The Cologne House Hunt

If I have only one complaint two complaints about Cologne, it’s that people smoke way too much, and the housing market is a complete nightmare. In no other country I’ve moved to have I felt the possiblity of being homeless so keenly!

To spare you the drama, let me just say that I’ve already been lucky enough to find a lovely house right in the middle of old town. Cobblestone streets, old buildings, reading nooks, live sports showings, birds, the river … I can’t really complain!

But getting here has been one psychological nightmare ride full of sleepless nights and anxiety ridden tears. It’s not just the housing market here is so limited or that most houses have been repurposed for students who have no desire to host couples, it’s also that scammers thrive in this situation.

I was approached by many of these with lovely photos of stunningly furnished houses for such reasonable prices you can’t help but respond. If I wasn’t so good at rooting out catfishers (it was literally my job for a while), I’d be a few thousand Euros poorer.

The approach was quite creative. They’d say they were European and had only just bought and furnished the house, but that they’d gotten an unpassable opportunity abroad. So they thought of renting their house out through AirBnb. However, if someone is interested in it long term, they could also do it through the same way.

Now, if you’re deseperate for a house and hear the words AirBnb, you automatically trust that this is legit. But if you’re someone who actually uses airbnb, you suddenly start to smell something dodgy!

I also came across a second scam where they ask you to transfer money through western union. Apparently bank statements are not legit proof you have enough money to pay for a house.

When I asked why a money transfer, this is what they said.

While I hope that no innocent house seeker buys into these thinly veiled scams, it definitely made good conversation starters. And for that, I’m grateful.

The German Maibaum Tradition

The thrill of living in a new country is always unparalleled. Once you get a hit of this drug called travelling, you’d never really get tired of the highs it brings you. When you invest time and effort in getting past the anxiety, the fear of the unknown, the battle with unfamiliarity, the feeling of being a stranger, you will have a bucketload of endless discoveries to make. And there is no joy more fulfilling than that.

Germany has been similar to me in terms of the journey I make in every new country that I live in, but the familiarity of the process of learning – be it a new language or a local tradition you had never heard about, I wouldn’t trade it for anything else.

One of the most heartwarming traditions here (to me), is the Mai Baum. I went to bed on the night of the 31st, and when I woke up on the 1st of May, there were birch trees in every other garden decorated with colourful crepe paper, and a bright red wooden heart with a lady’s name on it.

I later found out that Maibaum is a tradition going back to the 16th century, and that I had just witnessed the 21st-century version of it. In the modern-day version of it, a man in love with a woman buys a birch tree, decorates it and writes her name on her heart, and then has to wait till the lady (and her family) are asleep before leaving it in her balcony or garden. They have to then guard it overnight so that other men in love with her or just mischief makers who are looking to make a quick buck steal it from where it is.

I heard that in the countryside, it gets a bit more exciting. The boy has to not only buy a tree without raising suspicion, and decorate it so no one sees it, he has to also sneak up to her roof overnight and place it there. If he is so unlucky so as to have his tree taken hostage, he has to buy it again from the treenapers!

The exciting part of it being brought to the present day is that now even girls can participate in this tradition. Every 4 years, it is the girl’s turn!

Do you have a labour day celebration like this where you’re from? I’d love to hear about it!

Hello From Deutschland

A winter sunset in Köln

I have been keeping my move under wraps for many months – partly so as not to jinx it, and partly because I was so sure I would fail. But it has happened, and I am here.

My work situation had become unbearable, and while Bangkok was great and I loved that big city, it became quickly apparent that what both of us were looking for was a bit more stability. I never thought I’d be the one to say it, seeing as I moved countries every 2 years previously. However, it just struck me that there is more to life than being a slave to a corporate during my young and best years.

The result is this gamble.

I don’t really have a job, I’m not really a student, and I can’t really tell what the next year will look like. But, I am free from a job that affected my mental and physical health, I am closer to my partner’s family, and closer to my niece, the apple of my eye.

And while winter like this is something to get used to, I am now in a unique position to consider extraordinary what most people in the blogosphere consider normal. It’s interesting to watch people’s reactions when I call something regular “exotic”.

Like this warm reception I received when I first landed here.

For those who often look at social media feeds and wonder at the big adventure that is my life, I have this to say – it isn’t. It’s gut-wrenching and soul-crushing, you don’t really get to see the blood, sweat and tears that go behind a big move. It isn’t easy, it isn’t fairy-tale like. I have had to take big risks and giant leaps. But if there’s one piece of unsolicited advice I can give you, it is this – take those risks.  You will look back on those gambles as the best times in your life.

Reflecting on a year of gratitude and self care

Some food for thought on self-care in 2018! Take care of you!

From Outside The Mall

At the beginning of 2017, I had not made any resolutions. In fact, a resolution kind of followed me and made me adhere to it! I began to maintain a daily gratitude journal simply because my soul was begging me to. I’d say I wrote regularly for almost 7-8 months. You can read about it here – “800 Positive Things in My Life”.

Another idea took root at the same time. I wanted to take care of me. So began my year of self-care. The year saw me go to physiotherapy, osteopath, massage therapy, women’s support group and a therapist. I also was regular with my yoga and daily walks after meals. My body had never looked and felt better! However, as the year passed, I began to go through a lot of stress in my professional life. I won’t go into the details, but in the end, I decided…

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N-N-1 October 31, 2017

This has been my favourite N-N-1 to date! Anyone up for a Christmas one?

The View from a Drawbridge

This was a fun post to write, because it took a village. In an atmosphere of increasing divisiveness, people from all walks of life, from all over the world, got together to do one thing: Take a photograph at 6 pm (their time zone) on the 31st of October. If you’re mathematically inclined, in N-N-1 the first N stands for the number of participants, the second for the number of photos (because those numbers should be the same), and the 1 stands for one time. These photos were sent to me, along with 50-100 words about them, so that we could share them all with you.

What I love most about this project is that we are all seeing different things at the same point in time. The world is so varied and nuanced, as are our lives, and yet we are all part of the human race. Thirteen responses…

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