The Annual Mermaid Parade: Colors, Costumes, and Chaos

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Coney Island is already a pretty eventful spot by itself. The beach area hosts the Annual Hotdog Eating Contest on 4th of July, America’s biggest holiday. The Hotdog contest originated at the one and only Nathan’s and to date draws thousands of physical visitors to Coney in addition to millions of live viewers in front of the TV. Aside from it having a fantastic amusement park with more and more major attractions added each year, it is also home to the oldest wooden roller coaster in the US: the famous Cyclone. I once made the “mistake” of paying $8 for a ride that lasted 1 ½ minutes (beware, I heard they upped the price to $9 now) and came tumbling out of my cart soon after. I can see how some people complain about back pain after but it was certainly worth the experience and I can only recommend you trying it out if you are in the area.

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Coney and its neighborhood have been struck by the fatal Sandy, like so many other parts in Brooklyn and Queens close to the ocean. It went through its own process of rebuilding and -construction. As I have been fervidly following its Facebook tweed, I have seen the great progress it made from November 2012 until May 2013, when it re-opened its shining gates to yet another wild season. Every year, Luna Park is scheduled to open fully on Memorial Day Weekend and to close around the Hollow’s Eve weekend. Aside from its many attractions, a significant parade has been an important part of Coney’s repertoire for the past 31 years: The one and only Mermaid Parade!

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Now what exactly is this Parade about? It is held during the month of June, specifically around the weekend of June 21, as it symbolizes the beginning of summer. While at first I thought it was a Lesbian/Gay Parade aimed towards expanding Brooklyn’s repertoire to a fancy version of it, I did further research and found I was very wrong in this initial impression. The Mermaid Parade has three purposes, stated on its homepage: “It brings mythology to life for local residents who live on streets named Mermaid and Neptune ; it creates self-esteem in a district that is often disregarded as “entertainment”; and it lets artistic New Yorkers find self-expression in public.” Yes, you do see some gay floats and groups dance around in the crowd. But then you also have families dressing up with their children, floats of political statements driving through the crowd and drunken bystanders peeling out of their octopus costumes.

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For whatever reason, I didn’t find out about the Mermaid Parade until I had already lived here for 2 years. By pure coincidence, I had gotten off the train on a Saturday afternoon in June 2012 and immediately fell into a great chaos of loud obnoxious screaming drunken masses of people. Now, don’t’ get me wrong, Coney has the reputation of being always drunken and partly ghetto when it comes to its people. After all, the projects are right next to the amusement park. Way back in the 20s and 30ies it must have been a pretty beach but with Moses’ Housing Project, things drastically changed in the 60ies and 70ies. Such is New York, and mostly Brooklyn, all of this makes out its initial sketchy appeal with a flavor of exoticism mixed under it.

mermaid parade 2013 - 5 car mermaids

But in the past few years, Coney has developed into one of the hottest tourist sightseeing spots and uppedy white people bring their kids here occasionally. However, this year it was very extreme and Sandy might have played a part in all of this. Through a humongous Kickstarter Campaign, the parade was able to initiate $100,000 in funds and donations, therefore still partaking. The final decision was made at the end of May and everyone was thrilled!

My friend donated to the Kickstarter Campaign and received this scribbled piece of paper in exchange....
My friend donated to the Kickstarter Campaign and received this scribbled piece of paper in exchange….

So the Parade seemed exactly what you would think of it with about a month’s time to prepare: Chaotic, sometimes long-stretched, and mostly not very original in costumes. Sure, you had some really great groups, you had an awesome local trumpet band, and you had creative floats. But during some intervals you had random families walk through the scene, holding children who were dressed up in a green blob as Mermaids and waving at the crowd.

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Overall, I was glad to have seen the parade for the first time in full. It generated a huge crowd towards Coney during that weekend and that’s exactly what this area needed (bring in the money, hey!). However, after one hour of blinking into the blinding sun and looking at a few boring groups in the parade, my friends kinda had enough and went to a bar close to the subway station. Our luck that it wasn’t as overcrowded as after the parade. We only had to wait one hour for the food (does not include ordering, which took 30 minutes).

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Another group of friends joined us and was keen on checking out the boardwalk. The parade stretches from the main street all the way around and comes back over the boardwalk so I already predicted us getting stuck at some point. True enough, we couldn’t even cross the main street to get to our beloved Nathan’s, as police only let us do so in 15-minute-intervals. Once we were there, we saw how long the line was to order a petty hotdog (more than one hour!). My friends were not thrilled by this idea and wanted to check out the food options on the boardwalk. So we went through the entire amusement park, just to get stuck, literally, in a massive crowd of people on the boardwalk. No way we’d get food here, either.

All I see is PEOPLE!
All I see is PEOPLE!

Somehow we made it back to the bar, the entire excursion taking us over 1 hour, which normally wouldn’t take longer than 10 minutes. Just to give you an idea of how crowded it was. So the parade was over by then and friend group number 1 (number 2 had successfully vanished in the subway station) was fed, drunk, and ready to check out the beach. Which happened to be swamped by unhealthy corpses of party people (big surprise here). We were in the sand, packed like sardines in a can, while a few of my friends jumped into the water (they assured me it was only cold for the first 10 seconds or so) but were freezing once a high wind hit us on the beach.

Beach "fun"!
Beach “fun”!

After another hour of lying around in a rave-like atmosphere we had enough of the fact that sand was being kicked in our faces every five seconds minutes and went off to the boardwalk. It was here that my foot hit a fatal plank, which tore my sole apart wounded it painfully. After dripping water on it, I decided it would be best to just go home and treat it under more normal conditions and with rubbing alcohol. My friends stayed and I am sure they had a drunkenly fun time…

So, in conclusion, the Mermaid Parade can be great fun and a once-in-lifetime experience. It’s worth taking tons of meaningless colorful pictures. Be aware of loose planks on the boardwalk. And make sure you get your 12-hour-sleep thereafter!

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Blog Anniversary! 2 years already?!

Bloggiversary No. 2!
Bloggiversary No. 2!

UFF! After turning my computer on yesterday and logging into WordPress at the end of the day, I was KINDLY reminded that I almost missed out on yet another milestone since this blog has come into existence.

MY ANNIVERSARY! My TWO-year-anniversary, to be specific!

That’s right, folks, on May 9, 2011 this site has been created and I’ve had the pleasure to write my first post on the reasons why I intended to start German-American Abroad. Topics such as Coney Island, Brighton Beach, and the never-ending charade of New York were soon to follow.

It’s been a rollercoaster ride ever since.

Finding the time to blog. Finding the motivation to write. Finding priority to set everything else aside and devote a few hours of computer time for yet another post that other people could stumble upon. I still consider this great exercise for writing out my thoughts and experiences. Somehow, I cannot believe that it’s been two years already. In the meantime, stats have gone up and down, clicks have reached new heights and depths and I’ve learned a lot about other people’s lives. True, blogging has not been my top priority lately. Photography has been. But that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy hitting that keyboard and creating a new post.

And no matter what, at the end of the day it boils down to one word: Creativity! Reaching other people out there who are enriched by my posts and communicating with new bloggers who I would have never met otherwise if it weren’t for the www.

I’m really surprised at how fast time has flown by. I raise my glass and say: Cheers to your two, five, or ten years of blogging. I will never regret having ever started and I hope you don’t either!

blog year 2

[To read my post on my first-year-anniversary go to Bloggiversary!]

From Sao Paulo to New York: How a Street Art Project Changes Lives

(images via Raquel Brust)

Last Thursday night in Brooklyn:

A suspicious-looking group is huddled around the Bedford Avenue Stop in Williamsburg. One girl is carrying a huge pipe-like figure, another is hoisting a heavy white bag on her shoulders. The group is in a good mood. First a stop at the local liqueur store, then off to N 5th Street. Only interrupted once by a madman, who is curious if this mixed crowd of cheerful people happens to be on the look-out for aliens.
“I saw them once” he proudly claims. “The Martians came in a huge spaceship. I was close-by when it all happened!” The group giggles and laughs and then continues on its way – with a very different goal in mind.

The girl carrying the pipe-like form is no one else but Raquel Brust, a well-known street artist from Sao Paulo, Brazil. What she is carrying is her newest creation of art: an oversized photography of a woman’s pair of hands in poster-format. To understand her art is to understand the city she has lived in for the past years.

Raquel, who moved to Sao Paulo to pursue a career, quickly found the city anonymous and overwhelming. “I wanted to shut my ears and myself off from the outside world”, she describes her first impressions. “I couldn’t stand the noise, the chaos – everything going on all at once.”
Although she had initially intended on working in the city, she also wanted to give Sao Paulo a personal note. This is why 4 years ago she came up with her own interpretation of street art: the Project Giganto, from which she obtained approval by the city.

Her idea involves taking pictures of mostly aged people, who are marked by the side effects of urban life, and portraying their lives in this very city. Being exposed to Sao Paulo on a day-to-day basis can take its toll on especially the older generation. The constant pollution, (traffic) noise, and even just the fact that life in the city can sometimes be rather anonymous – who really wants to grow old like this?

The photographs are then blown up to a monstrous poster size. Some show a person with a personal item, such as an elderly man holding a picture of his beloved ones. Others are focused on different body parts. For instance, in her first year of creating the project she took the face of an old Brazilian native and glued it to the windows of an urban family. “It’s all about the contrast: Shooting pictures of people who will never be used to certain attributes of the city and putting their faces on well-known places that have a lot of foot traffic”, she explains in her charming Brazilian accent.

The artist in front of her own work
How far-reaching her work can be
(all images via Raquel Brust’s Web site)

Raquel wants people to stop and think about what her art could mean. She therefore started hanging her photographs in places that were once common meet-up points of an area and that have been destroyed by the city or government to make room for new but to her eyes ugly buildings which mean nothing to the citizens who have lived there for so long.

Important to her is to bring some human presence to the big city – a place she considers rather inhuman and impersonal. Therefore, an ordinary object is brought to an extreme and hung on popular places throughout the city – for the past 4 years already. Each year has been different as she focused on a different topic. And 2012 was the year she decided to bring her Giganto to the Big Apple.

The group she is with this night is a mixed assembly of folks: Her Brazilian friend, her friend’s cousin, two guys who are seeking out an adventure, and me. All of us have probably only one thing in common: We have never hung up posters in the middle of the night in Brooklyn and we are all very interested as to where the night will lead us.

It is first all about finding the right spot. Raquel is good, she comes prepared. She wants it right there, on a well-lit construction site (which is likely to be monitored by security cameras). Although she was here only a few days ago, her favorite spot is now taken by random ads that take up one side of the wall. And here is where her respectful manner can be detected: Instead of tearing the ads off, like one of us suggested, she walks up and down the street to find a different spot. “No, because then they could do it with mine, too,” she declares. The rules of street art – she is familiar with them.

After some back and forth, the artist finally starts unwrapping her tools and wants to get it on with. By now it’s probably 12 PM. A street full with bars and drunk people is only one block over. Although two cop vehicles pass the scene within only five minutes apart, we decide to continue the project. Two people position themselves on different street corners to look out for police cars.

Raquel, her friend, and another helper start unwrapping the two posters and drag them across the street to its new home. Each poster depicts a hand of an unknown older Brazilian woman. The Brazilian artist decided not to give the poster a face. Instead, she chose this picture to show the contrast between the very young neighborhood and the old hand which will never get a chance to see it. Williamsburg seemed to her the neighborhood she saw the most change in the past few years. Its transformation from a traditional neighborhood to a trendy and over-generalized spot where the masses stream for enjoyment was exactly where she wanted to set an example.

They have to work fast in the dark. The first hand tears. Raquel tries to fix it with glue, but her efforts end in vain. By then, 10 minutes have already passed. The artist and her helpers decide to disregard the first hand and roll out the second poster. This one also starts to tear beneath the oversized thumb but it can still be fixed in the very last stride. No one tries to think about the fact what a fruitless night it would have been otherwise.

The last straw of the Giganto in NYC

After a good ten minutes, she steps away and critically examines her work: A monstrous picture of a woman’s hand right there, on a bustling street in the heart of Williamsburg. The guards are called away from their look-outs. Raquel still fiddles around for another 5 minutes. The paper wrinkles have to be straightened and the right side of the picture still needs some more glue – here and there. “I like the tangible feeling of glue and the waves of the paper. It makes me feel I am creating something, this is work with my hands,” she says happily.
The rest of the group is slightly panicking and urges her to leave the poster alone before the cops show up around the next corner.

Then it’s done! Project Giganto has found its way into the most populated city of the USA. Everyone is thrilled and excited to have been part of this. Whiskey disguised in a bottle of vitamin water is handed out. Raquel and her two friends who hung the poster are full with glue but also carry a very special glow on their faces: The glow of having been part of something that withholds a big meaning in another big city. The glow of having been part of art with such a complex history but that looks so easily created on the blue background …

Joyful jump in front of the finished poster!
The artist and her remains of the second poster

With tears in her eyes, Raquel finishes her interview before she gets drunkenly lost in the streets of Williamsburg. “The people back in Brazil do not forget about the Giganto. It meant a lot to them four years ago, when the project started,” she describes. ”And it still means a lot to them today. They are the very first to call me every year on my birthday. Their faces hanging in Sao Paulo – they still sometimes cannot believe it!”

Her art can be found on the streets of Sao Paulo (make sure to go through this city with your eyes wide open!), in London, and now in New York City. Keep an eye out for the monstrous hand decorating the construction site on the corner of N 5th St and Wythe Ave. Now you know the story!

The Giganto at night….
… the Giganto at day!
and Raquel’s very own interpretation of it!

[Find out more about Raquel Brust here!]

[Find out more about the Project Giganto here!]

[Find what else Raquel is up to here!]


It’s been a year! Already!
365 days, 8,760 hours, 52 weeks – call it whatever you want. An anniversary well deserved.

On this day 12 months ago I started this blog. My very own writing experience, my little world, my small realm of shelter. Opened up to a then still undiscovered online community. How little did I know how much fun it can be to share one’s own stories with practical strangers. Or how fascinating it can be to read about their daily lives and deepest emotions online, expressed without a feeling of shame.

One year of blogging, and the only piece of advice I have for you is: Do it! Do it now! Don’t push it off, don’t think about just doing it, simply DO it. It took me well over half a year to finally find the time and courage and interest to really start my own page on WordPress. And sometimes I wish I had done it earlier. Nothing can turn back time, nothing can express your current feelings and experiences so well than the present itself.

Inspired by these ladies, who turned their extensive roadtrip through the US into the best read of American history, I finally decided to write this time of my life down. And it was exactly what I had needed. Expressing my thoughts, concerns, and views in refreshing stories – stories found by other bloggers and commented on by like-minded or different-minded people. It has its appeal to see how your own life is being dissected and listened to by complete strangers. People I have most of the time never met but who have stuck with me throughout the year and who I still enjoy communicating with.

My life has been enriched by blogging, not deprived, as I had originally thought.

After one year, I take with the confidence I have gained in writing over the course of 12 months. I have discovered my love for word puns and I am more at ease in coming up with posts or themes.

I am also taking with a new feeling for time management, especially after having started a life- time-consuming job half a year ago and still trying to maintain this blog. Which has helped me in seeing these matters in a more relaxed way: There is no pressure to write, so when I write, I write because I want to. I am not aiming to come up with the next best post or a brilliant text. I simply want to get certain things off my shoulders and I value other readers’ opinions.

This WordPress page and its followers have helped me in setting my priorities and pursuing my dreams, even though you might not have realized this. Each one of you has motivated me in some sense or has opened up a whole different world to me, which has given me the ability to dream. Of better times, of different times, of exciting times – of adventure. All across the globe.

But also in real life this blog has helped me in various ways: In obtaining writing gigs, finding a roommate in New York, and meeting people with passion. Perhaps a shared passion: Traveling, writing, taking pictures, and simply experiencing the 1001 wonders this world has to offer. I hope it has inspired at least one person to start his or her own blog or to travel the world without the fear of being lost.

One thing it has definitely been is a very fun time. The 137 posts I’ve come up with in the past year have all been self-created, self-thought, and self-expressed.

1 year of blogging – learned so much, but taking with only the best. Thank you, fellow readers!

I’ve Been Published!

A few weeks ago Erin from Blogexpats asked me to write out an interview in either German or English for their special online edition of how expats live overseas. Since I couldn’t decide which language to choose, I simply answered the questions in both German and English.

Sometimes you cannot express some ideas and opinions as well as you could in your native language. But describing life in New York has proven to be difficult in German because my life style has become so more American than European. Therefore, it just had to be two different views!

Please see the bilingual version below

or go to .

Hi, I am Laura from Germany, and I now live in the Big Apple. I moved to Brooklyn but work in the Empire State Building in the middle of Manhattan. So much to leaving a small German village for the American Dream!

1. Why did you move abroad?
I wanted to take a time out from school, as I had finished my Bachelor’s but was almost certain I wanted to get it on with my Master’s. New York seemed like the right place to go to get my head straight after the stressful student years, to experience an adventure, and to distract my mind from the rigid system in Germany. I had planned on being away for six months to a year – max. That did not work out as planned…

2. How do you make a living?
I’ve had three jobs in New York so far. Right now I work for an Austrian company in Midtown: In the Empire State Building. Yeah – it IS actually pretty awesome to be greeted by guards every day but in the end, a job is just a job, no matter where you work. Before this, I was employed by a non-for-profit organization on the other side of Midtown. I was working there for an hourly pay and I had never been as poor as during that one year I was employed with them. My very first job was a two month stint as a waitress in the Lower East Side. After figuring that this was indeed not what I had come to New York for, I decided to look for more serious employment (which I eventually found).

3. How often do you communicate with home and how?
My communication with my parents and also friends went down after a year of being here. I talk to my parents maybe once a month over Skype, if even. My friends re-connect via social networking sites, e-mails, or when they read my blog. It may sound sad, but you actually get used to it once you immerse in your busy life in the City.

4. What’s your favorite thing about being an expat in New York City?
The City. The opportunities you have here, and which you would have nowhere else. Being able to walk down the street in PJ’s and not being looked at like a freak. Dressing up after work just to hit up happy hour in the City. Brunch on the weekends. The free things you can do every single day, no matter what the weather is.

5. What’s the worst thing about being an expat in New York City?
Healthcare, quality of life in the sense of healthy food at a reasonable price, and not knowing if your milk and eggs truly don’t come from cows that had hormones injected. The competition between everything and everyone.

6. What do you miss most?
My friends and the experiences we shared. The food and the fresh air. A pretty normal life in suburban Germany with my own car and places to be at (relatives, friends and so on).

7. What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?
I met my first good friend because she was my roommate. Other people I met at work or at random concerts in Central Park. New York is pretty straightforward about who she wants you to meet and who not, so I am not too worried about how my social life develops.

8. What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
I found it hard to adapt to the level of rudeness New Yorkers show towards you in the city. It draws apart at times. And I have a problem with the racism that still separates blacks and whites and will probably not be resolved in the near future. I am also repulsed at times at the social gap in between city parts and how uncaring people trample upon each other.

9. What is a myth about your adopted country?
That everything in New York is glamorous, exciting, the core of the world, and therefore will bring happiness.

10. Is the cost of living higher or lower than the last country you lived in and how has that made a difference in your life?
It depends. Apartments and housing are definitely higher in New York (they are cheaper in other parts in the US). Costs for healthy food are higher here. It makes me want to re-evaluate if it is even worth buying the good cheese/groceries/veggies or to just go with the second-best option (buying produce of unknown origin). Half of my paycheck goes to my apartment in a good area in Brooklyn. Then I spend about three times as much on groceries I could buy at an inexpensive price in Germany. I have changed my eating habits in the way that I only buy the things I really need and not because of luxury.

11. What advice would you give other expats?
To explore New York to the fullest and not get blinded by its so-called glamorous sides, events, and anything that attracted them because of a famous TV show.

Most Europeans who come here do so through their own protected agency or university. They are put in nice housing in safe areas and don’t have to worry about walking past people in the ghetto or getting to know folks from cultures they never expected to meet. Manhattan is not all New York has to offer. I highly advise newcomers to seek out all parts of this city (yes, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx …) and to see how the socially disadvantaged live to get a better picture of how the gap between rich and poor developed in this country. And to see how beautiful New York can be even aside from its treacherous glamour!

I also advise to not compare this city to Europe or their home country. You cannot compare a dime to a penny!

12. When and why did you start your blog?
My original intent was to keep in touch with family and friends from overseas (Germany). I was honestly sick and tired of writing one e-mail after another and always discussing the same events, topics, or occurrences. It didn’t really work out, as now everyone BUT my friends reads my blog, and most of these people I have never met in my life. I started the blog last May, so a good year after I had been in New York already. However, I also wanted to use it as a credential in case I was seeking writing gigs (which it did help me in getting my first journalism job).


Hallo, ich bin Laura aus dem Südwesten Deutschlands. Vor 2 Jahren habe ich mir einen lang-gehegten Traum erfüllt: Ich bin spontan nach New York gezogen und habe jeden Tag soweit genossen!

1. Warum bist du ins Ausland umgezogen?
Eigentlich wollte ich einen „kurze“ Studienauszeit von einem halben Jahr bis maximum einem Jahr machen. Aus dieser Auszeit wurde dann schnell etwas mehr und nun bin ich schon 2 Jahre hier im Big Apple. Es ist eine Frage der Zeit wann ich mein Masterstudium in Psychologie in Europa wiederaufnehme.

2. Woher beziehst du dein Einkommen?
Ich habe drei verschiedene Jobs in New York gehabt. Zuerst musste ich mich 2 Monate als Kellnerin in der Lower East Side durchschlagen – kein Studenlohn und nur Trinkgeld, das wurde mir einfach zu unsicher nach 2 Monaten. Dann arbeitete ich für einen Hungerlohn ein ganzes Jahr lang bei einer Wohltätigkeitsorganisation in Midtown. Die Erfarhrung dort war sehr lehrreich aber chronisch unterbezahlt. Zuletzt habe ich ein Jobangebot bei einer österreichischen Firma angenommen: gutes Gehalt und tolle Aussicht. Sie ist nämlich im, tada, Empire State Building! Und somit bin ich dem amerikanischen Traum schon ein gutes Stück nähergerrückt.

3. Wie oft kommunizierst du mit deiner Familie und mit deinen Freunden, die noch in Deutschland wohnen? Und wie (Skype, Facebook, usw… )?

Nach einem Jahr nahm die Kommunikation sehr ab – von beiden Seiten, wie ich zugeben muss. Momentan telefoniere ich vielleicht einmal im Monat mit den Eltern, wenn überhaupt. Die Freunde halte ich durch Facebook, E-mails, und meinen Blog auf dem Laufenden.

4. Was liebst du am meisten an New York?

Die Unaghängigkeit, mit der ich mir hier ein neues Leben erschaffen konnte ohne an alte Werte oder Vorstellungen gebunden zu sein. Das Abenteuer, mit dem ich die Straßen gemeistert habe. Die Neugier auf den Rest der Welt, den diese Stadt und sämtliche Bekanntschaften in mir geweckt haben.

5. Was ärgert dich am meisten an New York?
Die Arroganz mancher Leute, die sich für was Besseres halten aufgrund ihres Einkommens, ihrer Hautfarbe, oder ihrer Herkunft. Die Scheinheiligkeit, die dies mit sich bringt. Die traurige Erkenntnis, dass Rassentrennung und Diskrimierung immer noch ein großes, unterschwelliges Thema hier sind.

6. Was fehlt dir am meisten?

Die gute Lebensqualität, für die man hier ein halbes Vermögen ausgeben muss um nur ansatzweise an den europäischen Standard heranzukommen. Krankenkasse, gutes (biologisches) Essen – das alles ist in Deutschland wesentlich geschickter gehandhabt und kostet nur einen Bruchteil von dem was man hier hinblättern muss.

7. Was hast du getan, um neue Leute zu treffen und dich in dein neues Zuhause zu integrieren?
Ich habe mir eine WG gesucht, in der ich meine erste gute Freundin getroffen habe. Dann natürlich durch die Arbeit. Durch einen anderen deutschen Bekannten. Durch spontane Bekanntschaften bei Konzerten im Central Park. New York hat ihre ganz eigene Art dir verständlich zu machen, dass alle neuen Freundschaften entstehen, wie und wann SIE es möchte. Daher fühle ich mich gut aufgehoben.

8. Welche Gewohnheit findest du am seltsamsten in deiner Wahlheimat?
Die Unhöflichkeit, mit der man einfach so aus der U-Bahn geschubst wird und dann die unerwartete Freundlichkeit, die einem auf einmal auf der Straße von einem Fremden entgegengebracht wird. New York ist immer eine Überraschung wert!

9. Was ist ein Mythos über deine Wahlheimat?

Das alles an New York pompös ist mit einer tollen Portion Glamour. Nein, nein, und nochmals nein!

10. Welchen Rat würdest du anderen Expats geben
Mit offenen Augen durch diese Stadt zu wandern. Sich auch mal in die Ghettos zu wagen und sich anzuschauen, wie die Fußabtreter der Reichen leben um ein repräsentatives New York zu sehen. Nicht nur in Manhattan bleiben, sondern sich alle fünf Boroughs anzusehen und sich einen Gesamteindruck zu schaffen. Mal von den Touristenpfaden abschweifen, denn die Stadt hat soviel mehr zu bieten.

11. Wann und warum hast du dein Blog begonnen?
Etwas mehr als ein Jahr nachdem ich hergekommen bin, habe ich mir endlich einen Ruck gegeben und angefangen, meine Erlebnisse, Reisen, und Eindrücke von dieser Stadt mit anderen zu teilen. Ursprünglich war er für Familie und Freunde gedacht, damit ich mich nicht todschreibe an den ganzen E-mails, die eh alle gleich aussahen. Das hat dann aber nicht ganz so geklappt wie ich es geplant habe.

12. Wie ist dein Blog nutzbringend?

Ich mag es, zurückzublättern und zu sehen, wie ich das Ganze vor einem Jahr betrachtet habe, welche Träume ich gehegt habe, und wie es nun weitergehen soll. Viele Leute, die über den Blog gestolpert sind, finden die Restaurant-Tips ganz praktisch. Mittlerweile habe ich sogar regelmäßige Leser, die mit Spannung verfolgen, was mir als nächstes in New York geschieht. Ausserdem habe ich durch diesen Blog meinen ersten Jouranlistenjob bekommen bei einer Brooklyn-Zeitschrift, das war schon sehr praktisch und lehrreich.

Writer’s Block

I have been suffering from something called the writer’s block lately. I have been feeling burnt out for a good while already, to be honest. I try to blog because it’s fun but in the pastime it has been kinda hard to come up with a neatly written story.

You might have not noticed my struggles yet because I still try to get those 3 – 4 blogs out every week but it seems more difficult for me every time to give my okay to the stories I’ve composed lately. I have the story laid out in my head, have a great amount of topics I could write about but then, when I finally get around to seeing it in front of me, I am deeply disappointed. I feel like my earlier posts were more productive than my latest one. Maybe I’m too hard on myself – I do aim for the near to perfect work. I don’t know, but it’s starting to bother me like crazy. My thoughts are spinning around in my head and I sometimes lack the ability to put them in a clear order or in the way I wanted them to look initially.

I’ve been also writing an awful lot lately, though. I have found a Brooklyn-based magazine online which has already sent me on a few assignments (so far two articles and maybe another one in progress, I will see) in the past two weeks. Then I FINALLY got around to start a project I should have started on a lot earlier: I wrote the first two pages of a book about my first year here in New York (to not forget how I felt, to reflect what I’ve been through, and to have something I can look back at). I started with English, then switched to German, and now I am confused which language to pick. I am most comfortable writing in German, as I feel I have mastered this language to perfection, and I am able to play with words and phrases in a way I cannot do (yet) in any other language. English is not my prime language and I am still learning a lot when writing. New Vocabulary, grammar errors, sentence structures… a good amount of deal. I am still getting those things right and trying out some new approaces. But when I wrote in German I felt that piece of writing was plain boring and without much passion. Maybe I will go back and stick to English. Just another problem of a bilingual writer!

I’m not sure if I ever got around to tell you the real reason why I began writing this blog. There is an overall reason, too, of course, but what really triggered me to finally realize this “project” were two fine guys my age, whom I had met on a night out in Park Slope (yes, Brooklyn neighborhood). They were both grad students aiming for their Master’s in creative writing so I felt I could learn a lot from them and exchange ideas. Anyhow, we got to talk about some projects and I told them that I really, really wanted to write a book about this life-changing experience but that it seemed so hard for me to realize because I didn’t know how and where to start. I asked them for direct advice. They said I am a great talker but I have to start somewhere. So I started with this first. To see where my limits are, if I experience any improvements in my writing, if I am ready to hold up a certain amount of stories a week….. And now I started coming up with articles (for fun) and drafted a few pages of a book.

Unfortunately it’s not going exactly the way I want it to go and that is currently frustrating and a bit de-motivating. Probably this is completely normal not only for new writers but also for life-long narrators. I guess I am looking for some sort of inspiration. Or an English composition course!

Writer’s block – yup, it got me and I don’t know how to get out of this one!

Choose Life, Not a Career!

Two weeks ago I met a Canadian girl in my local neighborhood bar. We came to talk about what we do and what we have accomplished job-wise in New York. When saying our good-byes, she uttered one sentence that really struck me. I will try to quote: “Find out where your heart lies and go from there.” These words triggered a thinking process in me. Find out where my heart lies?! A mission that seems way more complicated for some people than it is for others. From what I understand she has been here for almost 10 years and is working in the interior design business. She has always known that she was going to embrace the creative path career-wise, as she recalls a story of her teenage years in which she tore her parent’s bathroom apart and tried to remodel a new one in accordance to her ideas. When she came to New York, she was lucky to start off in an interior design firm right away. She now owns her own business, which had its down times, of course, but now she is even able to re-employ a few workers on her own. I consider this a great life story but for me it is just too good to be true.

I read an interesting article just yesterday about choosing your career path and finding out what to do. You can check it out here. To summarize its main gist, the author proposes that, albeit it might sound great to do what you “love,” for most people it is just not doable and not healthy to choose this as an ideal career path. She suggests to rather follow what you are “good at” and find a job in accordance to this. It is an excellent piece of writing that brings us closer to the reason of why young adults in their early twenties undergo life crises and even depression because of the self-fulfilling ideal they are trying to chase. Our society is geared towards the idea that everything is possible nowadays and that achieving one’s dream is finally doable. What it doesn’t necessarily take into account, though, is that most people in their early twens are utterly confused of what exactly they want to do with their lives, how they want to use their potential, and what in detail they are good at.

I’ve met so many young people who have tried to evade their strict lives by shouldering their backpacks and traveling the world. Who would rather give up the jobs they had until then and take a break of pursuing whatever career they had “chosen “ in order to explore other cultures, different mentalities, and various continents.

You think burn-out syndrome only happens in fast-paced industries? You’re wrong! It can happen in every job and the people who are mostly affected are not only people in their late 30ies, but also a fair amount of persons at a younger age. I will restate: People who feel burned out are also younger than 35. How weird, you might think, what is there exactly to be burned out at when you are young and have a promising future to look ahead to? It’s the pressure some individuals impose on themselves (or think others impose on them) for pursuing something that is not in accordance with who they are but rather who they’d like to be and how they’d like to be seen by their peers.

Life is not about a career. Life is about everything else. It is about exploring where your strengths lie, redefining yourself, and meeting many exciting people along your way. It is about knowing when you want in and when you want out. When I graduated from college I felt split: I had the feeling that many of my fellow students knew exactly that they wanted to become a therapist, a business manager, or a lawyer. I, however, didn’t know what exactly to do with the potential at my hands and decided to give travelling and readjusting to another world a shot. I haven’t regretted moving to New York ever since.

Then, when I came here, I was all into meeting creative people and being inspired by their vibes. To artists, the entire world revolves around self-fulfillment and doing only what you love. It was a different outlook from what I was used to and it was equally attractive. But I came to see that singers and drawers have struggled to “make it here,” that some would rather perform on the streets than utilizing their school degree to get a job that will pay the bills.

Don’t get me wrong. You ought to pursue your dreams. You ought to do what you love. And a job that is just a waste of your time is about as frustrating as not working at all. But does it really have to be your “dream” job that will fulfill you in its entirety? Or will it be rather your hobby that will impact your world as well as other people’s world, and make you feel good about yourself?

7 Tips on Blogging

I know, I know what you are thinking! Only two weeks into the blogging process and she wants to give us tips on blogging?! Yes, I agree, credibility-wise maybe not the best! Sorry I cannot show you some well-deserved 5 years of experience. Or 100 blog posts to prove my point. I have merely come to see after 2 weeks of blogging that there are some pitfalls to watch out for and that the following can be taken as suggestions meant to help you become better at what you are already doing excellently! So, what I have come to find is:

1) If you have a topic, don’t push it off or wait too long to write about it!
A mistake made not only by beginners but maybe also by people who have a limited time for writing or other priorities (don’t we all have those!). And by the way, this can be said about all types of writing, from updating your private journal, composing a letter, spelling out an E-Mail, creating your own book and so on …. It is always best to write down the idea as long as it is still fresh in your head and it hasn’t been distorted by other memories interfering with it. If you wait too long, you might be at risk for forgetting the main points or the story won’t come out as smooth and well-written as you wanted it the first day you thought about it (You should have seen my draft inbox – I’ve made a point of either writing them out or discarding them right away, otherwise the posts would cluster up and never get done).

2) Make a list of topics …
…you want to discuss in your blogs or write out the main points of some stories and experiences you want to include in your online identity. This is of advantage for two reasons: First, it helps in sorting your thoughts and finding new, exciting topics while writing them down. You cannot imagine the amount of themes I wanted to discuss the first day I started writing and how I had to pause myself for a sec and to negotiate in only writing one piece a day (which until now has accumulated to a great average of 4 posts a week, not bad, don’t you think?!) Second, in case you are experiencing a case of the writer’s block (very common after party-weekends, sad moments, or in unstimulating environments) you will always have a back-up of ideas you can rely on. Matter of fact, I haven’t finished one third of the topics I included on my list and every time I want to get back to it, it seems like a new topic comes to mind, which I have to attend to first.

3) Give your post some time to proofread!
You should write what comes to your mind, but then you should also give it significant time to settle until you get back to the editing and proofreading part. Don’t write, look over it, and post. Spotting most of your mistakes will usually require you to be away from the post for a few hours; after reading your work again you might notice the finer errors. Best case scenario: Have someone else proofread your thoughts. I know this is mostly not possible for various reasons (and I did not mean copyright issues!), so just do some other work until you get back to the writing part. By the way, this is not only true for a word blog, but also when you include images. The order of the pictures might look better a certain way then when you initially posted it, so allow yourself some time of distraction and then come back to see if it still looks like a creative piece of art or needs some correction.

4) Write whatever you want! But be respectful!
Write what comes to your mind, post what expresses your deepest desires, compose whatever will make you feel better. Just be aware that, unless you didn’t select the “private” option, your ideas will float out into space and eventually reach other human beings, who might be curious to see what your page is about. And yes, after decades have passed since the internet was invented, there still exists something like an online etiquette, even though some people have appeared to forgotten what this means. If you want others to appreciate what you have written, then you have to be respectful to at least the same degree you would want others to be towards you. And, to take it a step further, you should not leave it at that, but start your courtesy at a level well above your normal buddy standards.

5) Be creative!
I believe there is nothing more boring than those awful 2 sentence posts people come up with just for the heck of posting something or because they cannot find the courage to delete their account. These are mostly the pages that are dead and inactive after a few months of blogging. So senseless, if you ask me! If you don’t have anything to post about, then come up with a great story. Or tell us about your life, I am sure it is not as boring as you think it is. Everyone expresses themselves in a different way. In case you haven’t noticed, I like to write lengthy blogs filled with a lot of information. Others care for having a picture blog to show the world where they have been on their travels or what their hometown looks like. There are a bunch of great ideas! My friends have opened up a combination of both while roadtripping through the entire US: They have included their great stories and rounded it off with some well-shot pictures!

6) Don’t take too much time “off”!
I know there are always occasions in which you cannot help it but refrain from blogging. Motherhood. Traveling without access to a computer. Not being near civilization. Blogging blues. A new job, relationship, move to another city. Yes, there are many reasons. But the longer the intervals between the blogs get, the harder it is to find back to the rhythm you had before. It takes motivation to write on a regular basis, I agree. Having an extended readership base or knowing that someone is following you is always helpful. But you have to do some things on your own sometimes and that is to pull yourself together and do as excellent a job as you did before! Just follow the tips until this point, and you’ll be just fine. Promise!

7) Don’t forget the fun factor!
Last, but not least (hehe), don’t forget that this is not a test or a pain in the butt which you have to endure. This is all about showing others what you want to share and what you have come up with in your gorgeous head while sitting in front of a computer. If jotting down a few words seems like a torture or posting images does not go hand in hand with your time limits, then there is not much sense in having something like this. But really don’t take criticism too seriously- after all, it’s about what you create and how you see things that will make your posts a pleasure to follow.