Author Archives: Anne

Where do you draw your energy from – the Sea, Rivers, Lakes, Forest or some place else?

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Sometimes I get stuck in a rut only noticing what is not in line with my ideal, which for instance would include both lakes/sea AND plentiful trees. Last week I’ve been able to start enjoying more of something that is important to me: the Forest! To me it’s both cleansing and soothing and helps me re-energise. Just nearby to my home I’ve found many locations where I wanted to linger and identified places that would be perfect for ‘mindfulness moments’, reminding myself to take a blanket with me the next time I go ( & maybe even a little picnic).

 

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I sensed something within me awakening – I felt something like a sensation of déjà vu, it felt comforting and familiar yet awe inspiring! The majestic, towering trees and the beauty of nature help put things into perspective. It’s comforting to rediscover the familiar peace I was often able to regain during moments of teenage angst on walks in the forests of my youth in Finland, but now instead locally in nearby German forests. This is something I couldn’t do easily in Cornwall, as the woods there are quite rare and small!

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Although not quite the sea, but rivers like the Rhine are actually huge; It is the second longest river in Central and Western Europe!

My old home in the south-west of England may have had the sea which I dearly love, but Germany has an abundance of lush forests with trickling streams and flowing rivers. Now that I feel like I’m moving towards a better work – life balance, I seem to have more ‘head-space’ to notice more of the lovely things my new home in Germany has to offer. I know that spending more time in nature is good for our well-being, so making time for this is crucial for me personally and due to too many demands on my time over the past few years I’ve neglected this. After all,  there is much research supporting the importance of spending time outside being crucial for all of us. In fact, Mind (a UK based mental health charity) state that ‘Ecotherapy should be recognised as a clinically valid treatment for mental distress’.

Hello Spring!!

Magnolia blossoms on a tree across the road

Magnolia blossoms on a tree across the road

It’s been very quiet on my blog for too long now… There are good reasons for that though, as I just became too overwhelmed by demands on my time. When a person feels stretched by responsibilities and stress levels elevate, it’s too easy to filter the world through a negative perspective (what’s the opposite of rose-tinted spectacles?). So not only did I lack time for blogging, I didn’t want to moan, as wallowing doesn’t help me, nor anyone who happens to read my blog! My aim is to start updating my blog regularly again, as I have a plan in place which will hopefully ease my schedule a bit 🙂 Afterall, I try to help patients achieve a healthy work/life balance, so I should do this for myself as well!

The woodland walk just 5 minutes from our flat!

The woodland walk just 5 minutes from our flat!

After feeling quite disappointed with several aspects of my life in Germany, I decided that although some things I cannot change (i.e. a couple of very hostile neighbors), I can however try to immerse myself more into the local culture and also start doing more things I enjoy. I decided to sign up for German classes!! This sounds simple enough but unfortunately it wasn’t, as I needed to start at ABSOLUTE beginners level because I haven’t learnt any German at school. English & Swedish are compulsory subjects in Finnish schools, but German isn’t; right now I’m kind of wishing it had been 😉 Unfortunately, there was a 3 month delay in starting the actual lessons as there weren’t enough people with no previous German knowledge to achieve the minimum group size!

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One great aspect about having lessons in a small group is the moral support, from just simply relating to each others struggles in learning the language as adults. German is not easy – I wish I still had the Neuroplasticity of a child!! Luckily, the group is small enough for each of us to get adequate individual instruction from the teacher. At this stage I personally would not want to have lessons in a larger group or completely alone.

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Enjoying the sun with family on a sunny spring day near Wiesbaden’s beautiful Marktkirche!

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In the park

I’m now looking at life here in Germany with cautious optimism, which wavers at times, but the stretches of feeling more content are a bit more frequent. Spring is also well under way in Wiesbaden, which I think is my favourite season here! It’s difficult not to feel more positive when surrounded by all the fresh green leaves in the abundant trees and beautiful blossoms everywhere!! Also, with the translation help of an expat friend, who speaks fantastic German, I’ve been able to start taking life-drawing lessons. This is a nice counterbalance to all the intellectual processing I do with work and now with German lessons as well. In fact I end my week with Friday art lessons usually followed by a glass of wine and nice meal in one of the many lovely restaurant we have here in Wiesbaden. So really, in the grand scheme of things, I can’t complain too much!

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Frankfurter Grüne Soße is in season again – I’m told it’s made with 7 fresh spring herbs. I love having this at the traditional German Restaurant Uhrturm. So delicious with tender braised beef and roast potatoes!

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Hope you have a Happy May Day or ‘Hauskaa Vappua’ as they say in Finland!!

Ps. I’ve neglected to mention the “Liebster Award” award nomination I’ve received from Gill from 
http://coteetcampagne.wordpress.com; I will come back to that soon ☺ Thank you kindly Gill – I’ve enjoyed your blog too!

Being an expat…. part A) in the UK

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I started this blog with the aim to post about all the positive & interesting experiences I have in my new life here in Germany, as well as about the practicalities of creating yet another home. I don’t like to dwell on the negative, as it really doesn’t help me, nor would it be an uplifting read for anyone else. However, there is no denying that we have had several challenges with settling here… more than I’d anticipated. I had (and still have) positive expectation from our move from the UK to Germany. I think with my multicultural background I am quite adaptable and certainly found that our transition from the Finland to Britain went very well. However, there are a few major differences with our current move that have made it more difficult. Today’s post focuses on reasons why it was relatively easy to settle into our new life in England and the culture there. Next time I’ll discuss the same topics in relation to our move to Germany. Forgive me for being a bit wordy, but I’m using this blog as a way to clarify my thoughts and perhaps reach out to others in similar situations.

1) Language

When I moved to England I had a reasonable knowledge of the English language even though the last time I’d lived in an English speaking country was when I was a young girl. Finnish schools have English as a compulsory foreign language, so I learnt about basic grammar etc. One year prior to our move to England I had serendipitously enrolled and completed one year of a university degree on English language & literature (albeit at a Finnish university), which allowed me to develop my skills a bit further than those of a small child and luckily I had a few British lecturers. So although when I arrived in Britain I had the massive task of bringing myself up to the level of an adult English speaker, I could at least function on many practical levels.

2) Relocation

My husband’s previous employer had experience with relocating foreigners to the UK, so on a practical front we were VERY well supported. They even paid for our daughter’s extra English tuition to help her settle into the local primary school. Surprisingly they even supported us with some of the fees in buying our house, as well as paid for our hotel & meals for 2 months followed by another month in a holiday rental whilst we awaited for our house buying process to be completed!! We are very grateful to them for such amazing support.

3) Practical advice

I was much younger back when we moved to Cornwall (26) than now and my daughter had just turned 7, so there are natural opportunities to meet other mothers when dropping kids off at the school gates, as well as through arranging play dates. I met many very friendly Cornish ladies in this manner and had numerous invitations to have cups of tea. Also, I walked to and from school each morning and afternoon when we were still living at a lovely little local seaside hotel, which gave me a chance to walk together with parents living in the pretty little village of Charlestown. They were very supportive and friendly, patiently tolerating many silly questions about practical things such as buying groceries, doctors, dentists etc. So even before I started university I rarely felt lonely even though my husband travelled a great deal with his work (still does).

4) Social support networks

I started university ½ a year after we moved to the UK. This allowed me to gain immediate access to a social support network. Never mind that I was a foreigner, when people start university hardly anyone knows each other, so people are keen to establish friendships! Also, it obviously helps that people on the same course are likely to have some common interests and there were other foreign students around giving the university a multicultural vibe. I made some of my best friends at university 🙂

5) Countryside

When we moved to Cornwall, I was basically moving from a Nordic rural setting to a British one!! (See the above picture of the stunning St Michael’s Mount which was a local beauty spot we visited often.) I have come to realise that I really love the countryside and that is what I was mainly accustomed to during the years I spent living in both Finland as well as the US. My Finnish grandparent’s farm house was what I learnt to view as my home-base, probably because it was the one thing that remained the same and stable throughout my childhood’s many house moves. I think it became something of an idyll against which I compare everything else, probably because of many happy and secure memories from the times spent there. I’m not saying that I don’t appreciate the conveniences of city life; in fact in an ideal world I would have a country escape as well as a city pad. Unfortunately, flats here in Wiesbaden are too expensive to allow for a countryside get away at the moment (at least for us).

6) Local mentality

Again, I think I was lucky because many people in rural England tend to be quite friendly and chatty, which was my immediate experience in Cornwall. I know this could have been very different in other areas or big cities where people rarely take time to smile or say hello on the streets. As already mentioned above, at university I met many people who had ‘uprooted’ from elsewhere to study, so the general attitude was one of acceptance. I love British friendliness, such as the casual small-talk that takes place in coffee shops, grocery tills, post offices etc. Also, there tends to be a general attempt to be courteous and considerate in the way people communicate. People even apologise when YOU bump into them 😉 After 15 1/2 years that habit even caught on with me!!

Usually when I have difficulties I try to problem solve my way out of them. I think it’s helpful to understand what is making this transition more difficult than previous ones. Understanding puts a person in a better position to adjust what they can to make things easier and learn to accept what can’t be changed AND importantly celebrate what is good – and there is almost always something positive to be grateful for 🙂 I would love to hear from you about any initial struggles you’ve had as an Expat in whichever country you have moved to. What made transitioning easier for you and/or what made it difficult?

In part B) of this post I’ll speak more about my German experience! (Below picture is from Cologne)

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Our stay in idyllic Porvoo/Borgå in Finland

DSF_0279As promised I’m posting some of the photos I snapped whilst we were visiting my husband’s family in Porvoo. I always enjoy walking around the little old town centre and exploring the small boutiques, as well as soaking up the atmosphere of traditional Nordic wooden architecture and pastel colours punctuated by a few Scandinavian red buildings. The town was bustling in preparation for their yearly ‘Ostosten Yö’ event, which translates to ‘The Night of Shopping’! All the little boutiques, cafés and restaurants were open much later than usual and some music and entertainment was also provided to add to the happy vibe 🙂

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We had a delicious lunch at the seasonal summer restaurant ‘Johans’ http://www.restaurantjohans.fi which was on it’s final opening day before winter closure. The restaurant is mainly a large terrace overlooking the Porvoo River and a smaller indoor space with rustic seating inside an old river-barn type of building!! The picture immediately below was taken from their terrace. I’ve just noticed the sweet little birdhouse made from a birch log by my daughter’s head!

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After lunch we walked around town again shopping for handmade little treats such as organic soap and delicious chocolates from the tiny chocolate factory shop http://www.suklaatehdas.com !! We enjoyed the scenery of Porvoo River along which the old town is situated. Below you can see more of the old boat houses or river barns, which used to  function as temporary storage for goods brought over-seas such as exotic fruit, spices, wine and coffee. They are painted in the traditional nordic red paint known in Finnish as ‘punamulta’, which can be translated as red earth paint. This paint was and is still used to preserve wooden structures. Apparently the sheds in these pictures have been painted with red earth paint since the 1700’s! In fact the whole town was made as attractive as possible with freshly painted houses just before the visit of the Swedish king Gustav III who also reigned over Finland. (I’m sure they’ve been painted quite a few times since the 1700’s 😉 )

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We ended our afternoon with coffee’s and drinks at a little café enjoying Finnish ‘korvapuusti’, which is a traditional cinnamon roll including cardamom. Our daughter had Runeberg’s torte, which legend says were first created in Porvoo by Fredrika the wife of the Finnish national poet Johan Ludvig Runeberg. The torte is simple looking but very delicious and moistened with rum and flavored with almonds and raspberry jam. All were very yummy and enjoyed on the terrace in the pleasant afternoon sun. A lovely ending to a pleasant day 😀

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Greetings from Finland & Sweden!

Finally a quick hello after a long silence on my blog. Things have been tricky to say the least… So much so that as a family we have been carefully evaluating whether Germany is the right place for us to live at the moment or not. While there are many things I love about this country, we have had increasing difficulties over the past few months. No rash decisions will be made about whether we stay or not, but we did need to have a proper break from Germany and some nasty events that in all honesty are a little too close for comfort. That’s why we spent about 2 1/2 weeks on a road trip across Scandinavia and our beloved North!!!

Here are some photos from the upper deck during our 11 hour boat cruise across the Baltic Sea and the beautiful archipelago between Stockholm and Turku/Åbo.

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It’s quite amazing how these gigantic ships negotiate the thousands of isles off the shores of Sweden and Finland!! There are quite a few rocky patches that we passed in close proximity. Nonetheless, we felt perfectly relaxed and happy as the weather was gorgeous and sunny with only little waves (unlike some of my past less positive experiences when I’ve crossed the sea in a winter storm).

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During the cruise across we happily spent a few hours having our own little ‘crayfish party’, or rather a massive starter of fresh Swedish crayfish and smoked Norwegian prawns. All were lovely and fresh followed by delicious glow-fried trout 🙂 Our attentive waiting staff coped beautifully (although were possibly amused) with our peculiar mixture of Finnish-English-Swedish speech at the table! It was so lovely to have had enough seafood during the past couple of weeks to hopefully keep us satisfied for a while, as fish just isn’t all that fabulous or fresh in our landlocked German location.

That’s it for today, but I will post some more about our visits to Porvoo & Stockholm soon!! Another update about our German situation is also due soon once I gather my thoughts a bit more…

Balcony ‘garden’!

My small selection of flowers, veggies and herbs are doing quite nicely despite the heat wave we had… In any case I think they enjoyed the soaring temperature more than I did 🙂 I’m very much a novice at growing in pots and on the balcony, as I’ve always owned a garden. However, living in a city now has persuaded me to try my best on the two balconies we have!

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Every morning I’m joined by many buzzing bees while I have my morning tea and yoghurt 🙂

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These chilies seemed to appear in just one very hot day, during which I was concerned that my plants would parish from the heat as there is no shade on the south facing balcony. We are planning on installing an awning at some point, as right now when the sun is at its hottest no-one wants to sit out there!

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The Hungarian peppers made a similar sudden appearance over night – I swear!

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The cat was enjoying a moment of cool temperatures on the east balcony during the early morning before this too over-heated. The oregano, basil and mint planted on the little east balcony have flourished as well. I’ve admittedly been more diligent than usual with my watering schedule during the heat wave.

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This is the first time I’ve grown tomatoes in a pot; I think they are also coming along splendidly.

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The rocket is also flourishing!

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Plum tomatoes are coming along nicely too. Here they are called eier tomate which translates to egg tomatoes 🙂

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Even the small potted gooseberry bush has produced a couple of berries!!

Longing for lakes or the sea…

My yearning for water has intensified with the recent stifling heat we’ve been experiencing!! As I’ve almost always lived near the sea or at least a very large lake, I feel I need to start researching swimming options nearby. There is nothing better than plunging yourself into cool refreshing water to make scorching weather more tolerable 🙂 I know there are plenty of swimming pools and spas here locally, but the thought of them probably becoming over-crowded the minute it’s very warm just isn’t that appealing to me. At least it’s very lush and green in the Wiesbaden area and walking in the woods does cool you down a bit!!

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The only lake I’ve been to so far whilst living in Germany is Lake Constance, which is the country’s largest lake. It was very beautiful, but as we spent Christmas there it was the wrong time of year for swimming!! At the time, however, I thought it would be lovely to visit again in the summer. Below you can see some pics I snapped when it was chilly, now I think it just looks refreshing!!! I can imagine how gorgeous this area is in the summer 🙂

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I’ve also heard that Lake Alpsee by Neuschwanstein castle is very scenic! I wonder if it might be good for swimming as well… If anyone out there has been, I’d love to hear of your experience. I’ve also seen pictures and heard good things about Lake Müritz, Königssee & Titesee. The closest lake I know of, Mummelsee, is still quite a long 2 1/2 hour drive from Wiesbaden and I believe it is rather small, so I suspect it gets packed on balmy weather 😦 Would love to hear of pretty and peaceful lakes that are a shorter drive to Wiesbaden (near Frankfurt)!!!

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konigsee4 The above photos of Königssee are from the website: http://www.bayern.by/koenigssee

For now I’m trying to cool down with fans, ice water, cool showers and by closing all the shutters on the windows to block out the intense sun. To think I initially hated the look of window shutters here in Germany, which are usually not like the pretty wooden shutters on French houses ; they are actually very functional and do serve their purpose. Now I’m so grateful I didn’t have them removed, as our builder talked us out of it!!!!