A Chronicle Of My Experiences Living Abroad

A Chronicle Of My Experiences Living Abroad: October 2013

October 30, 2013

Taiwan Edition: FINALLY Here

After months of anticipation, we are finally here. Even though it was a 14 hour flight from Vienna, it wasn't nearly as tiring as flying from the east coast of the U.S. So far, the jet lag hasn't been bad either. Hubs and I have been spending our first few days with family and some much need retail therapy (mostly for my benefit). I will update occasionally on our adventures with more Taiwan Edition series.

October 22, 2013

Lessons learned on a move abroad

Hubs and I were fortunate enough to have friends, through my sister, living here already.  They gave us so much helpful information when we decided to take the plunge and move our whole lives to another country. If I haven't said this enough - moving to another continent is a huge endeavor. Sometimes it feels like we've moved to another planet, altogether. But, if I had some advice for those who are considering this life-changing adventure on becoming an expat, here's my two cents.

1) Get rid of as much stuff as possible

Europe is notorious for 'small spaces' and we lived in a typical rowhome/townhouse in Maryland. Hubs and I knew we had to get rid of stuff, a lot of stuff. It really takes a huge move like this to realize just how much crap you have. I can't tell you how many bags/boxes of "stuff" we got rid of. Hubs is an aspiring minimalist and I'm a closet pack-rat. You see where I'm going with this? I had Hubs convert our smallest bedroom in the US to a walk-in closet when I moved in. Yes, I had walls of shoes, clothes, handbags, etc.  The Salvation Army got an enormous donation just from that room alone.  It was a huge wake up call. We would've had the option of storing stuff provided by the U.N., but we passed. Because really, if we haven't touched it or seen in several years (3-7)....the chances are we didn't need it in the first place! If you were wondering, things like yearbooks and my wedding dress are still around, but taking up residence at my sister's house temporarily.  So, we 'stored' things, but only a few shelves worth.

We never realized how little we can get by with and how much money we wasted on things we didn't really need...until now. What an awesome life lesson learned.

2) Make an effort and learn the language

Hubs and I are nowhere near fluent in German. But we try and are learning slowly. In theory, it softens up the locals when you attempt the language. And you don't know how satisfying it is when we happen to be eavesdropping on a conversation, and totally understand what the people are talking about.  Hubs and I are realistic that we may never become fluent enough to carry on a conversation about politics or something along those lines, but we are hopeful to be able to communicate more effectively with the locals during our time here.

3) It'll test your relationships

Living in a different country not only tests your relationship with the person you're with, but of those you left behind. It’s a difficult adjustment for all involved. Those strong bonds you had back home that you were so worried would deteriorate? They've become stronger, but different. They're the ones that you know that no matter how much time has passed, you can count on them the moment you get back to your "old life". Those that weren't that great to begin with? Well, you know what happens. They fizzled as soon as the flight took off.

I'm so thankful for emails/Skype/Facebook/etc. It has helped me, personally, to keep in touch with those I hold dear.

4) Explore and get to know your new city

So you moved across the world to a new city right? Don't just sit on your ass and expect things to happen. Go out and be proactive! I am the last person you'd think would go do just that. I was a homebody back stateside, except for when we traveled or went to an occasional movie. Now that we're living IN a city, we do so much more. We go to the Opera, concerts, take in the theatre and museums, and little side trips out of of town, etc. It helps us stay sane and distracts us from homesickness.  

5) Try to make new friends

I don't mean to keep bashing on the locals, but they are just a bunch of grumps! For instance, Hubs and I were on a tram and were getting up because our stop was next. The tram was packed and I had nothing to hold onto but Hubs' arm. The tram made a sudden halt and I went flying and bumped into a lady. It was like the end of the world for her. She made such a commotion about it, even after I apologized. As if I did it on purpose...the nerve of that woman. There are many other instances of encounters with the locals that make me lose a little more faith in these people each time.Occasionally, there are glimmers of hope as well, but they are far outnumbered by negative experiences. I haven't give up on trying to integrate with these people, yet.

So what is an expat to do? Make friends with other expats. It's essential. You already have a bond and you just build on that. Hubs and I are grateful for all the expats we've met and become friends with.

6) This experience will change you

Once you step off that plane on the other side, your life as you know it is forever changed. It's hard to explain, but Hubs and I are not the same people as we were anymore. Like I've mentioned before, I was never one to take risks or do anything extreme in my life prior to becoming an expat. Everyday, we see and learn new things. We grow and deepen our understanding of ourselves and our relationship.  Vacationing to see and experience other cultures gives you a taste of what’s out there, and then before you know it, you’re back in your comfort bubble. Our comfort bubble is still a few years away, we have to attempt to soak in the culture and everything that comes with it. I know it’s hard to convey this, but as an adult it is incredibly hard at times to understand cultural differences. Resistance to cultural adaptation, however, will leave you feeling lonely and defeated. This isn’t a long-term vacation, it’s a commitment to reset your life to zero.  Just as a child would learn how the world works around him/her, that’s where you start from.  It’s ever growing, changing, enriching, and transformative. You discover your inner resiliency and things about yourself you didn’t know were possible.  

October 20, 2013

Anyone for tennis?

Since becoming city dwellers, we have come to really appreciate city life.  Everything is easily accessible.  Seeing as our time here is limited, Hubs and I are trying to cram in as many events and activities as possible that we can get to.  More so than we ever made ourselves do back home. This has solidified where we want to be in our future; living in the inner part of a city. Just to make it a point, we went to the Erste Open final game today. Tennis has never been something that I would go out of my way to do or see, but since we are ten minutes from the arena and the title game was on a Sunday- it was a no brainier. Hubs and I had a great time seeing a match between players from Germany and the Netherlands. It's no Wimbledon (which is something we would like to do before our time is up in Europe), but it was something new to experience.

October 18, 2013

Wonderful Week with Friends

This week has been catching up with friends before everyone starts going away on holiday,  having babies, welcoming guests/family etc. I've been having great fun seeing all my friends (and meeting new ones) filled with great conversations and doing some fun touristy things.  A great week for sure, and exactly what I needed after a few down days. 

FINALLY found some decent Mexican here in Vienna and had great company too!

Had a great time with Emily at the Kunsthistoriches Museum and this will definitely be one that I'll return to with visitors!

Ending the week with lunch, a visit to the MAK, and a cake break afterwards with my friend Rachel.

October 16, 2013

'Behind the Scenes' Wiener Rathaus

After moving here, I joined all sorts of expat clubs and get emails of certain events and happenings around town. Tonight, Hubs and I went on an insider's English tour of the City Hall in Vienna (aka Wiener Rathaus), which was an event coordinated by Expat Club Vienna.  This building is massive and with 1,575 rooms, we only got to see maybe 10%. It was really cool to see the Council Chamber, Festival Hall, Coat of Arms Hall, Grand Staircase and having cocktail hour in the Senate Chamber. All in all, we were really impressed and were so happy to mingle with other expats from all walks of life.

Festival Hall all set up for a non-public event
Council Chambers

This chandelier is 5 meters in diameter and weighs 3.5 tons!

Not a bad spot to enjoy cocktail hour!
Gorgeous ceiling!!!

Grand Staircase

October 15, 2013

Schoko Museum

Hubs had a holiday today and we had planned to go take care of some visa stuff, but as of yesterday, the visa office CHANGED their holiday from yesterday to today. Who does that? So instead of taking care of more important things, we decided to have a leisurely lunch and head out to the Chocolate Museum of Vienna. This is where they make Heindl brand chocolates and candies. Opened in 1953, it is still a family owned and operated business. They employ less than 200 workers and everyone seems to love what they do (according to their self-made museum propaganda movie). The museum does offer English tours on certain weekdays and times. However, the tour guide was out sick today, so we were happy to do the self guided tour. It's a very cute and interactive museum. Let's not forget why we really went there - the tastings! Hubs and I got to sample a few of the many offerings Heindl had to offer. Did you know that Austrians consume an average of 8 kg (18 pounds) of chocolate per year? What a sweet treat for a day off, indeed.

paintings made out of chocolate

smelling station

Chocolate fountain tasting machines
Hubs couldn't help himself and wanted to stay put at the chocolate fountain tasting machines for the rest of the tour.

October 9, 2013

Commissary to the rescue!

There's a commissary on the grounds of the U.N. It's basically like a grocery store filled with comfort foods and familiar products from all over the world for its employees and families. We get a lot of our dry and frozen goods from there. A perk is that employees can make requests to the product suggestions department. Hubs was missing a particular brand of breakfast sausage from home so much, he made a request back in March or April. To our surprise, it was approved and now we've had our nitrate and preservative free goodness to accompany our breakfasts in the mornings.

Then Hubs complained that there's no variety in beer here.  What!?!? How is that possible in the land of beer you ask? You want a lager or wiess beer? There's plenty of that around here. Looking for a stout that's not Guinness, an IPA of sorts, or a frou-frou micro brew creation? You're so completely out of luck. So his next request? Flying Dog variety pack, which is from a local Maryland brewery. Maryland/Virginia/DC area expats who love beer would appreciate this! And surprisingly, it was also approved. Hubs was practically skipping (seriously) into the house today, toting a box. He said there were only two boxes of it and he had to jump on it before they're gone...

October 8, 2013

One step forward, two steps back

This time last year, Hub's and I were in Vancouver, Canada enjoying an extended long weekend. I had just started a new job and things were great. I like to think that we led a very blessed and somewhat worry-free life. Who would have thought, that in a few weeks time, our "mundane" life would be rocked by a life changing opportunity.

Recently, I found out that the job that I would have had was in jeopardy and many changes were taking place. It really put things in perspective for me. Usually when I'm having one of my homesickness episodes, I would use the whole "I had a great job back home and I'm reduced to this" argument. Now, I have to think twice about that.

Maybe it's because we are two and half weeks from being reunited with family, but I've just been an emotional basket case for the last few days, and it doesn't help that I've been sick and cooped up. Of course, you never see that in our pictures or posts, but it's those blissful moments that get me through these struggles. I ask myself every morning "what the heck is my purpose here in Vienna?" and there is never an easy answer. It's exhausting. Every day has become an uphill battle. I've taken baby steps to get through each day and learned so much in the last eight months, that I might not have if we were still in our past life. I am grateful for that, at least.

Here's to trucking along another two, crazy busy months and before we know it, it'll be our one year mark!

October 6, 2013

Lange Nacht der Museen

A lot of European cities have a long standing tradition of "night at the museums". For a very affordable price, you get access to a huge list of museums and they're open into the wee hours. Hubs and I did it in Budapest, missed it by a week in Prague, and now we've crossed Vienna off our list.  We had so much fun that we've talked about making a yearly tradition out of it; as long as we're here.  Hubs and I made it through seven museums this year, which was more than we anticipated. Some were good and others - let's just say that we're glad we didn't waste our time (or money) making a special trip.

After tackling the first few, we had to refuel...

Back at it...

There was an old style tram from the year 1929 that ran especially for the night. Maybe it was to compensate for the fact the tram museum is closed for renovations this year.  Regardless, it was so great to see old ads and how the conductors yell stop names. It was blast from the past on tracks. A highlight!

As someone who is deathly afraid of going to the dentist, I surprised myself that I would consider going to this museum. Even the place smelled like a dentist's office!

Just sitting in "the chair" sends me into a frenzy!