Thursday, September 15, 2011

Sometimes being a foreigner means feeling like an idiot.

Do you remember the story of Brian  and I standing in front of the tram, waiting for the driver to open the doors, then it pulling away? Well, sometimes being a foreigner means feeling like an idiot. This has happened to me twice already today and it's only 11am. 

First, the cell phones (they are called Handys in Germany). With help from our friend Anne we ordered pre-paid cell phones a few weeks ago. We got our SIM cards in the mail with some instructions. I interpreted the instructions to mean that as soon as the phones arrive, we would put the SIM cards in them and call or go online to activate the account. So we have been waiting and waiting and wondering where the phones went. I tried emailing the company and calling with no success. Finally I emailed Anne to ask her to help. It turns out that we were supposed to register with the SIM cards and THEN they company would send us the phones. I could have done that three weeks ago! So I think I have registered one of them and am waiting for my customer log-in to kick in so I can register the other. I hope it works.

At the grocery store near our house they have some sort of a promotion where you collect stickers. When the cashier asks if I want stickers (I'm pretty sure that's what she is asking) , I just say no. Today when I was checking out she asked if I wanted the stickers and I said no. Then an old woman behind me in line looked at me and asked a question. I sort of stared blankly, shook my head, and said no.  That's usually what I do when people ask me questions that I don't anticipate. Then as I was walking home I realized that she was asking me if she could have my stickers since I didn't want them. What a jerk I am to say no!

There are some things that I do that I remember a lot of my new immigrant clients doing over the years. I carry my phone number and address with me on a little piece of paper in my wallet. I collect letters that I can't read and either wait for someone to help me with them. Sometimes type most of the letters into Google Translate to see if I can understand what they mean. I keep almost all the papers I get because I am not sure what's important and what's not.  I nod and say yes a lot even when I am not sure what's going on.

I hope that as time passes I will feel a little more competent doing day to day things here. But until then I think the best thing is to get comfortable with the fact that sometimes I really don't know what's going on.

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About Me

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Thanks for coming to my blog. It started as a way to keep in touch with family and friends, and now has become an ongoing project. I'm an American living in Germany and trying to travel whenever I can. I write about my experiences as an expatriate (the interesting ones and the embarrassing ones), and about my travels. There are some recurring characters in this blog, particularly my husband Brian and several of our friends. The title comes from the idea that living in a foreign country means making a lot of mistakes. So the things you used to do easily you now have to try over and over again. Hopefully, like me, you can laugh at how idiotic it feels. If you have happened upon my blog, then welcome. Knowing that people are reading what I write makes me keep going. Feel free to write comments or suggestions for future posts.