Expat Diaries

Expat Diaries: becoming an expat prepared me for a Global Pandemic

August 2, 2020

There have been many times over the past 5 months of this global pandemic where I have questioned if I really am okay, or if I’m just telling people I’m okay. If you’re a high-functioning depressive like me, you’ll know this trick well.

But, as it turns out, I really am okay.

Becoming an expat – not as magical as I first thought.

When I first moved to Germany in September 2019, I had no job and very little in the way of savings. Although my boyfriend’s first job paid well, I still pushed to find work for myself. The simple reason is, I like working and I like having money. Long-time readers of my blog and Instagram will know and understand just how difficult that was. I still had bills to pay in the UK and I was trying to contribute to the household when and where I could. We’ve always been a half and half couple. But it was becoming increasingly difficult for me.

With no job and dwindling savings, I confined myself to our flat for large portions of, sometimes all of, each and every day. The exception was the weekend when we would explore our new local area, which is largely what we had come here to do. 

At the beginning of November, the magic of my new home had worn off. I had taken a seasonal job that was horrific, but I needed the work and money. I fell into the deepest bout of depression I’ve had since I was 16. For the first time in over 11 years, I physically struggled to get out of bed in the mornings. I was getting maybe 3 hours of broken sleep per night. I was numb, I had no feelings left in me apart from sadness, I wanted to end it all.

The only thing keeping me going was an upcoming trip back to the UK to see the family. On the morning we were due to leave, my boyfriend was told he was losing his job. We had a 15-hour drive ahead of us, and both of us were suddenly heartbroken, torn into pieces and unable to think straight. Add that to the depression I was already experiencing, things were not looking particularly peachy. How many times did I think of swerving the car into oncoming traffic and taking away the pain for both of us during that drive? Too many to count. 

But we just kept moving. Such is life.

And then it was Zac’s turn to fall into darkness. We spent much of December inside our little flat, talking to nobody, and writing countless pro/con lists about our options. We spent Christmas day alone. No tree, decorations or presents. No family arguments. It was the best Christmas I’ve ever had.

At the beginning of January, we spent some time figuring out how we could get out of our flat lease and how much it would cost us to move all our shit back to the UK again. Not only were we almost being forced to leave Germany due to lack of jobs/money, but we were also exhausted of trying so hard and always falling short. We were physically and mentally done with this place. 

But then at the end of January, in the thick of winter, a small flicker of light sparked up. It turned out that Zac was experienced enough for several other companies to want him. He received several interviews and job offers, eventually taking the one that did not pay nearly as well as his previous job, but that he thought he might enjoy more and learn the most from. He started in February and, although he works away during the week, he is the happiest I’ve seen him in a long, long time. 

My neighbour and friend had a put in a good word for me with a local manufacturing company that wanted a native English speaker. Being one of very few native English speakers in a small town finally became my biggest advantage. I got the job and started in March.

Keep moving forward.

…and then there was a global pandemic.

Germany went into lockdown before the UK. Truthfully, I was terrified. Who wasn’t? The world was changing so quickly in a way that none of us had ever seen in our lifetime. But if the events in my personal life over the previous 6 months had taught me anything, it’s that life really can change overnight. The direction in which you are moving can shift at a moment’s notice and you must either run with it and grow, or stay exactly where you are, never moving forward.

I also find that having anxiety is actually helpful in times of genuine crisis. Bear with me. Here’s the thing: in February and early March, as we all sat and watched this new virus spread across the world in disbelief and horror like a disaster movie playing out in real-time, all of us with worry anxiety began to envision a thousand different scenarios in which this could end. Believe me, I pictured post-apocalyptic ‘The Walking Dead’-type scenes. 

I do this a lot. Because of this, I often find myself to be the calmest person in catastrophic situations. Weird, I know. Please don’t ask me to provide an explanation of how my mind works. 

The speed at which my life changed, almost overnight, in June/July 2019 provided me with a pretty solid foundation of crisis management when the global pandemic hit. During my first 6 months in Germany, I learned to make the most of where I was in that moment, even if that was not a good place. I had to continue to believe that, despite so much uncertainty, I would be okay. I had to just keep going. That’s a pretty good description of how I’ve lived my entire life so far – just keep going. 

Have Hope.

Do I still have worries? Of course I do, there’s a global pandemic! I worry that it might be another year until I can see my family and friends again and that I won’t be able to hug those I love ever again (believe me that hurts the most – I am a hugger!). I worry about the health and safety of my grandparents. But I keep going, I have to believe that this will be over eventually. We have to keep going, together. We have to have hope. 

Have hope.

Im interested if any other expats feel like this. Let me know!

I hope everyone is continuing to stay safe, wherever you are in the world. Let’s keep moving forward together.

bis zum nächsten Mal / until next time,

Steffi x

  • Reply
    David Cliffe
    August 3, 2020 at 12:57 pm

    It’s good that you’ve benefited – eventually- from such a challenging experience, and great that you’re both carving out a new life. Yes, life’s probably going to be different for all of us in the future…

    • Reply
      adventuresofsteffi
      August 3, 2020 at 1:56 pm

      Thanks David. I agree, life will certainly be very different for us all in the future.

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