5 Major Adjustments When Moving From Asia to Berlin

It’s been two months (!!) since we moved to Berlin and I thought I’d share an update on how it’s been. We’re slowly settling in and getting to know the city. So far so good! But I thought I’d share with you some adjustments we had to face when we first arrived.

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No complaints in being this city since I’m now really enjoying it. However, I want to share some realities with you in case you’re thinking of moving here or to some other city in Europe as some bits may be applicable. Just to avoid a teeny bit of shock and hopefully, help you adjust faster. 😉

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Expat Life: Trying out Haftarent – Malaysia’s Hassle-Free and Long Term AirBnB

** This is a review of the service. For my article about Haftarent on Forbes, click here.

Being married to a diplomat, I’ve been thrusted into a life that entails periodic moves for the next couple of decades. Not that I’m complaining but I have to be honest here: While moving to a different country may be a fun adventure, the moving process itself is stressful. Those who tell you otherwise, are lying.

All the farewell dinners you have to be in where you’ll feel sad knowing that it will be a while before you see your family and friends, the tedious packing, the journey, and finally arriving at your destination – these can really take their toll on your energy reserves. When we arrived in Malaysia, there was the flat hunting to consider, the furniture, how we would decorate our home, and settling in. Again, fun yet tiring.

We got lucky that our embassy has a go-to landlord and once my husband and I visited the units in his building, we fell in love with the location, the size of the unit, and the view. (A separate post on moving, flat hunting, and buying furniture in KL coming up!)

That part was easy for us, thank goodness. A lot of expats in Malaysia, however, are not as lucky. I’ve heard of flat hunting that took from several days to weeks and people who had to deal with inconsistent deposits.

I was recently introduced to a new service that a lot of expats and diplomats can use for convenience. Haftarent is a service that connects landlords to possible renters and all transactions are done online. I tried it out last month and here’s how the experience went:

Booking and checking in

Booking through the site was a breeze and so was check in during a sunny weekday. I was met by one of Haftarent’s people at the lobby of Vipod Residences where the unit I will be staying in was located. I chose this building among the properties listed on the site due to its location. It’s along Jalan Kia Peng, a street that’s a few minutes from Pavilion Mall, the KL Convention Centre, Suria KLCC, and the Petronas Towers.

Also, I was quite curious with this building. Alvin and I considered renting here but after seeing our current unit, we never looked back. Later on, a Singaporean diplomat told us that her unit in Vipod (which is a new building, only a few years old) has cockroaches. I still went for the Vipod property though since I heard they have a gorgeous pool. I was praying not to see roaches as we went up as I am deathly afraid of them.

Spoiler alert: No roaches. Whew! Thanks goodness for neat landlords.

When I arrived, this is what welcomed me:

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Expat Life: On Making Friends and the Struggle for Something of My Own

It’s always a lot harder to do this when you’re older, no? But let me back track a little.

When I first moved to KL with my husband, I would have to admit that while I was looking forward to our new adventure, I found myself feeling sad during the first few months. This is probably the first time I am ever talking about this. But I guess, it’s time.

I was in a different country with no friends, no job to keep me occupied, and nothing to do for the first few months except scour the internet for interior design inspirations and trying to nail down a ‘look’ for our new home. A job that I was even sharing with my husband who also has a passion for interior design and homeware. (A post on this later, I promise)

I won’t say I was homesick as I have always been very capable of adapting to a new place. I didn’t get the urge to hop on a plane back to Manila and I was hell bent on making it through whatever it was that I was feeling.

It’s the first few weeks or months where you have nothing to keep you busy that are the hardest. I was on my phone a lot – a lot more than usual – bugging my closest friends from home and egging them on to tell me about what’s been happening back home. I was in the mall a lot during office hours, window shopping by myself and thinking to myself – for the first time ever – that it would be nice to have a friend around.

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Expat Life + Shopping: 1 Utama’s Hari Raya Celebrations

Hari Raya, Shopping, 1Utama, Shopping Mall, Where to Shop in Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Travel, Expat Life, Holidays in Malaysia, Eid al Fitr, Muslim Holiday, Islamic Holiday, Celebration, Festivities

We arrived in Malaysia in late June of last year which meant that it was the middle of Ramadan season. Ramadan is a period of about a month in each year wherein Muslims all over the world fast from sun up to sun down. Each day is ended by an Iftar dinner wherein they break the fast with their loved ones.

Hari Raya, Shopping, 1Utama, Shopping Mall, Where to Shop in Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Travel, Expat Life, Holidays in Malaysia, Eid al Fitr, Muslim Holiday, Islamic Holiday, Celebration, Festivities

It’s a hard sacrifice, definitely. And it makes me respect my Muslim friends even more, knowing that I won’t be able to do what they do even if I try – not drinking nor eating for the duration of the day. I am not disciplined enough when it comes to food to be honest. Maybe I should learn from my friends and sacrifice chocolate for next year’s Lenten season? (Err. Not gonna happen.)

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Random Thoughts and Happenings 1

I decided to put together small stories/thoughts worth taking note of and just putting them into one blog post. Something short and sweet to update you with some of the not-so-big yet still fun-to-talk about bits of our daily expat/diplomatic/normal life here in KL. 🙂

Winning the hubby lottery

Okay, I said this on Twitter earlier but I’ll just type it here once more for posterity’s sake. My husband is a very practical guy. But I love how when it comes to me and our marriage, he can totally morph into a cheeseball every now and then. A couple of nights ago, I asked him what’s the next ‘occasion’ this year so we can plan maybe a quick getaway or a special date. (He’s been so stressed with work lately as there are so many things happening in KL right now – ASEAN Summit, meetings, visits, etc) “May 3”, he said. I just gave him a generic reply. Like “Ok” or something. But to be honest, I was really giddy and a bit over the moon. May 3 is our first date and I just find it so sweet that he would still want it celebrated when we’ve already been married for over a year and we have our actual wedding anniversary in October. He didn’t promise a major celebration but to me, him saying that our first date is still that important to him makes a world of difference. Romance doesn’t die with marriage, people. Believe me on this. 😉

Painting woes

Yesterday, our building’s painters finally reached our side. You see, our building is going through a facade makeover. The painters left a good amount of dirt on our balcony which left me rather miffed since yesterday. They’re still coming back tomorrow to do 2 more coats on our balcony’s walls so it would be rather useless to clean it now, right? But the dirt was just there and it was bugging me. So I got our floor cleaning brush with this really long handle and started pouring water on the balcony and brushing. My husband came home from work and found me struggling. In the end, he had to help me out. I’ll have to admit – when it comes to cleaning, my husband is better and more patient than I am. I’ll stick with cooking and the laundry, shall I?

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Events: Embassy Christmas Party

Our first embassy Christmas party at post and we loved every bit of it. Personally, I love the embassy events where we all get together and become one big family – eating together, sharing stories. In fact, I always feel that way whenever I drop by the embassy on a normal work day. Everybody is so welcoming and nice.

I love how in this embassy, ranks don’t really matter too much. You don’t hear officers belittling their staff or making them feel inferior – in person, in social media, and everywhere else. And there are no complaints from the staff about their bosses. Everybody works well with each other and whatever professional differences they encounter on a day-to-day basis, at the end of the day, people chalk it up to work experience and do not take it personally. It really is like a being in a big family where you find comfort despite being far away from home. We have each other to talk to, laugh with, and even share homesickness.

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Husband Appreciation Post: On Our First Anniversary

Oh you knew this was coming, didn’t you? How can I keep a blog and not even dedicate a single post to my wonderful husband on our anniversary?

A year and a day ago. 😉

Happy anniversary to my a-dork-able husband! Thank you for making everyday a surprise – there’s just no boring day with you. I guess it’s cos we’re so different? It’s like learning something new about a person everyday. Sometimes it’s funny, sometimes it’s something that will make you go ‘awww’, and sometimes it’s something that will drive you bonkers (You have to see first hand how O.C. Alvin is – I think this is worthy of a separate post). But at the end of the day, we’re just crazy about each other.

One year into the marriage and we both learned a lot. I can honestly say that we’re both getting really good at all of this. Both of us learned how to adjust, when to give way and when to push for what you want (nicely, of course), and to communicate properly. Yeah, communication. You can’t just expect your partner to read your mind and go with everything that you want. No two people’s minds are exactly the same after all. Looking back, whenever we had a rough patch, it was never because we were mean on purpose or we were acting out of hate. The root of all our past fights is actually misunderstanding. Everything can be solved by a good talk as long as you don’t let your temper in to the picture. A difference in opinion can be subject for healthy debate (our favourite topics include Israel-Palestine, religion, and sometimes politics) and you shouldn’t let your feelings (no matter how strongly you feel about your side) get in the way.

When I met Alvin, he was reserved (an understatement). In the words of author (and fellow diplomat’s wife) Cherry Denman, “he has the stiffest upper-lip spread wide across his body”. Mrs Denman used that phrase to describe her husband Charlie in her book Diplomatic Incidents. Is that a diplomat thing? Maybe. But I’ve met some whose lips are not the least bit stiff – I shouldn’t be talking about that… for now. Haha!

Anyhoo, while Alvin was quite reserved, I was the exact opposite. I used to party a lot in college (which stopped when I became a journalist) and my favourite phrase was “open bar” (the drinking is still there to this day but a bit… tamed?). I believe Alvin and I were brought together to introduce new things to each other. I brought fun into his life and he brought peace and order into my chaotic existence.

Alvin now smiles more often (his resting bitch face/poker face is almost gone) and even makes funny faces. I laugh out loud at his crazy antics when we’re alone and his jokes. Yes, colleagues of Alvin. He makes extra funny ones and when he makes a funny comment, you’re guaranteed to get a fall-off-your-chair kind of laugh. I guess someone just needed to get it out of him? He’s also more showy about his feelings, something he didn’t do before we got together. It makes my heart swell to see how proud he is of what we have.

When your husband who hardly posts on Facebook does this, it’s just too adorable. I was getting messages all day about how cute Alvin is.

These days my drinking is kept to a safe level and my life is a whole lot quieter. Well, sort of. We’re still busy with embassy activities and my path to being a domesticated diva (something I never thought I’d end up to be) but at the end of the day, when it’s just the two of us on our couch with him massaging my feet and giving me kisses while we watch The Amazing Race, we’re content and happy.

Before, I wasn’t thinking of getting married. I thought the quiet life was boring. But it turns out, all it takes is to have the right person with you and everyday is an adventure. Thank you for being you, Alvin. A husband who takes leaps and risks (both big and small) just to put a smile on my face. Thank you for taking care of me when I’m sick – like now. I’m down with a very bad flu while writing this and my husband’s been buying me meds and food during his lunch break (I usually cook for him at home or we meet for mini lunch dates) and he’s now out doing the groceries right after a long day at work to get me some yogurt and orange juice. To think that we didn’t get enough sleep after arriving from our weekend trip at 4am this morning. And yes, he still went to work at 8am. He’s just so good in making me feel like a princess without smothering me.

Smothering is a nightmare for women like me who never saw themselves as a damsel in distress. I am perfectly capable of killing my own dragons, but I wouldn’t mind having someone to do it with. 😉

Taken over the weekend during our sunset dinner cruise in Langkawi. ❤

My husband is also extremely smart. Give him any country and he’ll tell you it’s capital and a bit about its history and culture. He practically has an encyclopaedia stored in his brain. He did admit that he used to read it for fun as a child. However, my husband is never proud. He is humble and he doesn’t put other people down. He is helpful, thinks about the welfare of other people, and he is very secure with himself and I love that about him. In fact, it makes me respect him even more.

I’m lucky to be in a marriage where both our opinions are of equal value (even though we come from a patriarchal society). From the colour of our throw pillows to his career.

I’ll keep this short as you people might go blahhh over the cheese. But I guess this is just my way of making the world jealous of how lucky and loved I am. 😉 But seriously – sometimes, I look at this guy just to wonder what kind of good I did to end up with him. ❤

Here’s to more crazy adventures and butterfly-filled tummies with you, baby.

Carol