This time two years ago I landed in Berlin at the start of an unknown journey. The future was open and I felt like I was jumping off a cliff into a fearful gaping hole! I had no German language skills, very little savings and was unemployed. But I had always wanted to try living in Europe and so, off I went. A couple of years later and so much has changed. Life is glowing – every single corner of it! This is partly because Summer has finally arrived, but also partly because I have decided to return to Australia very soon, which is a very exciting thought!
I realised the other day how normal Berlin life has become. I am now used to wandering down the street and hearing German (and Turkish) all around me. It is now normal to walk through the supermarket with google translate by my side, though I don’t need to use it so often anymore. I am no longer stunned by the thousands of varieties of yoghurt, cheese and quark on offer. I now know how to use the ATM and a train ticket machine without having to press the English option. I can navigate the public transport system. I can basically understand shop signs and posters in the ubahn stations.
I am able to register my address and know to allow at least a few months for my appointment at the Bürgeramt. If I apply for a share house, I always choose a native German speaker who can help correspond with the electricity and gas companies. I know how to post mail, pick up parcels, apply for credit and debit cards and organise a credit check in German. I can easily order my bread rolls, and my afternoon coffee and cake. I can now organise a bilingual classroom and communicate in limited German to school children, parents and random strangers on the bus. I can even play and sing a couple of German songs on the guitar and have an endless supply of German music on my phone.
I understand the realities of a deep, German Winter and why fairy lights and candles light up houses at this time. I can see where Christmas traditions come from and I can understand the intense joy of a blue sky in January, even if the temperature is -12 degrees. I know what it feels like to walk on a frozen lake and how you should never pack away your winter jacket, even in late June.
I can see how people can achieve wonderful things when they work together. I know what it feels like to be part of a international community. I have learnt how easily miscommunication can occur between languages and why it is so important to be open minded and to show people how you feel with a smile. I have learnt that it is not distance, but time, that makes communicating with family back at home difficult and that when living overseas, it is so important to have a strong network of friends around you.
I sometimes wonder how I ended up on this beautiful journey. It is amazing what can be achieved if you just put one foot in front of the other and work towards your dreams. I certainly learnt a lot more than I ever thought I would. Germany has been so good to me. I have had such a wonderful time here, but my heart is pulling me back home. Only a few more weeks left in Berlin – just enough time to tick a few more things off my list. If I can make it into Berghain and Kit Kat one of these days, my experience will be complete!
How did you feel about returning to your home country after living abroad?
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