Different country, different habits…

What is it that makes living in a foreigh country so exiting? So fascinating? So…. mysterious?

Is it exotic looking buildings, unfamiliar sounds, a language we don’t understand? Yes – but more than all of that the mystery is in habits and unwritten rules which differ from what we are used to. All these litte things we never thought about – and we preferably don’t have to think about because it makes the daily routine so terribly laborous. Being a German Expat from Rhineland in an assignment in The Netherlands feels like “Expat light”. It is only some 350 kilometers away from home, the climate is comparable, people on the streets look like the ones at home, no time differences to cope with – easy! If there just would not be the devil in the detail. The common German stands in stiff surprise looking at many day-to-day experience.

Like what? Imagine the following: You leave in the best of moods the office on a normal day. It is around 5:30 and you feel

… This is THE perfect day to have a look at those gorgeous shoes I have seen in town, try them on and make them mine! Yes!!

So let’s jump on the bike, get into the city centre and a quarter to six we are in from of the shoe shop the object of our desire is waiting for us. But while we lock our bike we see hoovers swirling around the shop, the cash desk checked and closed for the day… all intents for raising attention are being actively ignored (it’s a good day. On bad one we get thrown out without much ado). What is happening is that the opening times until 6:00pm means in The Netherlands, that not only the shop closes at 6:00pm but that all the people working there will do their best to go home at that time – so they prepare before that. Never heard of in Germany like this… These opening times plus the unwritten rules that come with it means for me that I will never manage to go shopping during the week. It did cause a severe culture shock to me when I was living in The Hague for the first time. I was in front of closed doors over and over again – all of The Hague closed down at 6pm… at the bottom of my heart I still don’t get it. The average employee concentrates shopping activities to Thursday evenings (which are slightly longer), Saturday and Sunday (from 13:00 – 17:00).

Exceptions are supermarkets. They have significantly longer opening times which saves me! And here we find another difference to Germany: Besides of groceries you may find medication here as well. Whether it is Aspirin, Antihistamin & co – just grab it. And as pharmacies are having even more restricted opening times than normal shops I happily accept it.

So who says that there is no fascination in a daily routine? 

Memories of Myanmar…

The start of 2015 for me has been a focus on my new job. I started in November in a new position it has been the same as it always is for me when I face a change: Trying to understand the new environment, people, detect and understand the unwritten rules that help to move ahead. I find it exciting to go through that, start getting a bit of a grip on it. Unfortunately that has a significant impact on blogging – it slows down significantly as does physical travelling on and off the beaten tracks.

What it is instead is an intense mental and emotional journey. It is one of the most satisfying things I can imagine to meet people, start carefully sharing ideas and a few insights into each other, start discussing differences and come to the conclusion that differences might have nothing to do with being right or wrong. And nevertheless that the  (the fact that each teams goes through the phases of Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing) is something I work with for years – experiencing it feels new each and every time.

Besides of a lot of new impressions I have started running through my photographs from Myanmar which sparks many sweet memories. From August 2013 to August 2014 Olli and I had the pleasure of being part of a very special enterprise. Myanmar, which has only recently started to open up again has awarded 2 new telecom licences in 2013 to foreign companies. They were to build 2 new mobile telephone networks in a short amount of time – and we were part of it.

For me it was the first time to work on a different continent than Europe, a different climate and culture. Although we had hardly any opportunity to travel the country as the work task at hand was not an easy one to achieve, we nevertheless have a stack of pictures which we took on our Sunday morning walks.

Yangon, Sunday Morning Walk

So let me start sharing some of our memories of this fascinating, beautiful country full of contrast. More than anything else though I will remember Myanmar for its kind people.

Public Transport Yangon Style    Public Transport – Myanmar Style! 

Boys playing a table game in the street next to a marketIMG_0616

Girls delivering newspapers – it takes all four of them to make the cart go around corners as it is seriously heavy

Girls in Myanmar

Den Hague Snow-Street Art!

The Hague Snow Street Art

Street Art can be made by whoever is creative. Proof is this little piece of wonderful art which 3 young ladies created in my neighbourhood. It made me smile on a harsh and cold morning and reminded me that creativity can be something small and doable. What it requires is more of an open mind, a happy moment and that little bit of daring…. to try out something new.  Well done, girls!

This must be the most beautiful bicycle path ever!

I just stumbled over this amazing project from the Dutch artist Daan Roosegaarde which was part of Bored Panda (http://www.boredpanda.com/van-gogh-starry-night-glowing-bike-path-daan-roosegaarde/ )

Inspired by Van Gogh’s Painting StarryNight he created a glooming bicycle path in Van Gogh’s town of birth – a good read and a wonderful project. Very tempting to go to Brabant and wait for night to fall and try it out…!

)Solar powered Bicycle path in Brabant 1 image image image