This week and next, I’m off traveling through Europe. So I thought I would ask some of my blogger friends who are also Americans living abroad to guest post for me. Kristin is the first of three. Enjoy!
My name is Kristin Kohler and I am the blogger behind Countdown to Friday. I am so excited that Nina invited me to participate in the blogger series about expat life! It has been one of my dreams to live abroad, and while it isn’t perfect, it’s been an amazing experience so far.
I moved to Germany last summer because my husband got stationed here with the military. Lucky me! I was able to get a full time job, so I spend week days working in an office. In my free time I love fashion, spending time with my pup, Rascal, and Netflix marathons.
Obviously I started a fashion blog because I love, well, fashion. I think it’s important for women to know that they don’t have spend a lot of money to look great and feel good about themselves, no matter what the occasion. I love making my wardrobe into a versatile collection of trendy, but practical items that I can wear to work and casually. But there’s a deeper reason that really pushed me to start the blog. After moving to Germany I started to feel like I had less control in my life. I wanted to challenge myself in a new way and have creative ownership of something. It’s been an interesting journey, since I’ve discovered that you don’t have control of a lot of things when blogging! But I enjoy it nonetheless, and I’m so glad I started.
Now that you know a little bit about me, I’ll tell you 5 things I love about expat life and 5 things that can be a bummer.
5 Expat Life Loves
I have always had the travel bug, and living in Europe has made me even more travel obsessed. Since living here we have travelled throughout Germany, and then to France, Sweden, Austria, Italy, and the Czech Republic. One of my favorite trips was to Champagne, France. We were able to drive there with our dog, and then after buying a few cases (okay, a lot of cases) of champagne, we loaded up the car and brought it all home. We’re headed to Budapest for New Years, and have some great ski trips planned for the winter.
2. Doner Kebab
You haven’t had fast food until you have had doner. It’s a Turkish meal of rotisserie meat usually put into a pita with veggies and yogurt sauce. OMG you’ll never want McDonald’s again after having one of these! And they’re usually less than 5€. If you’re visiting Europe you should definitely grab one for a quick bite, but look up the best ones in the area, as all doner is not created equal!
3. Cultural Immersion
When you go on vacation for a week or so, it’s hard to get a strong feel for the culture. You’re probably staying in a hotel, visiting the major tourist spots, and speaking English the whole time. But living here in Germany I’ve gotten to experience so much more of their day to day life. I shop at local grocery stores (which usually takes me forever to translate the labels and make sure its what I need), order coffee at a cafe and sit to enjoy it (‘to go’ coffee is not the European way), and take my dog with me to restaurants and stores (it’s allowed here). Learning and living the Bavarian way here and that is really a cool thing to do, and I hope to take some traditions back home with me to the states.
4. Hidden Gems
This is definitely related to #1 on this list, but is something that’s a little more specific. Because we live here, we’re able to find out about the little sights that you would never read about online. There are lots of castle ruins you can stumble upon, and picturesque towns with cobblestones and old churches. Europe has so many little secrets and hidden gems that are fun to stumble across. One of my favorite lesser known sights is Karlovy Vary, a spa town in the Czech Republic. You can read a few travel blogs about it online, but it’s still not that famous. I wrote about my trip there with my family in this blog post, and just went back this past week.
I’m partial to white wines, and Germany is renowned for their crisp, refreshing white varieties. You may have heard of Riesling, but there’s also Silvaner, Müller-Thurgau, Bacchus, and more. And if that’s not what I’m craving, the grocery store is full of tons of wine from all over Europe. Fancy a Chianti from Italy or a Cab Sav from France? No problem. The real kicker is that so many of these options are under 10€. Our favorite wine is a Silvaner from the Zotz winery, and it’s usually around 7€. I think finding a really good wine for less than $10 is difficult in the states, so if you’re a wino you need to get to Europe stat!
5 Expat Life Misses
1. Family and Friends
I think this is the reason more people don’t live abroad. It’s so hard to move away from your family and friends. Even if you don’t live in the same state as them to begin with, knowing that seeing them means a trip across an ocean is a lot to take in! Technology is great nowadays where you can use Facebook Messenger to text loved ones, and you can also video Skype to see their faces. Scheduling when to do this is a pain with the time difference, but it’s great to be able to still connect with them often. My mom and sister did already come to visit, as well as a few friends, and we always have a great time.
2. Mexican Food
What I would give to have a meal from my favorite Mexican restaurant, Pancho Villa, right now! I’ve been to a few Mexican restaurants in Europe, and they just don’t cut it. Some grocery stores don’t even sell tortilla chips! On the flip side, I get to have a lot of outstanding authentic German, Italian, Greek, French, and whatever else you can think of cuisine. You win some, you lose some.
3. American Stores
As a budget shopper, places like Target, Home Goods, and Marshalls are some of my favorites for getting great deals. Those stores don’t exist here in Europe. They do have a version of TJ Maxx called TK Maxx, but it isn’t as widespread. I’ve tried to shop online with some stores that claim to ship to my address, but everything I put in my cart gets denied (looking very hard at you, Target, for disappointing me more than once!). But I have grown to love many European stores for shopping, such as H&M, Zara, and C&A. And I do have to give a shoutout to the Old Navy/Gap/Banana Republic community that ships to my address and has free returns.
4. Sunday Blues
In the area of Germany I live in, almost everything is closed on Sundays. Usually restaurants and gas stations are open, but no clothes shopping, grocery store runs, or sightseeing. When you work Monday through Friday, that means that you only have Saturday to get all your errands done. In the grand scheme of things it’s not that big of a deal, but as an American girl it takes some getting used to.
5. Electronic Conversions
I won’t bore you with the details of volts and hertz and watts when it comes to using my electronics over here. Just know that it can be annoying and a lot of appliances I brought from the states can’t be used here without the use of transformers, which are heavy and expensive. This mostly pertains to kitchen appliances, but can also apply to hair tools. I don’t want to buy a whole set of European standard appliances, so a lot of times I do without recipes that call for the use of them. My husband went through a pretty intense Williams Sonoma obsession phase, so we have a lot of nice kitchen appliances that are gathering dust in storage waiting to be used when we get back.
All in all, these ‘misses’ are nothing compared to the ‘loves’ list I started with. When I get sad about not having anywhere to go on Sunday, or not being able to use my panini press, or how I miss the Target clearance rack, I pour myself a glass of cheap and delicious wine, eat some doner, and plan out what country I’m going to travel to next!
If you would like to see more about my expat life, specifically fashion and travel adventures, head over to my blog, Countdown to Friday. You can also follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Bloglovin’. I hope everyone has a fantastic holiday and Happy New Year!