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What It’s Like To Be… A Senior Digital Media Planner

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When I read through my friend’s answers, the first thing I asked them is “so, you’re pretty much Don Draper, right?” Haha. Senior Digital Media Planner sounds like those kinds of dream job everyone aspires to. I certainly would love to do something like this!

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Senior Digital Media Planner [Read more…]

Unpopular Opinion: Living Abroad Hinders Careers

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So here’s something that has been going through my mind for the past year – I probably shouldn’t have gone abroad if I wanted to have a career.

Here’s what I did:

I graduated university full of dreams and ambition, went to Japan for a few years, got bored of that, then went to Germany for a while and had an amazing job but felt very out of place there, so came home. I came home to find the job market in the UK to be terrible, with employers asking for people to have so much experience and so many skills but offering such little salaries in return.

Here’s what I almost wish I had done:

Graduated uni and then did a whole bunch of low-paid internships to get experience and skills. Work my way up and then have a great job.

I had an amazing time living abroad. I wouldn’t swap it at all. My Japanese became really great, I made friends with people from all over the world and I was able to work for one of the biggest and most loved Japanese companies.

While I did that, I grew as a person – got to understand life from other people’s points of view, dealt with difficult situations in languages that are not my mother-tongue, built lives in completely different cultures to my own.

But you know what? Honestly, employers in the UK do not give a flying monkey about any of that. I had always assumed that those kinds of things would make me stand out – that they would be assets on my CV. They are not.

It may sound like I am bitter – actually, I just started a job which I think I should have looked into from the start. It’s doing PA work like I am used to, but with account management on the side. It’s maternity cover, so it’s lasting just 9 months, but it’s the short-term training that I have needed.

The next 9 months are going to be tough for me – learning first hand how to do all these new things for me to progress, along with other difficulties in the position. But I have to keep my head down, eyes open and learn all I can during this time.

Life abroad is wonderful. And some people find it really great and useful in their careers. These people include: people who get to work in the language of that country, people who are given a really great career opportunity from the start, and people who move to that country with their spouse and can get on with learning new skills without being worried about having to work. What abroad life is not good for is people who plan to come home and find a good job back here.

As these are thoughts that have been rattling round my head for the past few weeks, I’d really love to hear from other people who have – or are – living abroad.

 

I’m Learning Dutch Super Quickly (And You Can Too)

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This post has nothing to do with sheep

When we met, I thought there was something a little odd about Boyfriend’s accent.

To the untrained ear, it sounds like a perfect example of Queen’s English. But when he admitted to the other pub quiz members that he’s not British, I got it. He was Dutch, and I’d spent enough time around Dutch people at Nintendo to know that “more-perfect-than-perfect” accent anywhere.

As a person who loves languages, I love any excuse to start speaking something new and so I started studying Dutch in secret, with the plan to just come out with a load of it one day and amaze him.

Here’s a thing – I am terrible at keeping things quiet when I’m excited about them, so of course I let de kat out of de zak way too soon.

But luckily, I am learning pretty quickly, so it now means that I can drop Dutch into normal conversation pretty easily. The Boyfriend says I am a genius to be able to learn so quickly. Ha. I wish. I just have a winning method for picking up languages, and I would like to share it with you now.

You can use this method on a whole range of languages (though there are limits, as I’ll explain).

Step One: Get Dutch into my brain.

When I was studying Japanese, I found that sitting over books all day got me absolutely nowhere. It was only when I started to use the podcast Japanesepod101 every day that things seemed to fit into place. Walking to university took about 30 -40 minutes, and I would listen to the podcasts during this time.

It made a huge different to have the language going into my ears passively. When I went to Japan and had Japanese all around me the whole time, it was even better and my brain turned into a sponge.

The languagepod101 series are quite good, but I have found something even better: The Michel Thomas series. This is how I learnt German when I moved there.

Michel Thomas was an absolute dude of the highest rank. Being Polish, he escaped the Nazis eventually after being captured and tortured a bunch of times, and then after the war he escaped to the US. You should totally read his wiki page because he is really awesome.

His language tapes aren’t the traditional kind where you’re repeating after the teacher, who, without hearing you (since they are a recording, of course) says that you’re doing well. He has two students in the room, and it is to them that he teaches. I swear they choose really simple people to play these roles (maybe to make the listener feel better about themselves?)

The languages are built up brick by brick. For example:

Do you want

Do you want it

Do you want it to eat

Do you want it to eat or drink

What do you want

What do you drink

And so on…until you think to yourself “hang on, I think I might be speaking a whole new language!”

I listen to the Dutch tapes (which sadly doesn’t have Michel himself as the German ones do, but this real “mumsy” kind of woman who sounds like she’d give you a massive hug, a glass of milk and a cookie when you make mistakes) in my car either to or from work. Each CD has about 15 tracks on it, and I get through them in a week, with me listening through it at least twice before moving on.

Step Two: Get Words In My Eyes

When I studied French at school, I hated it. Up until GCSE (16 years) I remember mainly making posters and memorising a small speech about my work experience (a lot of which I can still recite to this day). After GCSE I took it up at A Level, and the difficulty jump was massive. Even though the class had just 6 of us in it (because that’s how many people were stupid enough to take A Level French), the teacher was tired and gave us lists and lists of words to learn, so we could understand the books.

I did really badly at it; I had zero motivation (I only took it so that I could take Japanese at university) and sitting memorising loads of stuff just is not my bag.

My teacher told me that since I “could not grasp French, you should just give up on Japanese since you’ll get nowhere with it”. 10 years later, I am fluent in Japanese, conversational in German and can also get by in Chinese, Korean and now Dutch. I wouldn’t even try to use French.

Unless you have the type of brain that loves lists of stuff to memorise, then this is not a good method to learn a language. But you need to know loads of new words, right?

There is another way. Let me introduce Duolingo.com to you.

duolingo

Duolingo is a free, online, language learning programme which is nothing short of awesome. It works with you translating lots of sentences which get progressively more difficult and are split up into categories like “prepositions” and “clothes”.

You can see above there’s the sentence in Dutch, which looks a bit intimidating. But you can hover over the words to remember which each one is. They used to penalise you for this, but the website has changed over the years and it doesn’t anymore.

It gets you to do sentence after sentence and slowly, you’re learning grammar, vocabulary and word order without much effort at all. What’s more, there’s a points table and you can connect with friends on there. I have a friend in Germany who, apparently, is learning every language under the sun right now and so I always try to keep up with her.

Dutch is quite hard visually because it’s not said as it’s written. “Goed” is said something like “hhuuid”, with lots of throat-usage while you’re at it (steady, sailor). So if you want to properly learn the language, you need to be using something to learn to read and write it.

 

There are, of course, more steps to this method. But frankly, I’ve not got there yet. I plan to use memrise.com to build on my vocab when I get better, and also to speak with the boyfriend when I can. There’s a Dutch manager (quite high up) who I had to give some documents to the other day. In an email to him today I tagged onto the end that I am studying Dutch and he told me that when he’s in the office next time we can chat in Dutch. EEEEK. I think bullying myself into Dutch situations is the best way to improve; it’s how I got to be good at Japanese, after all.

Lastly, you can follow these two steps and learn languages super fast as long as your language is listed in both Michel Thomas courses and on Duolingo. The listening course is a little limited and sticks to European languages, but Duolingo has an ever-growing range these days (including Irish and Turkish and other cool things like that!)

If anyone has awesome language-learning tools to recommend to me, I’d love to hear them!

How Many of These German Expat Mistakes Have You Made?

German Expat Mistakes

I’ve written a lot about how wonderful it is to live as an expat in Germany, but today I’d like to flip and talk about the mistakes new expats can make here. Especially to other Europeans, coming to Germany is so easy. We don’t need any visa or much planning at all and as long as we’re registered to live here when we get here, it’s all good.

BUT there are things that can go wrong…

  1. Register as Christian

A lot of British people, as well as American people (I assume) would say that their religion is generically Christian. It’s the default option because a lot of people grew up in Christian education and culture. I myself went to Christian primary and middle schools and although I went through a short spell of┬átaking my little sister to church every week when she was curious, I’ve never been one for actually going to church. I am Christian by culture, not by religion, I guess.

So when you come to Germany and, when registering, you’re asked what religion you are, should you say that you are Christian? Well, maybe not. If you do, you will have to give money from your wages (around 9% of your salary) every month to the church. Of course, if you are church-going, and are very serious about being Christian, then this is no problem. But for lazy Christians like myself, this is probably not something we want to do.

  1. Phone contract

How long are you planning to stay in Germany? If you are there on a whim and are trying out a new job I advise you to refrain from getting a phone contract. German phone contracts usually last for 2 years, and you have to inform the company 3 months in advance at the end of the contract if you want to end it. If you do not do this, it automatically rolls over another year.

Canceling the contract when you move back home is a pain in the bum. There are loads of horror stories about people who have been given trouble when they try to do this, but luckily, (TOUCH WOOD) it’s been OK for me so far. I first sent a letter to O2 informing them that I will be going home in June. Next, I’ve had a string of emails back and forth giving them various bits of information. After this, I should pay the remaining 300 euros for my actual mobile phone. Then, in the last week of me being in Germany, I’ll send them the confirmation from the town hall that I have deregistered.

It’s all so much faff that I wish I’d just been pay as you go the whole I’m I was here.

  1. Downloading

Now you’re in Germany, you can’t catch up with your favourite shows from home any more, so you switch to downloading them, right? WRONG!

Germany is VERY strict with downloads so there is a much, much higher chance of people who use torrents getting caught and having to face a large fine. It’s happened to two people I know, and even the whole “only downloading, never uploading” doesn’t seem to work.

There are lots of legal ways to watch things these days – I know a lot of people who pay for things in the iTunes and so on. Some people also use a proxy to watch the BBC iPlayer and so on, which is still dodgy, but not enough to get you in trouble.

Extra – TV Licence

I’ve put the German TV licence – GEZ – as an extra because there are two ways to go about this. In Germany you should pay the GEZ for a TV licence even if you don’t have a TV – even owning a radio, computer or mobile phone counts. But this has changed recently and you are to pay it just by existing here. When you register here in Germany, GEZ will be given your address and they will start asking you to pay.

Some people say they have never paid this, and tell you to ignore the letters and to refuse the GEZ people entry to your home. Other people just pay up, as it’s our responsibility living here in Germany. They can, however, get it wrong sometimes as even though I replied to their initial letters saying that my flatmates pay a cover for the whole flat and that I should not have to pay, they are still sending me scary-looking letters demanding money.

I don’t have an answer for this one, but Toytown has extensive information on their forums about it, so if you are worried about this then please have a read.

What German expat mistakes have you made? Are there any that I’ve missed off my list?

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