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Liebster Award

LiebsterSo a couple months back, Cynthia from adventurings (who I met earlier this year when she and her fiancé visited Berlin) nominated me for a Liebster Award. Which I am just now getting around to…

In short, it’s like a chain letter of the blogging world, only a lot easier and way less annoying. It’s a way to spread the love by introducing your readers to blogs you like who have smaller readerships, as well as allowing others to get to know you better. There are various “rules,” but it’s the Internet, so they change over time. But basically, you have to answer questions the nominator created, then nominate other blogs and give them questions to answer (if they feel so inclined).

Here are the questions I had to answer:

1. When you think of the word “home”, what place comes to mind?
Home, for me, is in two different places. I don’t necessarily think it’s where your family lives, but rather where you feel most comfortable and true to yourself. Naturally, California is home—more specifically, Northern California. I lived there 26 years and it’s a huge part of who I am. However, Berlin is my second home. Having lived here for more than three years now, I am finally fairly well adjusted in all areas of my life. My husband is a huge part of why it’s home for me, but I also feel like a bit of an “Old World” soul, like who I am just fits into this European mentality a bit more. Berlin is wonderful because it covers that aspect, but it’s also constantly evolving and a very non-boring place for a creative mind like mine.

2. How important is it to learn the language of the country where you’re living?
It depends on how long you’re living there. A couple months? Not super important. Longer than that? Absolutely. In a city like Berlin, it’s relatively (though not always) easy to get by in English, but I don’t recommend it, because you miss out on so much. Not only are “adult” things like taxes, doctor visits, university issues, etc. difficult to impossible without knowing the language, but you limit your social sphere so much. I’ve also met plenty of Germans who spoke English just fine, but it wasn’t until I was “meeting them halfway” in German that they opened up and I got to know them better. For English natives, learning a new language also not only gives you a “secret language” when you are in foreign countries (because, let’s face it, your English will be understood nearly everywhere you go) but it also gives you additional insight into the country you’re living in, as the way a language is structured and works is very much tied to the culture and lifestyle of the people living there.

3. What was your biggest travel or expat “oops” you’ve ever made?
To be honest, I can’t really think of one. Lots of misunderstandings or confusion, but nothing major, and nothing that is embarrassing if you choose to have an open mind and a good attitude about it.

4. What is a city or place you LOVE that is totally off the tourist radar?
I wouldn’t say that Porto is “totally off the tourist radar,” but it does seem like it’s not much of a destination people go for. Even I didn’t know what to expect, but during our week stay there in April, I fell in love with the city. It’s not touristy and beach-y like in the south of Portugal, and it’s not vast and exciting like Lisbon. Instead, it has a great climate, this very laid-back working class vibe, and artsy and creative types. The city is very walkable (if you don’t mind all the hills) and it’s not so huge that you can’t get a good feel for it after a few days there. I would absolutely recommend it to anyone, and would for sure love to go back someday.

5. How do you like to unwind after a long day?
As much as I love relaxing by reading in bed or along the water near my flat, if I have had a long day, I really love mindless stuff, like watching TV shows while drinking a beer, or skipping cooking and going out for dinner and ice cream with my husband. Anything that doesn’t require too much brain power or effort.

6. If I gave you free tickets to fly anywhere in the world, where would you go?
I would probably use the free tickets for the most expensive of my desired destinations (see #11). So maybe the US?

7. What’s the best material possession you’ve acquired in the past two years?
I’ve got to go with our new bed, which is now almost a year old. My parents bought it for us as a wedding present, and it’s big and cozy and has lots of storage room. I love it! My mother-in-law also made us a beautiful custom quilt for the wedding, and it’s warm in the winter (not to mention, it looks great).

8. What inspires you most, creatively?
Hard to nail this one down, but I would say it’s probably the perfect mixture of a good night’s sleep and great weather, or reading. As a writer, I draw inspiration from everything I read, so even though it’s mostly subconscious, I think it affects me the most.

9. Best book you’ve read in the past year?
I finally got into Donna Tartt this year and read “The Secret History,” which was great. Currently, I’m reading “The Goldfinch,” which is also good. Other enjoyable books: “The Book Thief,” “The Dog Stars,” “The Summer We Got Free.” I’m currently reading “Love in the Time of Cholera” as well and enjoying Marquez too.

10. What’s your travel style like? Slow, fast, budget, luxurious….
My travel style depends a lot on the circumstances. I have done fast and budget traveling, and I feel like that’s not a combination I ever want to go with again—it’s good when you’re young and single, but it just doesn’t work for me right now. Overall, I think my husband and I both love slow travel the best… getting to know a city at a relaxed pace and not being concerned with seeing everything. Though it helps that Germans get lots of vacation time that allows for this. I wouldn’t say that I am luxurious- or budget-minded—maybe somewhere in between. I don’t like paying a lot for a place to stay on vacation, though if it’s a romantic getaway, I don’t have as much of a problem dropping more cash on it, because that usually ensures a place with more atmosphere and things to do on site. We also don’t go overboard on buying lots of trinkets or souvenirs or paying for “experiences,” rather we are pretty logical with our spending, using it for food/groceries and public transport and enjoying free or low-cost things like walking tours or interesting museums…and nature!

11. What are your travel plans for the rest of 2014?
In the works, though I can definitely say that some places I’d love to visit in the coming years include Scotland, Slovenia and Croatia, the West Coast of California/Oregon/Washington and Canada, Turkey and/or Greece, Iceland, and some parts of Southeast Asia (Vietnam? Thailand?).

Here are the people I am nominating:

I am going to keep this very expat themed and share three expat blogs from here in Germany that I really enjoy reading.

Back to Berlin…and BEYOND
I met Ian and Ebe within the first couple weeks of living in Berlin, and I’ve always enjoyed discovering more about Berlin through their lives, which include traveling through Europe, drinking on the U-Bahn, and now, having a baby abroad.

My Life in Lederhosen
Though plenty of Americans come to Germany to live, many of them only stay a few years before moving on to another country or returning home. However, this blog is written by someone who ended up having a kid and staying. It candidly discusses the ins and out of the German language, dating, parenting, running, etc. In addition to being informative, the writing is also very smart.

Tara’s Doing Stuff
I don’t know how Tara found my blog, but I’m glad she did. I immediately started reading hers and may have read all the way to the beginning (don’t worry, she’s only been in Germany since December 2013, so it’s not too much reading). Anyway, a great and engaging writer, some really funny stories, and a nostalgic sort of flashback for me to when I first was navigating all of the bizarre and unexpected aspects of living in Germany.

Here are the questions they have to answer (if they want):

1) How exactly did you end up in Germany? Do you plan on staying forever?
2) What is your favorite word in the German language, and why?
3) What single item do you miss the most from back home?
4) Lots of things here (parental leave, health insurance, etc.) are arguably better than in the States/Canada. What’s one thing you think North America does better (in the “standard of living” department) than Germany?
5) What city or area of Germany are you most eager to explore?
6) If you were never allowed to return to Germany, where would you live?
7)  Which is worse: Finanzamt, Ausländerbehorde, Bürgeramt, Standesamt, insert your choice here?
8) What aspect of German life is so engrained in your routine that you can’t believe you ever lived without it before coming here?
9) When family and friends visit, what are the most important things to do and show them in your city?
10) What’s your preferred method of travel (this is very open-ended, so interpret as you will)?
11) If you could spend a day with one member of the Deutsche Nationalmannschaft, who would you choose?