Thursday, April 26, 2012

Mini Mission # 16 - Visit the Market

Markets are the first place I visit when I arrive in a city. They are my absolute favorite way to get an exclusive (and delicious!) glimpse into local life. But buying stuff at the market? Way. Scary. Similar to buying bread, purchasing items at the market can be pretty darn terrifying. The vendors talk quickly, there are hoards of people standing in line behind you, and there are no convenient price tags. But successfully obtaining the ingredients for a lovely picnic at the market - that is one fantastic feeling.

For this mission, head out to your local market - if you're brave, pick the loudest most bustling one - and buy some great food for an afternoon picnic or your evening dinner. Required language skills are minimal - you'll need your numbers, the names of a few food items and your good old pointing finger. If you visit the market often, you might even become a regular!

Was your market excursion successful? Which stand is the most intimidating? For me, it's the meat vendor!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Mini Mission # 15 - Order In

A telephone call in a foreign language is a terrifying thing. All the usual helpful nonverbal cues are missing and it's just you, the handset, and the voice at the other end of the line. This mission is meant to introduce you to the world of making a phone call in a foreign language in a controlled environment, and the bonus is that you can to enjoy some delicious delivery food as a reward.

The first step for the mission is to choose your delivery restaurant, find the menu online (or scan the pile of paper ones that surely land in your mailbox weekly), and choose what youd like to order. Refresh your vocabulary with numbers, the word for delivery and your address, and dial that phone! Don't worry, you'll do just fine - order what you'd like, hang up, and double cross your fingers that you got the message across. You'll find out when your order arrives at your door (or not!). 

Were you able to successfully order food? What is your favorite take out cuisine? In Germany, I like to order Thai food or Sushi for a change of pace...

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Mini Mission # 14 - Chat with an old person

Doesn't this Bavarian man look helpful?
Via Fotocommunity
Age is relative - but generally, the older the wiser. In my experience, the older generation is always very pleased to chat - at the supermarket in line for checkout, on the street when asking for directions, at a museum while strolling through an exhibit. It might be intimidating at first, since very often older folks don't speak English (you won't even have to say no!) but these are the people you want to be talking to - they have the best stories, the greatest sense of humor, and can tell you all about the "good old days".

For this mission, chat up an older person - you get to decide what qualifies as old, but I'd say go for someone that looks like they are at least at retirement age. What to say? Well, a good gateway is often to offer help. Hold a door, carry groceries, pick up a dropped item, and then reminisce for a few minutes how the days of chivalry are long gone. Or just smile and comment on the weather. Or ask directions. Pull all your small talk tricks out of the bag! You can do it, use the local language, struggle through, smile and nod, and then give yourself a BIG pat on the back.

Did you chat with someone? Tell your story!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Mini Mission # 13 - Go on a Photo Safari

Photo by me, taken on my public transit photo safari
Sometimes, a camera can be a really helpful way to observe your surroundings from a different point of view. This mission is all about changing perspective. Grab your camera (or even just your cell phone with camera function) and get snapping.

It helps to have a theme for your photo safari. Here are some ideas:
  • unusual doors
  • graffiti
  • interesting faces
  • fascinating transit stations
  • local food
  • tourist favorites from a new angle 
  • pets and their people

What did you photograph? I love taking pictures of interesting caf├ęs - the photos are great, and it helps me remember them later when I am looking for a cup of coffee. 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Mini Mission # 12 - Buy Something Big

Frivolous bike picture RatRodBikes
One of my proudest moments during my first few months living abroad in Germany was successfully purchasing a used bike. I found a store, walked in, and read shakily from a piece of paper the words "I would like to buy a used bike".  The kind owner showed me their bikes, pointed out a particular bright pink model for 35 euros, at which point I felt like I should act like I knew what I was doing and asked questions about the... what are those things called? Brakes, yes. And... those things over there? The lights, yes. At any rate, I left with a bike that served me well for years to come! (I named him Floyd)

Making that first big purchase can seem intimidating, but boy was I proud of myself - it's a great feeling to know that you can navigate even complicated purchases. So go on - what have you been eyeing? That fancy suit? A custom mural for your living room? A scooter? Go for it! Approach that shop, walk up to that sales person with your scrap paper language cheat sheet and act like you know what you're talking about. And remember - say no to English!

What did you buy (or at least pretend to want to buy)?

Monday, April 9, 2012

Mini Mission # 11 - Turn on the Radio

Love this family listening to the radio. Image via Otrcat
Radio is a fantastic thing. Listening to the radio in your home abroad will not only provide you with musical entertainment, it will also help you learn gobs about the musical preferences of the locals, keep you informed about current events, keep your language skills up to par and give you a window into the weird quirks of your country (in Germany, part of the traffic report lists items lying on the side of the road! Can you believe that? It's hilarious).

For this mission, turn on the radio, and listen. Maybe you can even find a favorite channel? Get to know the local hit music, try to catch snippets of the news, and impress your friends that you've memorized the lyrics of the latest pop single. And ENJOY!

Do you listen to the radio? Does your home country have a weird local radio quirk?

Friday, April 6, 2012

Fearless Friday

vintage butcher picture
Check out this vintage butcher's shop! Image via
Can you believe it's Friday again already? This week just flew by. Today is a holiday in Bavaria - what about your neck of the woods? For Fearless Friday this week, I ordered a specific cut of meat from the meat counter - specifically, rib eye steak. I know it sounds silly, but I find the meat counter to be SO intimidating (much less so than the bakery!), especially because I usually have no idea about the appropriate culinary vocabulary! But actually, it went really well - I got what I needed (yum!) and the butcher was really friendly. I'll have to try the fish monger next!

What did you tackle on Fearless Friday? Share your brave undertakings here in the comments or on twitter with the #fearlessfriday hashtag!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Mini Mission # 10 - Find Replacements

This post made me so hungry. Just like Lucy! Image via New Lantern
I know, we're all guilty of it as expats. There are items we just HAVE to have from home. I have a little list that I keep in the back of my mind, and whenever someone asks "I am going to the States, can I bring you anything?" I jump down their throats with "OH YES TWIZZLERS AND DEODORANT AND BROWN SUGAR ANDANDAND." 

And it's so lovely to have these things- they enable me to drink my coke through a candy straw and smell good and bake chocolate chip cookies for all my German friends. But there is something to be said for flexibility, no?  

When I first moved to Germany, the list of my "must-have products from home" was LONG. We're talking not only the above mentioned items, but also toothpaste, gum, baking soda, jeans, diet coke, ketchup, maple syrup..... seriously, a really long list. But then I figured out that they have colgate toothpaste at the stores in Germany! And baking soda is actually called "Natron" and you can get it everywhere. Moral of the story: I found replacements for most of my "must have from home" items and as a result, I felt so much less dependent on my poor fellow expats to schlepp me back my essentials. 

So this is your mission: choose one of your "must have from home" items and find a replacement in your new home! Food products are often really easy to replace if you do some googling. Often, the products you are looking for are actually available but they are sold under another name! And sometimes, you just have to let go - maybe you can get used to the taste of European Cola Light? Perhaps that weird herbal mint gum could grow on you? You'll be surprised how much your flexibility will open you up to new possibilities in your home away from home. If you want to take it a step further, make this mission a regular feature in your life, and do your best to "wean" yourself off of your home favorites. 

Let's be realistic - we will always have things we miss from home (as we should! Target! Sunday shopping!) but it feels great to free yourself from so many nostalgic necessities. 

What "from home" item did you give up and find a replacement for? What could you never live without?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Inspired to...

Install and use the new Instagram app for Android! Do you use Instagram? My username is bzbear2, if you're interested!

Image via Instagram sustainably! via @mydestination

Image via My Destination
Ask all the right questions at a job interview, via @offbeathome

Image via ME! 
... and finally visit Hamburg! via @Inspirngtrvlers

Image via Inspiring Travelers

What were you inspired to do this week?

Monday, April 2, 2012

Mini Mission # 9 - Spend an Entire Day Out of the House

We all feel cooped up after a while, right? Sometimes, living abroad and dealing with cultural differences, language confusion and sideways glances can make you feel like curling up on your couch and watching tv. But you know what? The sun in shining! Spring is in the air! It's time to get out of the house and soak up your surroundings.

For this mission, you'll need to spend the entire day out of the house. You can decide what "entire day" means - but let's say you should leave the house around breakfast time (maybe to buy some bread?) and stay out until it gets dark. It's totally up to you what to do with your time - perhaps you could go to the movies, or go to a bar? Simply get out there and explore - either use public transit or your own two feet, and see where you end up! You might even find a new place to become a regular.  The best part about this adventure is where you end up. Embrace the spontaneity! And make sure you say no to English!

Where did you go on your day out of the house?
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