Dealing with those inevitable days of doubt

Writing this post has felt really important – vital even – both for me and you guys. Obviously I needed to figure out what I was feeling before I could make any further decisions about Germany. But also, for the sake of this blog, I wanted to be able to write an honest post about the lowest point in my German-life so far. I didn’t want to force it, so I’ve been waiting for the right words. And these are the words that came to me while I was trying to fall asleep last night. The title of this post is less of a statement and more of a question so if you’ve got answers I would really love to hear them in the comments.

At this point, after living here for six months, I really thought I was settling into a German-life. Aside from the occasional bout of homesickness, I thought I had managed to escape pretty much unscathed by negativity and doubt.

How wrong I was. Since coming down with a serious case of homesickness, I’ve fallen into a pretty deep funk. This post started out pretty light – it was supposed to be a simple and fun to-do list – but the more I worked on it the more confused I became. Finally, by the sixth draft I realized why I as struggling so much to write it down: I was doubting Germany and I was doubting if I’d be staying long enough for this post to matter. And then this realization led me further down this dark rabbit hole of doubt. How could I have literally just written about Germany feeling homey and now feel so unsettled, the most unsettled of all my time here?

The timing of this panic couldn’t be worse. The colorful, sunshiny phase one of German autumn has quickly been replaced with the cold, grey, wetness of phase two. And it’s a definite mood killer, enough to drive you insane, really. Stir crazy and sad at the least. That, coupled with the impending holidays-away-from-home anxiety, has caused me to tank pretty quickly in the last week. One week I was excitedly counting down the days until Glühwein and the next I didn’t want to leave my room, let alone the apartment.

Cold, grey autumn daySadness is a pretty powerful force. As of yesterday morning I had decided that six months abroad was plenty, a valiant effort really, but I belonged at home. I would be happier at home. Maybe I could even be home for Thanksgiving, that would be nice. All that was left was to book the flight.

But the more I thought about it and  tried to explain these feelings, the more I came to realize what the real problem was. Aside from the usual struggles with German, I was feeling unsettled because I had no routine, no purpose to my days. I also finally realized how sad I would be if I left. I’d miss Christmas with F’s family, my adopted cat Konrad, lunches with F, Weihnachtsmärkte and Glühwein, seeing the castle each day, Käsebrötchen. And there’s so much I still haven’t gotten around to doing.

I won’t pretend to know the answers to making these feelings go away – they’ve got to be a part of every expat’s life at some point – but I can share my plan with you. I’m not 100% sure about my future in Germany, but the goal right now is to give myself some structure and my days some purpose. As a person who copes with many things in list form, I’ve decided to include one that has been growing in my journal for months.

  1. Buy a bookshelf. Because that one corner in my room is a nightmare.
  2. Find a job. 
  3. Go to one of the three jazz clubs here in Marburg.
  4. Join a fitness class. 
  5. Find the Hexenturm – the witches’ tower.
  6. Learn to open my own beer with assorted objects. Because nothing screams I’m German like opening a bottle of beer with another bottle of beer.
  7. Learn all the words to one Schlager song. I know a few words to many songs. Not so helpful.
  8. Try some of the Marburg places on my Must-try-bars-cafes-restaurants list.
  9. Finish reading a book in German.
  10. Argue about something in German. To accomplish this I’ll definitely need to continue learning German.
  11. Become a regular somewhere.
  12. Find a hobby. Knitting, baking, scrapbooking. Something that screams I’m a little old lady trapped in a 22-year old body.
  13. Learn to drive stick shift.
  14. See a Fußball game live.
  15. Harry Potter exhibit in Köln. Just exploring Cologne in general actually.
  16. See a musical in Hamburg. Because apparently it’s the Broadway of Germany.
  17. Oktoberfest.
  18. Learn to ski. Learning to ski in the Alps is a bonus.
  19. Chop down my own Christmas tree.
  20. Visit new Weihnachtsmärkte. Either Köln or Nürnberg.

7 thoughts on “Dealing with those inevitable days of doubt

  1. I have had these same doubts as you. After dealing with months of stress, feelings of homesickness and not having a job I finally landed a great job, was on a five week summer paid holiday and thought I was feeling at home. After being in Iceland for nine months my first week of summer holiday I was hit hard with feelings of doubt and wanted to go home. It took me some time to shake it off I will admit, but once I hit my one year mark things have gotten so much easier, even when I have feelings of homesickness I can shake it off easier. Having a set routine and your own friends, such as coworkers, will help so much! And fully immersing into the holiday traditions helps homesickness. At least these helped me, I hope these tips help you a bit! Just know it is normal in this crazy expat life! And I will end my novel now 🙂


    • I so appreciate your novel – really the more the better! Finding a job would be such a great help (and has been my current priority), but finding jobs that don’t require perfect German has proved harder than I initially expected. I think I’ll hold out a little longer, but I’ve got to find something before the dark winter drives me crazy… I’m so going to throw myself into all things Christmas-y and hope it helps! Thanks so much for the words of encouragement! 🙂


  2. I’ve been in China for 7 months and I’ve been having a hard time. It comes and goes, certain things help. But it is FAB to read about your experience, sometimes it really helps to know that you’re not alone in your feelings. So THANK YOU for sharing!

    I love the list idea. I made a list of ‘thing to do when I’m bored’ a few weeks back but I think yours has a bit more purpose so I’m going to redo it tonight, before I learn how to sing ‘Let It Go’ in Mandarin 😀

    I hope you’re having a good weekend 🙂


    • Thanks so much, Sarah! I really had a hard time getting this down on paper so I’m so happy that the time it took was worth it and that it’s helpful! I’m not sure how effective the list will be, but boy is it worth a shot.
      I hope your list is going well. Let me know. 🙂


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