Five Months in Germany and the New Normal

Winter in my little corner of Baden-Wuerttemberg has been cruel. It’s been gray, freezing and The Plague: Version 2019 has been going around. Everyone in the packed trains is coughing and sneezing. The wind is downright aggressive off the barren, muddy fields. When will it ever be Bier Garten weather again?!

As part of my journey towards eventual permanent resident status, I have to pass an intermediate level German language test (the “B1” test) and also a test on the German government, history and civic life. My language test was on January 26th and my “Life in Germany” test was Tuesday. The exact marker of five months in Germany was commemorated by my B1 language test. I was in the middle of the flu, but I showed up anyway. The sight of all my classmates hopped up on candy and coffee made me smile despite pervasive body aches. Together we got through the long test and did the best we could. For some, it was their last chance to retake the test before having serious problems with visas. If I didn’t pass, it only meant I had to go through the time and expense to retake it. But just yesterday my certificate came and I’m happy to say that I passed! My government test on Tuesday was not too difficult and this time I was healthy. I even got to go out with some of my classmates afterwards for some well-deserved drinks.

That’s a thing to be aware of when you move to another country: prepare to be sick a LOT. I was hardly ever sick in America, which was convenient because I don’t ever recall having an employer that offered actual paid sick days. I was lucky enough to never even have had headaches. Purse Advil, what purse Advil? In Germany, every other day I have headaches or feel a cold coming on. This flu I just got over was the culmination of months of feeling constantly under viral and bacterial siege. When I talk to other immigrants, I hear the same thing. We are stressed, we are tired, we are lonely and we are constantly sick.

But I’m not only sick a lot, I’m also completely zonked. One of the most annoying things about operating in a foreign language is the overwhelming level of tiredness. Nothing is simple anymore. Without realizing it, the constant translation saps energy. I have never been one to sleep more than six hours a night and I used to be a light sleeper. Now I sleep deeply for nine or ten hours if I can and I’m sleeping deeper than I used to. I miss just instantaneously comprehending everything. Now even reading descriptions of on a box of cereal requires a dictionary. Nobody wants to end up with soggy cereal when you like crunchy kernels, so this is actually an important thing to get right!

The next adventure is finally beginning my job search in earnest, now that my required courses are over. I’m glad I gave myself time to get settled in a bit and improve my German. While I’m still apprehensive, I’m ready to get back to work. And get a paycheck. Because while everyone thinks we’re in Paris or Rome every weekend, the reality is that our one income is not enough for travel adventures. So I’ve got to get out there and get some Euros.

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