Emma in Euroland

Tea, Cake and Travel: a year abroad in Germany

Roommates, who needs them?

When I arrived here on 2nd October, there were two people already living in the flat: Amy, who I already knew, and Gabija, a very lovely girl from Lithuania who was also keen to speak German. We developed ways of doing things, divided up the fridge and worked out a system of using a shower room with no lock on the door. We were all quite similar in that we were not interested in having parties, drinking into the early hours of the morning or playing loud music late at night.

Then, about a week later Malvina arrived.

Can you smell smoke?” Amy said to me.

It’s probably just us.” We had been waiting at the tram stop for our tram and complaining about how many people were smoking. They smoke everywhere here. A particular sore point for me is that they smoke underneath the bus shelter. The whole point of the shelter is to trap the air to keep it warm and block out the wind. When you add smoke into the mix, quite frankly I’d prefer to stand in the cold and wet. I was sure that the fur on my coat and my long hair had absorbed the smoke and that was what the terrible smell was.

I was wrong. My first experience of Malvina was her coming out of her room, waltzing over to me, hand outstretched and introducing herself in English. She was not wearing a bra. Our first ever conversation consisted of me telling her about my athsma and how smoke makes me feel pretty sick and so could she please not smoke in the flat. Aside from the fact that it’s against the rules of our contract, of course. She apologised and insisted that they would smoke in Bokdan’s flat instead. Bokdan is her ex-boyfriend from home who is also here for this year. She then sashayed back to her room and shut the door behind her.

20 minutes later, I was still standing in the kitchen with my coat and shoes on, holding my bags. My door was not even unlocked. Gabija, Amy and I had spent that time speaking in hushed tones, discussing how terrible this year was going to be, worrying about how our little, happy, comfortable group had been infiltrated by someone so different.

That night, I wanted my door locked more than any other time since I have arrived here. I could not find my key. I spent nearly half an hour getting more and more worked up.

It must be here. I unlocked my door and haven’t been out since!” This exclamation should have told me where I was to find my key. It didn’t though and I looked everywhere. Even in the fridge. My key was still in the lock in my door, where I had last used it. I went to bed that evening distressed. I was convinced that I would come back to parties in the flat, my food from the fridge eaten and communal areas damaged, damaging my deposit as well as hers.

In the days afterwards, she was perfectly nice. She spoke to me nicely whenever I saw her and I did to her too. We were more than just civil with each other. If anything, I was putting in an unbelievable amount of effort, trying to get her on side. Still, it was the week before lectures started and she would come in early in the morning when I was up and getting ready for school. One night she had apparently forgotten her key and she banged on the door for about half an hour at 5am. I didn’t hear her. Thankfully.

It’s funny how wrong first impressions can be though, isn’t it. I absolutely love Malvina. I was right in many ways in my first thoughts of her. She is an artist, she is very different to me and she enjoys different things. She likes to go out a lot and I don’t think I’ve ever seen her make anything in the kitchen apart from tea. She likes to wander around in her knickers in the morning when she’s hungover. But hey, I’m no prude and I like to do that too, even though I’m not hungover. Malvina and I get on really well. I don’t know if we will become life long friends but I also wouldn’t be surprised if we did.

Last night, I was getting ready for bed, in the bathroom brushing my teeth. She rushed in and started whispering in my ear. I was using an electric toothbrush and there was no way I could understand what she was saying. To be fair, she didn’t understand my response either, all toothpaste-and-electric-toothbrush-ridden. To avoid any dribbling embarrassment, I stopped brushing my teeth and she shut the door.

We have a boy here!

You have a boy here? You and Marsha? Together?!” What did she mean exactly? All sorts of weird things were going through my head at this point, as I’m sure are going through yours right now. As a side note, Marsha is her new roommate. Malvina has a two person room. Contrary to Marsha’s initial concerns (Malvina’s stuff was EVERYWHERE. She managed to entirely fill two wardrobes from just two suitcases. It was impressive.), they actually get on really, really well.

We both like him!” I’m looking at her, my face even more confused than before.

Soooo, what will happen then?” Could this be the end of their blossoming friendship?

She really wants me to go for it! She keeps pushing me. What do you think I should do?!” I should add here that I love Malvina’s life. Not in the sense that I would want it for myself, but it is so exciting. She seems to never settle anywhere. Trust me, this is not the first controversial thing which she has run up to me to tell me about since she arrived here. There have been rumours and arguments and jealousy and threats of university involvement. She has certainly achieved a lot in 2 weeks. My life is stable. I honestly wouldn’t want it any other way. I would hate to have a complicated life like Malvina, I really don’t have the time for it. I do have the time to hear about it though, and hear about it I will!

Erm…“, how can I put this, “do you have some sort of ‘agreement‘?

What do you mean?

Like, if you like this boy and he comes over, you and Marsha share a room…” Oh God, this is like, the most awkward conversation I have ever had.

Oh yes! She is totally cool with that.” What does that mean?!

Cool with what?!

She said she would just go and stay at a friends for the night.” Phew! Panic over. Drinking, even smoking, I can handle. Weird stuff going on in the flat, seeing the awkward looks in the morning, maybe not.

I am yet to hear about what happened last night. It isn’t even 10 o’clock yet so I wouldn’t expect to see Malvina for a few hours. I think the lesson here is that sometimes people deserve a second look. I’m not sure everyone else in the flat has warmed to her entirely yet. I don’t see any reason not too. She is genuinely a lovely girl. What would we ever learn if we only ever surround ourselves with people who are exactly like us? Seeing her life makes me even more certain about how much I want the life I already have but that doesn’t mean that I look down on her for living life like she does. She is 20. She hasn’t met the person she wants to settle down with. She is an artist. She is going to do things differently to how I do. And why shouldn’t she. It’s a big world out there with a whole array of people in it. This year abroad is about so much more than learning about language or even German culture, it’s about learning about cultures and behaviours different from my own, and learning about myself through that. There is so much more for me to discover here and I don’t want to waste a moment. I will hang around waiting for an update on Malvina’s life though 😉

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2 Comments

  1. katie

    so what happened? I’m dying to know.

    I feel the same way about not surrounding myself with people exactly like me. I live my life pretty conservatively, but I love having all kinds of friends and hearing about their experiences. And I feel like my first impressions are almost always wrong. Luckily I’ve learned to keep an open mind about people until I actually get to know them. I’ve met some pretty amazing people that way.

    • haha, I’m unfortunately yet to find out! I had to go shopping and it seems she went out while I was out! I shall find out later and fill you all in ;). Oh I definitely agree with you, it’s often the people you don’t think you will get on with that surprise you the most. My boyfriend and I are like chalk and cheese but that’s what makes it work. Life’s funny that way, isn’t it. 🙂

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