falling into YouTube or Instagram rabbit holes for hours on end. I wasn’t bored, so to speak. Except…I was?

It took me 3 months to find my first temporary job. Then 3 months after that to find a more permanent one. I spent 6 months unemployed, which is the longest time I have spent without a job since I was 14.

Despite the fact that I was trying hard to find a job and I was able to fill most of my alone time up with various activities, the frustration was still there. I wanted to be busy again!

Taking it Steady

In January this year, I started studying for my TEFL qualification and became more optimistic that within a few months I would be employed once more. At least, I hoped I would be. With my savings dwindling fast, I realistically had until March before I had to move back to the UK. 

However, I knew that in order to get myself ready to work again, I needed to first sort my mind and body out. I had fallen out of love with exercise completely and spent 90% of my day sitting down inside my flat. Truth be told, I had become very depressed a bit of a recluse. 

I started with daily yoga practice and built myself a new routine centred around what I knew would bring me calm and joy. I focused on becoming okay with doing what seemed to me like nothing for a period of time.

Sure enough, by March, I was finally employed! 

The Hare becomes the Tortoise

Despite becoming employed again and enrolling in a semi-intensive German course, I kept my recently developed mantra of slowing things down.

I made sure that I carved out 1 hour of my time per day to do something that brings me calm. That could have been running, yoga, reading or watching TV. I made sure I took that time.

With a more solid weekday routine in place after a few weeks, I turned my attention to the weekends. I have never been one to sleep in. In the UK, this was usually because I was working, volunteering or training for something. With Zac being self-employed, he usually had a job or two to get done over the weekend.

Life moves more slowly here. Weekends are centred around time for family. It has taken time, but I have slowly learned that just because I don’t enjoy sleeping in, doesn’t mean I have to get up and rush about on a weekend.

slow morning sunrise, leisure, enjoy life

My favourite thing to do now is get up and practice morning Yoga with the sunrise, or get out on an early morning walk/jog. I take my time over making my morning coffee and breakfast. I generally move with much more ease.

Sure, I do genuinely love to be busy. But I often wonder now just how sustainable my lifestyle in the UK was long-term. Slowing down the pace at which I live has allowed me the space to open up, reflect, learn and grow. For that, I can only be thankful.


If you have moved away from your home town/country, what is the biggest life lesson your new home has taught you? Let me know!

bis zum nächsten Mal

Liebe, Steffi x

    Leave a Reply