How is it like to be an Expat?

Expatriates. Abroad. Different Culture. New Language. Away from home. Far from family and/or friends.

These are just some of the issues that expats around the globe are currently experiencing.

I know it because I am an expat myself. Actually, I have been an expat since 2016. Kinda long now and to tell you the truth, my journey has not been so smooth and easy.

The beginning of my expat life was difficult, especially in terms of language barrier and socialization. When I was still in Hong Kong, I found Cantonese and Mandarin so difficult, that I gave up the thought of learning them someday. Going to local restaurants and buying some stuffs in the wet market, dispensaries or some local shops gave me a hard time because of the language barrier.

I tried to buy fresh goods from two Hong Kong wet markets, but talking to the salespersons there was not that easy for me. They seldom spoke English and for me, that’s one hard thing to deal with. I ended buying a bulk, instead of only pieces because of the language barrier. It also happened to me in some dispensaries and supermarkets in Hong Kong. There were a few times that my fellowmen would save me from talking to the locals and explained to me what the salespersons wanted to tell me.

Not only Cantonese and Mandarin were difficult, but also German language, however, unlike the first two languages, I had the guts and time to study the latter. I spent hours at home and in school just to learn it. (Why? Because my husband is a German-speaker! Hahaha)

Aside from the language problem, I also had an issue with socializaton. I longed for moments like bonding with my dearest family, going out with friends, and spending time with colleagues and former students.

Most of the time, I was only with my husband and two Pinoy friends. Very seldom that I socialized with my husbands’ colleagues. Well, drinking and going to bars were not really my cup of tea; so, I declined the invitation. Not to mention my pregnancy which made me vulnerable during those times.

I also experienced some down and difficult moments like homesickness, boredom, and culture shock. Every time I saw photos of my friends’ families on Facebook and other social media, and whenever I saw families at the park or in the mall in Hong Kong, I got sad and felt the dreaded homesickness. Truly, it’s sad and a little boring to be away from home, but the fact that me having my own family gave me hope and happiness as well.

Facing a new set of rules, a different lifestyle, and a totally divergent culture almost made me rather weary and a bit shocked. I could still remember my first two months in Hong Kong and first month in Central Europe. Encountering some people who looked down on me, or scrutinized me just because I’ve got different color and nationality. Waaah, this I hated!

But I did not give up. It’s not because I had no other choices. It’s because I began to realize that I was actually blessed to be in different countries in the span of three years. I started to be positive, embraced the fact that I was not alone, and of course, adapted to changes around me.

Yes, expat life is difficult, but if I start thinking of those people wanting to be in my shoes, I just feel blessed. I have traveled and experienced a lot since 2016–going to Europe twice a year, visiting my family three or four times a year, having some Macau trips, and living in Hong Kong for three years to name a few. Wew! Not bragging though.

Here I am now, enjoying my life as an expat and a stay-at-home wife and mom. Thanks to my very supportive and loving husband. He and our kids serve as my inspiration for defying the challenges and solving the issues in my expat life.

And of course, thank you to Facebook, Messenger, Whatsapp and Twitter for connecting me to my loved ones and friends in the Philippines.

Above all, thank You, dearest Lord, for giving me this one great chance of traveling some parts of the world, and for entrusting me this expat life I have now.

.

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How to learn German (or Deutsch)

Hallo. Guten Tag.

Wie geht es Ihnen?

These are just some of the very common expressions in German language that you have to know once you aim to visit, work or live in Germany, Switzerland and Austria.

Deutsch ist schwer. 

Indeed.

Who says it’s easy? No one. Even the native speakers themselves. The grammar and structure of German sentences are definitely different from English. This makes it harder for English speakers to listen to, to speak, to read, and to write German.

But like what the famous German proverb says…

Aller Anfang ist schwer.

and German language is no exception. Learning the language at the beginning is really difficult, and encountering Native speakers with regional accent is more difficult than you could imagine. (Believe me!)

Anyway, for sure you have your own reason of learning Deutsch. Be it for work, for residence, for studies, for love life, and just for leisure. Whatever your reason is, you should remember these four things:

  1. Willingness. You should be willing to learn and explore the German language. Don’t just study it, but also enjoy the process of learning it. Embrace the fact that you are going through a beautiful change, from just speaking your mother tongue and second language into acquiring new knowledge and skills. Willingness will make it easier for you to be a German speaker yourself. Promise.
  2. Interest. Aside from willingness, interest is very important in learning a new language. Having an interest in studying Deutsch will surely pave way into a fruitful outcome, and that is to be fluent in German.
  3. Time. Willingness and interest are nothing if you lack time to study the language. Two hours of study per day can be very beneficial to your learning. Don’t make alibis like “I am busy;” “I have many things to do;” or “Maybe tomorrow or next time.” If you really want to be a German speaker, then allot time for it.
  4. Sacrifice. The above-mentioned values are incomplete without sacrifice. For sure, you will do a little bit of sacrifice along the way. This is imminent as you explore, study and learn Deutsch. But do not worry; whatever sacrifice you do for the sake of this language, that will not be wasted. In fact, it’s all worth it. Why? Because soon, you will harvest the fruit of your labor. Just wait a little. In time.

Be willing. Be interested. Have time. Do sacrifices. These four essential values, together with some sort of money (yes, you read it right, money! You also need this in studying), can make you fluent in Deutsch (German) someday.

For now, just keep on studying. Download mobile applications like Memrise, Drops, or Learning German with Anja. Moreover, read books such as German vocabulary for English speakers by Andrey Taranov; German Made Simple: Learn to speak and understand German quickly and easily by Eugene Jackson and Adolph Geiger; and Living German by Ed Swick.

Aside from reading books and downloading mobile apps, you can also browse Youtube to watch the videos of German speakers/teachers like Learn German with Anja video lessons, Learn with German with Jenny videos,  and Hello Deutschschule lessons.

In addition to that, try to listen to German songs, or read or watch German news so you can be more exposed to this language.

If you have extra  budget, you can enroll in a German school, so you can be with other students learning the language and of course, you can learn from a Native speaker (German teacher) well. Goethe-Institut, Berlitz Hong Kong, and Dr. Sackmann’s Language Classes are three of the schools in Hong Kong that specialize in German language study.

Most importantly, don’t be shy to speak the language. Practice. Practice. Practice. Warum? (Why?) Because practice makes things permanent. In case you are surrounded by German speakers, try to talk to them. You’ll learn easier.

Good luck to your German language study. Keep going and you’ll succeed in the future.

Viel Glück

und

auf wiedersehen. Tschüss.

-JL

Learning German in Hong Kong

Deutsch ist meine dritte Sprache.

German is my third language.

Ang Aleman ay aking pangatlong lenggwahe.

Learning German has never appeared in my thoughts before. But friends, I can speak German now, not that fluent but at least, conversational.

Why learning German?

Well, my husband’s mother tongue is Deutsch/German. Of course, I should learn his language as well. But this I have to tell you, it’s never an easy language. In fact, I find it hard to listen to German speakers especially when they talk fast.

Grrrrrr…….

and studying grammar is another hard task for me. It’s different from what I used to teach in school. Mixing English and German grammar rules makes it more complicated.

Why learning German?

Visa. Visa. Visa.

In order for me to obtain the National Visa or Visa D and Residence Permit, I needed to have a proof of my basic knowledge of German language. And how to have this proof? There’s only one way to get it, and that’s through passing the examination conducted by the Goethe Institut Hong Kong. Luckily, I passed the Start Deutsch 1 with 81 points (means good).

After passing the exam, I got my Goethe-Zertifikat A1 which, along with other necessary documents, was submitted to my husband’s consulate for visa application.

Before I was able to pass the exam, I had to do research, watched Youtube videos of Start Deutsch 1 exam, German speakers and teachers, installed and paid for language applications, and yes, I studied in a German school in Hong Kong. That’s every Sunday by the way. It took me six months to reach A2. A lot of work indeed. With a bunny to take care of, a husband to feed, and household chores to do and maintain, it’s a struggle.

Learning German was my first step to achieve what I’d longed for– a residence in my husband’s hometown. Now, I’m here living with my own family.

It’s worth all the effort, money and sacrifice.

Lastly, why learning German?

German is very important to learn because everyone around me speaks this language. Communication is essential, and the only way to communicate well is through this language. Every document, every post or mail, each recipe, each news, all road signs, all bank transactions and the like are written and spoken in German. Do I need to say more? I have already stated the obvious, I guess.

On my next blog, I will tackle the tips on how to learn German language. Please stay tuned.

Danke sehr. Thank you very much. Maraming salamat.

Auf Wiedersehen. Tschüss. Bye. Paalam.

-JL