Dealing With “What Am I Doing Here” Moments

25 Oct

Here is a topic I have left hanging for a few weeks, although that has not stopped me from mulling over it.  I think everyone who moves to a new country ends up at some point asking themselves the same question: What am I doing here?

How to define a “what am I doing here” moment?

These are not generally particularly negative situations, but situations that seem funny or strange to you.  These are the times when you just nod and smile, ask yourself what just happened, or wonder why you are the only one in the room who does not find something normal while everyone else does.  Even if things are going well and you are generally happy in your new home, these fleeting moments of self-doubt just seem to be part of the package.  After all, if every culture were the same, traveling just would not be as fun.

Here are a few of my recent “what am I doing here” moments:

1.  Getting scolded by bus drivers – the unspoken rule of staying off a “full” bus.

I take the bus into town everyday.  However, this is also the favorite means of transportation for hundreds of school children!  They do not have a separate school bus system here, and this makes for some very crowded buses in the morning, and grumpy bus drivers.  Here is the lesson I learned: If you do not want to be scolded, do not try to get on a crowded bus.  The driver will definitely scowl.  Gone are the days of squeezing myself like a sardine into Parisian public transport.

2.  Credentials that are lost in translation

Recently, we worked on writing a short resume in my German class.  When the teacher got to the name of the university where I did my Master’s in Paris, I could sense some hesitation.  I figured she had just never heard of it (sigh).  In reality it was worse!  She ended up misreading it, and saying the name as Sciences P-O, reading out each of the last two letters separately (‘po’ is short for politiques).  This puzzled me at the time.  Some further research revealed the why.  It turns out “Po” is German for “bottom”! From now on, I will be putting the full name, and not the abbreviated version, on my German CV….

3.  Getting “dinged” at by bicycles on the sidewalk

People can and do ride their bikes everywhere here, and bike trails are often traced on the sidewalk.  I quickly learned to stay off the orange parts, which are reserved for bike traffic.  Bikes will run over you (it is their right, after all, you are on their territory…), but the upside is that they will ding their bell at you to warn you first.

4.  The default “Hausfrau” label

Here, people seem to label all women who are not currently employed (but married) as housewives.  This seems like a perfect solution to me if you want to keep unemployment numbers down, but not a very progressive one.  I am just crossing my fingers I will find a job soon and shake the housewife status before it sticks.  I am just not a Hausfrau at heart (even if I totally respect those who are).


Do you have any “what am I doing here” moments from your travels or experiences abroad to share?  If so, please do!




6 Responses to “Dealing With “What Am I Doing Here” Moments”

  1. kathleen October 25, 2010 at 4:12 pm #

    fascinating. love hearing about your adventures – and misadventures! a full bus! WHA????….

  2. Karl October 25, 2010 at 5:22 pm #

    A very interesting message this time on the blog. We all have our moments when we wonder about things…..

  3. E. October 25, 2010 at 9:38 pm #

    I totally had the same experience when I went to Copenhagen ; Bikers there gave me a real fright : you never see them coming, they’re always on the sidewalk, plus the fact that they don’t care about which side of the road they roll on, therefore very often, my boyfriend had to literally lift me up from their path !!

    Fleeting moments of doubts in Italy were numerous, the worst one would be the one when I tried really hard to understand the school system, university there was just a big pile of mess, and when I look back at this period of my life, I’m not sure if I ever did get it… It was above my level of understanding.
    Also, the fact that girls my own age were obsessed by marriage and kids, and were studying only to find husbands and did not really care about theirs studies, or any over kind of hobbies, for that matter, was very disturbing. I did get along with older girls though, probably lesbian ones from what I recall…
    And I had a big cultural schock when I realised that one of my roommates spent all of her free time in church. She was obsessed with religion. Once, I went to this really huge market with her, to buy clothes, shoes, accessories, she wouldn’t buy anything, and she had to go twice to mess the next day, because she had missed her daily mess while we were at the market… That was quite disturbing for me, the “no-religion” girl…

  4. y October 25, 2010 at 9:40 pm #

    Seems you dont like here;-) Maybe you should move out of the city, to live in a small village;-) It will be a lot of fun, and with nice local Bavarians. If you have time, try to go to Tegernsee,or Bayrischzell—- beautiful! It will make you feel better here.

    • bavariaundercover October 26, 2010 at 5:08 am #

      Hi! Don’t worry there are plenty of things I love about Germany, and I’m having a great time learning the language and traveling around a bit! Thanks for the advice. It’s true that it is still difficult to meat “locals”, especially since my language skills are still rudimentary. However, we’ll actually be moving next week to a village and I’m looking forward to the change. Thanks for the advice.

  5. Gram/PopPop October 28, 2010 at 6:32 am #

    wuddya mean??? no job? your job is blogging!
    and it’s hard work!

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