Lately there have been a few situations where I’ve been asked how long I’ve been in Germany. At a birthday party recently an American and I got chatting and the inevitable question came up “So how long have you been here?”. I can’t remember who asked first, she me or me she. She’s here over twenty years. I’m the new girl. After that there was the interview for a local project on non-nationals in our village. The interviewer is in Germany almost 30 years. I’m the new girl. Then came an e-mail was a lovely reader who contacted me about life in Germany. She’s here less than two years. She’s the new girl.
I know exactly that I moved to Germany in June 2003. It was the tenth of June to be exact. But sometimes I forget how long ago that is and am jolted back to my senses by little things. Like when I see the neighbour’s son who was three when I moved here and I freak out that he is driving a car. Or someone asks me how long I’ve been in my job and I blurt out “Almost 12 years” before having a sharp intake of breath and a slightly dizzy feeling. Or when my wedding anniversary rolls round – 11 years this year. There’s no point in my asking myself “Jesus, how did that happen?”. I know how it happened. I know because I remember.
I remember the exciting adventure of that first six months. No money, no furniture, no job at first. But hey, I had my love to keep me warm, as the song goes. At 24 that’s ok.
I remember the 25 months of internship to get a foot in the door. Four hundred and seventy three is a number I will never forget. My after tax pay per month for a year. The workload, the overtime and the trying hard. Then the joy at my gross pay being doubled. Eight hundred and fifteen net.
I remember handing in my notice and leaving the next day. One hundred and two. The overtime I had built up working my ass off for an ungrateful corporation who had any number of applicants to replace me.
I remember starting my current job. Two years and nine months. The length of time it took for the company to give me a permanent job. The worry every three to six months whether the contract would be extended. The constant cloud of uncertainty that followed me, making me put off having a baby. Making me worry that this was my life now, this never ending series of contracts and knock backs.
I remember wondering how long is long enough to put up with this. How long before I can say I gave it a go and it didn’t work. How long before I fit in.
I remember Baby Number One and the feeling of finding my feet.
I remember Baby Number Two arriving in the middle of buying our first home.
I remember Baby Number Three being a total surprise and giving me the extended parental leave that made me feel like it was all worth it. That the long and bumpy road I have travelled in Germany was indeed the one to follow. That the wrong turns I thought I had taken didn’t lead me to where I thought I wanted to go. They took me somewhere better. Where I’m not the new girl anymore.