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Living in a Country (that is not your own)

What is it like to live in a city?

I have never really lived in a city before. Every morning I wake up (yes, even after 8 months living there) and realize, oh wow! I live in Berlin. As a child, this is nothing I could have ever imagined. As a young adult, I dreamed of purchasing some land, preferably on the side of a mountain with a great view, build myself an off-grid cabin and garden and become a recluse writer/gardener with minimal contact with the outside world. As an “adult” (are we ever truly adults?) I fell in love with traveling. A side effect of traveling? I often interact with many people on a daily basis.

Now I have taken another step.* I actually live in another country, and every day can be an adventure if I let it. Though this might sound weird, I often try to limit some of this unpredictability because after months of this, it gets quite exhausting, and when I am exhausted the adventure is never quite as fun. Don’t get me wrong, I love Berlin. It is a city full of life, interesting people, and pretty much everything a person could want (if you are willing to do the legwork and find it). That is one of the most fascinating things for me here, a train ride away I can be at a Jewish market buying kosher wine and matzoh for Passover, another train ride away I can be eating amazing Indian food with friends and later, I can go to a brewery and try some local beer. This is amazing! I am from a small town, it used to take me 45 minutes in a car to get to the nearest semi-decent restaurant that served vegetarian food; forget about kosher anything there.

What are the biggest challenges?

When living in Germany, in this case, one might think the hardest thing would be the language. While that would top one of my “Top 10 Challenges Living in Germany” it isn’t actually number one. Although language is important, Berlin is an incredibly diverse city and more often than not, English is spoken rather than German. No, my biggest challenge is all the little things I usually take for granted like, paying a bill at a restaurant, finding foods in the supermarket, navigating the trains/train tickets, and understanding all the little bureaucratic stuff (like paying bills/parking tickets, filling prescriptions, and registering my housing). And while language does play a factor in some of this, it is really not the whole story.

Truthfully, the biggest challenge for me here is letting others help me navigate these small difficulties. Since I have been here I have noticed that I have 2 options for dealing with some challenges: either take an extraordinarily long time to accomplish something or let someone who knows what they are doing help with figuring out the snarls in the task. As someone who is trying to “adult,” it is incredibly difficult to let go of your control. Slowly though, I feel this change.

What is the best thing about living in another country?

This is a hard question for me to answer since I feel that I am still trying to put words to this experience myself. Living in another country is like living anywhere else; you get used to it. There are differences, things that surprise you every once in a while but you get used to that as well. Is it boring? Not in the slightest. I find myself growing as a person, searching out different opportunities and moving forward actively in my life. While it might be true that the feelings I get are directly linked to living in a city rather than in the countryside the energy runs deeper than this. It is not always roses and butterflies, I wouldn’t change this experience for the world.

What would you have done differently?

There are endless “what if” or “I really should have…” thoughts in my mind, but what I am slowly coming to realize is that there are many things I could have done different, been more prepared for this or planned ahead but sometimes you just have to jump in, feet first, and swim as hard as you can. While I still have days that I feel as if I am drowning,  I am starting to get that satisfaction of breathing fresh air again.

*I won’t say “next step” since moving to another country is not really a “logical next step” of one’s journey in life, I mean to say here that it is merely another step I have taken.


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