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Transport in Frankfurt

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Last night on my way home from having some drinks with some friends, I planned out this blog post about transport. I feel I have to go through with it now or the tipsy me from last night would be sad. Besides, I rarely know what do write on the weekends since I always get a massive dip in the amount of people who come to read this blog. The numbers game doesn’t affect me much (ok, I lied) but I’d rather not put my heart and soul into a post to only have a fraction of the people I usually get reading it.

I’ve already posted a little about how trains work here in Germany, as well as some bad things that may happen when you ride them. But here’s a list of other things that you may like to know about traveling in Frankfurt.

1. There are weird people on trains.

I think that Frankfurt is just an open air funny farm because there are so many strange people around. Most of the time it just makes for interesting stories but occasionally it’s pretty annoying and/or scary. The other day I caught the S Bahn train from Niederrad to go back to the main station and I was stood by the door listening to some music. I noticed a man sat nearby who was waving his arms around…I took an earphone out to listen to see if he was in trouble or something but he was shouting at me! It was in German but I understood that he was explaining how much money he would pay to have me, and saying that I probably have lots of young men around me. It was pretty intimidating and the train ride seemed to go on for ever. There were people – including a train company worker and one of my colleagues – around but no one really did anything. It would have been nice for someone to at least come and stand by me or block the man’s view of me.

2. Beware of escalators.

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This escalator is special, because it goes both up and down! (You can tell by the triangle on the right.) You are basically in a race with the people at the other end because if they get on first you have to use the stairs. It happened to tipsy me last night only I was the winner and shouted an apology to the lads who had to take the stairs. HA. 

3. Sometimes trams don’t go where you thought they’d go.

Probably the most annoying thing about Frankfurt is when you get on a tram and think you’re going somewhere but then they take a different turn and you end up in a completely different part of town. 80% of the time the driver will “GERMAN GERMAN GERMAN” and you’ll see all the people groan and get off and so you’ll work it out. But the other day I didn’t hear the GERMAN GERMAN GERMAN over my earphones and no one grumbled and got out so I was stuck on there until I could get to a place with a train station.

4. If the tram is cancelled, taxis around you become free.

It’s only happened to me once. The trams were frozen to the tracks (don’t EVER let a German person tell you that in Germany they are sorted with the seasons and the public transport network never breaks down in the snow!!) and I was trying to get home from work. Suddenly loads of taxis turned up and they said they they’d take me to the nearest working tram stop for free. Awesome!

5. There is no logic to ticket checking.

There are machines upstairs in train stations and you’re expected to buy a ticket (or a monthly ticket) before you go down to the platform. There are random checks to see if people bought tickets or not but there is no easy way to cheat the system as the timing and placement of these people is completely random. On the way home last night a woman on the train told me she had no ticket and asked whether she could ride with me (you can take one person with you if you have a monthly ticket) but as I was getting off at the next stop, she asked whether I knew if the people would come check. I replied in better than normal German (thanks, beers) and told her that I don’t think they’d come around so late at night but it’s probably not worth risking it.

So that’s my funny little post about travel in Frankfurt. Are there funny quirks about traveling about where you are?

Things I Wish People Had Told Me About Studying Abroad

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The other day I read quite a nice article on “Things I Wish People Told Me While Studying Abroad“. A lot of what that website posts is pretty brain draining but it was a nice article and I thought I’d throw my 5p into the pot as well.

In 2007/08 I studied at a girls’ university in Nagoya, Japan. Coming from a class of mainly boys, it was a parallel universe for me, and that’s not even factoring that it’s a Christian university! Nevertheless, it was possibly the best year of my life so far.

So, now that you have my exchange student backstory, here is my list!

1. Do your research.

There are certain things that you may not be able to get in the place you’re going to study in. For example, the Japanese don’t sweat so much and so deodorant isn’t so common. So, if you are going to live there for a while, you should take enough to last you through. It’s always better to do some research so you end up taking with you the right things, even if it means you sound a little silly; I can’t remember how many times I’ve been asked if they have tampons in Japan (the answer is yes – they do. And yes, they ‘fit’ western women, too. They’re just a little expensive.)

2. Shun your countryfolk.

This is going to be controversial.

When I went to Japan, I went there wanting to learn as much Japanese as humanly possible. In my uni course it was common for our weekly test scores to be read out loud to us all by the teacher, and I wanted to come back and be at the top of the class so I’d never feel the embarrassment of having low scores again.

In my class in Liverpool, I was pretty much the only girl, and so I was sent by myself to the girls’ university, while everyone else was paired off and sent away. It was hard because at times I felt real pangs of loneliness, but it was awesome at the same time because I made friends mainly with people who weren’t from English speaking countries. When I visited my classmates in Fukuoka at the end of October I saw that they had a great community of English and American people to enjoy Japan with. It seemed really nice and friendly, and that was great, but I was kind of glad that at my university my friendship circle were Korean, Thai and Japanese people, and that I was forced to speak only in Japanese with them.

If you are studying abroad to learn a language, I highly recommend being stuck up and shunning people who are also native in English. You won’t be popular, you will be looked down upon by others, but you will make that language your default language and improve at a much higher rate.

Living in Germany and trying to learn German now, I really wish I could have a situation like I did back in Japan.

3. Do all the things.

Being an exchange student is very different to being a working expat. As a working expat, and as an adult, not only do I work full time but there’s all this horrid grown-up stuff like life admin. Taxes, student loan forms, papers for this and signatures needed for that…it’s all a massive faff. And all this faff and all this work means that it’s hard to just enjoy all the things your adoptive home has to offer. Lots of people I know go off at the weekends to various German places but I never get round to doing that.

As an exchange student, nothing much is expected from you. You have a few hours’ classes a day, maybe a part time job to keep the beer money flowing, but that’s it. I did SO much in that one year in Nagoya. It was awesome, and I recommend that anyone going to study abroad just does ALL the things. Not only all the touristy things, but also regular things like going to the hairdressers, eating the local speciality, eating the craziest food you can find, perhaps even dating a local. Make a bucket list and tick all the things off. They all make for amazing stories.

4. Culture shock IS going to happen.

I talk about culture shock in a lot more detail in this other post I wrote about living abroad in general, but it still applies to studying abroad as well. It’s good to keep in mind that you will have days when you feel really negative towards the country, and days when you just can’t get your head around why something is done a certain way there when it’s so much better/different back home. It’s completely ok to be like this – it doesn’t make you racist or a bad person. It’s simply the process you go through when spending time abroad.

5. Don’t forget to take a slice of home with you.

Life as an exchange student is probably the first time living abroad for many people. It can be a very challenging experience, though it’s one I wish more people would go through. It depends on the person, but it’s usually a good idea to take with you things that remind you of home. I have a stash of photos of my friends from school and of my family that I take with me and pin on my bedroom wall wherever I am in the world. It’s also a good idea to take with you some comfort food with you like your favourite chocolate or cookies, and save it for a day when you wish you were back home. Music is also a good idea as well – I never really listened to UB40 or Fairground Attraction until I lived abroad; now I listen to them when I miss my family because that’s the music my mum listens to.

There is probably lots and lots more advice for exchange students out there, so please get in the comments if you have something that I missed! And just in case you have no extra advice to add – when/if you live abroad, do you prefer to go out of your way in making friends with the locals? Or do you prefer to surround yourself with people from your home country?

Thoughts on Drunken People

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The other day it was a nightmare getting from my place to Boyfriend’s. Weighed down with his guitar on my back, as I got to the tram stop in front of the main station, I was saddened to see what seemed like a never ending group of fans of Frankfurt’s football team, Eintracht.

I lived for 3 years in Liverpool and I have, I think, encountered more than my fair share of drunken football fans. And drunken Eintracht fans are so very very annoying. In Germany it’s perfectly fine to drink in public (including on public transport), and so you get very large groups of mainly men shouting, singing, bashing on train/tram windows, shaking the carriages. I would never think that any of these people would hurt me (though a fair few bashed past me while I waited for my tram), the way they present themselves is very intimidating and not very nice at all for a girl walking by herself.

In the UK it’s worse. In the UK, when people get drunk, they seem to just get more aggressive and I don’t know why this is. The only other place I’ve seen street fights in is Seoul, but in the roads outside bars, clubs and pubs in the UK it’s not uncommon to see people physically sorting out their differences. I’ve never seen one here in Frankfurt.

It seems it’s not just me who thinks this. I was at Frankfurt’s wine festival last week and was speaking to one of the wine sellers who happened to be a really nice guy from Leeds who used to be a high flying banker, but quit it all to study wine (how awesome is that?!) We were talking for quite a while and he also said that he noticed a big difference in drinking culture in Britain and in Germany. While my friend said that he thought it was mainly due to pubs and bars in England having to close early, forcing people to buy two drinks at a time, I’m not sure that’s where the problem lies.

In Germany they treat alcohol as just another thing in life. Like in the UK, you can drink from the age of 18 and are able to have a beer with a meal with your parents from 16. I was surprised at how relaxed people are here (in Frankfurt at least) with what seem to be under-age drinkers and smokers. The rules are there but if they are broken then no one really cares, it seems.  Perhaps them not treating drinking as a race that starts in their teens makes them a lot more relaxed about things; alcohol is just a normal thing instead of something that needs to be used in excess.

But I wonder if it’s just that the drink less than us. There are certainly people at night who drink way too much (Boyfriend lives next to an Irish pub and we are serenaded by their drunken chorus most nights) but I don’t really see anyone getting violent. I’ve been intimidated many times by groups of drunken guys who look kinda scary, but in my two years I’ve only had problems with two guys; once on the way home from town a drunken man wouldn’t let me past, and once a month or so ago while waiting for a bus on a Sunday morning a drunken Irish guy kept shouting insults at me when I wouldn’t talk with him.

In Japan it’s a completely different story still. Most of the Japanese people I have been drinking with go very very red when they drink. I don’t know what it is but their faces just goes like a tomato as soon as their lips touch alcohol. And no one gets that crazy when they are drunk, either, just cute. The craziest thing I have ever seen from drunken Japanese people (and this will tell you SO much about Japanese culture) is when I was teaching at the JHS, after one of the staff parties one other teacher stumbled down the street, saw a car, gently tried to open the car door and found it to be open. No one was shocked by a parked car not being locked, but the owner happened to be coming back to his car and started shouting at the teacher for being a bad role model. Japanese businessmen seem to like putting their ties around their heads as soon as they start to drink. That’s kinda cute.

One thing about drinking in Japan that is kinda scary is the rate of drink driving over there. While obvious foreigners like myself might find themselves being breathalysed while riding a bike at night, no one seems to mind that it is very very common for people to just drive themselves home after an evening in the bar. I have seen so many people who could barely walk get up and drive themselves home.

This has been a pointless, ramble-y post, but if you have stories of what drunkards are like where you are, I’d love to hear them! Usually these cultural sharing posts turn out to be the most rewarding 😉

Moti Mahal Frankfurt

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Since my boyfriend is Indian, I’ve been learning lots about Indian food since we’ve been dating. When I’m on my own or with friends in a restaurant, I’ll panic and just go for a korma but I love it when Boyfriend can show me new options that aren’t scary and confusing. We’d spotted an Indian place that he’d not tried out and so we took a night off from him cooking me amazing food and went there – a restaurant called Moti Mahal.

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As can be expected from an Indian restaurant, there were plenty of vegetarian options to choose from. Everything clearly explained whether it was spicy or not so we chose two normal spiced vegetarian dishes to share. Now, I don’t know if it’s because of Boyfriend being Indian or something, but the food was made to be pretty spicy. In fact, I couldn’t handle it and had to stop. I can handle spice to an average level, but when my tongue is burning I know it’s time to stop. The boyfriend, however, loved it.

I told my German teacher that I had been to this restaurant and she says that it’s her secret place because it’s always quiet and (so she says) is the best Indian food in town.

The service was pretty good and just as my teacher said, it was very quiet for a Saturday evening. The namaste beer was also very delicious – something we’d never tried before.

I’d like to try the place again and maybe ask for a little less spice next time, since it does seem to be a good place.

You can find Moti Mahal at Dreieichstraße 37, 60594 Frankfurt

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