Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Guest Post at Expat Explorer

Head on over to Expat Explorer an check out my latest Guest Post! 

Don't miss my three bonus missions.

Mini Mission # 18 - Host a Dinner Party

Remember Gran Torino? The scene where Clint is invited to the BBQ
is hilarious. Source
Maybe you've made some friends by now? Your fellow regulars, or maybe your neighbors who you see at the bakery? What about inviting some of them to your house for a dinner party? This is a great way to get to know your new acquaintances better and also to show off your culinary skills. Don't have any? No problem! Just do something easy. You could even order in. 

Here are some ideas for an easy dinner party with your new friends:

  • Make some local dishes - try your hand at whatever seems easiest! Or better yet, ask your new friends to give you their favorite recipe. Maybe they want to help you with the prep work?
  • Introduce your new buddies to your favorite recipes from home. Go crazy. Think Mac and Cheese and Nachos, or a chili bar! 
  • Try a potluck. Invite your friends over, provide beverages, and encourage everyone to bring their favorite dish. It's a great conversation starter!
Did you host a dinner party? Which approach did you choose? I love to try my hand at local dishes, but for a no fair gathering I always resort to my home favorites, because no one knows better! 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Mini Mission # 17 - Buy Local Dress

Hi all!

Sorry for the hiatus. I was on a family trip to the USA for the first time with our 4 month old baby boy Charlie - we went to visit my Grammy and for a friend's wedding - it was exciting to travel overseas with a baby, and not even as stressful as I thought! But time for blogging there was not...

Alas, I am back with another thursday mini mission for you. It's a bit of a hokey one, but I think it's a lot of fun.

Local dress is more popular in some places than in others. Here in Bavaria, Tracht like Lederhosen and Dirndls has become increasingly popular in recent years, and I know hardly an Expat who doesn't have a set to wear at least to Oktoberfest and other beer festivals throughout the year. But even in other countries where local dress might not be quite as trendy, there are still lovely traditional outfits to be had.

For this mission do some research and buy yourself something local to wear. You don't need to buy an entire outfit - perhaps a pair of traditional sandals or a fancy hat will do the trick? The challenge of this mission is finding the item you are looking for - you may even have to visit a seamstress or tailor to get the job done - but I guarantee you will be rewarded with a really special keepsake and a never fail conversation piece.

Did you buy something? What is your favorite piece of local dress?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Mini Mission # 16 - Visit the Market

Markets are the first place I visit when I arrive in a city. They are my absolute favorite way to get an exclusive (and delicious!) glimpse into local life. But buying stuff at the market? Way. Scary. Similar to buying bread, purchasing items at the market can be pretty darn terrifying. The vendors talk quickly, there are hoards of people standing in line behind you, and there are no convenient price tags. But successfully obtaining the ingredients for a lovely picnic at the market - that is one fantastic feeling.

For this mission, head out to your local market - if you're brave, pick the loudest most bustling one - and buy some great food for an afternoon picnic or your evening dinner. Required language skills are minimal - you'll need your numbers, the names of a few food items and your good old pointing finger. If you visit the market often, you might even become a regular!

Was your market excursion successful? Which stand is the most intimidating? For me, it's the meat vendor!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Mini Mission # 15 - Order In

A telephone call in a foreign language is a terrifying thing. All the usual helpful nonverbal cues are missing and it's just you, the handset, and the voice at the other end of the line. This mission is meant to introduce you to the world of making a phone call in a foreign language in a controlled environment, and the bonus is that you can to enjoy some delicious delivery food as a reward.

The first step for the mission is to choose your delivery restaurant, find the menu online (or scan the pile of paper ones that surely land in your mailbox weekly), and choose what youd like to order. Refresh your vocabulary with numbers, the word for delivery and your address, and dial that phone! Don't worry, you'll do just fine - order what you'd like, hang up, and double cross your fingers that you got the message across. You'll find out when your order arrives at your door (or not!). 

Were you able to successfully order food? What is your favorite take out cuisine? In Germany, I like to order Thai food or Sushi for a change of pace...

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Mini Mission # 14 - Chat with an old person

Doesn't this Bavarian man look helpful?
Via Fotocommunity
Age is relative - but generally, the older the wiser. In my experience, the older generation is always very pleased to chat - at the supermarket in line for checkout, on the street when asking for directions, at a museum while strolling through an exhibit. It might be intimidating at first, since very often older folks don't speak English (you won't even have to say no!) but these are the people you want to be talking to - they have the best stories, the greatest sense of humor, and can tell you all about the "good old days".

For this mission, chat up an older person - you get to decide what qualifies as old, but I'd say go for someone that looks like they are at least at retirement age. What to say? Well, a good gateway is often to offer help. Hold a door, carry groceries, pick up a dropped item, and then reminisce for a few minutes how the days of chivalry are long gone. Or just smile and comment on the weather. Or ask directions. Pull all your small talk tricks out of the bag! You can do it, use the local language, struggle through, smile and nod, and then give yourself a BIG pat on the back.

Did you chat with someone? Tell your story!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Mini Mission # 13 - Go on a Photo Safari

Photo by me, taken on my public transit photo safari
Sometimes, a camera can be a really helpful way to observe your surroundings from a different point of view. This mission is all about changing perspective. Grab your camera (or even just your cell phone with camera function) and get snapping.

It helps to have a theme for your photo safari. Here are some ideas:
  • unusual doors
  • graffiti
  • interesting faces
  • fascinating transit stations
  • local food
  • tourist favorites from a new angle 
  • pets and their people

What did you photograph? I love taking pictures of interesting cafés - the photos are great, and it helps me remember them later when I am looking for a cup of coffee. 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Mini Mission # 12 - Buy Something Big

Frivolous bike picture RatRodBikes
One of my proudest moments during my first few months living abroad in Germany was successfully purchasing a used bike. I found a store, walked in, and read shakily from a piece of paper the words "I would like to buy a used bike".  The kind owner showed me their bikes, pointed out a particular bright pink model for 35 euros, at which point I felt like I should act like I knew what I was doing and asked questions about the... what are those things called? Brakes, yes. And... those things over there? The lights, yes. At any rate, I left with a bike that served me well for years to come! (I named him Floyd)

Making that first big purchase can seem intimidating, but boy was I proud of myself - it's a great feeling to know that you can navigate even complicated purchases. So go on - what have you been eyeing? That fancy suit? A custom mural for your living room? A scooter? Go for it! Approach that shop, walk up to that sales person with your scrap paper language cheat sheet and act like you know what you're talking about. And remember - say no to English!

What did you buy (or at least pretend to want to buy)?

Monday, April 9, 2012

Mini Mission # 11 - Turn on the Radio

Love this family listening to the radio. Image via Otrcat
Radio is a fantastic thing. Listening to the radio in your home abroad will not only provide you with musical entertainment, it will also help you learn gobs about the musical preferences of the locals, keep you informed about current events, keep your language skills up to par and give you a window into the weird quirks of your country (in Germany, part of the traffic report lists items lying on the side of the road! Can you believe that? It's hilarious).

For this mission, turn on the radio, and listen. Maybe you can even find a favorite channel? Get to know the local hit music, try to catch snippets of the news, and impress your friends that you've memorized the lyrics of the latest pop single. And ENJOY!

Do you listen to the radio? Does your home country have a weird local radio quirk?

Friday, April 6, 2012

Fearless Friday

vintage butcher picture
Check out this vintage butcher's shop! Image via
Can you believe it's Friday again already? This week just flew by. Today is a holiday in Bavaria - what about your neck of the woods? For Fearless Friday this week, I ordered a specific cut of meat from the meat counter - specifically, rib eye steak. I know it sounds silly, but I find the meat counter to be SO intimidating (much less so than the bakery!), especially because I usually have no idea about the appropriate culinary vocabulary! But actually, it went really well - I got what I needed (yum!) and the butcher was really friendly. I'll have to try the fish monger next!

What did you tackle on Fearless Friday? Share your brave undertakings here in the comments or on twitter with the #fearlessfriday hashtag!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Mini Mission # 10 - Find Replacements

This post made me so hungry. Just like Lucy! Image via New Lantern
I know, we're all guilty of it as expats. There are items we just HAVE to have from home. I have a little list that I keep in the back of my mind, and whenever someone asks "I am going to the States, can I bring you anything?" I jump down their throats with "OH YES TWIZZLERS AND DEODORANT AND BROWN SUGAR ANDANDAND." 

And it's so lovely to have these things- they enable me to drink my coke through a candy straw and smell good and bake chocolate chip cookies for all my German friends. But there is something to be said for flexibility, no?  

When I first moved to Germany, the list of my "must-have products from home" was LONG. We're talking not only the above mentioned items, but also toothpaste, gum, baking soda, jeans, diet coke, ketchup, maple syrup..... seriously, a really long list. But then I figured out that they have colgate toothpaste at the stores in Germany! And baking soda is actually called "Natron" and you can get it everywhere. Moral of the story: I found replacements for most of my "must have from home" items and as a result, I felt so much less dependent on my poor fellow expats to schlepp me back my essentials. 

So this is your mission: choose one of your "must have from home" items and find a replacement in your new home! Food products are often really easy to replace if you do some googling. Often, the products you are looking for are actually available but they are sold under another name! And sometimes, you just have to let go - maybe you can get used to the taste of European Cola Light? Perhaps that weird herbal mint gum could grow on you? You'll be surprised how much your flexibility will open you up to new possibilities in your home away from home. If you want to take it a step further, make this mission a regular feature in your life, and do your best to "wean" yourself off of your home favorites. 

Let's be realistic - we will always have things we miss from home (as we should! Target! Sunday shopping!) but it feels great to free yourself from so many nostalgic necessities. 

What "from home" item did you give up and find a replacement for? What could you never live without?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Inspired to...

Install and use the new Instagram app for Android! Do you use Instagram? My username is bzbear2, if you're interested!

Image via Instagram sustainably! via @mydestination

Image via My Destination
Ask all the right questions at a job interview, via @offbeathome

Image via ME! 
... and finally visit Hamburg! via @Inspirngtrvlers

Image via Inspiring Travelers

What were you inspired to do this week?

Monday, April 2, 2012

Mini Mission # 9 - Spend an Entire Day Out of the House

We all feel cooped up after a while, right? Sometimes, living abroad and dealing with cultural differences, language confusion and sideways glances can make you feel like curling up on your couch and watching tv. But you know what? The sun in shining! Spring is in the air! It's time to get out of the house and soak up your surroundings.

For this mission, you'll need to spend the entire day out of the house. You can decide what "entire day" means - but let's say you should leave the house around breakfast time (maybe to buy some bread?) and stay out until it gets dark. It's totally up to you what to do with your time - perhaps you could go to the movies, or go to a bar? Simply get out there and explore - either use public transit or your own two feet, and see where you end up! You might even find a new place to become a regular.  The best part about this adventure is where you end up. Embrace the spontaneity! And make sure you say no to English!

Where did you go on your day out of the house?

Friday, March 30, 2012

Fearless Friday

Girl on telephone
Image via The Graphics Fairy
It's time for the weekend again! Did you tackle something for fearless friday?

I answered the phone. I know it sounds silly, but I am such a wimp when it comes to making phone calls and answering when someone calls - it's not so much a language problem as a phone phobia, but it's so much worse in Germany than it ever was at home. Do any of you have this problem?

Let me know what fear you faced in the comments or on twitter with #fearlessfriday

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Mini Mission # 8 - Take Public Transit

Image via LeStampOriginale
Public transit can be intimidating, especially if you've just moved to a new city. Subway maps often make transit systems look like terrifying mazes and buying the right ticket and getting off at the right stop can be more than overwhelming. But public transit is an expat's best friend! It saves us from needing to get a car, and is a great way not only to get where we need to go but also puts us smack dab in the middle of the public scene - people watching, eavesdropping on conversations, reading ads - all of these things can help with language learning and cultural adjustment.  

Convinced yet? This mission is all about getting comfortable on public transit. If you've never taken any form of transit in your city, head to the internet or the nearest information point and grab a map and a fee schedule. If you live in a city with, say, just one local bus route or a mishmash of taxis - grab a local and pick their brain about how to use the system. Otherwise, get yourself a ticket and get moving! (hint - if you're buying your ticket from a machine - try saying no to English!) If you've already used public transit, your mission is to up the ante and do something you haven't before - maybe you've already used the subway, but you've been too nervous to take a bus? Now's the time! What about looking into getting a monthly transit card so that you don't have to buy tickets every time you want to go somewhere? All of these things will take you closer to feeling like a true local. So get moving!

What form of public transit did you try out? Are you already an expert?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Inspired to...

This week, we are inspired to: ...

travel with only a carry on, via @traveldudes and @jokarnaghan

image via staggered

travel back in time to destinations away from modern life via @abiwhere

image via lonely planet

...get back in shape with these apartment friendly workout videos via Fit Sugar (am I right, expats? always dealing with the neighbors...)

image via RCA
and to sleep in a coffin in Berlin (creepy but cool, no?) via @pretzelnic and @pretzelnat

Photo by Propeller Island 

What inspired you this week?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Mini Mission # 7 - Go to the Doctor's

Image via Fourth Grade Nothing
Going to the doctor's office in a foreign country is nothing if not intimidating. From the logistics to the language barrier of describing your ailment - it's stressful! But our mini missions are here to challenge you, so here's where you get over your fears and do it. 

Your mission today: take care of one item on your to-do list that's medically related. Maybe you've been meaning to renew a prescription, get an ailment checked out, or get your teeth cleaned at the dentist. If not, everyone needs a yearly checkup! Even if you don't have anything that you need to get checked out by a doctor, it's still a good idea to scope out the nearest viable medical professional and familiarize yourself with the procedures. 

So take the best approach to an unknown situation abroad: dive right in. Walk into your local doctors office and ask to be seen. Or call your insurance and find out how your billing works. Or pick up the phone and make an appointment. If language is a problem, pantomime is an excellent tool. Don't be ashamed about bringing your dictionary along, but remember, you'll be just fine without it! 

You'll be surprised just how much sitting for hours in a waiting room with a bunch of locals will make you feel like a (soon to be healthier) old pro.

What steps did you take toward bettering your health? Are you prepared for your next battle with the flu? 

Friday, March 23, 2012

Fearless Friday

Image via Art is Alive
A little late this week, but better late than never! What did you do for Fearless Friday? We took Charlie (our 2 month old son) out to a packed restaurant on a Friday night! And you know what? He slept through the WHOLE THING! What a dream baby. Just goes to show you - don't knock it till you try it!!!

PS: Frivolous pic of Don and Roger. Because I am SO excited about the premiere this Sunday. Does anyone else keep up with US TV series? Do you use BlackVPN, or watch illegally? I know, I know, I told you to watch local TV. But still!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Mini Mission # 6 - Watch TV

Tatort is a long running German crime show with a cult following.
Photo via Tangram
Generally, getting out of your apartment and experiencing life is one of the main goals of this blog. But sometimes, it's rainy. Or you're sick. Or you just don't feel like it. And that's ok too! On those days, hunker down and watch some TV. But here's the catch. For this mission, watch some local TV.

This mission is an easy one. Flip on your TV and watch something. Anything! The news, a dubbed sitcom, a documentary. Extra points if you watch the whole show. If you don't have a TV, watch a show online or head to a local bar and watch the TV there (see also "become a regular") Don't worry too much about understanding everything. Remember, just like the go to the movies mission, this is not about getting the entire plot - just cuddle up on the couch and bask in the glow of your confusion.

Once you've mastered turning on the TV every now and then, find a show you like and watch it often. Don't miss a show! Once you've found "your show" you'll have an instant conversation topic with your new local friends - or at least they'll have something to laugh at you about in case your favorite is a cheesy reality TV show.

What show did you watch? Are there any local television series that have you hooked?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Inspired to...

This week, I am inspired to...

...use this service to travel without luggage (how cool is that?) via @joannagoddard

image via Cup of Jo

...visit the Chinese-Portuguese mishmash of Macau (and the food looks delish too...) via @runawayjuno

image via Runaway Juno
...stock up on Easter accoutrements at Munich's Viktualienmarkt (this one is totally doable for me - just around the corner!) via @laurel_robbins

image via Monkeys, Mountains and Maultaschen up on these international food etiquette rules via MSNBC

Photo via MSNBC

...and visit Rome (but avoid these tourist pitfalls!) via @traveldudes

Image via Travel Dudes
What were you inspired to do this week?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Mini Mission # 5 - Become a Regular

Image via Film Intuition
Walking into a familiar place is a great feeling. Part of what makes living abroad so challenging is the lack of familiarity - it can be really alienating to feel like a stranger in your own city. I've found that it really helps to find a few places to make my own. I have my local café, my favorite flower stand - and my local bakery even knows my regular morning breakfast order. There's something comforting about nodding hello to your local café owner and the other regulars every morning that makes you feel like, well, a local!

Your mission is to go out and become a regular. Somewhere. Anywhere! Choose a destination, and stick with it - make it part of your daily routine to visit your new "place". Maybe your local bar or newsstand, or possibly a kiosk that carries your favorite brand of chewing gum. Nod hello and soon you'll be getting nods in return - and maybe you'll even get some new friendships out of it.  At the very least, you will feel more at home, and probably also feel more comfortable practicing your language skills - but don't forget to say no to English!

Are you a regular anywhere?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Fearless Friday

Photo via Olivija Cepaite 
What are your plans for Fearless Friday?

Today I am going to attend an open house for a daycare - I am intimidated by the idea of meeting other parents and introducing ourselves to the teachers in German, but i'm going to do it anyway.  We are having a heck of a time finding a daycare center for our son - but we won't be needing one for at least another 9 months, so I am trying to stay calm about it.

What are you going to tackle? If you are out of ideas, check out our mini missions for some inspiration.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Mini Mission # 4 - Say no to English

image via Rick Steve
If you're anything like me, being constantly surrounded by a foreign language can be both intimidating and exhausting. I know I used to feel trapped knowing that wherever I went, I would have to struggle to speak or ask a question.

I was often so relieved when I was presented with the opportunity to use English - with a kind store owner, while asking directions, or even the option to change an electronic ticketing machine to English.

But after awhile I realized that I was missing so many opportunities to practice speaking by choosing to revert to English when possible.

Your challenge for this mission is to say no to English, when it's available, at least once. This means answering back in the foreign language, even if the person you are speaking with is clearly an excellent English speaker - or simply resisting the temptation to switch the ATM to English. If you make this a habit, you will find your foreign language confidence sooner than you think.

Share your "say no" experiences in the comments!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Inspired to...

...document my travels (hopefully) soon with the much anticipated Instagram app for Android

photo via Gizmodo

...visit at least a few of these 45 Places to Go in 2012

Image of Portovenere, Italy via New York Times

Photo via The Frugal Traveler
...tour Northern California Wine Country (via @budgettravelsac)

image via The Traveling Philosopher 
...and to take a food-driven vacation (via @foodieintl)

image via Foodie International

What were you inspired to do lately?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Mini Mission # 3 - Eat Something Weird

Photo c/o Wikipedia
Even the most adventurous eaters have a food that is popular in their new home, that they wouldn't dare to eat. Leberwurst? Durian? Haggis? Well in this challenge, your job is to eat one of those foods. Maybe you don't have to start with the scariest of foods. But branch out!

Here's what you do: head to your local grocery store, and roam the aisles. Pick up a few items that look mysterious or even slightly scary. Bonus points if you order something from the deli counter. Buy your mystery item(s) and head back to the safety of your home to give your new item a try. If it's awful, there's no shame in spitting it out and brushing your teeth. But who knows? Maybe those Botamochi or that Mole sauce will become your favorite new dish (this happened to me with Leberwurst!). And if not? At least you can say you tried - and you will know what to avoid on the menu next time.

If you are feeling extra brave, try this mini mission at a restaurant, and pick an item randomly off the menu. Enjoying your mystery eats? What's the weirdest thing you've ever eaten? Is there any dish that seemed totally strange to you when you arrived in your new home, that now seems totally normal?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

My Weekend in Pictures

discovered the cutest pants in our used baby clothes stash
posed with the giant Mozartkugel in Salzburg
Roamed the streets of Salzburg with my parents...
...oogled tulips the market
...and took sleepy angelic pictures of our little one

What did you do this weekend?

Friday, March 9, 2012

Fearless Friday

Our son sleeping on his first train ride
Inspired by a number of other blogs, we will be hosting a Fearless Friday over here at the Wayfarer's Handbook. This means that on Friday, we will all get out there and do something we've been afraid to do - perhaps one of the particularly daunting mini missions - or even just running an intimidating errand. Share what you did in the comments or on twitter with the #fearlessfriday hashtag.

As for me? Today, we took our seven week old baby on his first train. I was nervous to do this - I didn't know what to pack, how to handle it if he started to scream, if there would be a spot for our stroller, if it would be too crowded... but I bit the bullet and did it and, as is so often the case - it wasn't nearly as scary as I'd imagined.

And the greatest part about doing something that scares you? When it's a success (which it most often is) you can finally add it to the list of things you can get out and do.

Did you tackle something fearless today?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Mini Mission # 2 - Go to the movies

Photo c/o xjuggler
This mission is all about getting out there and being totally ok with not understanding what's going on. Going to a movie in another language can seem really intimidating, but it's actually a great way to practice your language skills in the comfort of a dark room full of strangers. As a little bonus, you have to practice buying tickets and snacks too. 

Here's what you do: find the nearest movie theater and check out their schedule. Choose a movie appropriate to your language skills - if you're a true beginner, choose a children's animated film, or even something you've already seen that has been dubbed in the local language! You can either go alone or with a buddy - maybe even a local friend so you can whisper plot related questions at them throughout the movie, although sitting alone in the theater means that you don't have to admit to anyone that you have no idea what's going on. Action movies are often light on dialog as well. Once you've made your choice, head to the theater and purchase your tickets. Extra credit for successfully ordering gobs of unhealthy snacks (you've earned it!). And now - sit back and enjoy. 

In this mission, your goal should not be to understand the whole (or even any) of the movie. Your aim should be to watch the pretty pictures and get really comfortable with not knowing what is going on. It's ok to not understand! Once you have mastered the art of being comfortably oblivious, your life in your new home will become much easier. Of course watching a movie is great language practice, so don't be afraid to use those language skills if you have them! But don't hang on every missed word - a general gist is absolutely a commendable achievement. After the film is over, take a deep breath - the dubbing may have been horrible, but now you can stop turning down all your local friends' invites to the cinema!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Small victories

Have you had any small victories lately? You know the ones I'm talking about - you get out and do something you've been scared to do, or you have an unexpectedly fluent language moment, or you discover a new local hangout - anything. 


Photo c/o William Murphy
My latest was at our local flea market - bargaining makes me irrationally nervous, not to mention bargaining in another language! But there was this book that I really wanted to buy and so I bit the bullet and bargained it down to 2 euros! It's so easy to shy away from challenges when you are abroad - everything is just so much harder than normal and I often think "I'll cut myself some slack and skip that.." but really, it's worth it to push through that fear, the results are never as scary as I think, and usually I get something excellent out of it - like the fantastic vintage book about the Bavarian alps that I carried home from that flea market.

I think it's so important to celebrate those moments, even if they might seem so banal to non-expats or more experiences wayfarers abroad. Have you had any recent small victories?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Inspired to...

So many blogs post an "inspired by" weekly edition. Over here at the Wayfarer's Handbook, we'll be posting an "inspired to" segment - because our goal here is not just to observe - we get out there and DO. Here are some posts from around the blogsphere that inspire us to get out there and experience. So without further ado, this week we are inspired to:

Go winter hiking in the German alps... I don't think it would be too cold - but I might be nervous about an avalanche...

Play "find the airport" on Mapcrunch. Do you think you could find an airport after being plopped onto a random street on Google Street View?

Visit the Jurassic Coast - what spectacular views.

And make a city in a box for a friend moving abroad. I would even like to do this for myself! Or for a visitor. What a great idea!

Have you been inspired to get out and do something this week?

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