Expat Ramblings: Just Popping In

Family gatherings are difficult when you live abroad. Spending Christmas together is expensive, birthday presents arrive through the post, and when your children drive you insane, you can’t drop them off at a well-meaning relative’s house for an afternoon. I’d love to have coffee with my sister once a week, but we only manage three times a year. It’s hard, but it comes with the choices you make for yourself.

When your grandma turns 90, however, you put up with the cost and the stress involved, and you go to Germany for the weekend. She wants all her great-grandchildren there, and she will have them there, even if your travels end up something like this:

  1. Flights booked three weeks in advance will cost 500 Euros. Your own fault, really, because you’d known for months that this party was happening.
  2. Auspicious start to the weekend: You find a 20-pound note on the pavement. We’re taking a taxi!
  3. Pick up oldest child from school, jump in a taxi, think of ways to spend the rest of the money. Yee-haw!
  4. Spend the money on expensive children’s magazines. Who needs food? (The children, that’s who. As soon as you’re on the plane.)
  5. Get through security. It’s 9/11, y’all, so even two-year-olds need to take off their shoes today!
  6. And now for my party trick: Squeezing myself, two children and three bags into an airport toilet cubicle. Don’t touch ANYTHING!
  7. Brilliant timing: Onset of period in front of underage witnesses. I’m not dying, children, and here’s an impromptu biology lesson. You’re welcome.
  8. The waiting game. I will not spend any money on arcade games. Or grabbers. Or rides. Is there anything to do here that’s free?
  9. Priority boarding. Yeehaw.
  10. Getting nervous. I hate flying. The kids love it. They’re hungry.
  11. Plane starts rolling. Hang on, it doesn’t smell very nice in here. Chemicals in the air conditioning? It’s 9/11 after all…
  12. And we’re disembarking. It is 9/11 after all.
  13. Nobody knows what’s happening. The plane stinks and is being investigated, and there might be a flight later on. My parents are on their way to Berlin, and they’re not answering their phone.
  14. Turns out they’re already in Berlin. And waiting for us. My children are running in circles in the Liverpool airport, falling over periodically. Must be the chemicals.
  15. More juice and crisps. For free!
  16. There won’t be any flights until midnight, so we’re being booked onto the Friday flight. For free!
  17. Turns out one of the juice bottles wasn’t closed properly and has emptied all over a child’s birthday present and a borrowed book. It’s way past bedtime. I might cry.
  18. On the bus back home. My parents are leaving Berlin empty-handed. My youngest is exhausted, but he’s loved his trip. It dawns on him that we didn’t actually see any relatives, though.
  19. Exhausted kids are in bed around 10. At least the cat’s happy we’re home.
  20. It’s 10 o’clock the next morning. It’s not 9/11 anymore. Everything goes according to plan. Five hours later, we’re in Berlin. So are my parents. We all go home together. Dinner with my brother, sister, parents and an old friend. It was all worth it, but I’m tired. So tired.
  21. The rest of the weekend is a blur. We’re in a castle with 50 relatives. My granny is happy. There’s food and wine. It’s raining. I’m tired.

    castle tower and walls, Saxony, Germany
    Saxony’s finest
  22. On Sunday, I get to have coffee with my sister. Where am I? I’m so tired.
  23. Later that day, we fly over Liverpool in the dark. It’s beautiful. Taxi. We’re home. Bed bed bed bed bed. I don’t properly wake up until Tuesday morning.
  24. I really wish I lived closer to them.

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Schnazzy East German translator and cricket obsessive residing in England. I have other qualities, too.

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