The Expat In The Photo

When I began blogging about being a expat I made a promise to myself to blog not only about the good parts, but the bad parts as well.  This is a post about the bad parts.

I was watching an episode of Bones on Sunday called The Doctor in the Photo, in which the main character Brennan relates too much to the victim and begins to see parallels between her life and the victim’s life – mainly their inability to form connections with other people.  This episode rang a little too true for me (damn you, Hart Hanson!).  I am having trouble making connections here.  I know I’ve only been in Germany for five months which is way too soon to form deep connections with people, but I worry that I am not even at the beginning of forming those kind of connections.

Because of the language barrier, I find it hard to meet people who are not English speaking expats. I don’t know a single lesbian here in Hamburg, which makes dating, well, impossible nor do I know how to go about meeting other lesbians that does not involve a loud bar, which to be honest is not my scene at all. Going out to clubs is more like torture than a form of enjoyment for me.

The things I used to do in Australia like martial arts and skeptical endeavours are difficult at best here because of the damn language barrier.  I do not have a German partner who can introduce me to people nor a partner of any kind who can join me in walking into a room full of people with whom it is almost impossible to converse with because my German is almost non existent.  I get the most enjoyment out of talking to people about science, skepticism and other fantastic geeky subjects, which is not going to happen any time soon – well at least not in German.

I know I should get the hell over the fear and just do it, but truth be told, my self esteem and self worth were left fairly shattered by the ending of my 10 year relationship 6 months ago and it is taking some time to rebuild. It is damn hard to put yourself out there when you are feeling extremely fragile.

I have done some things that others consider fairly brave in terms of getting out there and meeting people and I have no doubt that I will continue to do so.  But right now is a low point. A point where I’m not sure I will ever make the connections I crave.  A point where everything just seems more scary than I’m sure it actually is.

I wanted to put this all out here, not so you all feel obliged to tell me that I’m great or whatever, but to show that this expat thing is not all fun adventures and good times.  It can be tough and terrifying and that it is okay to feel overwhelmed.  The thing is not to feel this way for too long so that it becomes impossible to break out of those self defeating things you tell yourself in times like these.

I’m going to give myself this week to wallow in self-pity and hole up at home, but this week only.  Next week, I get myself out there again.  I get over this bullshit and get my ass to the fencing class I want to go to but have been too chicken shit to attend.  I’m putting this out there so you can all hold me to it.  Deal?

Anyone else going through the whole ‘this is way harder than I thought it would be’  thing? Cause you know that misery loves company.

About Riayn

A thirty something queer Aussie geek girl who now lives in Germany.
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13 Responses to The Expat In The Photo

  1. Kate says:

    Can’t imagine how difficult it is for you over there. I don’t know how sporty you are but when I first arrived in London I joined a gay/lesbian squash club, it was a great way to meet lesbians and, if you don’t like bars or clubs, might be worth a try? I can’t read German but what’s this? http://www.startschuss-hamburg.de/

    Also, in the UK we’ve got sites like Gaydargirls, not sure what that’s like in Hamburg…

    • Riayn says:

      I joined the Gay & Lesbian Karate group the first week I arrived in Germany where no one spoke to me except for one girl who asked when I was going to bother to learn German and told me I would never be able to do any sports if I didn’t speak German. I wasn’t really made to feel particularly welcome so I left after 2 classes. Also, I found Karate compared to Kung Fu really boring.
      I might give another sport a try after I learn more German in case the whole xenophobia attitude is prevalent in other sports too.
      Let’s just say it wasn’t a good introduction to the Gay & lesbian sporting community here.

  2. Jul says:

    My heart goes out to you, Riayn. Expat life can be a roller coaster. It’s hard to put yourself out there and make new connections even without language and cultural barriers (at least it is for me).

    And it’s totally OK to seek out English-speaking social circles. Don’t bang your head against the wall trying to socialize exclusively in German if your language skills aren’t there yet. They will be eventually.

    • Riayn says:

      Most of my friends are English speaking expats, but I would like to change that so I’m not socialising exclusively with expats. However, you are right, I shouldn’t expect to be able to do this without my language skills in place and I will get there eventually. I must stop being so impatient.

  3. Meh. I can totally understand this post and I sympathize with you. I know you aren’t looking for someone to say you’re doing great but I do happen to think you are. So take this week and wallow in it. Sometimes we have to do that. I know you’ll pick yourself back up and get back out there next week. And we’ll be here to hold you to your promise to yourself. :)

    • Riayn says:

      Thanks. :) I’m actually feeling much more positive after going to my German class tonight. I think I needed the company of people in the same situation I’m in and a good laugh.

  4. San says:

    I definitely know what you mean… in my 4 years since I permanently moved to the States, I’ve made one friend (which I knew from earlier stays before). Other than that it is pretty hard to make new friends when you’re not in a student environment anymore. I can imagine how much harder it is if you’re still pretty basic with your language skills and if you’re looking for a partner.
    Hang in there.

  5. michaela says:

    Hey Riayn!
    Why don’t you give couchsurfing.org a try? There you’ll find a bunch of international and Hamburg people who meet regularly – not necessarily in clubs. In summer, they have pretty nice ‘barbies’ as well (Bratwurst, yum! ;-))
    I’ll see if I can come up with more stuff – and let you know.
    Have a great weekend,
    Michaela

    • Riayn says:

      I’m already on CS, but I seem to be a little older than the average age and most of what they seem to do in Hamburg is go out clubbing and drinking, which isn’t my style. Still I’ve been on a few outings with fellow CS’ers and always had a good time.

  6. scottsabode says:

    I’ve come to an English speaking country with a partner and that’s still hard enough – I think you’re doing really well!!

  7. Laurel says:

    Sorry to hear you’re feeling this way, but I completely agree being an expat is harder than most people think it will be and often the loneliness is the worst. I’ve never been more lonely than when I was living by myself in S. Korea and Thailand.
    Have you checked out http://www.meetup.com? It’s an international directory of clubs all over the world, so maybe there’s something of interest to you in Hamburg. I know what you mean about the language barriers, I’m dying to join a German Hiking Club, but don’t feel that my German is good enough to do so yet.

  8. Pingback: Making A Connection | Counting Time

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