On How Expatriation Resets You (From “Make Me German”)

Make Me German

Now, some seven years later, I realize what moving abroad actually does — it resets you. If you live in one place for a long time, as I had in England, you are constantly surrounded by people that speak your language and share your culture, so it’s easy to forget how special it is. You see only its flaws and minor inconveniences. Or perhaps even worse, you think that the way you do things there is the right way. That there are normal people, and strange people, and fortunately enough, as chance would have it, you were born into the normal tribe, and all those other people over there, from other places, foreign places, with their strange cultures and languages and customs — those people are the strange ones.

Then, suddenly, you’re somewhere else with a completely different idea of normal.

Currently reading Adam Fletcher’s “Make Me German,” which has a lot of smart things to say about the transition from one country to the other, and feeling pretty understood.


Week in Review: Skipping Carneval

I started off this week in bed with the kid, still. We were supposed to be escaping Carneval on skis but after that terrible flu, there was no way I was making Diva hit the slopes; she could barely stand up for days after her fever finally went down and so even though she was technically well, we both thought it in her best interests to stay buried in blankets instead of hitting the road or staring at the shitshow that is the Rosenmontag parade. Die Zeit said that the festivities employ over 40,000 people in Cologne full-time but they seem to have hired more sweet sweepers than style-makers. Always in bad fashion, that event.

I hit the local kids’ parade on Tuesday where we were showered in gummy bears and swapped the ibuprofen out for Smarties, which seemed to work like all other homeopathic pills: you forget you’re sick long enough to actually maybe feel better. Especially when there’s this much of it:

carneval candy

I got over myself and dug further into reading Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle books and am pretty glad I did. He’s fabulous with words and a fantastic viewer of everyday banality and it’s only his lack of action that makes him so tough to read.

I don’t like to talk about my work here but this week was a fucking headache in that department, partly because it’s Fashion Week everywhere this month, which makes my work explode, and partly because I didn’t get enough work done while Diva was sick and the city was shut down (the shitty part about living in Cologne is that you have no kindergarten for 4 days but your clients in Berlin DGAF about Catholic holidays). But every so often, I get a perk and this week, that perk was an interview with some super talented musicians and an amazing amazing concert and then that made it all okay, I guess. I’ll be back to hating work tomorrow.

Finally, I found this You Tube sensation @Flula whom I had never encountered before and haven’t been able to stop laughing all week. This one’s for all my German friends who love basketball and that fact that Dirk No-irgendwas proved Wesley Snipes wrong. White Men Can Jump, though they sure really can’t rap (however, as Liv has pointed out, they sure do have a great sense of humor about their lack of rhythm). Enjoy your week, folks!

P.S. Don’t forget to send your questions for Dear Divorcee to me!

Week In Review: Sleeping Late and Staying in PJs

I am testing my newfound ability to remain positive under all circumstances pretty hardcore this week, shrugging off a whole lot of bullshit while maintaining some calm. I figured, if a dude held hostage for nearly three years by Somali pirates can keep himself calm with some yoga despite the nearby grenade launchers, my life ain’t all bad, is it?

I started the week by picking up a very sick kid from her papa’s house. Although she had gone to his place with a fever and a warning that all her Kita friends had the flu, nothing prepared me for the Diva that I had to carry like a newlywed under the threshold up four flights of stairs. She couldn’t even keep her eyes open on the car ride home because the sun was too bright.

I canceled her birthday party against her father’s wishes (it’s in a gymnastics room, you can just lay her on a mat and she can watch, the twat said, the last I heard from him all week), put her to bed with a fever nearing 40 and waited impatiently all week for it to go down on its own. Yes, she got ibuprofen to deal with the pain but Jayzus, this flu she had was awful and the fever just did not quit. It’s still there, inching back each evening just before bed. 14 of 16 kids at her Kita and a bunch of the parents got it and by the time we finally made it to the doctor on Thursday, it was confirmed to be “just a virus, but a very long-lasting one.” You’re telling me.

I decided to fend off any germs by sleeping 10 to 12 hours a day and cuddling the kid all week, never changing out of my pjs except to put fresh ones on. When was the last time you suckers did that? The first two days it felt good. Now I just feel like an obese sloth but now that the chocolate cake intended for Diva’s birthday party has been polished off and no one brought me chocolates for Valentine’s Day, that may change.

I realized, too, this week, that contrary to what every other expat says about Germans, some of these countrymen are fucking phenomenal. When we ran out of sugar drinks to keep fluids in Diva, I texted 2 neighbors and within minutes, our fridge was restocked. Take that isolationist Americans with your big ass fenced-in yards and tinted car windows that keep you from knowing your neighbors.

While convalescing, I read a number of books… “Daring Greatly” by Brene Brown (which is terribly written but has been one of the more helpful self-help books I’ve read in ages), the trashy “Schwerelos” by Ildiko von Kuerthy, and a couple of pages from Book One of the “My Struggle” series by Karl Ove Knausgaard, who is a superb writer but who is so narcissistic I kept wondering if the urge to vomit I had meant I was getting the flu.

Now here comes the bummer part:

I canceled our planned ski vacation scheduled to coincide with Karneval, also known as get the fuck out of Cologne time, for the second year in a row. Diva is devastated but we’ll just have to go to Switzerland to make up for it soon. Anybody got some gold needs depositing?

I also had to cancel a bunch of engagements that I really wanted in on, including going to Milan, and in doing so, realized that my biggest client is more batshit than I am and that is no small measure. So after a week of doing absolutely as little as possible, I will be all adult next week to see what I can salvage of this mess I call my life.

First up: a trip to the career coach who keeps reminding me that “finding a sugar daddy” is not a legit objective to be putting on my CV.

Whatever, I’m still getting my hair did right afterward, although let’s be honest: $30,000 a year and a Louis Vuitton bag ain’t really worth my time.

What’s your week ahead look like?

And if you haven’t had contact with this killer flu, a word to the wise: quarantine yourselves now. It’s about as fun as Weiberfastnacht at 2 a.m., minus the torn-up costumes.

Week in Review: The Supermodel Life

I woke up Monday morning totally ready to hit the day like Beyonce and sing, “I woke up like this, #flawless,” but instead I fell to the ground because of the unexpected, searing pain in my heel. Guess who has plantar fasciitis? This girl right here. As if I wasn’t not exercising enough already, I’m now on another running verbot, indefinitely.

Surprisingly, I am not yet insane from the lack of sport. Instead, I am, as mentioned on Twitter, spending more time at the gym again, watching the young naive ones throw themselves at the resident muscleman trainer who will turn them down because he’s not all that into women half his age who page through fashion mags while pumping their feet up and down on the elliptical, careful not to sweat up their neon-pink sports bras and bright red lipstick. I’ve started carrying Kleenexes with me for the inevitable tears in the locker room to come but cannot wait to get back out onto the cold, snowy trails where the only asses in the air I see belong to the swans.

2014-03-18 16.22.42

That gym membership was the only thing adding regularity to an insane week in which I changed my plans every fucking hour of every damned day. At one point, someone mentioned that I have to at some point sometime soon be in Milan but no one’s really sure yet just when or where or how but maybe definitely I will some day need to be in Italy for something. All week this went on, and not just with Italy and not just with one client. This was every conversation I had with every person I encountered this week and I realized I need a damned agent to handle those kinds of conversations. Or an assistant. I have zero patience for the wishy-washy and I am too important to be bothered to keep my own schedule. I don’t get out of bed for less than $10,000 a day. I’ll be in the sauna if you need me.

On a more serious note, a friend’s husband died, which puts me now solidly in mid-life. I will write more about the feelings this brings up, about the crises everyone around me are dealing with, but to help me cope, I broke out my copy of “Tiny Beautiful Things” again and downloaded the Dear Sugar podcast. Cheryl Strayed sure does know how to say the true things that will make you cry and so I did a bit of crying this week, too. No shame in that. Especially since I can recover from the tears more quickly than in the past, and recover I did, thanks to keeping this tune on rotate.

Enjoy your week! And let me know what keeps you moving… it’s going to be a long, crazy month in the Lederhosen home.

This Week in Review: The Latest from Chez Lederhosen

Just got my stats from 2014 and it was grim. I only posted once a month and that’s definitely not enough so I’m going to try something new: a week in review. And since the last week was actually kind of interesting, I’m starting now. Here goes:

The last week of 2014/the first week of 2015, I got a shit-ton of nothing done. As it should be.

I ate rice cakes again after binging on peppermint bark and homemade pralines. Because it’s the New Year and every mother fucker is on a diet so why not me, too. Besides, the gym is off-limits to me now that every dude and his brother is there to flex their abs and meet their winter girl/boyfriend.

I saw Oberwesel for a night on a road trip to show my parents a bunch of castles. It’s a tiny town with nothing to do but it’s a pensioner’s wet dream near the Loreley on the Rhine.

I learned that the train ride to Frankfurt Airport from Cologne is well worth its price because that Autobahn drive is boooooooooring. That newfangled technology in my rental car kept beeping at me because it thought I was falling asleep every time I stopped speeding and it nearly gave me road rage.

I read Die Zeit cover to cover and fulfilled my decade-long dream of being able to understand everything. It helps that I was reading all about myself in an article that was about why so many middle-aged women are still single (Who’s afraid of the independent woman? was a ridiculous title for what we all know should’ve been more like: why are German men so afraid of independent women?)

I listened to the Serial podcast. Finally. I’m not as hooked as everyone else but I am really interested in the questions of memory and psychopathy. Plus, Adnan talks exactly like one of my cousins, who I could totally see being in his hard spot.

I felt the snowflakes melting on my cheeks and remembered why I love winter despite the dark skies.

Here’s an obligatory picture of what my life looked like last week.


What about you all? What have you been up to this first week of the year?