Germany has been a whirlwind. I came here in 2017 and it came as a happy surprise. I was living around the corner from work on Burlington Road in Dublin. I was a little over 300 steps into the Kobo offices from my apartment. I was at the point where I was living with a girl who was going to move out. She was a mature student and had gotten into medical school and was going to live with fellow medical students. I was sent to Germany in June for the first time for a week or so to help out in the Deutsche Telekom offices and move Tolino into our new offices. There were four in a department that needed to pull all the information from and take with us as we were going to be down to only one of those employees when the take-over happens. While I was there my flatmate in Dublin told me she was moving out and when I got back I asked her about the postbox and bins etc. She replied that she had handed in BOTH of our notices and that I had, in fact, only one week to move out! At the time I was going to travel in July to Serbia to a music festival and so that meant I had three days. I went into the office the following day and decided that I would take the vacancy that Kobo tried so hard to fill in Germany.
The concert in Serbia was a blast and you can see the photo below! I had a great time and we were a bunch all together going to see Paul Kalkbrenner live along with many others as part of the EXIT festivals. I managed to pack up all my things and left them in the offices in Kobo and took a backpack which also included an entire week's worth of office clothes as I was going to travel via Frankfurt so I thought I'd stay put for that week. Kobo had offered to pay for flights to and from Germany for six months and also cover my accommodation.
The start was rough, I was in an AirBnB and three Brazilian men answered the door half naked when I was expecting to stay with an old couple. There was no accommodation in the summer of 2017 in Darmstadt and I was a little afraid to stay with them. I stayed a few nights and survived unharmed thankfully. Being a female going into an apartment full of men that can overpower you at any moment your safety is always on your mind naturally!
The first few days at the office were surreal. I came in with my backpack straight from the concert and started organising, planning and looking at the Oracle databases that were there. I had taken down notes of all the processes (old and outdated processes using email to send excel sheets) and decided that when my colleague was back that I would update some of these outdated processes. We worked together over the following months to update some of these and allow her to slot into the Kobo way of running things which was far more fast and efficient than the old DT way.
I had no German so it was a little strange being in the office and some were unwelcoming asking 'what are you doing here anyway', some even labelled me as a spy from head office when in fact all it was was a simple opportunity that I had taken due to my lack of having somewhere to live! I kept my head high and pushed ahead with everything for the six months that I was there. I started German lessons to learn my first couple of words and as people got to know me they also warmed up to me a little more. They took me to the Christmas markets, out for dinners, drinks, showed me some places and I experienced real snow for the first time.
The time flew and it was time to head home after the six months but I enjoyed it and gained an appreciation for all things in Germany. I had learnt French in school and the part of Germany that I did learn was from our history books which was brief as we had our own rebellion going on at the same time so the focus was more on Irish history. I hadn't really thought of Germany as a place to live although the funny part was I rang in the new year from 2016-2017 with Germans. I had a book on my Kobo account about moving to Germany so maybe there was something calling me there.
Mam told me that our ancestors came from Rheinland-Platz and there was even a museum in Limerick with their name (Fitzell) on the website. http://www.irishpalatines.org/about/name.html The funny part was I felt like I fitted in more here than at home. The people loved camping and so did I, running and so did I, fitness and so did I along with a love of nature and even music tastes were similar. I was happily surprised. I felt more in-tune here than at home. I love hiking and was already a keen hiker having climbed over 5 mountains and the funny part about 2017 before I moved was that I had already set up a team (all the way back in 2016) to travel to Berlin to complete the Berlin Marathon under the Blackrock Running Club in Dublin. I had organised it and thankfully we all got in due to the team representation - all other individual entries were refused so we were really lucky. I guess something was pulling me to Germany all the time and I didn't know!
I decided to remain in Germany after the 6 months as it was too short. I was only starting to explore and see the area. I had been offered an opportunity to program in Android which was in Java and that was my dream. I had loved Java as a language since my masters and wanted to keep going with it. I had previously worked as a Java programmer and decided to take the turn into digital resources so that was short-lived. All the experiences that I have had has made me me and I am so grateful that I had such opportunities to live here in Germany. Between hiking, travelling and meeting the people that I have met, I have found a real home and a place where my heart is.
Germany is wonderful. The people are practical but so am I. I never wore much make-up or drank a lot especially compared to Irish women. I was usually the driver at Christmas for my parents too. I love the quiet and the sound of nature. I love hiking and I want to stay here. I guess I am drawn to the place. It's funny how I hadn't a word of German in 2017 to working fully in German by the end of 2019 and feeling at home here has given me a different perspective in life. I have fallen in love here. I love the language, the people and the way of life. I love the food like the fresh bread, the fact that people take off their shoes when they come into a house, the value placed on family and community and a deeper connection to others.
I also lived with the most wonderful man who is ambitious and quiet and kind. He is forgiving and loving and although this was not meant to be, he has taught me so much about love and life that I will forever be grateful. It was totally unexpected, I had been single and loving life for two years before that and also in the middle of heart surgeries at the time. At the time when I needed someone the most he helped me move into a lovely apartment, taught me so many things. I never thought I could open my heart and love someone so much. Everyday was a pleasure waking up to see him and be with him. He is gentle, caring, kind, generous, sensitive, personable, attentive, fun-loving, compassionate and considerate and although we are no longer together, I wish him health and happiness. He is and will always be forever in my heart. I am truly grateful to meet such a man.
When we'd kiss, it was like our souls were connected and our spirits danced in the clouds. It was like he lifted me into heaven and my heart yearned for more. It was as if we were the only two beings on the planet and no one else was on earth. It was like we were two jigsaw pieces that fit into each other and clicked once we were together. I was 22cm shorter and I would click in under his arm perfectly as if it was meant to be. We connected on a level that felt like it was out of this world. Our bodies engaged but our minds intertwined in a relationship that can only be described as perfect. Even with all of our imperfections, it was perfect, it was magical and it was as if someone lit a fire in my soul. The experience is unparalleled with what any words can describe surpassing all expectations, his essence intrigued me like no other. It was captivating and almost spellbinding. I can only thank him for such an experience. He has taught me what love means and to be loved.
I have made friends for life that are more like family now. I organise hikes and explore the history of Germany while doing so. I love the fact that there are cakes for occasions and people prefer to bake them instead of buy them. We had birthday cakes where people brought in their own for their birthday which I found a strange concept as it was the opposite at home. It's a lovely community and it is respectful, people give each other space and yet afford them the opportunity to express themselves too. There is a separation between work and life that I never experienced previously. Perhaps in Ireland it has been taken over by American multinationals where we spend 60 hour weeks working together and have to make fun to last that long every week. In Germany people have more boundaries and I would say healthy boundaries compared to Ireland. I appreciate the way of life and way of working. It is slower and more precise. There isn't a rush to get it done for America at 2pm the next day. It is a case of getting it done correctly and precisely, however long it takes!
In the classrooms I have been in, it is also more open. People are called upon openly to read their homework aloud. That would never happen at home! I have gotten used to that and let go of the shame and embarrassment associated with it. I had a very different classroom environment where we would hand up our homework and not speak as much. There is an openness here and a brash boldness to this that I had been initially really uncomfortable with. I appreciate this now - so what if it's wrong. I used to use the trick of sitting up the front of the class at home as a good way the teacher would avoid you and your peers wouldn't see my red-rosy cheeks when asked a question or the shame of embarrassment - that didn't work in Germany. The teacher calls on you more! It is almost like 'yes you can do it, get on with it' and I did and I appreciate that now.
Germany you are wonderful and inspiring and respectful all at once. The landscapes and forests are incredible and I have even had the opportunity to camp and sleep in a hammock in the forest overlooking the Rhein. I felt like this was a dream. It was like I was in a film. The views were magnificent. I was there in a hammock and looking to my right I could see the meandering Rhein valley and see the boats go by while seeing the green rolling hills on the other side. I feel at home here like I haven't felt anywhere else. I want to grow my own vegetables and have my own place and when I want to travel I will rent this out. I want my own place that is quiet and I can read, run, hike and look out onto the green and also enjoy the wonderful surrounding area and beautiful countryside that is Germany.
I love my life here, I have a lovely apartment, I am close to all the amenities that I need and also a short walk away from a forest that I can run in. I live around the corner from a swimming pool and I am able to (because I learnt to swim last year) go swimming in it for free as part of my gym membership. I have a little community, I meet the caretaker frequently in my building for a short chat before going to the shop where I chat to the woman in the shop. They are warm and friendly and it's like a small circle that I have joined.
I am so grateful for the opportunities that Germany has given me. I feel like I have grown as a person with some of the challenges that came with moving country and settling into a culture where it is alright to say no to your boss! It's refreshing to stretch to new challenges and also have healthy boundaries in work. I enjoyed the social aspect of Kobo in Dublin but all the while I also love the structured working experience I have had here too. I enjoy working in German and in Germany. I am a level-headed person who is usually very organised and while I have had my tests health-wise in the past, I must say Germany has taught me so much about myself and life that I could not have dreamt of, so thank you Germany. I have built a community of triathletes completing our first triathlon and those that have entered continue to come hiking with us. Due to this I learnt to swim, learnt German and I went on my first ski trip and learnt to ski. Who could have asked for a better life, full of adventure and learning.
I also love the fact that I have dreamt of many things and of doing many things and since I have made great friends here I can do these things with them. I have also adopted a German Mom and she has been the best person to know here, teaching me so many things about German culture and food. I am so grateful to have built a great community that I can keep with me for many years to come. It's the best decision I have ever made. I am looking ahead to the next adventures that Germany has brought me from triathlons, skiing to lots more hiking. Here's to the next chapter!