How to Cope with Homesickness

how to cope with homesickness

📷 www.glamour.com

tap your heels together three times

 

“I’m fine! Everything’s really great. I’m having THE BEST time”

How often have you spun out that similar line of utter bollocks into a message?

Whether you’re away uni, moved to a new town for work or joined the expat club somewhere completely alien to everything you’re used to, glossing over the negative spots of a new adventure and jazzing up the reality is a universal practice of humans around the globe.

So why do we do it?

Firstly, social media blah blah blah (yeah you’ve heard this one before) – even if you think you’re above the non-subtle humble-brag #soblessed posts of people living enviable lives on the internet, there’s that secret thrill of showing off where you are and what you’re doing to those who are watching you back home. Especially if those ‘likes’ start stacking up on a smattering of your pretty pictures that have been painstakingly retouched by two photo editing apps.

Another reason I think we shine only the brightest, most positive light on our lives is to ease the worry of the ones we’ve left behind. ‘Yes, I’m eating’ ‘No, I’m not hiding in my room’ ‘Of course I’m being social, I went out last night’, you want to reassure your friends and family that you are safe and well and flourishing in a foreign domain miles away from their watchful love and care.

And then there’s the final motivation as to why we plaster on a mega-watt smile and spout happy-worded rubbish – to drown out the whispering inner voice murmuring in response ‘That’s not true, you’re sad and feel lonely. You’re homesick and you have been for a while now.”

Even if you’ve amassed a good group of pals in your new territory and are able to see and do a bunch of amazing things, the sense of missing sneaks its way in and haunts the background of everyday life. Even more so once the shiny novelty of the place wears off. The lack of familiarity from your old world seems kind of jarring.

For me, it came in waves. Sometimes I was so busy, doing one thing after another to focus on, that the heavier thoughts my mind chewed over were forgotten. Other times, I’d be tip-tapping away at my computer when all of a sudden I was crushed with the weight of isolation and how much I missed home and everything / everyone my UK life came with.

 📷 www.giphy.com

I suffered from homesickness baaadddly my first winter away.

Sour feelings took over my mental driver’s seat, Mad-Max-ing me into unhappy oblivion and shooting off lightning bolts of angry resentment as I watched those around me having fun so easily. Why couldn’t I just be that confidently relaxed in these new surroundings? Why am I squirrelled away in my flat yet again???

Retreating into myself more and more, I suspect it was a way to cope with the out-of-my-depth emotions that kept swelling up and down the walls of my head. I presented a shell of a person to everyone else; calm, practised and ‘fine’ on the surface.

The worst knock was when my best friend and mum came out to visit me within two weeks of each other during the January and February of 2017.  As soothing as it was to have them there with me, these two intense links from home were placed in my hands and then had to slip away seven days later.

And it tasted bitter.

The flavour of homesickness is like the nail varnish that’s designed to stop you biting them because it’s a basically a hit of rotting acid.

I figure you have two options when battling with homesickness, either pack it in and go home. No one who’s truly got your back will think any less of you. It’s always braver to make a bold move if you think its right for you. Especially if your homesickness is so debilitating that you start showing other symptoms of being unwell.*

Or

Cope and crack on.

When the clouds parted and sunshine came through again, I’d get on with a handful of the below things to stretch out feeling better.

/ Keep connections going back home.

Yes, it requires planning and effort to arrange Skype dates, having 234 Whatsapp conversations on the go and setting phone calendar reminders to ring people. It sometimes feels like an exercise of diary snap, finding a time you’re both free to schedule a call, but ohmygod it’s so worth it. You don’t realise how much you’re holding in until you’re talking the ear off a close friend. But try not cling to communication too hard though as it could swing the other way and set you back.

/ Cook

I’m not a Nigella-esque spoon-licking effortless goddess when it comes to whipping up a meal. But I like the therapeutic ritual of cooking; assembling ingredients into something that’s comforting, warm and nourishing. Even if it’s a dollop of fluffy eggs on butter-drenched toast, I get a satisfied glowy kick out of this basic form of self-care and feeding my body to fight another day. So treat yourself as you would a loved one going through a rough time and in need of a bit of food-based love. Bowls of cheesy pasta, aromatic noodles, casseroles and soups are a good place to start in giving yourself a big old hug.cooking to cope with homesickness

📷 Buzzfeed.com

‘Like the lightest, most fluttering caress in the mouth’ – Queen Nigella 

/ Shift your attitude

Easier said than done, I know.

I come across peppy and upbeat, but my inner monologue is naturally pessimistic. I have to work hard to set my thoughts and views on the world as positive. Putting myself in a ‘victim’ mindset was something I kept slipping into; that I was the only one feeling low, I was the only one struggling. Bollocks to that. Everyone rides on crappy feelings sometimes, they just handle it differently. Put on some music and dance around your room regularly, it gets your endorphins going and brushes away the gloom.

/ Step out of that comfort zone

If your relocation has frightened the shit out of you, even the smallest challenge will be magnified in your eyes. Guess what, moving to a place where you don’t have a familiar support network around is already pretty fucking fearless, so keep that ball rolling. For me, it was small achievements like learning to comfortably drive on the other side of the road (not just any roads, snowy mountain roads), skiing a run that made me nervous and pushing back against my default introverted setting by talking to people I didn’t know that well a bit more. Each time I’d do what I was scared of doing, another little brick was added to my wall of confidence. A total cliché but I promise you’ll be surprised at how many more things you think you can do, compared to what you can actually do.

/ Tourist in your own town

tourist in your own town

📷 By me                                   Red Bull Hangar 7 Museum

Chances are, you’ve moved to wherever you are now for a reason. Whether it’s for work, to experience a new culture or because you simply wanted to be beside the sea. I’d wager there also might be a handful or more of cool sights and activities that you wouldn’t get to see or do back home. Yeah, you might be living in Barcelona but have you actually gone out and actually seen Barcelona? Make a list of every tourist attraction you can reach and like to go do. If you’ve got local friends, explain you want to go visit X, Y and Z to discover what all the fuss is about. They’d most likely fall over themselves to give you a mountain of tips on what times are best to go or look out for, and maybe even insist on accompanying you for a couple of days out. Getting to know a place really well – tourist traps and all – will reinforce why you’re there and makes you feel less like a stranger in the area.

/ Treat yourself 

In my experience, it’s easier to be mean to yourself than being nice when you’re in a fragile state. Again, approach your care as if you were your best friend. Would say to them half the things you say to yourself? I’m guessing not. You’d be supportive and think of ways to raise spirits rather than beat them over the head with nasty taunts. So spoil yourself a bit. It doesn’t have to be a big extravagance. A new £2 nail varnish, a bottle of wine, a favourite takeaway – or just some fresh bedsheets and an early night. A little self-directed TLC goes a looooonnnggg way in repairing stressed nerves and feeling looked after.

/ Deepen the connections to those around you 

A big part of homesickness is feeling lonely. Becoming friends with a bunch of new people may not come naturally to you. It certainly doesn’t to a hardcore introvert like me. I lucked out in Austria and was adopted straight away by a set of friends who were inclusive and sympathetic when I wasn’t 100%. But that doesn’t mean I sat back on my laurels and waited for them to come to me. As excruciating as it is when you’re not socially confident (hello my tribe!), you must push yourself to make an effort with people. 9 times out of 10, you’ll end up having fun rather than regretting it and becoming an awkward part of the wallpaper.

/ Home comforts 

Turn your home space into a set up that’s more comfortable for you. If that means buying pillowcases, plants and fairy lights to feather your nest then so be it. Making your new digs familiar will give back the control you’re probably missing. Plus you may be experiencing homesickness because your new city or country or isn’t feeling like home yet. Mementoes like photographs or a bed throw that you get to see every day from your previous home will help cosy up your place too and transform it into a sanctuary you enjoy relaxing in.

 

I cannot say that any of these will help your homesickness. And it’s something that won’t disappear overnight.

I was carrying it around with me even when I went back to Austria this year; I think I’m just one of those people who feel it really hard. But when the sadness seeped in this season, I was able to recognise it and try to do something about minimising the yucky despair that plunged me into mind-mist the first time around.

I still cried, but not nearly as much. I also had a total blast. So that’s sort of proof it works.

how to cope with homesickness

📷 By me                                                          😍

 

*Physical manifestations of homesickness can be constant or frequent crying, difficulty sleeping, and changes in appetite, to nausea, dizziness and headaches. If you are showing any of these signs as well please please please go see a doctor.

How to Cope with Homesickness

5 Reasons why you should work abroad

A guest post on : 25before25

 

This month I’m a guest poster on the blog 25before25, an innovative project launched by Londoner Emma Rosen. 

Emma’s aim is to sample a whopping 25 careers before turning 25 through work experience, shadowing and just giving things a go. She explores work / life fulfilment and advocates for a more diverse career education.

5 reasons why you should work abroad 25 by 25

 

5 Reasons why you should work abroad

First week living in Austria

I CAME, I SAW, I GOT WHIPPED 

 

living in Austria

 

Monday

I landed at Munich around 4.30pm ish. The sun was setting and the pilot on board the plane said the outside temperature was about 1°C.

This was it.

I’m about to be taken to my new home once I collect my luggage from the bag carousel.

The troop of butterflies that had taken up residence on my stomach the week previously had started to flap their wings again, replacing the waves of sadness sparked off from the tearful goodbyes of my mum and sister as I went through Gatwick security a few hours previously.

Getting my belongings together I shuffled through the automatic doors into the ‘Arrivals’ pen and scanned the names plastered on the clipboards held up by the crowd of people leaning in on the metal rails.

Clocking ‘Emma Taylor’ attached to one of those clipboards I walked over to my new colleague.

At the moment, know one at my new office knows about my blog. And I’m not sure how they would feel about me writing about them, so I’m going to be as vague as possible when other people are included in the story. 

We introduce ourselves and start walking towards the main concourse of Munich airport. My greeter says that she is going to take me to the supermarket as it will be too late by the time we get in to St. Johann for shops to still be open.

She offers to wait outside with my bags while I stock up on essential bits. I nervously nod and push through the barrier into the supermarket.

Fuck.

I was not expecting this.

I don’t speak a jot of German, my mind is racing and I have no idea what to buy. My colleague helpfully recommended getting some milk, stuff for dinner that evening and cereal for breakfast the next day, but I haven’t a clue what I even want or need.

Pacing up and down the aisles, I sort of recognise items that I think will be immediately useful.

Milk, yes.

A small bottle of juice, yes.

Soup? I’m not really that hungry but I suppose It will be handy to have just in case.

A drink for the road, yep.

Ah, an apple. I will definitely eat you.

Cereal for breakfast, wow that’s pricey. But I’ll be grateful for it in the morning.

Chewing gum, in my frazzled state of navigating a German supermarket I thought that, yes in this moment gum is essential.

I paid for my eclectic mix of shopping and located my colleague at the front of store with all my stuff.

She asks me if there is anything else I need to do before we leave and that if I didn’t mind she was going to pop out for a cigarette. I follow her through the airport (which incidentally is more like a Westfield shopping centre than an airport, due to the amount of shops / places to buy food) and she leads us through the doors that go outside.

Oh wow.

She had mentioned that there was a Christmas market at the airport and in my head I pictured a couple of stalls and cauldron of mulled wine, but this was something else entirely.

Huge doesn’t even cut it, this was a full on traditional Christmas market, with a decent sized ice rink sitting in the open air area of Munich airport. I wouldn’t be surprised if people fly to Munich just to go to the market spread that they’ve laid on there.

Chatting about our backgrounds, where we’re from and other get-to-know-you-type questions we watched the skaters swirl round the rink for a bit.

My brain went into ‘this is so surreal mode’. I’m in Germany, at an airport market, surrounded by glittering Christmas lights and cutesy stands sell handmade ornaments. I felt like I was floating a bit.

Once back inside we walked to the underground car park.

“So in Germany they have car parking spots for women” my colleague says with a little laugh.

“What?!” Slightly horrified at German society’s presumption that women cant park a car.

“Yeah they are a bit bigger and tend to sit closer to the entrance. I know I felt that way too, but actually it can come in really handy.”

——-

Under two hours later we were in St. Johann, Austria.

The town was eerily quiet.

I couldn’t see much as it was so dark, but I heard the whooshing of a river as I was walked to my new digs and then shown around the spacious apartment.

Sitting in my flat amongst half unpacked debris of a billion bags and replying to ‘Have you got there yet?’ messages from those back home, the sadness of having left the UK behind started to creep in again.

‘What have I done?’ A little voice quipped in my head.

I got ready for bed and then climbed under the duvet, clutching my teddy (yes I have a teddy bear, and what?) in the darkness wondering why the fuck did I decided to do this.

Tuesday

I was told the night before that I would be meeting a staff member outside the office at 7.45am for snow chain training.

Once dressed and fed I opened my bedroom curtains. I saw the river that I had heard the night before, crystal clear water streaming steadily over rocks and pebbles, and then gazed across the banks to the large houses on the other side with their smart looking German 4×4’s parked neatly on a driveway, imagining the happy little Austrian families who must live there. My eyes were pulled up above the houses to the stack of imposing mountains that framed the scene. The weak early morning sunlight had a turned them a soft soothing mix of purple and pink, accented with patches of snow peppering the crevices at their peaks – this is why I’ve made the move.

Tearing myself away from the window and bundling up against the -6°C morning air, I was whisked to a hotel near by from the front of the office (basically the other end of the building where I live) and joined a group of reps who will also be getting a crash course in how to put chains on a tyre.

It went all right. The whole snow chain process is pretty logical but who knows what kind of flustered flap I’ll get into if it’s pissing down with snow on the side of a cliff-edge mountain road with a queue of impatient Austrian motorists waiting for me to get a move on.

Oh well future Emma’s problem.

With no further information about where I was supposed to be that day I tagged along with the reps walking to their training seminar across town.

This was the first time I had seen St. Johann in the light.

Typical Alpine chalets with delicately painted fascias jostled amongst glass fronted modern buildings, there were shops selling clothes, crafts and other knick-knacks. I spied pretty restaurants and a cutesy bakery too. Slightly in awe and a bit taken back at how many shops there were in town, I was expecting a teeny village square with one pub and no place to buy soup or biscuits.

Once inside the training room I sat down at a table and introduced myself to the rest of the group already seated.

I had no idea if I was even meant to be in this session.

Then I spot my flatmate across the room, she’s new to the office as well and arrived a little before I did the night before. We waved at each other as I felt a tap on my shoulder.

One of the staff members leading the seminar is asking me if I would stand up at the beginning to say a few words about myself and what I will be doing within the company.

Fuckity fuck fuck, ‘OK sure, no problem’ I hear myself saying.

The session starts and within 2 minutes my name is called, I stand up – urgh, is there anything more awkward than doing stuff like this – and give a rambled explanation of who I am and my job role, as soon as the last word leaves my lips I hastily drop down back into my chair.

The seminar was interesting, it was geared towards the reps rather than office staff but I found the information useful. We stopped for lunch and I successfully navigated myself through the town back home. The walk allowed me to take in St. Johann again, noting the closed Christmas market stalls ready for the weekend, more clothes shops and what looked like the Austrian equivalent to Boots. Home alone, I cracked open my can of soup and ate the apple purchased from Munich Airport, thinking about what I was going to do for dinner that evening as I hadn’t spotted any supermarkets on my walk and couldn’t risk getting lost before I had to go back again.

I returned to the training course for the afternoon segment, still no sign of a food shop but I’ll have to deal with that later. During the second half of the day I got to know a few of the reps a little better. A lot of them seemed quite young but had done repping before either during last winter or on a summer programme.

Wow they’re brave, I thought. At 19 I felt daring just driving to Brighton and back.

The day was over at 5.30pm and I set off in the direction of home again.

Right, I’m starving hungry, I’m going to adult here and find a supermarket. Steeling myself against the bitter night air, I wandered towards a different part of the town for ten minutes. Across a car park along my way I recognised the shape of shopping trolleys, and then the glow of a bread counter in the distance inside a glass building. YES!

Scurrying through the car park, my tummy rumbling in anticipation I breathed in the warm smells of that bread counter at the entrance of the supermarket.

Then the familiar sense of being overwhelmed washed over me as I stood rooted to the spot holding my shopping basket at the top of the first aisle.

Shit, I don’t even know what I’m looking for or where anything is again, I really didn’t plan this very well, everything looks so different in German and they are closing the store shortly! God I miss Tescos.

Up and down the aisles I went, dithering over what to buy, my stomach angrily growling at me to make a flipping decision. Feeling too hungry to care any more after 15 minutes I grabbed a pizza and a pack of Milka biscuits in desperation.

Poor effort at being a grown up Ems.

Retreating to my empty flat (no idea where house mate had gone) I ate my sad little pizza in bed and went to sleep soon after to stop the weight of loneliness from setting in.

river st. johan

📷 by me – Quick snap on my way to work of the outside of my apartment. 

Wednesday

I opened my bedroom curtains and drank my morning tea while staring at the mountains again (the Wilder Kaiser range). I could never ever get bored with this view, it’s a comforting force against the doubtful voice in my head that keeps telling me I’ve fucked up by taking this job.

At 9am I walk round to the office.

I’m greeted by my new team members as well as the lady who picked me up from Munich on Monday.

Today is another full on day of training with my manager who talks me through the details of my role once more and gets me familiar with a bunch of different systems I’ll be using.

The morning flies by and it’s lunchtime. I’m shown where the SPAR supermarket is (2 minute walk from my house, bloody typical) and pick up some more soup.

The soup here is a bit weird.

Austrians aren’t really ones for fresh soup, yes there are the odd canned soups floating about but mostly it comes in powder form and you just add hot water.

It tastes OK, but you have to really give it a whisk in the pan to make sure the powdery lumps are broken down.

The afternoon was spent pretty much the same way, but with the addition of a team meeting as well to let everyone know what was going on that week.

“Hey Em, we’re going to go driving in a minute”. Says my manager as we walk out of the conference room.

The moment I’ve been waiting for, the first proper time (aside from a dabble in Mexico) driving on the other side of the road.

In the office car park I’m handed the keys to a VW Caddy. It’s huge in comparison to the dinky cars I’ve had back home.

I get in and instinctively reach behind my right shoulder.

Nope, seatbelt is on the other side. Excellent start.

With my manager in the passenger seat giving words of encouragement I slowly reverse out the space, whack the stick into first gear and crawl out of the car park. I’m told to turn left.

I turn left.

I start driving on the left. WRONG BLOODY SIDE EMMA. Christ, the one fundamental thing I needed to remember and I failed immediately. Correcting myself shifting the car over to right hand side of the road I carry on following my manager’s directions.

Thankfully our 20 minute jaunt on the roads around St. Johann went smoothly thereafter. I’m not going to be wining any awards for precision driving but I’m capable enough once I relaxed into it.

As I’m leaving the office for the day one of my colleagues invites me to go with her the big Aldi supermarket up the road.

“Yes, please. That would be great.”

“Cool, I’ll knock for you at 7pm.”

Arriving at Aldi (is known as Hofer in Austria) together 45 minutes later, both of us whip out lists and get working on filling up our trolley. Shopping trip completed (miles less stressful than my last attempt) we were about to trudge back home with our heavy bags when we bumped in to my colleague’s friend. Knowing he had his car with him my colleague wangled a lift for us back to our building.

Finally home, I cooked a decent dinner for myself for the first time and settled down to video chat with my mum.

Today definitely felt more accomplished than the days prior.

Thursday

Much like Wednesday, I spent the day in the office getting to grips with what was needed doing and how processes are carried out.

My manager also took me out for another drive in the Caddy. We went to Kitzbühel in the morning, doing a drive in the daylight this time was much easier than before.

When the working day was over I returned back home and heated up my leftovers from last night’s dinner.

My work phone beeps.

One of my team members is messaging me to see if I was up for going to the pub.

I pause in my reply, partly because I’m tired and have to drive on my own tomorrow morning transferring staff members from one resort to another and then dropping someone off at Munich airport in the afternoon, and secondly my anti-socialness is rearing its ugly head.

I give myself an internal shake and type back ‘Where shall I meet you?’.

Spending the evening at the favourite local bar, I was introduced to more people from the office. Everyone is super friendly and welcoming. I stayed for one beer and made my excuses to leave as I wanted to get a good sleep in preparation for tomorrow…

…Driving on my own for the first time, in a foreign car, in a foreign country, on the other side of the road.

Shit.

Friday 

It’s 8.30am and I’m supposed to already be on my way to a resort 20 minutes away to pick up a couple of staff members, then go on to a second resort, scoop up another staff member and bring everyone back to St. Johann.

Except I’m faffing around de-iceing the Caddy.

8.40am

Shittyfuckbollockswank, I’m still no where near ready to set off, I haven’t even got my satnav programmed with the addresses.

OK, be calm, pop address in. Good.

Engine is on, I’ve put the car in reverse and now I’m slowly making my way out of the car park.

I turn left into the street and I’m on the right side of the road. Fab. So far so good.

Turning right on to the main street I go up in gear. Oh crap, a roundabout.

“Please take the fourth exit.”

Cool, thanks satnav.

“Please continue for 400 yards and then, half right.”

“Please take a half right, now.”

Right, I can totally do this.

My running commentary (spoken out loud to myself in the car) and the dulcet reassuring tones of the polite satnav lady have quelled the rising panic I was feeling. I ease into the drive a little, the sun was shining, the mountains look GORGEOUS and I was making good time now.

Thankfully the trip went well. No major cock-ups.

I explained to my passengers that they were the one of the first people I’ve driven around on the other side of the road in an unfamiliar car and they were massively patient with me pottering along at a snails pace.

I get back to the office and catch up on some emails after dropping the staff members off at their accommodation in St. Johann. After lunch I’m back in the Caddy for a trip to Munich airport as a colleague needs to be on a plane to Finland.

I help load up the car with her bags and give the same speech that I gave to my morning passengers that I’m still very new to driving in Austria. Pleased to say, under two hours later we are at Munich airport and I’m waving her off through check-in.

Phew.

Just one more journey leg to go and I’m back home.

By now it’s dark and I’m feeling nervy (surprise!) again, so start saying out loud to myself my driving actions and what I’m going to do next. For some reason this works and I’m flying down the autobahn and up to the mountains before I know it.

Bed please!

Saturday 

Unsure of time I need to be in work I turn up at the office slightly before 9am.

No one is there.

Balls.

I hang around for ten minutes before pulling out my work phone. There’s a message from my manager.

‘Hey, Em. Please come to the office for 12pm.’

I have the morning free! I walk into town and pick up shopping bits before returning to my apartment.

My flatmate has left for the weekend so I have the house to myself, ahhh lovely.

In the office for 12pm and everyone is preparing for roll out that afternoon (roll out is where the reps get all their work kit for the season). Around 3pm we drive up to the hotel where the new wave of reps are staying and set up different stations for them to visit (like uniform, phones, staff paperwork etc..) at designated group times.

Once the reps had given in the correct forms and collected their assigned gear, roll out wound down. We (the office team) stayed for dinner and drinks at the hotel, finishing the evening up the road to the local bar I had been to on Thursday night.

No need to fill in the blanks as to what happened next…

Slightly drunk on tequila and Mars Bar shots I stumbled home in the early hours of the morning and crashed out.

Sunday 

Feeling a touch fragile, but more tired / dehydrated than anything. I started my hangover cure ritual.

Clean and fed, I got dressed and wandered around the town. No shops are really open on a Sunday (especially food ones, again I miss ❤️ Tesco ❤️). The day was stunningly sunny but very cold, which actually helped drive away the last remnants of alcohol in my system.

During my walk I stopped at the cutesy bakery I had clocked at the beginning of the week and went in to browse the rows of cakes and pastries. Selecting a plump apple danish, I paid for my sugary treat and scuttled home for another video chat date with my mum.

My phone beeps mid afternoon. The girls from the office have invited me to go to Kitzbühel with them for the Christmas markets.

Reaching Kitzbühel by train in the early evening, discussing events of the night before, our group drifted around the Christmas explosion that had planted itself in the centre of the town.

There were twinkly lights and decorations everywhere.

Rows of huts selling everything from handmade scarves and tree trinkets to what looked like fried potatoes smothered in cheese on a stick?

There were kids having pony rides and petting sweet-faced donkeys in one section, while adults indulged in hot alcoholic beverages in another.

Sipping on a Glüwein taking the scenes in, Kitzbühel seems a much livelier and glitzier town than its neighbouring little sister St. Johann.

We round off our evening out with a satisfying carb-heavy dinner and then sleepily decide within the group to split a taxi back home.

I spend the rest of the night curled up on the sofa finishing my book, and later, a glowy feeling of contentment warms me as I get ready for bed.

‘I think I feel like I’m settling in now’ I say internally, smiling at myself in the mirror while brushing my teeth.

Monday

Similar to the days previously, I’m in the office for the morning and early afternoon before scooting off to go pick someone up.

It was another Munich airport run, which I felt confident in doing now.

I was there and back before 6pm followed by a quick meeting with my manager about what was on the coming week.

The whole office was keen to get off work on time as tonight as it was Krampus.

krampus chocolate

📷 by me – Chocolate Krampus 

An alpine festival involving demon masked kids / teenagers (a.k.a the Krampus, – the plural being Krampi? I’m not sure) who whip the by-standing crowds which symbolically represents a punishment for those who have been naughty this year.

There’s a whole lot of folklore about Krampus, it’s even been given the Hollywood treatment and turned into a sort of Christmas horror movie, but I’m not going to go into too much detail about the ins and outs of the festival as I’d be typing away until Easter.

A gang of us walk to the main square of St. Johann which is already rammed full of people safely tucked away behind crowd control barriers.

The parade starts with glittery cheeked little girls dressed as pretty angels, fulfilling the role of helpers to St. Nicholas (who we didn’t get to see in the procession but apparently looked like he’d got styling advice from the pope) handing out bags of treats (just nuts and dried fruit, stingy angels) to the public ‘for being good’.

Hands wrapped round a piping hot Glühwein, we patiently waited for the main event.

Atmospheric instrumental music starts booming through the speakers (98% sure it was the theme song to ‘Pirates of the Carribean’) and the dude who was in charge of the pyrotechnics that year had his moment.

 

krampus fire festival

📷 by me 

Somewhere round the corner a dance routine was going on, but our line of sight was blocked by the hoards of people.

And then we heard the clanging of a cow bell directly behind us. One of the girls from the office who had been to Krampus before said you can hear them coming because of the bells attached to the costumes.

Our group turns around to follow the source of the bell and we see a tall boy dressed in an auburn yeti get up, walk quickly from an alleyway into the crowd and then back again, his face was unmasked covered in black paint, a small bundle of long, thin birch twigs were strapped to his back.

Pyrotechnic Pete was back in the spotlight again, filling the wait with more fiery entertainment, but this time accompanied by heavy death metal.

We must be nearing the start now.

The bells (the bells! the bells!) of oncoming Krampi collective signalled the beginning of their ‘performance’.

krampus festival alps

📷 by me 

Don’t be fooled by the pageantry of the elaborate outfits and masks (which apparently can cost up to £600???!). Krampi mean business and they really wallop you hard with those twigs, it most certainly is not a show.

The festival had a team of volunteers and medics on standby, which inspired a strange mix of solace in knowing that they are there but also fear as are a team of medical professionals really needed??

Krampus 😈😈

A post shared by E M M A T A Y L O R (@ohemmt) on

 

Each Krampus is tagged with a number so if you do get badly beaten then you can report that Krampus along with the identification number to the local authorities.

There were long time periods in between waves of Krampi making their way to the start of the parade route.

And then real fun starts. The crowds are given a 10 minute warning before 9 o’clock when the barriers come down and all those Krampi that have scared the living whatsits out of you from your safe spot amongst the masses, are free to roam the town and whip at will.

Still feeling protected by the barriers, we continued to watch with terrorised glee the last few remaining Krampi doing their thing as part of the parade.

Suddenly, a Krampus came up to our now thinned out area of the crowd. He stops, and in one swift movement gate jumps cleanly over the railing and lands directly in front of me.

Fuck, one’s gone rogue.

Before I can even register what’s happening, he raises his arm back and delivers four almighty blows with that bundle of thin birch twigs to my legs, which catches the rest of the my colleagues up in the beating.

OH.

MY.

GOD.

The sting was made worse by how chilly my jean-clad legs were waiting around in the freezing cold.

I do NOT want to be around for the whipping free-for-all that is but mere moments away.

I escape into a bar with one of the girls from our gang and get myself to loos to inspect the damage.

Craning my neck as I slip down my jeans, angry red welts stripe my the backs of my thighs.

Fabulous.

I poke my head out the bar entrance an hour later and meet up with a few of braver members of our group who remained outside.

My Krampus experience ended in walking briskly home (not to fast to as to attract attention, but not too slow that we are seen as easy pickings) with a couple of others who were up for calling it a night.

With my leg throbbing and my body shivering from being in the cold for so long, I snuggled down in bed with a hot water bottle and tapped out a message to a friend back in Blighty…

‘I came, I saw, I got whipped.’

 

Welcome to Austria!

First week living in Austria

Auf Wiedersehen, Pet

UNTIL WE MEET AGAIN

 

I’ve jacked my office job in and I’m moving to Austria.

Granted, I’m swapping one desk for another, but instead of commuting to a grey business park, wistfully looking out over Gatwick watching people jet off on their holidays everyday, I’ll be Excel-spreadsheeting in the snowy heights of St. Johann.

The past four weeks where I’ve had to get my life together pretty quickly for this move (so.much.paperwork.) has been a blur of dinners, drinks and my darling friends.

So this post is a bit of a love letter to you guys.

Also I’m procrastinating with organising the last few bits that need to go into my suitcase and putting off tidying the bomb site that is currently my bedroom.

It’s not very often you get to explicitly express how much you value and love the people in your life – except maybe at a funeral but then that seems a little too late in the day to write down a bunch of nice things about how amazing the deceased is.

In case you haven’t noticed there’s been a resurgence of commercially branding and capitalising on female friendships (#girlgang) the past 18 months. Taylor Swift and crew have been waving the flag for surrounding yourself with a solid group of lady mates who are more like sisters than friends. Very much a girl’s girl, I’ve been part of my own girl gang for many, many years now and have only continued to add new members to my well-heeled clique.

Apart from family / Cadbury chocolate, my girls are what I’ll miss the most now that I’m about to move away.

Below is why we are friends.. brace yourself, there will be mush.

1 / You listen to my most stupidest worries and only slightly don’t mock me for them.

2 / Being around all of you is like having my own personal cheerleading troupe. If I had said that it was my lifelong dream to go live as a goat in Switzerland, I know I would be supported in every kind of way. (OK, extreme example, but you get the gist).

3 / I am forever grateful for the endless patience that you seem to have by bucket loads when I start droning on in detail about my ~*LoVe LiFe *~  or lack thereof.

4 / That nothing embarrasses you and no topic is off limits for discussion. Toilet troubles, boyfriend’s bits, gross body malfunctions, strange people we kind of fancy, the thought filters get set to ‘disable’ whenever we are around each other.

5 / My love for Beyoncé is considered in any joint playlist I have shared with pals. If you love me, you gotta love B 👑🐝

6 / You’re all fabulous dancers. From slut-drops to epic air guitar moves, ladies there is no one I’d rather tear up a dance floor with than you.

7 / The swearing. People say it’s not ladylike to swear and to that we say fuck them. Having an imaginative sweary group of girls as your bestest buds is a gift that keeps on giving. ‘Cockwomble’ is my word of this shitshow that has been 2016.

8 / When bad decisions and wrong turns cause me to fall flat on my face I am always met with helpful advice and a large glass of wine.

9 / Just for the ‘lols’ alone is reason enough to keep you guys around.

10 / You are my ultimate inspirations. A collection of dazzling women who kick-ass and make me proud to be part of your lives everyday.

 

friends girlgang

 

*Sobs*

Auf Wiedersehen, Pet