Lately I’ve been getting emails from friends and friends of friends who are moving to Germany. They’re curious as to what they should do to prepare for the move. I’m no expert, but here are a few tips I shared about what to do before you go:
1) Run, don’t walk, to a language class.
If you’re moving for a job, this would often be covered by your employer or your spouse’s employer. Having some language skills under your belt when you arrive is so worth the time and trouble. When you arrive, you’ll be busy settling in and may not have time to study again for awhile. For me, the better my German skills, the more at home and independent I feel here.
2) Read up:
Learn something about the culture you’re entering and the expat experience. You can’t avoid culture shock, but you can prepare yourself a little bit.
The Expert Expat : Soooo worth reading!
Culture Shock! Germany : This series includes books for many countries.
First Thousand Words in German : It’s a kids’ book but great for the visually oriented—a cross between a picture dictionary and Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever in German. Also available in other languages. It seems to be out of print, but I’ve linked to a used book site above.
Reading books and watching films that take place in your host country can also be very instructive.
3) Clean out your closets.
It would be almost unheard of to have closets here in Germany, and the wardrobes they use instead are way smaller. This was the hardest thing about fitting our things into our new space. The more you get rid of, the easier this part will be. I imagine this is a helpful step no matter what country you’re moving to.
4) Get an internet phone service.
Do this while still in the U.S. and bring the box with you. Yes, Skype is great, but there will be times when you need to call businesses (or have them call you) and times when Skype just isn’t practical. Also, this way, friends and family can call you without having to pay for an international call, and without having to leave your computer on all the time.
5) Think through electronics.
Some will work in your host country with a transformer (blender, sewing machine), some will not or may be a little risky (tv, dvd player).
Before we came, we bought a dual-voltage TV so the TV would work when we bring it back to the US. It was also much cheaper than buying one in Europe. If you’re moving with a firm, you’ll most likely get an allowance to buy things like large appliances. For the most part, it will make sense to buy them in your host country, but it’s worth thinking this through before you go.
We’re celebrating one year in Deutschland today! What a wild and wonderful ride it’s been.
Also, NEWSFLASH! Spring has
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If you've been following The Muffin for a while, you probably remember Sybil Baker's first tour with WOW for The Life Plan. We had such a fantastic time that we were thrilled when Sybil decided to tour with us again for her latest book Talismans, a compelling collection of linked stories that's been described as a contemporary Heart of Darkness. I'm particularly excited about this tour because I love short story collections, and the idea of having linked short stories in one book is something I'm really interested in as an aspiring author.
Sybil Baker spent twelve years teaching in South Korea prior to accepting a position as an assistant professor of English at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga after earning her MFA in Writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. During her extensive travels throughout Asia, she became increasingly interested in the allure and alienation of American travelers and expatriates, and this has heavily influenced her writing. She is the author of Talismans (C&R Press, 2010) and The Life Plan (Casperian Books, 2009). Her short stories and essays have appeared in Transnational Literature, Upstreet, The Writer's Chronicle, and elsewhere.
Learn more about Sybil by visiting her website www.sybilbaker.com, and her blog An Ex-patriate's Musings on Writing, Teaching, and Travel.
by Sybil Baker
Elise understands her father--a Vietnam vet who abandoned her when she was an infant--about as much as she does her church organist mother and the rest of their suburban Virginian town. When even that thin thread of connection is suddenly severed, Elise is flung across the world, to Southeast Asia. Tracing the steps her father took through the war, Elise searches for a connection--with his ghost, with other travelers, with the foreign culture and environment she experiences. In a series of linked short stories, Talismans follows Elise's journey to learn what she must hold onto, and what she must leave behind.
Genre: Literary Fiction, Short Story Collection
Trade Paperback: 181 pages
Publisher: C&R Press (D
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Kristin Bair O’Keeffe grew up in Bethel Park, Pennsylvania. Her maternal grandfather, a Croatian immigrant, worked as a steelworker in U.S. Steel’s Clairton Works all his life. Nearly every weekend as a kid, Kristin visited her grandparents’ home in Clairton on a bluff overlooking the Monongahela River. As she played tag with her sisters, the smokestacks filled the sky with their gaseous utterances and the barges toted their haul down the river.
Kristin’s articles and essays have been published in Poets & Writers Magazine, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, The Baltimore Review, San Diego Family Magazine, The Gettysburg Review, and elsewhere. Her column—The Fiction Writing Workshop—appears monthly in the popular ezine Writers on the Rise. In 2008, her work was translated into Chinese and published in China’s most popular weekly news magazine, Oriental Outlook Weekly, and she is featured in the Bylines 2009 Writers’ Desk Calendar.
With a B.A. in English and journalism from Indiana University and an M.F.A. in creative writing from Columbia College Chicago, Kristin has always combined her love of writing with teaching. She is a passionate writing instructor with fifteen years of workshop experience at U.S. colleges and universities, including Boston College, Endicott College, Montserrat College of Art, University of New Hampshire, and Columbia College Chicago.
Kristin lives in Shanghai, China, with her husband and daughter where she writes, teaches fiction and nonfiction writing, blogs about her adventures (and misadventures) around the world, and curates Out Loud! The Shanghai Writers Literary Salon. She heads home to Pittsburgh at least once a year to visit family and eat a few hoagies from Danny’s Pizza.
Find out more about Kristin by visiting her websites:Book website: www.thirstythenovel.com
Kristin's blog, My Beautiful, Far-Flung Life: www.kristinbairokeeffeblog.com
Author website: www.kristinbairokeeffe.com