Finally, here I am.
Sat here at my brand new IKEA desk in my shiny new apartment on the outskirts of Cologne. And, I’ll tell you what…I couldn’t be happier.
There is a new car smell on everything. Even the streets and the shops and the staircases that I’ve already seen a hundred times before seem to spark a child-like giddiness inside me.
This is the first time I’ve ever moved out from home: I never went to University, and while I’ve spent a lot of my life in hostels, my home was always my bedroom in Salford. It’s a new experience for me, and I like it a lot.
Even the small things, like setting up a German bank account and unpacking my old socks into a new drawer seem to fill me with joy.
But let me first take you back a step and tell you how I got here, shall I?
Getting to Germany
On Friday afternoon my Mum, her husband and I rented a van, loaded it up and set off on the drive to Germany in the early hours of Saturday morning.
The drive from Manchester to Cologne is nowhere near as long as you’d think it is. Just 10 hours door to door. That’s not taking into account your Mother’s walnut-sized bladder. Or, just how often a six foot five guy shoved into the front of a Vauxhall Vivaro will need to stand up.
When you factor that in, it took us 12 hours.
Why did we drive instead of just shipping my stuff? Well, I’d like to say it’s because it was cheaper, or because it just wasn’t feasible to ship my stuff. But, the truth is, it was a bit of an adventure.
If you’re planning to move to Germany I’d suggest you ship your stuff because it is probably cheaper, and less strenuous, than driving as I did. But, for me, it was the most fun way to say goodbye to living in England.
By driving, we were able to go across the Channel Tunnel, something I’d never done before. We got to drive the length of Belgium, a country I’ve never seen before and spend some quality time with my Mum before a long stint without going home.
You should also take into account the fact I’m quite impatient and waiting for my stuff to ship was never an option. I just wanted to unload the van and leave my mark on our apartment as soon as possible.
But coming in the car was a lot of fun and, after the first coffee at Stafford Services, it finally began to feel like the adventure it was.
The Channel Tunnel (Le tunnel, if you like French) is an interesting device. It’s how I imagine a Pringle feels inside a tube. You’re stacked in your car, behind other cars, and air sealed in until you suddenly arrive in France thirty-five minutes later.
Belgium is also the flattest place I have ever seen. We drove from one end of Belgium, to the Dutch border and into Cologne, and I tell you I didn’t see a single hill for all of it. At least in Texas, there were some large buildings to add depth to the place.
The final, quite funny, thing about driving there is driving a right-hand drive van, on the wrong side of the road, in the middle of the night. Perhaps it was the tiredness that made us hysterical, but you couldn’t help but laugh at the fact it all felt a little like you’re sat on a roller coaster going in the wrong direction.
In any case, here I am. And like I said earlier, it’s a great feeling.
The Constant Question…”How’s Germany looking, James?”
If I’m honest, it looks a lot like the inside of IKEA. I never knew you could spend so long picking out stuff for your apartment. Let alone getting home and having to pay for the pleasure of building your furniture.
But the apartment is finally the way we want it to look – with a few exceptions – and I can begin to stop looking at the inside of the apartment and start paying attention to the outside world again.
If I’m honest, I’m still a little nervous about living here.
When you travel alone, you find yourself in hostels and social environments. You’re never more than three or four meters away from someone who wants to get drunk and call you their new best friend.
But when you live in a country, you have to find all of the social activities and make friends for yourself. Something you take for granted when you realise that all of your current friends have come through fortuitous circumstances, or going to school.
I’m sure I’ll make it work, though.
By the time you read this article, I’ll be in the midst of my Month without English. A challenge I’ve taken on in conjunction with my friends over at Fluent in 3 Months. While I can read and write in English for work, the rest of it has to be in German. So, I’ll be writing about that in the coming weeks.
Also, my next major step is to get myself down to a Rugby team. For one, it’ll rid my of my incredible beer gut I’ve developed over Christmas and moving. And it’ll be the first social activity where I can practice my German and get to know people.