A collection of grievances, memories, occasional musings, and everyday happenings


Leave a comment

Why I’m Learning Baby Talk

Friends and Followers,

Comedic Grievances has moved to its very own personal space in the blogosphere! To read today’s post “Why I’m Learning Baby Talk” as well as continue to follow along in all of CG’s stories and grievances, do go to www.comedicgrievances.com.

With much love,

Comedic Grievances

P.S. – A baby bump status report via photo awaits your arrival at www.comedicgrievances.com.


6 Comments

5 Things I Love About My Expat Life

I saw this blog link up via Life With A Double Buggy and decided to give it a shot. Here are my 5 things I love about my expat life:

A Wide Variety of Successes and Failures

The very first time I made Schnitzel.

The very first time I made Schnitzel.

Nothing has made me swell with pride or turned my face an embarrassing shade of red like the expat life I lead in Austria. Just today I had the 5th or 6th humiliating experience of not understanding how a restaurant’s bathroom sink worked, and in that moment it occurred to me that this happens to me way too often, and I couldn’t help but bust out laughing – by myself – in the restaurant bathroom. (I did eventually wash my hands in said bathroom.) Being an expat has provided me with the ability to just laugh at myself when I fail at figuring out a sink or butcher every sentence I attempt to say in German. But because I’ve discovered this ability to laugh when I fail, it makes my successes that much sweeter. Once, my husband made me – nay, FORCED me – to go to the Apotheke (pharmacy) by myself to retrieve a receipt I had forgotten to get. I was terrified and had zero faith in my German pharmacy-speak. I nervously prayed the whole, slow walk there for strength and for me to not faint at the counter from fright. But I shouldn’t have been so scared. I spoke to “Herr Doktor” and explained the mix-up from the week before, and he understood me and I got my receipt. I was so happy that I ran the entire way back home and cry-laughed while I told Will how it went. When I compare my success and failure stories to ones I’ve experienced in the States, I see how way-too-seriously I took myself over there. And I can further appreciate how my expat life has pushed me out of my comfort zone, torn down my barriers and taught me to laugh.

A Family on Both Sides of the Ocean

My US family with my Vienna family!

My US family with my Vienna family!

My biggest fear in moving to Austria was that I would make no friends. I’d arrive, appear strange, scare people off with my loud voice and immediate hugging reflex, and be friendless forever. And that is not the case. I don’t mean that to say I have one thousand and one friends because Austria was so drawn to my loudness and hugs, I just mean – I have found a family here made up of the most amazing, caring and loving people. They took me in, weirdo and all, and helped me feel at home in a place where I was originally afraid would never feel like home to me. On the flip-side, I’ve experienced the fear of not feeling connected to my original family in the States, yet that too has not been an issue. We stay connected and go about it with great purpose. Seeing my friends’ and family’s faces on Skype always makes my day, and having the chance to embrace them is all the more exciting. And because of these two families, I have two places to call home on both sides of the ocean.

A Healthy Attitude of “Doing Without Thinking” and “Think First”

Sometimes trying something new is scary, like slides in a salt mine.

Sometimes trying something new is scary, like slides in a salt mine.

The expat life almost requires this healthy balance and it takes a while to develop. One can either jump right into a new cultural experience too quickly and do some damage, or one can overthink an experience and miss out on it entirely. A very light example of acting too quickly is actually my one of my top pet peeves of people who visit Vienna, and that is when they TALK SO LOUDLY EVERYWHERE THEY GO AND YOU CAN HEAR EVERY WORD THEY’RE SAYING LIKE HOW GOOD THAT WEENER SCHNITZEL THING WAS. Yikes. One way to not make any new acquaintances around here is by doing just that; that’s why I learned very quickly to study my surroundings first, then act. And also not saying “that Weener Schnitzel thing”. So if no one on the U-Bahn is speaking, I don’t speak. If everyone is speaking in a gentle low voice, I speak in a gentle low voice. My expat life has made me a student of my surroundings in order to not offend or attract attention to myself (unless I can’t figure out another bathroom sink). But my expat life has also made me jump in the water without testing it first, like eating Leberkäse (literally translates to Liver cheese and not my favorite dish) with everyone else or playing the German version of Taboo and failing miserably at describing “Taschenhund” to your Austrian teammates. Sometimes this life requires you to just do and see what happens, though I can promise I will always think too long about and definitely miss out on eating blood sausage. Can’t do it.

A Greater Appreciation for Experiencing New Cultures

Trying out yum food at a Christmas market.

Trying out yum food at a Christmas market.

Before moving here, my husband and I trained for close to a year with two families who had prior experience in living abroad. We were told about people who move to other countries and essentially wind up creating a mini version of the US with other American families within their new city of residence out of fear for the unknown. Their children go to English-speaking schools, the families visit English-speaking doctors, they hang out with English-speaking people. They do what’s familiar and only that – an easy temptation to give into and empathize with. While I definitely have days where I wish the US would just arrive at my front doorstep, mainly for Chik-fil-a and burger reasons, my husband and I have never been drawn to a mini United States of America. We try to love and appreciate every new thing we encounter, like the beauty of the German language or how everyone and their dog goes outside the second it’s warm enough. The expat life is meant to be lived, not kept in a snow globe of familiarity.

A Greater Tendency to be a Total Cheese Ball

Past study abroad students who made me cry often because of their Vienna love.

Past study abroad students who made me cry often because of their Vienna love.

I think my expat life has permanent control of my tear ducts because I’m seriously emotionally overwhelmed by everything culturally beautiful. Sometimes I see an elderly woman or man out and about, trucking along with their Nordic walking sticks like it ain’t no thang, and all of a sudden I’m teary-eyed while inwardly cheering them on as they proudly extend their number of years left on this planet. Or the students! They get me every time. My husband and I have the opportunity each year to interact with different groups of American study abroad students and we get to observe them fall in love with the city. This turns me into mush. As of late the current group has been making numerous videos of their experiences from Vienna and I can’t handle them. They’re too wonderful. I think a switch turns on after you’ve lived abroad for awhile – a switch that not only allows you to be moved by your own cultural findings and experiences, but allows you to be just as moved or even more so by others who go through and discover parts of countries and cultures that you too have experienced. So make sure you have tissues on you at all times.

ELWADB LinkUp


4 Comments

5 Surprising Facts About An Austrian New Years

Vienna - party central.

Vienna – party central.

This was my first New Years abroad. I’ve always wondered what it would be like celebrating a new year hours ahead of my family and friends in the States, and I can tell you – it feels pretty much the same, because someone somewhere is always hours ahead. So, there’s that. But last night’s celebration in Vienna felt nothing close to the same as previous stateside celebrations. In my opinion, there was a bit more magic, more excitement, and more interesting traditions – some of which surprised me.

1. Have a good slide

In the U.S., we wish each other “Happy New Year”. In Austria, we wish one another “einen guten Rutsch ins neue Jahr”. A “Rutsch” is a slide, so basically the Austrians are wishing each other “Have a good slide into the New Year”.  I will never fall out of love with this phrase.

How was your slide into 2014? A safe and graceful landing, I hope?

2. Good Luck Charms

Unless I’m forgetting something, the only time I’ve ever seen the famous 4 Leaf Clover on shirts and hats and figurines is on St. Patrick’s Day. But on New Years in Austria, the 4 Leaf Clover makes its debut in a big way. It is on absolutely everything. And traditionally, if you’re spending New Years in Austria, you are to purchase something with a 4 Leaf Clover on it, and give that purchase to whomever you’re spending New Years with as a good luck charm for the year. Last night, we gave our friend a lucky mushroom, because he’s really into mushrooms (for making tasty sauces reasons), and to his brother, we gave a teeny-tiny pig.

3. Pigs

I need to do some research on how and why Austria chose its lucky charms, or maybe someone can tell me, but for some reason a pig is like, the charm of the New Year. My husband and I were downtown last night to get an early, chaos-avoiding glimpse of what goes on celebration wise, and I have never seen so many pigs in my life. Not real pigs of course. But pig hats with four dangling legs? You betcha.

RI2012-300-pig-hat

We should probably all own one.

4. The Waltz

Our German teacher told us a long time ago that at the stroke of midnight, Austrians everywhere turn on “The Blue Danube Waltz” and naturally, waltz. We very much wanted this to be true. Not that I’m calling our German teacher a liar, I just mean, we really wanted to see this culture-wide tradition happen before our own eyes. And we did! It wasn’t as “drop everything and waltz” as we had imagined, but the people in our firework watching/shooting area did indeed waltz to the music on their phones or in their cars. Will and I tried to waltz alongside a couple of older couples who really knew what they were doing. Our attempt was embarrassingly adorable. Sorry we didn’t take video.

5. Fireworks

I always thought the U.S. was intensely firework crazy what with its gigantic firework stores and tents, but now I think it might be Austria who’s firework crazy. Our Austrian friend told us that, on average, an Austrian family will spend about 200 euro on fireworks. That’s quite a bit of mula for fireworks. It definitely pays off though – big time. We heard fireworks days before New Years, and the fireworks lasted well into the late hours of the night (or the early hours of the morning?). We heard them from every direction and the sky flashed with all sorts of colors. I hope and pray we never experience war in our lives, but if I were to imagine what it sounded like in real life, last night would be it. We’d never heard or saw anything like it.

Happy New Years and einen guten Rutsch ins neue Jahr!

Image from here.


1 Comment

Happy Paul McCartney in Vienna Day!

Image

How I feel.

Ladies and gents, Sir Paul McCartney is IN Vienna. At this moment. His tour stuff is, anyway. I’m trying to play it cool and pretend like I don’t have stalker potential, but let’s face it – I do – and I’m actually having to distract myself with things to do around the apartment, like brush the cat 5 times or straighten the same vase every 10 minutes. The stadium is RIGHT DOWN THE STREET (or 2 U-Bahn stops away) from us and I’m just so excited I can barely handle it. The only thing keeping me from not running down there and jumping in the line that has not started yet are my husband’s emphatic “NO” text messages, and that’s why I’m thankful for him because in times of excitement he still remembers the importance of eating food and drinking water and not creeping on a celebrity crush.

And then there’s the whole issue of what to wear that I’m worrying about. On the one hand, I’d like to wear my light pink, deep V-neck Abbey Road shirt because it’s my favorite Beatles shirt. On the other hand, I’ve never, ever worn a shirt advertising the name of the band while seeing them/he/she in concert because, no. However, it’s not like I’m going to meet Sir Paul unless of course my dreams come true and mid-concert he taps on the mic and says something like, “PEOPLE OF VIENNA! I’just wanted t-thank you all for coming. You’re a lovely audience and we’ve got about four hours left to play. But it’s about to get real in here. Is there a Holly Kooi in the audience? Ah, ‘ello love. Come on up here and sing “I Want To Your Hand” with me. LET’S HEAR IT FOR HOLLY KOOI, VI-EN-NAAAA!” And then I get up there and Paul’s like, “You’re wearing an Abbey Road Shirt?” and I’m sorta like, “Y-y-yes….?” And then he goes, “Awesome. Uh’one-two-three-FAW!” And then we sing together for the rest of the night and are friends for the rest of his our lives.

…Alright so I’ve daydreamed about this a few times, okay?

So yeah. I don’t know what to wear. Normally this wouldn’t be a huge deal to me as most girls in the States dress one of two ways for concerts:

1. How are you fitting into that right now?

2. She looks really comfortable.

But in Austria there’s a middle ground. The first time I went to concert here, which was last year, I showed up to a grungy, old graffitied brick back room wearing my typical U.S.-style option 2 concert wear. Within 10 minutes of my arrival, I felt extremely underdressed. Most girls were in dresses – fashionable and modest dresses – and also appeared to be comfortable without looking like they had just come from work or a couch. This was puzzling to me as I don’t think I’ve ever been able to achieve both comfort and fashion within the same outfit in my life, but I’d like to discover this middle ground for myself and hopefully achieve it tonight without rocking my bright white mom shoes for back support.

Realistically I probably will rock my bright white mom shoes for back support.

ANYWAY. The doors don’t open for another 6 hours but I’m getting ready right now. My plan is to leave the apartment in a couple of hours with my husband who will be on his way to work. I’ll get off at the stadium and scan the area. If there are already people lined up, I will immediately jump in line. If not, then… I will either go home and wait, or, sit under a tree until people start to line up, or, start the line myself 4 hours early. Anything is possible when Paul McCartney is involved.

HAVE AN AMAZING THURSDAY. Pictures will be posted when I’ve snapped out of my Post-McCartney Shock sometime tomorrow afternoon, or umm… next week. Cheers.


Leave a comment

Worst of Culture Shock, part 2: Safety in Sickness

310576_4003147593365_569351727_n

In September of 2012, I attended an annual women’s retreat called Frauenfreizeit, literally translated – Women’s Free Time. Frauenfreizeit takes place in the gorgeous Alps of Austria in the lusciously green town of Filzmoos. The mountain air is fresh, the rolling hills are freckled with horses and dairy cows, and the occasional yodel can be heard from a man giving tours in the town – complete with horse and buggy. In the center of the town is a tiny fairytale-like garden filled with animals – ponies, a white donkey, bunnies, birds, ducks and ducklings, and a small cat or two. In the middle of this garden lies a quaint pond, the stillness disturbed by a rickety wooden watermill that spills out amounts of water into it over and over. When the sun shines down on this little piece of Heaven, it feels as though Snow White should jump out any moment with her high-pitched notes and singalong blue birds. It really is a perfect place, especially when it can be enjoyed over a warm cup of coffee.

Up a few hills is the hotel – a typical Austrian style building with flowers pouring over every windowsill. My room came with a small balcony, and from there I could look over the town and face the enormous mountains that stand on either side of it. For meals, the ladies and I were served gourmet breakfasts, lunches, and dinners around candlelit tables next to a wall of windows for mountain-gazing. Everything felt, looked, and seemed perfect. I needed this after all; I needed free time. We had only moved to Vienna just months before, and our summer consisted of intensive language classes, culture adjustment, apartment hunting (no small feat), and relationship building. I loved the challenge of our first summer in Vienna, but it was hard, and now I finally had a chance to breathe and relax and enjoy hours of free time in a mountainous paradise.

IMG_2436

The women’s retreat attendees consisted of 14 older ladies (mostly cute white-haired grandmas), one girl around my age, and myself. A few of us were from Austria, a few from Germany, and a few from Switzerland. Even though there were only 3 countries represented, the dialects were from all over the place and were sometimes impossible to understand (Swiss-Deutsch is the most difficult). I was intimidated by it, being a German-newbie at the time, but figured I could hold my own without a problem. The first morning as I was on my way to join the womenfolk for class, the girl who’s around my age, Krista, pulled me aside and said, “Hey, if you get overwhelmed in there and need to step outside, it’s totally okay. No one will judge you. I’ve been in your place and had to leave class a few times last year for a breather and everyone understood. Just know you’re in a safe place here.” I was touched by her desire to give me help and advice, but at the same time, I was puzzled. I had attended close to 4 months of German-speaking church already, AND my German was good enough to allow me to skip a level in class. I was a Level A2.2 speaker! That’s high enough to get by, right?

Culture Shock laughed hard in my face. Like that kind of laughter where you can’t breathe for several seconds and then suck in a huge amount of air so you can keep laughing? That’s what I believe to be the laugh of Culture Shock. Five minutes into class and my eyes were as wide as they would allow themselves to be. I felt hot, queazy, dizzy, and outrageously fatigued. By the time the discussion rolled around I had no idea what was going on other than we were having a discussion about something related to the Bible. I pulled out my notebook and began to jot down words I didn’t recognize – Dankbarkeit, Gnade, Teufel, Zweifel, Barmherzigkeit. My list grew and was three pages long in just under 20 minutes. The lady I sat next to was kind enough to help me out, though I was worried my questions would wear her out and end up something like this in the middle of class:

“What does Gnade mean?”

“Oooh yes! That word means grace.” 

“Oh ok. What about Teufel?” 

“Devil. It means Devil.” 

“Oh… Well what about Barmherzigkeit?”

“MERCY, HOLLY. IT MEANS MERCY. THE MERCY OF THE LORD. THE KIND THAT I ASK YOU TO GIVE ME WITH ALL OF YOUR HUNDREDS OF QUESTIONS!”

“…… What was Gnade again?”

“AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!”

She was actually quite wonderful towards me and leaned over often to help me with definitions or to voluntarily explain to me what someone was saying. But even explanations and definitions didn’t help prevent me from physically feeling as awful as I felt. Regardless, I kept trucking along through the day and was able to experience hours of calm and relief that afternoon by the bunnies and ponies and watermill. I sat on my balcony for a while prior to dinner and took in the scenery all around me before I became vulnerable all over again. The next morning wasn’t any better, in fact it was worse. By lunch time I would’ve paid to speak English with someone. I would have given up lunch and dessert to speak English with someone. Done a dance, yodeled, whatever – I just needed English back in my life. Immediately. I planted myself at a table with some of the women I knew would potentially speak English with me, but I only did this so I wouldn’t look sad and alone at a table by myself. The ladies I knew who actually did speak English as their native language hadn’t come downstairs yet, so I watched the then dubbed “English Speaking Table” in order to be ready at any moment to pop on over and leave German behind. Unfortunately, the “English Speaking Table” filled within moments, and the sweet grandmas who thought they were helping by telling me to stay put so I wouldn’t have to get up, filled in the other chairs. One chair was left, and I stood up frantically to get to it before anyone else, but one last smiley grandma appeared, put her hand on my cheek and said, “Na, du sollst hier bleiben. Du musst mehr Deutsch lernen!” – translates to, “No, you should stay here. You must learn more German!”

*Insert evil Culture Shock laugh here*

545466_4003152953499_1052892442_n

What I call the “Culture Shock Snap” snapped. My face flushed red and I slowly sat back down as if someone had just told me that Paul McCartney died (which will be a HORRIBLE day indeed). My eyes brimmed with tears as I held back the angry, immature 5-year old inside of me who wanted to shout, “OH YEAH? Well… DU musst mehr Deutsch lernen!” An embarrassing comeback that would’ve been. I excused myself from the table and hurried to my room. I collapsed on my bed and cried like I did back in high school when boys hurt my feelings. I fell asleep after a while the very way I had landed on the bed – sprawled out, half in and half out of the covers. I slept for 4 hours, and the only reason I didn’t sleep longer was because of how badly my throat hurt. Thirty minutes later I was sneezing and coughing, and by dinner time I had a full blown fever. I laid in bed miserable but not all together sad that I couldn’t participate in that night’s class. Or class the next morning. Or the following night. My fever went up and down throughout the week while my sneezing and coughing only worsened. I did leave the room once to go to town in order to get myself some Vitamin C tablets from the Apotheke (pharmacy), but for the most part I stayed sick in my room. The grandmas checked on me countless times throughout each day and brought me soup and tea and bread. They would explain in German how sorry they were that of all the weeks in the year my body chose this week to get sick. I too was sorry, as I truly did want to be with them and learn, but unfortunately the only things I learned that week were the following:

How I Met Your Mother and The Big Bang Theory are just as funny in German as they are in English.

Austrian soap operas are just as strange as American soap operas.

The makers of 7th Heaven should have produced the show entirely in dubbed-over German so we could have all been spared its never-ending drama.

Hotel rooms are boring.

Why have I waited this long to take a Eucalyptus bubble bath?

On the last day of the Frauenfreizeit, I emerged from my room to sing some last songs and watch the annual Frauen Talent Show. I returned home still sick and still “in shock” but was on the path to healing. Now, almost a year later, I’m happy to report I haven’t been sick one time since last September at the hands of Culture Shock! (I was going to say that I haven’t been sick at all since last September, but then I got sick this weekend and ruined my record.) That’s not to say Culture Shock has never visited me again, but at least it hasn’t given me anymore fevers.