American Writer in Germany: 3 Months

29071159130_395ca997fe_zNovember 1st marked mine and Hamburg’s 3-month anniversary, and like most relationships still in the honeymoon phase, it woos me more every day. Summer wasted NO time getting lost, but I have a renewed appreciation for fall. Living in New York City for so long, I think I forgot how beautiful trees are in abundance, especially when the leaves are all orange-y and yellow-y and falling all over the place. It’s cold now, and gloomy, most days, but very atmospheric so that definitely makes up for it. I’ll tell you if I’m still feeling this dreamy when winter officially settles in.

Anyway, here are my thoughts, impressions, and revelations on Hamburg after 3 months.

  1. I already mentioned it, but it’s worth repeating. Fall is AMAZING. I know this isn’t a Hamburg- exclusive observation, but still. So far, Hamburg looks best in the fall.
  2. Comparatively speaking, options in the grocery store, in general, are scarce—especially the sweet stuff. There aren’t as many cereals, no variety of oatmeals or yogurts or puddings or cookies in 50 different fun flavors. Not even a ton of different chips to choose from. Boxed cake isn’t a thing here. Neither is canned-icing. Before Hamburg, I think I’ve baked 2 cakes from scratch in all of my 26 years, and I’ve NEVER made icing. Since arriving here a few months ago, I’ve made THREE.
  3. I REALLY miss the Targets and Walmarts and even CVSs of the world. There’s no single place here (that I’ve discovered, anyway!) where you can go and get everything you need in one trip. Which brings me back to the cake—not only did I have to bake it from scratch, but I had to go to 3 different grocery stores to get all the frigging ingredients. So if you come to Germany and you’re thinking about getting yourself some groceries, some toiletries, and a few housewares, block out a whole day because it won’t be a quick errand.
  4. Trick-or-Treating on Halloween is…different. A few people told me that celebrating Halloween is a pretty new tradition here, which explains some of the oddities. For starters, it seemed like a few people didn’t even know what the hell to do when the group of ten kids dressed as ghosts and superheroes crowded around them, holding open bags of candy. They just smiled and nodded the way you do if someone is speaking to you in a language you don’t understand. And the German equivalent to “trick-or-treat” is basically an entire song that these poor kids have to recite to every person they expect to receive candy from. And the people giving out candy really stand over them, eyeing every kid to make sure they’re all saying it. It was pretty hilarious. If you’re a kid trick-or-treating in Germany, you’re going to earn your Halloween candy.
  5. You CAN make friends—genuinely platonic friends—on Tinder! I’ve made FOUR; two girls, two guys. And one is a writer! BOOM, NAYSAYERS!!!!
  6. Screw the judge-y looks. I jay-walk like a champ.
  7. Sometimes the early closing times and completely closed down Sundays can be frustrating, but overall I can totally see how it all culminates to a more relaxing, less stressful life.
  8. In the same vein as 7, and even a little bit of 2, this city has forced me to slow down, and even be healthier. I don’t snack as much when I’m hungry, mostly because I don’t have snacks! I cook myself real meals for dinner, because there isn’t an abundance of TV dinners and a bunch of other frozen shit at my disposal. I relax on Sundays, because there’s really nothing else to do. I even walk slower (still faster than the general population, but slower than I walked 3 months ago). When I’m not annoyed by these things—and I am sometimes. Especially the lack of options in the grocery store—I realize that’s is actually a nice change.
  9. I’ve made it through summer and most of fall without getting on a bicycle. I think if I can just make it to winter, I’ll be safe from persecution, at least until spring.
  10. I miss my friends. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve made AWESOME friends here. Friends I think I’ll be friends with for a long time, whether I stay in Hamburg after 6 months or not. But I miss having people who I want to be around even when I don’t want to be around people. People that don’t cost me effort or energy to be hang with, that I can sit in a room with and not feel obligated to converse or entertain. I haven’t met a ton of people here that really like the same stuff I like, or are in the same walk of life as me, or have the same goals as me; therefore, I don’t have a ton of people that conversation flows effortlessly with, or that I can call to spend a random afternoon or evening with on a whim. Again, I’ve made really, really amazing friends, and I’m not alone. BUT, once in a while, I do feel lonely.

Overall, my experience in Hamburg has been a positive one, and I’m super optimistic about the future. I still have a ton that I want to do: see the art museums, ride the Ferris wheel at Dom, spend a weekend in Berlin, watch a live musical—in German, of course, have a winter picnic, go to a strip club, and visit a few more countries. I don’t know if I’ll stay longer than six months, but regardless, I’m glad that I’m here now.

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