EXPAT LIFE: Catching up on Life Vol.4

To say things have been pretty busy around here lately might just be an understatement! Between visitors, work and generally enjoying life, it’s been hard to find a spare minute!

As you all know, my best friend, her husband and my goddaughter came to stay and we had the best time ever which included pool time, exploring time and general catching up time! You can read more about that here.

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Happy One year in Atlanta!

Wow. It’s a year to the day since we stepped foot on American soil and started our new life in Atlanta and what a year it has been! This time last year I was sitting on the plane after saying a very tearful goodbye to Ma and Pa Cook and wondering what lay ahead (and more importantly if they’d actually let me into the country – remember the Big V?) and now I’m a married lady about to embark upon her second year as an expat! Wowzers!

Officially an expat with that stamp!

Officially an expat with that stamp!

I’m not going to lie, packing up our lives and starting a new one in a different country was blummin daunting (well, maybe not so much for the German – he’d done it before!) watching everything go into boxes, knowing the next time I saw it would be in America!! America!! I still can’t quite get my head around the fact that I live here! I really should work on that – I’m technically not a ‘new’ expat anymore! I haven’t ‘just’ moved here, I’m not ‘fresh off the plane’ anymore!

So what has the past 12 months been like? 3 words will cover that – THE BEST EVER!! Yep, it’s been a year of adventure, new experiences and adjustment, excitement, exploring and change and a lot of fun times along the way! So much has happened! There’s no way I’m going to fit it all into this post!

So, after weeks of trawling furniture shops we made a home that happily welcomed a lot of visitors, we made some amazing new friends – something that will only continue the longer we stay here, we survived the pollen attack and the big scary bugs, survived our first Hotlanta summer by the pool, we got engaged (definitely didn’t see that one coming!) and then went to the beach and got married within 3 weeks! (You can read more about that here!) If you’d have asked me this time last year if I would be married within 12 months (well actually it was 5!) I would have laughed in your face and the words ‘I won’t even be engaged’ would probably have come out of my mouth! The German definitely shocked me there!

And then there was the exploring! Being an expat means there’s a whole new world at your fingertips – a never-ending list of places to explore and, me being me, I obviously want to explore all of them!! In 12 months we scouted out some fab places in Georgia (Helen, Stone Mountain, Downtown Atlanta, Blue Ridge, Lake Lanier to name just a few!), immersed ourselves into American life (heading to a Braves game, a Hawks game, some Final Four Madness and Independence Day) and took a road trip to Florida (where we checked out Miami, Clearwater, the Florida Keys and the Everglades).

There’s the food, oh the beautiful food! We’ve definitely attempted to try every little bit on offer (our waistlines can vouch for that!) and done our bit to make sure these expats experience as much American food as possible! There’s the ribs, the burgers, the mac and cheese, the fried chicken, the biscuits and gravy, the sandwiches the size of a house, the tacos, the pizza, the queso, the list is endless!! We’ve been to so many new places in the last 12 months and we still haven’t made a dint in the amount of places we want to try! I’m already excited for the next 12 months of food  based goodness! I think I might have to increase my trips to the gym though!

We’ve had to make some adjustments though to make sure expat life runs smoothly! The first day I was left on my own I was faced with a tornado warning – something I’m definitely not used to at home! I took it all in my stride though, well technically I ignored it! probably not the best way to deal with it but hey it worked for me! Then there’s adjustments like making time at the weekend to FaceTime family back home because the time difference means we can’t do it during the week because of work (well I can, the Geman can’t!) that means before we go anywhere on a Sunday we call Ma and Pa Richter back in Germany. You also make more of a conscious effort to keep in touch with people back home – they’re you’re lifeline when you’re feeling a little low and the fact that it’s so easy to communicate with them now (FaceTime, Skype, iMessage, WhatsApp, e-mail, text message) makes you feel a lot closer to home. I really don’t think I would have settled in as quickly as I did if I didn’t have those tools at my fingertips!

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all been plain sailing and a barrell of laughs everyday. We’re not on holiday, the German trots off to work everyday, I attempt to find work and write this beauty and, some days, just like everyone else, we have days when things aren’t all happy and jolly! Then there’s the lack of family and friends around you. Some days you’re fine, others you suddenly get a pang of homesickness and you just wish you could pop round to see your mum or your best friend and have a gossip over a cup of coffee. (You can read more about that here.) There’s the bits I’ve mentioned before about wedding dress shopping without my best friends and missing my best friends little girl growing up but that’s what you sign up to when moving to another country and you just have find ways to deal with it like sending a text or sorting a FaceTime call.

That said though we’ve literally lived the dream for the last 12 months and embracing expat life as much as possible – you have to when you’re given the opportunity! And the next 12 months are looking just as exciting – the Hotel Richter is re-opening!! Our first guests are already booked in with more already planning their visits throughout the year! We have a looooooong list of places we still want to explore (stay tuned on that one – I’m planning to write a bucket list VERY soon!) and of course, not forgetting the fact we’re getting married again!! Jeez, it’s gonna be another busy but bloody amazing year!!

Today’s Ramblings #12

Time for another Rambling post from your friendly little British expat in Atlanta! So first up, I know what’s on all of your lips…how is the wedding diet going? Right? Well, even if it wasn’t you’re getting a little update! So after eating VERY healthily for a week (except for the Mexican on Friday night – everyone has to have a cheat day!) and hitting the gym like there’s no tomorrow (my poor jet lagged body wondered what the hell was happening!) I lost a grand total of 3 lbs! I’m happy with that – if I lose that every week I’ll be set for the big day! The German did well too – I think he doubled my weight loss and dropped 6 lbs! Good work bolo! The scales, this week, were our friend! Lets see what happens next week…

On Saturday night the German and I went to the movies! (Yes, I did just say movies and not cinema – I’ve gone all American on your asses!) Since we moved to America we’ve only been to the flicks once – we’re really bad at seeing films! But we’re making it a priority to go more often this year and more so after going to the cinema at Phipps Plaza in Buckhead. Three words – BEST CINEMA EVER and here’s why:

WOW!

WOW!

These were, by far, the best cinema seats I have ever had the pleasure of sitting in! We’re talking full on recliners with leg raisers – you could practically lie down in those beasts! We were tipped off about this treat of a cinema by some friends but this was more than we were expecting!! We’re talking so comfy you could fall to sleep on them – the German predicted this of me but I proved him wrong despite my track record of sleeping through entire films! I think the fact that we saw Anchorman 2 helped with this – Ron Burgandy is a legend! I think it’s safe to say we won’t be going to any other cinema apart from the one at Phipps in the future!!

However, the curse of the American car park struck when we headed home! Seriously – those places are so confusing! For a start they are HUGE, like bigger than any other car park I’ve ever been in! I would sometimes get confused in multi-storey car parks back in the UK but now I realise they are a breeze compared to these American beasts! So, we walked out of the doors and into the car park and headed in the direction of where we thought we’d parked the car. We walked, and walked, and still didn’t find it! The place looked the same in every direction, every corner we walked round I was positive the car was there but every time we were disappointed! Then the German remembered he’d done this:

Clever Boy!

Clever Boy!

I knew I married him for a reason!! Yep, the clever German took a picture of the column we’d parked next to, anticipating our problem before it even happened! Soon we were heading in the right direction and a couple of minutes later, after the words ‘we’re getting close’ from the German we turned a corner and the car was patiently waiting for us! YAY! However, I’m sure this won’t be the last time we have a ‘we can’t find the car’ moment!

And I need to show you a few pics from the walk I took on Monday. The past few days had been beautiful (well actually the past week) bright blue skies and sunshine, and I was itching to get outside and take a walk. It had been a little bit chilly but on Monday, despite a frosty start that saw me de-icing the car (I thought I’d left those days behind when I left England!) the temperatures warmed up and it was beautiful – we’re talking 16 degrees celsius, or around 60 degrees fahrenheit! OK so it’s not get the shorts out and celebrate summer temperatures but it was pretty warm in the sunshine! So off I went for a stroll along the Chattahoochee River:

Every time I walk along this route I’m still amazed by the beauty! I don’t think I’ll ever get used to the fact that bright, sunny days without a cloud in the sky are pretty much the norm around here – I’m always expecting them to disappear after a couple of days so I try to fit in as much as I can outside! The German laughs at this but, after being brought up in rainy England where you’re only guaranteed a few days of sunshine every year you’re trained to make the most of it! Monday was Martin Luther King Day and schools were closed for the bank holiday. It seemed loads of families had the same idea as me – to get out in the sunshine! The playground areas were full of children playing on the swings – it was lovely to see them out and about with their parents having family time, riding their bikes, taking a walk and getting some fresh air! I walked along, thinking about just how lucky I am to be here, in this country being able to explore new things every single day! (BIG thanks to the German for that!) If you’re handed a once in a lifetime opportunity you have to grab it with as much enthusiasm as possible and truly make the most of it. I don’t think I’ll ever take the beautiful sunny days here in Georgia for granted – ever.

I’m a guest blogger!

So after attempting to get my blog noticed by more people I was asked by the lovely UK Desperate Housewife USA to write a guest post for her blog! She moved from Blighty to Washington last year and writes a fab blog about her adventures and experiences of life in the US which, being up on the East Coast are different to life down here in the South! Obviously after being asked I jumped at the chance! But I wouldn’t want you lovely bloggers to miss out on my ramblings so I thought I’d post it on here too! Some bits you’ll already know about, others you won’t! So sit back, relax and enjoy!

Hey! I’m Rachel and this is my first ever guest blog post so a big, huge, mahoosive thank you to UK Desperate Housewife USA for asking me to get involved!!

 I’m a British expat who’s lucky enough to have waved goodbye to dull and rainy Blighty and set up home in hot and sunny Atlanta! I’ve been here for 8 months now and I’m loving every minute!!! And how did I get here? Well it’s all because of this man and frozen cakes!

Cake man! AKA The German!

Cake man! AKA The German!

Yep we made it to Atlanta because my lovely husband works for a frozen cake company! And yes we do get cakes and have to taste them to see if they’re good or not! Amazing I know!! One day he came home when we were living in our lovely flat in Leeds and said ‘We’re taking over the running of the American office, how do you fancy living in Atlanta?’ Well as you can imagine this didn’t take much thinking about! At the time I was working as a freelance journalist and after a few minutes of thinking (well actually it was more like seconds!) I said a big fat YES!!! And that was that, we were heading to the States, well once we’d been to the embassy for our visas and had the removal men come around to pack all our stuff up!

So what’s life been like since I moved here? Well there’s been some culture shocks, some things I’ve embraced whole heartedly and others that I’m happy to just let pass me by! So here’s my list of the pros and cons of being an expat in Atlanta:

PRO: THE WEATHER

Now this is something I seriously cannot complain about! The weather here in the South is amazing!! Just about every day there’s bright sunshine and seriously hot temperatures! A definite culture shock from the dull, wet and miserable Leeds that I left behind in England!! A typical day in Georgia kind of looks like this:

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Not a cloud in the sky! It’s definitely not something to screw your nose up at! But, and at the risk of the Brits back home saying ‘you don’t know how good you’ve got it’ it can get too hot! Especially in August, or the dog days of August as they’re called here in Hotlanta! It’s so hot you literally can’t do anything without getting hot and sweaty! Even walking out to the car is a huge task and if you sit by the pool you have to have a dip at least every 10 minutes because you just can’t stand the heat anymore! Right now I would say it’s a nice temperature, it’s in the high 80s meaning you can sit outside without ending up drenched in sweat (horrible visual I know! Sorry about that one!) You can go for a walk without needing a complete change of clothes when you get back! Having said that, this year has been one of the worst summers for years..typical when we turn up! It’s rained more so far this year than the last 2 years put together – I’m blaming our British visitors! Every time they came so did the rain! Since my brother left about 3 weeks ago we haven’t seen any rain at all!! I think there’s something to be said for taking the weather with you!

 

CON: THE BUGS

Yep living here in the South there are LOTS of bugs and when I say bugs we’re not talking little tiny things that don’t bother you, oh no we’re talking HUGE ones that scare you to death!! In fact right now there’s a MASSIVE spider about to eat it’s pray on the other side of our porch screen, I’m just glad it’s on the other side of the screen! If it wasn’t I definitely would not be sitting here right now! There are also cockroaches. Yep you heard me cockroaches. They’re huge vile things and despite the apartment people spraying the place for bugs they still manage to get on the balcony and occasionally inside our apartment! It would appear the beautiful weather that I just branded a pro is to blame for these beasts too! Oh and I spotted this little, or should I say big guy on my way out the other day…

Scary...

Scary…

I have no idea exactly what he is but I know that I don’t like him!

 

PRO: THE OUTDOOR LIFESTYLE

The weather here in the South means you can spend a lot of time outdoors…something I am so grateful for! I love being outside, especially when it’s bright and sunny! There are loads of places here to take a walk, chill out, meet friends and just take in some of the amazing scenery! In fact here in Atlanta it’s like living in a forest! There are so many trees you wouldn’t think you were living in a huge city that’s home to 6 million people! Here’s the view from my balcony…

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Yep nothing but trees! In some areas of the city, one minute you can be in the middle of some huge skyscrapers and the next you can turn a corner and you’re in suburbia with huge houses surrounded by trees! Although if you’re a hay fever sufferer you’d probably class the trees as the biggest CON ever! Around Easter time the pollen starts to fall and literally leaves yellow dust over EVERYTHING! Sometimes it’s so thick you can see it in the air and feel it on your skin!! Eugh!

 

CON: YOU CAN’T WALK ANYWHERE

If you want to go somewhere in Atlanta you have to take the car. Simple as. Before we moved here we thought we could have one car to share like we did back in Leeds. Oh how wrong we were! Everything is a drive away. You want some groceries, you need to get in the car. You want to go for a walk, you need to get in the car to drive to the trail. You want to go on a bike ride, you have to put your bike in your car and drive to a bike trail. I kid you not!! That’s one thing I miss from back home, being able to take a stroll to the local pub on a Saturday afternoon or evening or walk to the shop for a few bits and bobs. If you go out at night somebody has to drive, taxi’s are also practically non-existent, and the ones that are around are always a little bit dodgy! This also means that the traffic here in Atlanta is horrendous!! Never ever leave the house during rush hour, or the three hour rush hour that lasts between about 4:30 and 7:30pm. Your usual journey time will double and you’ll be crawling in traffic as far as the eye can see!!!

PRO: SHOPPING

Yep as a (temporary) lady of leisure I’ve spent a lot of time shopping over the last few months (well not too much or my lovely husband would not be happy with me spending all his money on clothes!!) and believe me the shopping over here is good! Especially the outlets! If you go on the right days some stores can have an extra 50% off already discounted items, saving you loads on designer stuff! However it also makes you want to buy more because you think it’s such a good deal!! Whoops!

CON: AMERICAN DRIVERS

So when I came over here I had to get used to driving on the right hand side of the road and driving on the HUGE roads, and when I say huge I mean 6 lanes wide!!! I went from one extreme to the other and instead of having a small car like my little Peugeot I left back in England I joined the SUV club so that I could be high up and see more whilst I was driving! It made me feel so much safer!! Now I’m not saying every American is a bad driver, that is far from the truth but you do get the odd few who really don’t seem to know what they’re doing! And when they take their tests in a car park (yep, I got my Georgia driver’s license by taking my test in a car park and going on the road for 5 minutes and doing nothing but turning left!) there’s no wonder they struggle on the real roads! The majority of them don’t know what an indicator is and they often pull out in front of you without any notice on the highway! Just the other day I had to slam on my breaks as a woman pulled into my lane without indicating! Don’t worry I beeped at her!!

Then there’s the truly ‘Southern’ things we’ve experienced:

THE FOOD

Now if you’ve read my blog you’ll know that half the time it revolves around food, not good when you have a wedding dress to fit into in a few months time!! Eeeeek! (Yes I am already married but seen as though we said ‘I do’ on a beach without anyone knowing we thought we’d do it all over again next year with our friends and family!!) And here in the South the food really isn’t helping me to fit into said dress! Everything and I mean EVERYTHING here is deep fried!! Fried chicken, fried green tomatoes, fried pickle spears, fried okra, fried catfish…you get the gist! And then there’s the stodge…waffles, biscuits and gravy, pancakes, hush puppies, cornbread, tater tots, sweet potato fries…the list is endless!! And every single thing is delicious! Oh and it’s usually covered in cheese just to add that extra bit of tasty-ness and up the calories even more!!! And we can’t forget the weird concoctions that strangely work like waffles bacon and maple syrup…

Surprise of the day!

Surprise of the day!

I was adamant this combination would not work before I tried it. I mean sweet and savoury in my book should not go together but I was shocked…it actually works VERY well indeed! Then there’s the fried chicken and waffles, this one I still haven’t tried because I’m sure it won’t work! Fried chicken should be eaten with copious amounts of mac n cheese or fries, not waffles! But I’m sure one day I’ll be persuaded to give it a go and I’ll probably rave about how good it is!! Oh and there’s the HUGE portions…check out this salad I bought the other day…

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Seriously who needs that much lunch? I think I managed just about half of it before giving up! In fact the portions are so big that most people take a goody bag home for later!! Definitely something you wouldn’t see back in the UK!

THE SOUTHERN HOSPITALITY

Everybody down here is so friendly…they call it the Southern Hospitality! Wherever you go people ask how you are, strangers who you walk past say hello even though you’ve never met them before and flash you a smile! At first I found this strange and a little bit weird, bearing in mind I come from England where people are much more reserved!! But I’ve got used to it and now I kind of like it! I join in and give people a smile and say hello to random neighbours in my apartment complex! There are times when it can get annoying though, especially when you’re shopping! When I’m out clothes shopping I like to take my time, look slowly and without any interruptions…something that is not allowed in Atlanta!! As soon as you walk in the shop they pounce ‘How are you today?’ ‘Is there anything I can help you with?’ ‘Are you looking for something in particular?’ No! I just want to take my time and look at what you’ve got!! If I need some help, I’ll ask!! That also took some getting used to but I know how to handle them now!!

So there you have it…my take on life in Atlanta so far! There’s definitely still lots for us to experience here in the States but so far I’m liking what I see! We’ve already learnt a lot since moving over here and I’m sure we’ll be learning and embracing loads more in the coming months and years! We’ve become keen basketball and baseball fans and with the football (American not Soccer!) season now upon us my husband is trying to teach me the rules of American football…that one hasn’t got my attention just yet but I’m sure it will at some point!! And after living the life of a lady of leisure since moving here in January I’m now officially allowed to go to work thanks to my work permit arriving in the post a few days ago…I think my life here is about to change and with it will come a whole wealth of new experiences! And guess what…I can’t wait!!

Home Sweet Home!

So first of all sorry for the lack of blog posts – I’m blaming it on a lack of internet! We haven’t got it sorted in the new place yet (Yep we’re in there – that’s the theme of the post so read on!) and I’m hoping this works through the joy of a 4G personal hotspot with the iPad…we shall  see on that one!

So as I said we’re finally in the new apartment! It took a week, LOTS of building and a few trips from the old place to get everything here but we did it! It’s amazing how much stuff you can amass over a few weeks (6 to be precise!) in a new country that you came to with only 6 suitcases…we definitely had much more than 6 suitcases when we moved in here!

But we’re here and LOVING it! Although we’re still missing our home comforts from England in that container – that’s another story – again keep reading!! The apartment is beautiful and in gorgeous surroundings! I think we’re getting old because instead of being in the centre of everywhere with things within walking distance like we were in Leeds we’re now living on a little suburban road, in an apartment complex that is surrounded by trees and next to the Chatahoochee River (I know amazing name!!) – here’s the view from our balcony…

Yep it's sunny! Sorry guys back home - it's 20 degrees here!!

Yep it’s sunny! Sorry guys back home – it’s 20 degrees here!!

 

Now don’t get me wrong the peace and quiet is amazing! It’s so relaxing being able to look out to the trees and not having anyone looking in (yep I don’t like people looking into my house – the German however used to love leaving the blinds up in our Leeds flat and got annoyed when I put them down!!) and the complex is chilled out – you can walk by the river, hire a canoe and of course there’s a swimming pool and a gym – that’s just standard living out here! I can’t wait for summer to come around to chill out by that pool and get a tan!!

So the German spent the weekend and every night since building his tables! Did I mention he wanted to do this? Yeah? No? I can’t remember so we’ll tell you again! So instead of buying a coffee table and end tables in the living room the German decided he was going to build them himself. Now it’s not that I don’t trust him or think he can do the job BUT he’s a pen pusher who sits at a computer all day and has soft, soft skin on his hands that in my dad’s words ‘haven’t seen a proper days work in their life!’ so I was kind of worried about how they would turn out as was the rest of our friends and family including Toby’s brother Stefan who pulled a face and laughed when he told him! Aaaanyway after spending more than 2 hours in Home Depot on a Sunday morning here’s what’s happened so far in pictures…

The German being a proper man and buying wood!

The German being a proper man and buying wood!

Yep we bought a LOT of wood!

Yep we bought a LOT of wood!

Man at work...

Man at work…

Looking good!

Looking good!

 

And so far they’ve ended up like this…

Wowzers!!

Wowzers!!

 

I know the German’s done good! Now it’s not finished yet – for a start it needs staining – I think that will be my job but I’ll report back when it’s done and show you the finished product! I know you’re all dying to see it!!

Now I would show you some pictures of said new flat but (and here’s the container story already mentioned!! I know you were wondering/dying to know what it was all about!) the container hasn’t arrived yet – booooo! In some good news though it’s in the same country now and in Miami to be precise and in even better news we got an email to say it had been released by customs yesterday – a lot earlier than we thought! Wooooo! However, it now takes up to 5 days to get to the shipping people’s distribution centre then they’ll be able to give us a time frame as to when it can make it up here – we’re hoping it will be here next week! YAY!!

Right I think that’s enough for you for today! I’m going to be a journo geek and wait for the new Pope to head out onto that balcony – yep even here in the states the journo in me still wants to watch the same picture for hours until something actually happens!! But the TV is playing up and keeps pixilating – this doesn’t impress me because knowing my luck I’ll miss the moment when the new Pope is unveiled because of a lack of signal…great.

 

 

The story so far…

So it appears I was being ambitious with 2 blogs in less than 24 hours…I apologise for going AWOL but things had to be done…wait right there and you’ll find out what in a mo!

Now at the end of post number 2 I had my visa – and strict instructions from the lovely man in the US Embassy who issued it to me – to take ALL my documents when I got on that big plane over here!

So at the end of last month we had a big leaving party (BIG thanks to all our friends and family who made it there – you know who you are!) and 3 weeks ago today amid streaming tears after saying goodbye to my mum and dad we boarded the big Delta iron bird and started our new adventure! (I sniffled my way towards however many thousands of feet you are in the air – thankfully I was in the window seat where nobody could see me!)

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