A Year In Review: How My Life As An Expat Has Evolved

Okay, okay, I know…

I’ve been a pretty naughty blogger.

My last post was a year ago, and that was about why I hadn’t written anything in the five months prior to it. What gives?

Well, I’ll hold my hands up and admit that life really got in the way. I started two new businesses (a school for writers and a company for runners), which really took up most of my life.

This blog has always been a passion project, and was designed to be fun. When it stopped being fun, well…I had to make an executive decision.

Thankfully, life has died down a little bit and I’m able to write a little more on the blog again. Whether that’s weekly, bi-weekly or monthly I don’t know, and I won’t make any promises.

But, for the most part, I’d like to say I’m back!

To kick things off I want to share a little bit about the last 12 months in Germany. What I’ve been doing, what I’ve learned and what’s new in my life!

So, let’s go…

#1: I’ve Been Working Hard On My German

I spent a lot of time trying to get my German to a “good-enough” level. I spent a month speaking only German, buckled down, and in a few months I found myself in a place where I was fluent, but by no means perfect.

But the last few months I’ve spent a lot of time working on reading, listening and conversing in German to really fine tune my knowledge.

I’ve been:

  1. Reading teen-fiction (Skullduggery Pleasant was a great place to start)
  2. Listening to Podcasts for Native speakers (Fest und Flauschig is my go to!)
  3. Watching German TV series (Babylon Berlin is brilliant)

And it’s really helped me improve my grammar, vocabulary and confidence when speaking. I’ve still never taken an official test – I have no desire or need to – but I’m definitely up at the high C1 levels now. So much so, I was able to convince two native speakers I was German for five minutes at a time.

However, most people just think I’m Dutch.

I stand by my adage that speaking is the best way to becoming proficient in German. The best learning experience for me was a week I spent in the Blackforest with my girlfriend’s family, where we only spoke German. I even learn a little dialect, too!

#2: Brexit Is Still The Hot-Button Topic For Germans

As soon as I tell a German person I’m from England, I get hit with the question, “Brexit, hey? What’s happening there? Do you have a plan?”

To lay this to rest once and for all, I’m going to share the answer I give everybody.

I have no idea what’s going on. I moved here legally. Nobody knows what’s happening. It’s a royal mess. We’ll see what happens. Probably, nobody will die.

#3: I Got A Pretty Fun Rugby Injury…

As you might remember, I’ve been playing Rugby in Germany for a while now. It was one of the best ways for me to meet people, and I could take part in the sport which had been in my life for 13 years.

james rugby

But, in May, I was in a pretty nasty Rugby accident where I got a knee directly to the face. I was unconscious for a few seconds, which resulted in a bleed on the brain, a broken nose, a fractured eye socket and some shoulder damage to boot.

Here’s the wonderful moment caught on camera, with the aftermath:

james johnson head injury

That moment marked the end of my (pretty un-) illustrious Rugby career. But it also sparked the start of a new passion for me…

#4:…But I Ran The Cologne Half Marathon

To keep my newly injured self from getting fat and unfit, I took up running. It’s one of those things I spent my entire life convincing myself I could never do, but eventually, I became pretty confident with it.

So I entered myself into the Cologne half marathon and finished with a time of 01:56:15. Which, for a big guy, I’m pretty damn proud of:

james johnson cologne half

It’s been an incredible way to get to know Cologne as a city better, as well. I’ve found parks and lakes and twists and turns which would otherwise have passed me by.

I’ve also learned that, although my impression of German men was that they are, on the whole, tall and well-built men, absolutely none of their sports shops cater to a XL and XXL sizing. Weird. Probably going to need to move to Germany and start Dutchified instead.

#5: I Love Cologne…But I’m Not Against Moving Away

If you were in Germany over the winter of 2017 and into 2018 you know it was the winter that never ended. Here in Cologne it was dull, grey, wet and miserable for the most part. And even though it kept threatening to become Summer, it never happened. Cologne is a wonderful place to be in the summer, but in winters like that, it’s pretty dire.

Before you say it, I know. I’m English and I should be used to that. But still.

It’s also not a great place for freelancers. There are coffee shops, but there’s not much of a coffee shop culture where you can go and sit and write and chill and work comfortably. (If I’m wrong, please correct me and show me examples. There must be something huge I’m missing.)

So, I’m completely open to options to move away. Even if it means I don’t dress like like for Carnival:

james pig carneval

#6: Mostly, I’ve Just Been Getting On With Life…

One of the problems with documenting your life is that, you become so focused on recording it, you forget to live it.

When writing Deutschified I became so intent on finding a blog post or an angle to what I was going that, well…I stopped enjoying the moment I was in. This was a big driving force behind my hiatus.

But I’m here, I’m settled, and I’m ready to write again.

So that’s what I’ll do.