the fear…THE FEAR….

1 Dec

So then, with less than 3 weeks to go, I have officially arrived at a very strange place. I am handing over my job to 2 amazing people (yes, it took 2 people to replace me), already doing some work for the new company, wrapping up my UK life, setting up my Germany life, socialising because there is no tomorrow, Christmas shopping …..and being ill…’s all a bit much really. I can safely say that I have not had one straight thought or a good night’s sleep in about 6 weeks, but I can also say that Antibiotics and Gin go wonderfully well together.

I have found a lovely flat which will tie me over the first 2 months and Daddy Riener has booked the ferry to come and pick up his little princess, so the logistical side of this is well under control. Who whodduf thunk.

What is starting to take a strain on me however is, no not the emotional side of leaving friends bla bla bla. But the fear. I am of course over the moon about the new job and Berlin, but I am also terrified about returning to Germany. There were a number of reasons why I left 6 years ago and for at least 5 1/2 years, I have not wanted to return. I have loved living in England and I still do. The level to which I managed to englify myself is quite astonishing (even to myself), and I genuinely thought it would be years (or even never) before I would eventually venture home. The longest I’ve been in Germany since 2005 is 12 days – I have not even managed 2 weeks. And now I am expected to book a ONE-WAY ticket?! Who’s idea was that?!

The thought of soon having Germans around me on a daily basis, being all German and that, really is quite scary. And it’s not like I can look at them from a safe distance and go ‘aw, bless’ when they go on and on and on and on about some irrelevant detail or defend their point of view in a friendly conversation like it’s a flipping life or death scenario. When it’s your own people, you just don’t have that buffer. Everything becomes much more personal. And I know I sometimes ‘Go German’ on people, but only as a last ressort. I love the easy-going nature of conversations and business meetings in the UK and that there just is no confusion about names because you’re automatically on a first name basis. I’ve only had a couple of German email exchanges over the past few weeks, but some have been on a friendly professional level and have confused the bejesus out of me “Hello Ms Riener, it would be greatly appreciated if we got very drunk together shortly after your arrival.” Not exactly word for word, but along those lines anyway. The formality about everything is already driving me mad. It won’t be long before you can find me crying in a corner during a lunch break.

I have really come to appreciate the formula that seems to apply to all UK business meetings: Talk about weather and/or football  – Actual business stuff – Talk about plans for evening / weekend / upcoming holidays. Takes an awful long time, and to a big extent I couldn’t give a flying monkey about somebody else’s granny’s 80th birthday, but at least when they start talking about that I know it’s a cue for ‘this is over soon’ (not their granny’s life of course – that would be cruel). At least I am going to be working with at least one other German who has a bit of a hybrid cultural identity going on as well – we have not yet managed to speak to each other in German for longer than 5 minutes though. Are there support groups for cultural escapists like us?

Then, there is the insane amount of bureaucracy about anything. Efficient that is not. For weeks now, I have been trying to suss out what I need in order to get registered when I arrive (which you have to do, otherwise you get fined). By the sounds of it, I will need a truck load of different forms all signed by myself, my mum, my landlady and my fairy godmother.

Don’t even get me started on humor, fashion and TV. Actually, I know it sounds hard to believe, but German humor actually can be quite funny (after copious amounts of beer of course). German comedy however is so wrong it physically hurts. And the second you turn on a German TV, you really start to appreciate The One Show. Even BBC3.

On a pure linguistic level, I can’t even begin to say how petrified I am. My brain functions in English and has done for ages. And I know I make little sense at the best of times in English – trying to squeeze out the same thoughts through seemingly random grammatical labyrinths is filling me with stone cold fear.

Also, I have been struggling for a while to define my professional identity as I’ve worn so many hats over the years. I am technically a Producer, a Managing Director, a Head of Operations (don’t even know what that’s called in German), but I am also so not any of these things on their own. But ‘Pick’n’Mix’ just isn’t a job title. Then trying to make sense of all of that in another language with different cultural connotations makes my head spin. I have not had a coherent conversation about my job in years – my parents probably think I am actually a travel agent or something. Clearly not clever enough for a spy.

And then there is the proximity to my family…actually I am safe….I will be about 5 hours away from them. And my dad is the only one who takes the word ‘surprise visit’ literally and there is nowhere in the world I can hide from that. The others usually give some sort of warning.

Oh dear, I better stop now. I am starting to hyperventilate. It will all be fine. It will all be fine. It will all be fine……


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