It’s corny and you’ve heard it a million times before, but when you are adapting to new customs, new people, and new work, I have found this very important. Sometimes we don’t realize when we are not being genuinely ourselves. We get energy and happiness from being fully ourselves.
Since arriving in Germany, I’ve reined in my personality; this was good at first to be open and respectful to learning how things are done here. Especially in Germany it has been important to learn how to behave according to the rules. I write like I’ve already learned this, but I haven’t! Still I run into scenarios in which I draw a lot of attention to myself as a foreigner.
Just now as I was carrying my laptop into town to write this blog, I decided to go to the library. Apparently this was the wrong move, but in the U.S. I my favorite place to write was in the library, where I would sit and write but not actually look at any books. So I followed everyone through the entrance, but wasn’t allowed to enter because I got called aside. I checked beforehand that we didn’t need IDs to enter. The guard tells me, “Die Tasche geht nicht.” Which means the bag doesn’t work. I guess I look confused because he repeats it in English and asks if I understand. Meanwhile, everyone has turned to look at me, and I open my bag and explain in German that I brought my books and laptop to work on, and I don’t understand why I can’t bring this in. I was so annoyed that he assumed I didn’t speak German. He hands me a plastic bag so I can leave my things at the desk with him. So I turn around and leave because the rule seems counterintuitive for a library. In the U.S. we have detectors to make sure people don’t steal books, but everyone goes in with backpacks and lots of reading materials. Then I go find a café where I’m probably the first person in the last 10 years who has turned on a laptop inside.
Fortunately by now I literally can understand the rules, but still they recognize immediately that I’m a foreigner because I have had the ridiculous idea to do something that Germans just never do. Nonetheless, I’ve reached a different phase now in the transition. I now am making friends, working full time, and feel quite integrated, but I realize I am still holding myself back. I noticed that I don’t express that fun part of my personality in contrast to my posture when I went back to be with good friends and family back in the U.S., during which time I confidently went out to a scotch bar in my sweaty workout clothes and made small talk with every shop owner and wait staff manageable. I remembered that part of me that gives me so much pleasure! Talking loudly in public places about strange subjects, putting me feet up where I want to, or wearing workout gear all over town.
I noticed this change to a friend of mine when I got back to Germany and she incidentally asked a great coaching question! “What can you do to get that part of you back?”
With questions like this, you become more aware of what things are good for your energy, and what things take your energy away. So I paid attention to where I felt restrained and where I felt freer. I found that freedom while running in a park behind the Nymphenburger Schloss, floating down the Isar, and drinking Weinschorle in a Biergarten. Coincidentally, there is word that is particularly used to describe this comfort felt in a Biergarten: Gemütlichkeit.
So whether you’re in a new neighborhood, new job, or a new country, where is it that you feel Gemütlichkeit? Completely, unabashedly, your unique, weird self. Alcohol does this for a lot of adults, but we don’t need to rely on that to enjoy ourselves. So I turn that question to you: “what can you do to keep that fun free spirit of yours around more often?”