I thought I’d learn German in about 12 months. I figured that seen as I lived in a German-speaking city and had decent motivation (desperate need to order coffee without stumbling on my words) it would simply come to me in good time. Presumably in the night, like a lightning strike, or a giant slap to the side of the head. One year seemed, to my naive ambitious self, a perfectly reasonable amount of time to pick up the intricacies of conversation.
I’ve since discovered 3 things;
1) I’m not a patient person
2) 12 months flies by when you move to a new country
3) Learning a language is not as easy as movie montages make it appear (damn you Colin Firth in Love, Actually!)
I’m now two years into my Expat life in Vienna and still at a beginners level of German. I can follow conversation in a group of Deutsch speaking friends, thankfully coffee & brunch ordering is now possible too. But the true art of expressing myself fluently still eludes me.
I’ve tried intensive courses at IKI, which were challenging but got me the building blocks. I’ve experimented with reading children’s books with S to reach the language the same way I learned English – through a love of reading. Now I’m enrolled at the Deutschinsitut, a slightly slower paced course better suited to full-time work schedules.
The kicker in Vienna is – everybody speaks English. Including my entirely English-speaking workplace. With such a flood of tourists and International organisations in the city, you could actually get by without learning a scrap of Deutsch. But I’m pretty sure that makes you an Expat arsehole.
Never, ever, be this guy
So here are a few ways I’m trying to force myself to speak more Deutsch everyday – if you have any language learning tips to add please let me know in the comments!
– Talk and talk and talk at home. I wuss out of talking Deutsch at home. All. The. Time. I’m like a 1950’s housewife avoiding sex, with my standard lines of ‘I’m just so tired today’ ‘Its been a really long week’ ‘Do you really want to? Right now?’. It’s the biggest challenge, but should be one of the easiest to overcome – it just takes discipline from you and your housemates.
– Text message auf Deutsch. This is an everyday activity that will sharpen your writing skills. I can follow conversation face to face, but my spelling and conjugation when writing Deutsch isn’t great. Texting gives you some everyday practice. Just make sure you only try this with your native German-speaking friends – group Whats App messages in German with the English-speaking family don’t go down so well.
– Read the free papers & familiar magazines. The U-bahn daily metro papers are filled with small, easy to follow articles with pictures. I can’t understand every word, but the gist of the article can be pieced together with regular reading to extend your vocab. I’ve also had a go at purchasing the Deutsch version of Cosmo. Even when written in another language the articles about ‘This seasons hottest Winter Coats’ & celebrity interviews are the same format as in English, making it easier to follow along.
– Ask for help. When you’re talking to a native speaker and they say a word you’ve never heard, ask what it is. Yes, it will be excruciating, yes it makes you feel about 10 feet tall, but if you don’t ask, your friends can’t help and you won’t learn. Suck it up and ask for help (still my biggest challenge!)
Lastly, there’s a few different language schools that offer courses at varying price levels to get you on your way to comfortably speaking. Courses aren’t for everyone – some friends have learnt German from reading comic books or spending time deep in the countryside where there is no other option – but for me, the structure of a school and deadlines keep me honest. A few of the better known ones are:
www.berlitz.com – One of the most expensive. Strictly only apply if your workplace can afford to cover the costs. They have 1 to 1 sessions, small groups and private office tutoring available.
www.IKI.com – My first Deutsch Kurs experience, it’s very thorough, moves at a decent pace and they offer intensive day time courses and 8 week evening courses. Your certificate from the OIF is included in the price, which is worth keeping in mind when you compare to other cheaper schools.
www.deutschinstitut.com The current option I’m trialling, these guys are reasonably priced, in the central 6th district and use the same workbooks as IKI. Their evening courses are particularly popular.
www.deutschakademie.at These guys are the budget conscious option in Vienna. When I first moved here and money was super tight we looked into courses here. To be honest, their offices and setup put me completely off when I went to enrol – everything felt cramped in, they were using old computers despite their location on the Ringstrasse it just seemed, well, cheap & nasty. Friends have studied there and liked the additional materials but I’m not sold on it myself.
My Deutsch is still a work in progress, but I’d love to hear anyone else’s tricks to picking up a language – if only to give me hope that I will one day conquer the dreaded German Grammar!
I’m jumping around a bit in my posts – I’ve been on so many little trips recently that I still need to fill you in on, from Venice, to Valencia, London, Oktoberfest and a few little side trips around Austria still to come – so I hope you’ll forgive the broken timelines. Despite all these wonderful little jaunts, my heart right now keeps returning to memories of Bali. Perhaps because the weather here in Vienna is turning grey and the daylight hours are getting shorter, or maybe because we’ve had enough distance from the after-effects of Bali-belly (yes, its real, and no, you don’t want the details). Whatever the reason my brain keeps skipping to snippets of our little paradise island and the incredible start to our summer break. So, to make my daydreams more useful, I thought I’d share a few insider tips for travelling to Bali, in particular, Nusa Lembongan.
I straight up loved Nusa Lembongan. It was the perfect mix of a small-scale touristy development and rough island escape, just off the east coast of the main island, between Bali & Lombok.
Our main reason for visiting Bali was a wedding, so we had a lovely first week filled with family, cocktails, friends and celebrating on the mainland of Bali. However, after a week of Aussie-style partying and touristy resort-style holidaying in Legian we were ready for a change of gears, which Nusa Lembongan certainly delivered.
The easiest way to get there is via little local boats, as there’s a number of companies that run transfers direct from Sanur. We went with Scoot because the internetz assured us it was the most reliable and well priced cruise line, but we later found out any one of the 6 or so major operators would be cheaper and just as reliable. It can be a rough ride over if the weather is a little choppy, so if you’re not great with small boat transfers, brace yourself to look like this after a 45 minute ride:
Arriving on the island felt like stepping back to how Bali might have been 20-odd years ago. Before the mega clubs, the Aussie influx and ‘investment properties boom’, before super-hotels and McDonalds and Starbucks and KFC and cheap surf-shops and Eat, Pray, Love tours. Nusa Lembongan is still a touristy spot, but I actually saw locals in the streets, grilling fish, working, riding mopeds and going about their daily lives that weren’t wholly focussed on servicing tourists. Speaking of streets – there’s one. Just one, single street. It consists wholly of broken up bitumen, gravel and dirt – suitable only for mopeds.
There’s also only one ATM on the whole island – which can cut out for days at a time depending on the power supply, so come to the island cashed up and make sure you have credit cards to pay at hotels and some restaurants. The warungs where locals eat will most definitely not have EFTPOS machines, but the bigger, regular restaurants will.
In terms of food there’s only really two restaurants I would wholeheartedly recommend:
Bali Hai Located on Mushroom Bay, right where a lot of day-transfer boats do drop-offs, this restaurant was connected to the Hai Tide Beach Resort and had reliably, deliciously good food. Toward our second week on the island both S and I were struggling with the delicate Bali-belly, so Bali Hai became one of our go-to restaurants, as we knew the food quality was good, nothing was going to make us sick(er) and most of all, the views were to die for. You are literally sat on the beach-front watching the waves roll in as the sun sets. It’s open seating so you can stroll up in your thongs (flip flops for you non-Aussies) straight from the beach and enjoy their excellent service and drinks list. There’s even little bean bags out the front on the sand so you can sit and relax in a group. I really enjoyed my steak here and the creme brûlée is excellent – but you could stay for the views alone…..
Sand and ocean are RIGHT THERE, behind the cute boy’s head
Sandy Beach Resort: This was our brunch lifesaver. I’m all about eating local and enjoying the culture of a place i’m visiting, but when it comes to brunch, all bets are off. Sandy Beach Resort has been designed exactly for the likes of me – a traveller who enjoys their home-style good coffee, likes to indulge in breakfasts and cannot pass up a beautiful beachfront seat. While dinner here is superb, it’s a lot pricier than anywhere else on the island. We tended to visit here in the mornings to mix up the monotony of our hotel brekkie. Sandy Bay is best when it’s near-to-empty, quiet and you can be guaranteed a table right on the sand to luxuriate over breakfast. The bliss of waking up early, jumping on a moped with your lover to enjoy a relaxed brunch overlooking the surf is as close to heaven as it gets for me. This place also hosts weddings and is jam packed at night – you’re best to book a table in advance. The restaurant will also organise a shuttle to pick you up and drop you off at your hotel. Otherwise the moped journey home in the dark can be treacherous!
We loved it over coffee in the morning….
….and over cocktails at sunset
Which brings us to my final tip for Nusa Lembongan. Beware where you stay. Although looking at the map on Booking.com you will notice most hotels are situated on the main central strip of Jungut Batu Beach, do not stay there. You’ll be close to the sometimes-working ATM, but the hotels and restaurants and beachfront here are not great. They were some of the earliest built accommodations and the area is more designed for the serious surfers who want a cheap place to stay that’s super close to the surf breaks. If you want a proper island getaway resort, find a place in and around Mushroom Bay, Tamarind Beach or Dream Beach, all of which have very reasonably priced options. Or if you really want to get away from the world then there’s a few special places on the connected island of Nusa Cenigan – slightly further removed from the ‘town centre’ but completely idyllic and quiet. There’ll be more about my favourite beach there in a later post….
We stayed at the lovely Nanuk’s Beach Bungalows in traditional thatch-roof huts and enjoyed the extremely friendly staff (Jacob is the BEST) and laid-back atmosphere. Most accommodations will rent you out a moped to get around easily. For about €4 a day its an absolute must-do to explore the wilds of the tiny island and really feel like a local.
There’s a lot of reasons to visit Nusa Lembongan. For the cheesy photos, for the authentic Balinese atmosphere (even though tourism is clearly taking hold of the place) for the views, for the slower pace of daily life that forces you to relax, for the stories you’ll bring back. But mostly, you should go there to strong-arm your mister into taking freckle-faced selfies, to run around barefoot in a sarong all day and to feel completely young and free on the back of a moped, no matter what age you are.
Yes YOU! To any and every one who shared, liked, commented, followed, showed their friends, posted on Facebook or generally got excited about my post 28 Ways to be Austrian. I am so completely overwhelmed with the incredible response it got and especially pleased that so many Austrians enjoyed it! With over 200,000+ views and a brilliant comment thread to say I’m grateful would be a massive understatement. So THANK YOU ALL!!
I’m also very happy to announce that the post led to me landing a dream job with a wonderful company – Tour Radar. Unbelievable. Thank you, all you delightful blog readers out there, for being an integral part of this exciting change! I will keep you updated as the new challenges and delights of the job unfold.
For now, I’m in Melbourne reconnecting with my hometown for 10 days – so stay tuned for some Australian- based posts and photos…. until then have a Happy Monday!!
Its been a really long time since I wrote here. For some reason I have it in my head that my posts need to be always uplifting, or about fun or exciting activities – but surely that’s more what Facebook and twitter are for, amirite? (Queue canned laughter).
If I’m being honest I haven”t written because I’ve been struggling the last few weeks. Not in a massive OH DEAR GOD WHAT HAVE I DONE dramatic way, just in an everyday, average adjustment period way.
The thing is, I haven”t lived a normal life for 2 years. I haven’t worked an office job for a long time, and when I did, I certainly didn’t love it. I’m also facing up to the reality that I maaaayy not have considered that there are sacrifices for the decision I made to stay here and be with S.
Firstly, the job. It is, for what I need in Vienna now, great. Lovely people, great company, decent pay and (once I learn German) opportunity to develop I’m sure. Its just not THE job. The job that gets your brain zinging and your inspiration flowing and energy levels up. Its a desk job, and while each day has its own challenges it essentially comprises the same thing. Get email, research flights, meet criteria, book flights, repeat. I feel like i’ve seen the possibility beyond boring jobs. I know how good it is to work a job that means something, that invigorates you, that you enjoy doing every damn day even when its exhausting to the point of delirium. And now, having less than that feels twice as empty. Maybe this is just a natural dip in career progression, or maybe this time in my life is when my job has to take back seat to say, learning German, travelling on weekends and putting my energy into building my own life here. But still, it niggles at me every day. Until I nut out what work I can do that I will love as much as trip leading, that will get me up and active and excited, and that won”t drag me away from S and a happy home to come to at the end of the day then I’m going to feel conflicted.
Secondly, sacrifice. I haven’t touched on my trip home here because it threw up a lot of emotional reactions. I’m sure any homecoming after 2 years will do that. What has stuck with me most of all though, is the feeling that I’ve betrayed some people back home by choosing to stay here. ‘Choosing’ to fall in love with a foreigner and ‘choosing’ to live here for the next year or so at least. At the time, it didn’t seem like a choice, it felt like an inevitability – call it fate, call it blind stubbornness, naivety or youthful hope but whatever drove S and I together was something I never had any doubt over. Explaining that to the people and family members you’ve ‘left behind’ at home is a little harder.
Logic tells me there’s a natural growing apart that happens to all families when the kids get to their mid-twenties and ‘real life’ creeps up. Careers, serious relationships and the process of becoming an adult all drive us out into our own worlds to create an independant existence. The trouble is, in creating that existence on the other side of the world, there’s a hard line drawn under just how far apart I am.
Recently, I’ve been beating myself up a bit, feeling guilty at ‘betraying’ some of my friends & family by being here. Like i’m being a shit friend or sibling by choosing to stay away. But would I be just as unhappy in betraying myself by going back to Australia for their sake? Damn right. When I was just here working for Topdeck, it was, for them, all very up in the air and temporary. For me, I was just getting started. Now, the reality that I have an apartment, a job, a residency and my own life over here is looking a lot more permanent. I think that was a huge shock for them, where for me it was an almost natural progression.
So is this guilt about those at home just the price I pay in choosing my expat life? Can you ever really be sure that you’re living in the ‘right’ country if its the one that takes you away from your family? Will time make it better or worse??
These are the thoughts I drive myself mad with. Not all the time, and not loudly, but they spring up. And with the weather of Spring being so very delightful (there is STILL SNOW ON CARS!!) they sometimes get the better of my mood.
So apologies folks, my own madness made me unable to write. But to shake off this attitude and to keep me honest I’m going to make Sunday my blog post day from here on out! Thanks to all the other blogs I follow for keeping me inspired to do so.
With my impending trip home I’m anticipating the many many conversations about ‘what I’ve been up to’. Given the impossibility of describing two years of travel, growth, adventure, terror and joy i’m thinking in snazzy screen-grab terms. Summing everything up in a few short sentances. Because, on paper, my life sounds amazing (don’t get me wrong I know it is). Paid to see Europe with Topdeck, met amazing fellow travellers and lifelong friends, worked a ski season and met an amazing man on a bar crawl, travelled a little more and now establishing my life in Vienna. Rosy, right?
The gap between the snazzy summary you tell people and the mundanity of everyday existence is huge. I’m sure everyone does it – Facebook and social media were basically invented to advertise how awesome your life is to everyone you know. The thing is, in my instance, how do you possibly explain to someone the excruciating stress of waiting for Visa approval for months? How do you express the daily feeling of being a failed feminist because of your current dependancy and lack of employment? I ‘have it all’ on paper but no career or gainful employment to speak of. Which, for this modern 20 something woman is a huge huge issue. Unavoidable but grating just the same. (More on that in another post). How do you tell people that the life of the eternal traveller is as exhausting as it is rewarding? You can’t avoid people reducing the responsibilities and work of the job down to flippant comments and misunderstanding.
Expat life is hard. There’s reams of blogs, books, stories and writings dedicated to it. What’s harder is trying to explain why this is so to those who only see your life through the rosy shades of Facebook, or occasional conversations. For the most part, and for my own sanity I like to play up the positives, tell people i’m keeping busy, trying to get fit, writing and reading lots and engaging with the expat community. Which I am. What I don’t tell them is the reality – that not speaking the language is a constant struggle, that lacking a job burns my sense of self and independance daily and that ‘expat life’ isn’t as glamourous as it sounds.
The main point though, is that I don’t regret any of this struggle. I wouldn’t change it. I wouldn’t move back to Australia, and I don’t feel lonely (yet). I’m lacking in some things but the gut sense that I’m doing the right thing by being here, that my European adventure isn’t done yet is what drives me though these endless, mindless, repetitive days of nothingness in the apartment.
There is a job interview on Friday. If the Universe sees fit to grant me gainful employment before we leave for Oz I think I may weep with the relief of it. I can’t face January treading water (snow?) day after day. Vienna is enchanting, I’m genuinely happy with my life right now but I fear if this stagnation continues it might just drive me bonkers. So, fingers crossed. I have a fabulous new pair of boots to get me through (courtesy early 6th December present from S) so surely the odds will be in my favour! Here’s hoping!