What I have learned about The South from living in Germany

Before I left America, any time I told someone I was moving to Munich they responded, “So why Germany?” The answer to “why” is the same reasoning behind why I picked the University I went to, or why I picked Public Relations as my major. It was simply the option right in front of me. However, each of those choices have been big decisions that have taught me a lot that I didn’t expect to learn. In this case, Germany has taught me many things about America, specifically the South, that I never would have thought about before.

1. America is a loud place. This was the first thing I noticed. Munich is a very large city with most residents using public transportation. Sometimes I feel like I am in a library all day. The only restaurants that I have heard playing music inside are American chains. If I am out walking around, I will hear music but it is always live, and most of the time it is the accordion.

2. Our school and work systems are kind. My host family told me, “You are never told what you are doing right, only what you are doing wrong.” When my host family moved to America, the mom went to her sons first grade teacher and questioned why he was receiving A’s, because he did not know the material. “He shall be happy,” was the teachers response. Classic Southern sweetness.

3. The South is cheap to live in. Gas prices here are between $10-$13 a gallon. Electricity bills are so high that most people do not have air conditioning in their houses. Including the one I am living in. Instead, the houses are built “air tight”, so in the morning and the afternoons we open the windows for a bit to get the fresh air in. I knew my electricity bill in Jackson, Tenn. was cheap, but I didn’t realize how cheap until now.

4. Everything is bigger in the South. Cars, drinks, houses, hair..everything. I ordered coffee yesterday for $2.75 in a cup a little smaller than a tennis ball and it was half full. I finished it in five sips. My host family’s “redneck friend” (as he refers to himself) once visited here looked at his drink and said, “Is this cup for a doll house?”

5. Oh the freedom we have! I know this one is pretty obvious, but it is worth stating. There are no options to change careers, or take your time deciding on one here. The cut off age to get an apprenticeship is 27, which most people need for 3 years in order to get a job. So really, it is best to know what career you want when you are 24.

6. American music is king. The radio stations here play the same things as American ones, with a little added bonus of an occasional throw back song like “I’m blue” or a German rap song. I often wonder, how is it that the radio stations in Jackson are further behind in current music than radio stations in Germany?

7. Free WiFi is not common. Here it is only available at Starbucks and McDonalds, and the session is never allowed to be longer than 2 hours. Most of the time it is 30 minutes. 30 minutes in was normally the point for me in college to tell myself, “okay, now you really have to start that assignment.”

8. Line dancing. It is not just for Southerners. I watched a line dance group perform here last weekend, to the classic line dancing tune “blurred lines”….

9. Our “green” efforts are laughable in comparison. Throughout each day, trains come through the city, stopping traffic for a couple of minutes. If someone is found with their engine running during that time, they can get in trouble with the police.

10. Church. In college, I remember people talking about “church shopping” and having conversations about which church people went to and why they chose to go there. Here, I have seen a total of five churches. Four of them are Catholic and absolutely beautiful inside, and one is maybe non-denominational? It doesn’t say on the poster that hangs on the outside of their old concrete building.

Overall, life is not drastically different than it was in Chattanooga, or Jackson, but those differences are ones I noticed very quickly. I am writing them here as a way to remember how many things we Southerners have to be thankful for that I had not acknowledged before. Even down to our giant cups and free WiFi.


How to become an au pair in Germany

Background information before I get started: I just graduated from college so for the last year I have been asked, “So what’s next?” and never really had an answer until about 24 hours ago. So, to current students, don’t sweat it if you do not have immediate plans for post graduation.

Okay, now on to the “how to” part of the post. This will apply only to United States citizens who wish to be an au pair in Germany, because that is the only process I know.

My situation is slightly different from most, because I knew the family I will be working for before I decided to work for them. But, I still had to go through the formal process of getting the visa so this is what I learned:

Step 1: Learn the language. Take this seriously. Germany requires an A1 level of the language to get a work visa, and you need proof of this knowledge, in the form of either a college course OR a certificate from the Goethe Zentrum. I did not take any German courses, so I took the Goethe Zentrum test from the center in Atlanta. The test involves 4 parts: reading, listening, writing, and speaking. The process to get the certificate can take up to 3 months and is a little pricey, so be proactive on this.

Step 2: Fill out all the paperwork with the family you will be working for. All of the forms are provided by the German consulate online, and you will need two copies of each form when you apply for the visa. As soon as you finish the paperwork, I suggest scanning it into your computer, printing two new copies and keeping the originals for yourself.

Step 3: Have passport photos taken at your nearest certified location. You will need two for your application. I went to CVS. It costs way too much money, but that way you know they are acceptable by the Embassy.

Step 4: Set up an appointment online and drive to your nearest consulate and apply for the visa. I went to the consulate in Atlanta and they were very helpful. Bring the two copies of the application, your language certificate, resume, current passport and lots of cash. ($200 is good). It is an expensive process. From here on out, the work is left for the Embassy to send everything to Germany and they will issue the visa and send it back to you, so you can rest easy.

Step 5: Book a flight to Germany. During the visa process, they will ask for flight information to be e-mailed so the date on your ticket matches the date on your visa.

Step 6: Wait. For what seems like a very long time. For me, it was about 2 months. Eventually, I received everything in the mail and I was set! Almost.

Step 7: Once you are in Germany, you need to go to the local Aliens office and register for a Residence Permit. I have yet to do this step, but will be doing so in the next few weeks so I will update this if there are any issues.

That is all I know, and that is how it worked for me.  The rules for applying change somewhat regularly, so keep that in mind as you go through the process. Best of luck!

Mean Mug

Mean Mug Monday

Overall Score: 32/50

Mean Mug is proving to be one of the hidden treasures of Chattanooga with some of the friendliest staff and best atmosphere in town. This week, I have officially dubbed it my number one place to work on designs for the non-profit I am interning with this summer. 

The Breakdown:

  • outlets/ free wifi: plentiful. 8.
  • average price: steep. 4.
  • music choices: not sure there even is music…5.
  • seating: top notch. couches, patio, and bar. 10.
  • hours: great for work, not so much for socializing. 5. 

When. Where. Who. 

  • Between 10-1. Rain or shine. 
  • The bar. Unless its sunny, then always sit outside. That is just a rule of life. 
  • Average age of customers: 25. Go alone or with one other person. No room for big parties here. Image

Change of Pace


Well hello there. My computer up and quit on me one night a while ago, so blogging has not been priority. Making money to buy a new computer has been. Anyway, in my hiatus I figured out a new direction for this blog. So, from now on, I will be focusing on what I like. Atmosphere. Specifically coffee shops, living arrangements and restaurants. I will be scoring places I go on the atmosphere they create, and giving tips on how to enjoy YOUR atmosphere too.You are going to want to stick around for this.


Finishing Projects

If you are looking to motivate yourself to de-clutter or re-organize a part of your house, and you are a procrastinator like me, I have a few suggestions for you. My bedroom has gone through many transformations in the past few years, and each time it has been spurred by:

1. Complete boredom

2. Months of Being Frustrated by how it currently looks

3. Too much time on my hands

Yesterday afternoon, I started feeling stir crazy because I had been home alone for more than an hour. For an extrovert like myself, any more than that much time alone is not enjoyable. As far as I can remember, nothing sparked my interest in re-organizing my room but before I knew it I had four boxes in the hallway, two sets of shelves emptied onto the floor and my bed, covered in clothes, in the middle of the room. In most cases, this could be manageable, but my room is less than spacious. In a similar moment last year, I decided to re-paint my room. An equally questionable decision.  ImageBoth times of sudden needs to change the environment came from too much time alone. Also both times my parents came home to a room half-way finished. The problem that I run in to every time I want to change my room, is that I don’t care enough to fully finish the makeover. This time, I am determined to finish. I have found a few things that are helping me keep moving, and the things that distract me from finishing. 

Distraction #1: Memories. I will start finding papers and pictures that remind me of sweet times in the past, and then two hours later, instead of cleaning my room I will have made some random craft. Which is cool, but not the goal. So, to overcome the memory distraction, I categorize and throw away. (typically I categorize my time period)

Distraction #2: Trash. If the a trash can is not in the room that I am cleaning, I will start a pile of trash that I ignore for as long as possible. Learn from my mistake and have a (large) trash can close by anytime you are organizing. 

Distraction #3: Over Commitment: The most distracting thing is not knowing what to do with certain items. The best way I have found to overcome this is pick small goals for the day. As you all know, I am a huge fan of lists. If I list out: organize craft papers, make the bed, organize clothes, clean out makeup and hair products, etc. it makes the scary task of “redoing my bedroom” into small fun projects that take an hour or less each. 

Today, I have accomplished two small tasks, (with the help of this website to organize craft paper) and I am deciding to celebrate that rather than getting frustrated that my room is still kind of a mess. This way, my spirits will stay high and I will not get as overwhelmed. I noticed while doing this that after 21 years of calling this space my room, I have no good pictures of it. Hopefully, after this makeover is done I will be proud enough of the way it looks that I will start allowing pictures to be taken in here. Good luck on all of your cleaning ventures, and remember that organizing is like weight loss. It takes time and hard work to get a system that works and is best for you.  

Adventures Begin

“I am sorry, your passport is not valid” has become a sentence spoken too many times to me. The goal from the last post to go on a road trip came to fruition last Thursday as Mwende, Kristen and I drove our friends up to Maine, so they could start their bike trip all the way down to Florida. That much time in a car gives plenty of time to think…and think some more. And then come back the next day and think about the same things again. So this is what I thought about, and what I learned from 65 hours, 6 friends, 10 states, 2 countries and lots of time. For one, a good day is absolutely linked to the way you think about that day. While we drove through the rain and windy back roads after dark to Presque Isle, Maine, we read a book by Donald Miller out loud, called A Million Miles in a Thousand Years.  A sassy piece of wisdom I learned from that, is that you can either let your situations make you bitter, or better.

Day 3 of our trip began with Mwende, Kristen and I parting with the (soon to be) cross country bikers, and driving into Canada. Really all we wanted was a stamp. We spent a glorious 15 minutes in Canada, but the customs worker of the day would not give us a stamp. So I learned from that experience that Canada sucks. Not really, but we do look forward to bringing up “our time in Canada” the next time people are bragging about their travels to one another at some dull party. 

That day also took us to Bar Harbor, Maine, where I had a healthy scoop of Oreo ice cream, with hot fudge on top for lunch. It was absolutely beautiful, but we didn’t stay for long because we had to make it to NYC by that night. Despite our stop in Boston, where we fell in love with everything (mainly their accents), we made it to NYC by 2 a.m. and by 3 I was standing in Times Square taking in everything that I have seen on tv and movies for the last two decades. New York surprised me by how many kind people there were, and also how many pretty people there were. By the end of day 4 we had landed at our friends home in Pennsylvania and had seen Rockefeller Center, Central Park, the Brooklyn Bridge, the METT, Chinatown and Little Italy. 

A popular song by the Avett Brothers says, “it’s not where I am, it’s who I’m with”. It’s true. I was with two of my best friends in the world going to some of the coolest places, but my favorite time of the trip was an hour that we spent at Starbucks, completely exhausted and extremely giggly. I laughed to the point of tears and hyperventilation, just because of one picture we took. Some glitch in the camera made it appear like my friends were going bald, but only in patches. I would post it here, but they might not appreciate that. 

I write all of that to say, yes, going on a road trip was awesome and it was amazing to see that many places in so short an amount of time…but…really all I need from friendships is quality time. That book I mentioned earlier is all about learning to live a better story. Although I am still learning how to do that, this road trip was a good place to start, with plenty of time to separate the truth about my life from the lies that I had started to believe. I have found that the truth is: I am given more than enough to be happy in each day, I just have to pay attention to what is happening. 

The Summer Resolutions

ImageEvery summer deserves some sort of adventure. The question has become, what will that adventure be this year? The picture above is from a roadtrip to Ashville two years ago that ended with us being terrified of the very cabin that picture was taken in front of and immediately booking a hotel room instead. A great time all around. Now, as rising senior in college, I want to do it big this summer because I know it is the last one that will feel like this. I also have no money. So the listing and organizing begins. 

1. Take a Roadtrip 

2. Get a Job (preferably a fun one)

3. Paddle Boarding  

4. Finish 5 Books

5. Redecorate/De-Clutter my room 

6. Work Out. For Real. 

Summer for me often turns into NYE, re-do. It is when I realize that I never even tried at the resolutions I made months ago, and it is time to motivate myself again. Hopefully, by making this public, I will stick to my new resolutions. I will update as I attempt them and I am always open to suggestions for more adventures! Until then…

have a good summer and give a good summer




How to Live Happier

Our happiness is directly linked to the way we think, according to Jan Silvious’ book, Big Girls Don’t Whine. Yesterday morning, I was getting upset about things that had not happened yet, simply by assuming they would go wrong. I learned recently that this is a defense mechanism, as well as a half-hearted way to live. Basically, if there is a possibility for something to go wrong in the future, I will prepare my emotions before anything actually does go wrong- just in case. After watching this video (twice) I am learning why that is not good for my well being, and I am changing the way I behave and think. I suggest you do the same: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iCvmsMzlF7o

have a good day and give a good day