One of the most difficult things about transitioning into life abroad is the language barrier. Despite the fact that I have been here so long, my German language skills are really low. Chalk it up to just plain laziness. Joern and I have always spoken English, and despite many saying this is bad, I have also heard some kind words that it is our comfort language. And while I worked on base, the need to communicate in German was quite low. Even now, working at the ISS, there is little actual need for me to speak German.
But, I do not want to depend on Joern forever in terms of communication. I have slowly been increasing my German language usage ever since Joern's friend, Marcel, started spending lots more time with us two years ago. Despite his understanding English, it is simply easier to communicate with Marcel in German. I would say that due to my conversing with Marcel, and my need to do so in German, I have now become a competent user of the language.
Two weeks ago, I really tested my skills when I decided to get my own contact lenses! I marched into an optician in downtown Stuttgart, and asked the man working at the information desk where I could go to get contacts. He directed me downstairs. I was able to discuss my wants, needs, and questions all in German! I triumphantly left the store that day with a set of test lenses and a sense of pride that swelled through my body.
On Monday afternoon, I had to return for a check and to pick up my lenses. Again, no asking if anyone spoke English. I just went through the entire procedure in German, and I now have contact lenses, and the knowledge that I can accomplish a lot more here than I thought I could!
My reward to myself? I bought those sunglasses from Kate Spade that I've been lusting after!
Image from www.zappos.com