Adjusting to Life Abroad Honestly and Without Rose Colored Social Media Glasses
I have said it many times before and I will say it again: Instagram is full of liars. Social media as a whole is just a pot of half truths and rosy images of what we all wish our life was actually like. Moving abroad sounds so glamorous, especially when you have 6 cohesive pictures on Instagram to prove just how beautiful your life is. But lives are not anything like the pictures we see on Facebook or the order of our images on Instagram. Life is messy. Let's face it.
I moved to Germany this year to be an au pair. I moved abroad. How cool do I sound? Well, do you want to know some of the totally uncool things that knocked me for a loop? Not only do I have a list of things that went wrong on my fancy move abroad, but I have this list of things that I feel so silly for not understanding before I came here. Like, of course I would be confused by the light switches. Who would have thought?
You know that feeling when you go to a friend's house and can't figure out their shower for the life of you? There you are, standing before God and the shower stall in only your birthday suit, hunched over and cursing at this contraption. Maybe I am just technologically impaired but I have had similar experiences abroad with just about any appliance I lay my eyes on. Minus the nudity. Usually.
I hope someone can use this as a trouble-shooting guide to mysterious appliances while abroad, or at least a list of shit they wish they knew before they left home. That's what I call this list.
Public Transportation: I have been at the bus stop for an hour and the buses keep driving by me!
Well I am sorry it took you an hour to figure this out. Buses don't stop at every stop unless someone wants to get off or they can tell that someone wants THIS BUS. So what do you do? Wave it down! Just a brief little wave should suffice. This happened to my mom in Scotland...I hope she wasn't there for an hour.
Laundry: Why is the dryer shutting off without drying my clothes?
Is the dryer turning off right after you turn on the cycle? Or maybe just a few minutes after you press the go button each time? This happened to my mom and I in Sweden. We knew there must be something we were doing wrong but we couldn't understand it.
Lo and behold, many dryers in Europe have a...thingy (no doubt the technical term) that collects the water from your wet underpants. If this is full, the dryer will stop. How to rectify this? Take out the tray thingy and dump it in the sink!
Electronics: This is plugged in but won't turn on. HELP.
Have your adapter? If not, take the damn plug out of the hole you just gouged. Take it to another outlet and put in the adapter first. Still not working? Ok. Go to the light switch and turn on all of the little switches. All of them. Go back. Is it on? Woohoo!
In many places you have to switch on your outlets. Smart idea but completely foreign to us US born Neanderthals.
Showers: My shower is on the floor! There is no tub and I got water all over the bathroom.
This is pretty common, at least in western Europe. Okay so there should be glass doors that seal together when you shut them. Try that. If not, do you see the little squeegie thing? That will be your best friend. After your shower, squeegie all of the excess water towards the drain. Look, you bathed! Gold star.
Showers: There is weird residue/water stains all over the shower and shower doors!
In many places around Europe, the buildings are pretty damn old. This means that...well, the pipes might not be super clean. Often there is a residue left over when you shower and you may be advised by your host not to drink out of the tap without filtering.
After you finish showering, take your best friend Mr. Squeegie and squeegie all the water down and off the doors and walls. From there, guide the excess water to the drain.
Doors: Why don't I have a doorknob?!
This is my flat in Munich. You might have this weird square thing that definitely does not turn please do not keep trying. Put your key in and unlock the door. You should hear a satisfying click when it unlocks then just push. The door should open. If it doesn't, you may be in a dungeon.
Food and Drink: My host family/the grocery store stores milk in the cabinet, not the fridge. Am I going to die?
No worries. There is some milk that is "ultra super duper pasteurized" (official title) and it can be stored, unopened, at room temperature. Just make sure it is closed! Once it is opened, it must be stored in the fridge...unless you like your milk extra chunky.
Being a Human: I was walking on the sidewalk and a bike hit me and yelled at me like it was my fault! Why?
Another thing that Europe has mastered is organizing traffic. We are all familiar with a road, right? Where the cars and buses go? We should also be familiar with a sidewalk. Okay well in a lot of cities in Europe, they have a bike lane that is right next to the sidewalk. Sometimes the bikes have to go in and out of traffic. So if you are crossing the street, make sure you look both ways not just for cars, but also when you are getting back on the sidewalk for bikes. This hasn't happened to me, but I have seen a couple near misses here in Germany.