Tag Archives: German expat

Newport Beach Film Festival – German Spotlight Event

IMG_1312NBFF 2016 – German Spotlight Event

Warning: We’re being watched!  With over 350 independent and international films, as well as nightly gala events and industry seminars, this year’s Newport Beach Film Festival offered a rich variety of events in which art, entertainment, and cultural fans could partake in.

I personally had the honor to attend this year’s German Spotlight, which took place on Tuesday, April 26.  This spotlight is especially dear to my heart since I was an event coordinator for it last year when the German film got finally re-introduced to the Newport Beach Film Festival after seven years of absence.  This year, I was curious to see how it feels like to “only” attend as a guest.  I was very much looking forward to sitting back, relaxing, and witnessing some great German filmmaking.  The evening did not disappoint.

This year’s spotlight movie One Breath literally took my breath away.  The film plot is concerned with two women of complete opposite backgrounds whose lives cross paths.  One is wealthy Tessa, who seems to have it all: a great career, a good-looking husband, and one-and-a-half-year old daughter Lotte.  Elena, on the other hand, escapes from Greek, where she had no perspective, leaving her boyfriend behind to move to Frankfurt for a better life, where she finds out that she is pregnant.  She starts working for Tessa as a nanny, but quickly realizes that the seemingly perfect life and the nice apartment Tessa and her family live in is really only pretense.  Tessa appears to be very controlling, and Elena also gets to witness that Tessa’s marriage and life is far from perfect. One fateful afternoon, both Elena’s and Tessa’s lives change dramatically when Lotte disappears while Elena was taking care of her.  Overwhelmed with the situation, Elena flees back to Greece.  Tessa, who is convinced that Elena took the child, travels to Athens, trying to find her and hopefully Lotte.  Unfortunately in this movie, there is only a happy ending for one of the women!  

One Breath definitely deserved to be selected as the German Spotlight film.  It delivers very strong performances by its actors, especially Jördis Triebel as Tessa and Chara Mata Giannatou as Elena convince in their roles.  The movie really pulled viewers deep into its tragic story, and once the final movie credits were being displayed on the big screen, I had a hard time transitioning to party mode for the after-gala.  I was still sucked into the movie plot, trying to understand why one character deserved a better ending than the other.  

IMG_1314Once I arrived at the German Spotlight after-gala, which was held at SoCo and hosted by Design Within Reach, my mood finally changed.  Loud music was popping out of the design store which got perfectly transformed into an amazing party venue with a DJ, live performances, amazing food from Orange County’s premier restaurants and drinks provided by festival sponsors.  I was most amazed by this year’s ice sculpture which was displayed right at the front and had all four spotlight countries engraved.  Of course, I had to take a couple of fun pictures with it.  The food was really amazing as well; I indulged in beef tacos, tomato soup, and mini cake bites.  

All in all, I was more than impressed about what this year’s Newport Beach Film Festival had put together for the European Showcase Spotlight night.  It is great to know that the German movie has made it back to the event for the second year in a row, and I am personally looking forward to more great European filmmaking being celebrated in Orange County.

.
Images & video footage: ©Anne-Kathrin Schulte
———————————————————————————————–————

Anne-KathrinAnne-Kathrin Schulte, is a contributor for CaliforniaGermans.com. She writes on her personal experience of the American Dream as well as on working as an au pair in CA. She was born and grew up in Düsseldorf, Germany, where she completed her degree as a state-approved Kindergarten teacher. After her au pair engagement in the US and a quick return to Germany she decided to attend university in California and moved back to the United States. She lives in Southern California since 2011.

If you would like to contact Anne-Kathrin, please send an email to californiagermans(at)gmail.com and place her name in the subject line.

———————————————————————————————–———–

.

Adventures of a German Au Pair in the United States – Finding a Way Back to the U.S.

hands of World Pixabay stokpic

Working My Way Back to the United States

My au pair time was officially over.  The realization hit me every day I was living back in Germany.  Even though I had started a new job as a kindergarten teacher that kept me pretty busy, I found myself reminiscing at least once a day about my life in California.  I missed it so much!

I felt bad about it because I was finally close to my best friends and family again, but then again my au pair stay had changed me and my life forever.  I had fallen in love with traveling the world, and even though I hadn’t been really good with settling in other places before my cultural exchange, my desire to leave Europe and immigrate somewhere far away grew ever bigger after my U.S. stay.  I am not the only person that felt like that; many of my au pair friends experienced this kind of travel fever.  Some of them eventually became flight attendants for long distance flights, just to get out of Germany every so often.  Even I applied for a position as a flight attendant once while being back in Europe.  

It happened in late 2010 when I had worked for more than a year in the kindergarten institution where I had been responsible for taking care of children between the ages of 7 months and 6 years.  Even though no one day was the same at work, I felt like I needed a break from my routine.  I was so very hungry for traveling on a consistent basis, specifically long distance, but it was just too costly to do so only for leisure.  Therefore, I looked up long distance flight attendant positions one night and found an opening for a well-known German airline. With no hesitations, I instantly applied, hoping to hear back from the company anytime soon.  My prayers were heard; I received an email with an invitation to a telephone interview.  I was beyond thrilled, imagining myself being up in the clouds already.  But, as life usually goes, all came different.  

One night in December 2010, my dad approached me.  In general this wasn’t really surprising since he usually liked to lecture me every once in a while about my life and the choices I made, but this time it was different.  I had been living with my parents since I had moved back from the United States due to the fact that I was unsure of where my future would take me. So until I had figured that out I could stay with them.  On this particular night then, my father came all the way up to my room, mentioning he wanted to talk to me.  All I thought at that moment was ‘Oh great, not another lecture I don’t want to hear at the moment.’ But he actually was about to nail it this time.  Without hesitation, he told me that he had noticed my being so unhappy for most of the time, and he wanted to know why.  So I told him straight to his face that I hated being back and I didn’t feel at home in Europe anymore!  I know those were harsh words that I threw at my father’s face, but I had been frustrated for a while with living back in Germany, with no clue how I could make my way back to the U.S..  

To my surprise, my dad was very understanding, and we had a really good conversation.  I told him that I knew that one of the ways of going back to the United States was to attend college there, which I had thought of for a while since I wasn’t very happy in my profession as a kindergarten teacher.  My father told me that if that was what I really wanted, he would help me make my dream a reality.  But he had one condition: I had to find a college major that would guarantee me a good career.  I cannot describe how relieved I was, first about having opened up to my dad and second of course about his response.  I instantly started researching schools in the Orange County area, specifically around Huntington Beach since I had been there on vacation in 2010 and had fallen in love with the laid-back lifestyle.  

I eventually found a college in Fountain Valley that I liked.  Over the next couple of days I gathered the paperwork together that I needed for the application and started filling it out.  I was super anxious when I did that because I was afraid that one piece of the wrong information would mess up all my chances of getting into college in the United States.  But luckily, my story had a happy ending.  In April 2011, when I was in Huntington Beach on vacation, I stopped by the college to ask them about my application process.  When the lady at the counter told me that I had been accepted to start attending school in the fall of 2011, I was beyond happy.  I was finally about to work my way back to the U.S., and this time, hopefully, without ever having to leave again…

To be continued…
(Next Wednesday: Read about Kathrin’s “living her dream” since being back in California)
.
Image: Pixabay.com
Disclaimer: Names in the story may have been changed to protect people’s privacy
———————————————————————————————–————

Anne-KathrinAnne-Kathrin Schulte, is a contributor for CaliforniaGermans.com. She writes on her personal experience of the American Dream as well as on working as an au pair in CA. She was born and grew up in Düsseldorf, Germany, where she completed her degree as a state-approved Kindergarten teacher. After her au pair engagement in the US and a quick return to Germany she decided to attend university in California and moved back to the United States. She lives in Southern California since 2011.

If you would like to contact Anne-Kathrin, please send an email to californiagermans(at)gmail.com and place her name in the subject line.

———————————————————————————————–———–

.

Adventures of a German Au Pair in the United States – My Life Back in Germany

berlin-pixabay

My Life Back in Germany After a Grand Welcome Back

It was bittersweet touching ground in Germany after an almost 12 hour flight. On the one hand, I was of course excited to see my family and friends again after more than a year away.  But, on the other hand, I was already homesick for California.  But for now I tried to keep a positive attitude and just enjoy seeing everybody.  And boy, did I see  everybody!  I mean, I knew that my parents were going to be there to pick me up, but I didn’t expect quite the entourage they had in tow with them.  

Before I was able to see everyone however I had one major challenge to face. A challenge, that every au pair I talked to had: going through German customs after a year of living in the United States.  Man, was I nervous once I had my four pieces of luggage loaded onto my cart!  I for sure believed that the customs officers would pull me over after seeing what I came back home with.  “Stay cool, they might not even notice you,” I kept telling myself.  But, yeah, how would they not notice me pushing a cart with all these suitcases piled up.  I reminded myself not to look at their faces when passing the officers.  I kept looking  straight ahead and just smiled, and “tadaa”!, I made it successfully through the customs without anyone going through my luggage.

I instantly relaxed after this burden fell of my shoulders and marched ahead towards the sliding doors that would open up to the arrival area.  Well, what can I say…, before I was able to spot anyone I just heard loud yelling from a crowd of people that came from the area I was supposed to go to.  I heard familiar voices especially my  dad’s, who always loved to sing the loudest back in the days when we all went to church together, so it wasn’t hard to identify his voice throughout all the yelling, and when I eventually turned my head toward the loud crowd’s direction, I spotted a whole bunch of familiar faces.  

I can barely remember how many of my closest friends and family actually made the effort to show up at the airport to welcome me, but I was positively overwhelmed with such an amazing turnout.  These people all just had come out because of me, me ‘little’ Kathrin who just got back from a longer trip to the U.S. I am not going to lie though; it felt really good to be the center of such attention once, just as if I had landed from a successful exploration trip to the moon or something like it.  Once I pushed the luggage cart towards where all the yelling and cheering came from, I finally realized that actually over sixteen people of my family and friends had gathered at the airport and waited for me to come through those sliding doors.  I was so happy to see all those faces and couldn’t wait to tell them about my adventures at my “Welcome home” party my parents threw for me that afternoon.

On the 15 minute car ride to my parents’ home I was excited to see what might have changed in my hometown since I had left more than a year ago.  But, to my honest surprise, not much had actually changed.  It dawned on me that while I had certainly grown up more throughout my au pair experience it didn’t mean that everything else in life had gone through changes as well.  The streets of Düsseldorf still mainly looked the same, and so did the house I grew up in.  This wasn’t a bad thing, I just kind of expected or rather had waited for things to be different since my own life had changed so drastically.

Once we arrived at the house I had grown up in, I let go of those thoughts and just enjoyed having good German cake while catching up with friends and family. Despite the jet lag I made it through the day until  the evening before I fell into bed and was fast asleep. The next couple of days went by pretty quickly. I met with all my friends who couldn’t be at the airport when I arrived and just had a great time catching up. But soon I realized that this wasn’t California anymore, and I had to get back on my feet.  Deep in my heart I was so homesick for the United States that I knew I wouldn’t be able to make it for long here in Europe. But at that moment, I had no idea of  how I would be able to move back to the United States.  

Once I started to fully understand that , I fell into a big hole.  I started being miserable and couldn’t find the motivation to apply for jobs. I kept complaining to my friends until one of them gave me the kick in the butt I needed at that time.  She was the one telling me to start applying now and that she wouldn’t want me to come up with any more excuses.  At  that same moment, she brought out her computer and told me: “Here you go; you won’t leave my house until you drafted an application and a resume.”  And boy, did she mean that!  She was sitting with me all afternoon and night, helping me to get back on my feet.  And thanks to her and her support, I was able to find a job as a kindergarten teacher in less than a week.  I knew that this wasn’t supposed to be my “last chapter in life” yet , but for now I had to settle until I was able to continue living my American Dream.

To be continued…
(Next Wednesday: Read about Kathrin’s search to find a way back to to a life in the United States)
.
ImagePixabay.com
Disclaimer: Names in the story may have been changed to protect people’s privacy
———————————————————————————————–————

Anne-KathrinAnne-Kathrin Schulte, is a contributor for CaliforniaGermans.com. She writes on her personal experience of the American Dream as well as on working as an au pair in CA. She was born and grew up in Düsseldorf, Germany, where she completed her degree as a state-approved Kindergarten teacher. After her au pair engagement in the US and a quick return to Germany she decided to attend university in California and moved back to the United States. She lives in Southern California since 2011.

If you would like to contact Anne-Kathrin, please send an email to californiagermans(at)gmail.com and place her name in the subject line.

———————————————————————————————–———–

.

Adventures of a German Au Pair in the United States – Time to Return to Germany

airplane-PixabayMy Last Three Weeks in California

The day that I had highly anticipated for over a month finally came – I could pack my bags and leave New York for good.  Even though it had been a time filled with lots of frustration and discomfort, it had also taught me to not give up and that what “doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”  Safe to say, I was more than ready to leave and fly back to my happy place California.  I was excited for the sunshine, my friends, and, of course, my host family.  But before I actually made it on the plane back to “freedom”, I had one more sleepless night in Brooklyn, followed by a 5 am pickup that drove me to the airport, where I then had to repack my luggage since two of my bags were too heavy. Agh!  Back in those days one could check two bags for free and also bring two carry-ons.  I looked like one of those poor donkeys that have to carry people’s luggage up on mountains and along trails in countries like India or Latin America.  After I finally went through security and boarded the plane, I felt a long-lost relief.  I escaped my personal hell and was looking forward to my last three weeks in the United States.

I can’t really put into words what I felt when the plane finally touched down in San Francisco.  It was like a firework of happy feelings, mixed with a little bit of anxiety since I would be living under one roof with the new nanny of my host family. I briefly had met Nell before my move to New York.  She was a really nice girl, a little younger than myself, but definitely capable of filling in my spot and taking care of the kids.  She herself decided to leave her previous host family because they had resided in a really bad neighborhood with lots of crime and drugs.  She made a really good trade coming to Walnut Creek.  And we actually became good friends during my three-week stay in California.  She took me along when she was done working to meet up with her friends, and she also was so nice to drop me off at the Tattoo parlor to get my very first tattoo!  I always wanted to have one, and after all I had been through those last couple months I thought it was the perfect timing to get a tattoo that has a deep, personal meaning to me.

But before all this, I was anxious to see her taking care of “my” kids.  I am not going to lie, there were moments when I locked myself up in one of the bedrooms just to cry that this wasn’t my home anymore.  But even though I would have been able to stay with this family instead of going to NY, the day of leaving them would have come eventually anyways.  I just regretted not ending my au pair stay with them rather than moving to New York.  It was what it was, and it sometimes hit me hard, but I tried to stay positive.

I don’t quite remember if someone picked me up at the airport or if I took the train down from SF airport all the way to Walnut Creek, but since I had so much luggage I believe that either my former host mom or dad came to get me.  It is hard for me to remember what exactly I experienced on my first day back in California, but what I can recall is that I was so happy to see the kids again.  To me, the month-and-a-half apart felt like an eternity, especially seeing baby Carol now fully capable of walking by herself when she used to scoot over the floor on her bottom before.  I planned on making the most out of the last three weeks that I stayed in California, including lots of activities with the kids and meeting friends, as well as getting my long anticipated tattoo.

Just three days before I was about to leave the United States to move back to Europe, I had my tattoo appointment. Nell drove me to the parlor, leaving me there while she had to go back to work.  Nervously I was waiting for my turn. I had actually been to the parlor a couple of days before my appointment to talk about the design which I had drafted on a sheet of paper: an alignment of stars and lines intertwining.  To me that design meant that if someone is going through a bad time, there is always light behind the clouds.  I decided to get the tattoo on my right wrist, but I was really afraid of the pain.  In the end it wasn’t actually as bad as expected, and I was super happy with it once it was done.

Later that afternoon, Nell picked me up again, and we drove home together to have dinner with our host family.  I was trying to hide my tattoo from them at first since they are a little conservative, but eventually my sleeve rolled up and Anne saw it.  I never forget how she stared at it incredulously and said: ”Your mother is going to kill me!”  I roared with laughter when she said this, but also felt so relieved that from that moment on I didn’t have to hide it anymore.  

It was a good last time together with the family before I had to leave.  I was dreading the day that I had to go back to the airport, I really didn’t want to go back home.  On the other hand though I must say I was also excited to see my friends and family in Germany again. It was confusing… With lots of mixed feelings, I said goodbye to my host family. This time for a longer while I knew and stepped on the plane going back to Europe.  I didn’t really consider Germany my home anymore, I was so happy here in California that I already started thinking about ways to come back.  But that is different story I will tell another time…

To be continued…
(Next Wednesday: Read about Kathrin’s life back in Germany after her au pair experience)
.
ImagePixabay.com
Disclaimer: Names in the story have been changed to protect people’s privacy
———————————————————————————————–————

Anne-KathrinAnne-Kathrin Schulte, is a contributor for CaliforniaGermans.com. She writes on her personal experience of the American Dream as well as on working as an au pair in CA. She was born and grew up in Düsseldorf, Germany, where she completed her degree as a state-approved Kindergarten teacher. After her au pair engagement in the US and a quick return to Germany she decided to attend university in California and moved back to the United States. She lives in Southern California since 2011.

If you would like to contact Anne-Kathrin, please send an email to californiagermans(at)gmail.com and place her name in the subject line.

———————————————————————————————–———–

.

Adventures of a German Au Pair in the United States – My Time in “The City”

NY AnneKathrin

My Time in”The City” and why I’d never Move Back

The big moving day came around in late June. I can’t put it in words how weird it was to say goodbye to my California family, especially the kids. I mean, I was the one witnessing baby Carol’s first steps and words. I was the first nanny the family ever had living with them. I didn’t want to imagine some new nanny driving them to school; I wanted to be the one. But eventually, the day of “goodbye” had to come. My host dad dropped me off at San Francisco airport, where my flight was about to depart to John F. Kennedy airport, NYC. It was a tearful goodbye, but I knew in my heart that I was coming back to California to visit “my” family.

The flight to NY went pretty smoothly, and I started imagining all the fun things I would do while living in Brooklyn. But it didn’t lift me up as much as I had hoped due to the fact that, deep in my heart, I knew that I was more a California girl than one who loves living in the big city. After an almost six-hour flight, my “new” host mum picked me up at JFK to drive me back to Brooklyn. She gave me a warm welcome hug, but I didn’t click with her as much as I did with Anne. Honestly, I don’t even remember her name, or the kids’ names. That tells you a lot about how I felt about the new family, doesn’t it?

On my first night in New York I had to sleep in one of the kids’ rooms since their grandfather was visiting and was sleeping in my bedroom for one night. I didn’t care, I was tired from the long trip and just wanted to sleep.
The next morning, I slept in late due to the time change. When I got up, the house was empty. I took a glimpse into my future bedroom, and what I saw was not really pleasant. Dirt on the floor and stains on the wall (I don’t want to go into too much graphic detail, but let me tell you, my appetite was instantly gone once I saw what I saw). The next mistake I made was going into the bathroom I was supposed to share with the kids. What can I say, it was way worse than my bedroom, and I was debating if I should rather use a public restroom instead. I just thought “I cannot live here for another year, I just can’t.”

But I wanted to give it at least a chance; maybe I could get over all this, I thought. But in the end, I couldn’t. While the cleanliness of the house was one thing, the worst of all for me was that I didn’t get along with the kids at all. I was supposed to take care of three young boys, a pair of twins, who where six at that time, and a two-year-old. All three of them were still caught up with their previous nanny who had to leave them due to a family emergency. And then I came to take over, heartbroken myself that I had to leave beautiful California and move half across the country due to a decision I deeply regretted.

Screaming, insulting, and kicking were only some of the daily routine with my kids. They did not like me and, not surprisingly, I wasn’t very fond of them either. Maybe, if I had moved in with the family at a time when the boys and I would have been more open for each other, things might have turned out differently. But throughout the month-and-a-half I lived with the family, I wasn’t able to get attached to anyone at all. All I wanted was to leave. On top of all this was that I had a really hard time making new friends in the city. I made an effort to go to an au pair meeting my agency set up at a little restaurant in Brooklyn, and I met some really nice people. But it wasn’t the same as when I met Fran and Mina, and all my other Californian friends. Even though I exchanged numbers with one of the girls, I never cared to contact her. Deep inside of me I knew that I was done with New York and that I’d rather end my stay than endure this situation for another 11 months.

I remember one afternoon when my New York au pair area director came over to the house, and I told her in tears that I am not going to extend my stay any longer than till August. She was really understanding and sweet about it and as soon as I had spoken it out I felt a major relief. I only had to stay a few more weeks with this family in this dirty house until I could travel back to California for three more weeks before finally moving back to Germany.

But it was not only my new living situation that made me decide to leave New York. Even though I have to say the city is pretty fascinating and definitely has a lot to offer, it was brutal living there during the summer. I was used to the dry heat in California, whereas New York was humid and hot. On some days, it suddenly started to rain heavily, forcing me to stay inside my house when I’d rather wanted to be out and about. But that wasn’t the worst compared to how many mosquito bites I received- after only a few days of living in Brooklyn, I looked like a German Streuselkuchen, with bites all over my face, arms, and legs. Easy to say, I was not having it spending a summer in the city, missing the perfect California weather.

It was not all bad in NYC. I visited Manhattan almost every single night during my stay. I enjoyed sights such as the Empire State Building or Central Park. I also visited a couple museums and watched many movies in the theaters. But all this would have been much more fun if I had made friends. At least my good friends Mina and Fran came to visit me in the city before they were heading back to Germany after they were done with their au pair program. That was a really fun weekend with good food, good talks, and lots of laughter. For the first time since living in the city, I felt a bit of relief and could forget about the downsides. But once my friends had left, the feeling of loneliness and discomfort came straight back. I was counting the days until I could finally pack up my bags and fly back to San Francisco, where I would spend some more quality time with friends and family before moving back to Europe in September 2009.

To be continued…
(Next Wednesday: Read about Kathrin’s last few weeks back in CA)
.
Image: Copyright ©Anne-Kathrin Schulte
Disclaimer: Names in the story have been changed to protect people’s privacy
———————————————————————————————–————

Anne-KathrinAnne-Kathrin Schulte, is a contributor for CaliforniaGermans.com. She writes on her personal experience of the American Dream as well as on working as an au pair in CA. She was born and grew up in Düsseldorf, Germany, where she completed her degree as a state-approved Kindergarten teacher. After her au pair engagement in the US and a quick return to Germany she decided to attend university in California and moved back to the United States. She lives in Southern California since 2011.

If you would like to contact Anne-Kathrin, please send an email to californiagermans(at)gmail.com and place her name in the subject line.

———————————————————————————————–———–

.