Not to Scale (NTS) Expat life

Dominating the skyline in Kuwait, the Al Hamra Towers

What do people usually means when they say “Not to Scale“?

Looking back in my college days where we are asked to draw a floor plan, elevations and everything, this term is very common and eventually it becomes a normal terminology. Triangular Scale is a very important tool that I have often used, and through the years, I have learned that in reality, not all things can be presented with the exact proportions. Everything depends on how you make your own perspective.

Just like we gain and lose weight as we grow old…

Idealism has a fair play through the years.I asked myself before where could be a perfect place that expats finally call it a “home”?

The view of the Skyline of Kuwait from the Liberation Tower , here despite the dusty weather, everything seemed quite a normal day.

To scale means allowing us to understand the relationship between a drawing or an illustration and a presentation or a scale model—against the Reality. If you are able to draw accurately as per scale and you can immediately shift from one scale to another, like from 1:100 to 1:50 then you can do very well in doing architectural drawings and spatial design.Looking at scale models help us to have a perspective of what would it look like once it built, a bird´s eye view, a glimpse of the vision into reality.

I can very well use the principle of Scale in my life as an Expat.

After we leave our homelands, we , too have a perspective in minds. We all carry a luggage of dreams, hopes and expectations.

Beautiful well-preserved Gable Houses in Amsterdam, The Netherlands

I know from a fact that from an Expat eyes, everything is different from the tourist’s view and from the locals itself. A Tour Package always highlights the best, the most sought-after destinations and attractions, the off the beaten path are reserved for adventurous ones.As tourists, we want to see the icing of the cake.

What´s in? where´s the famous places? where are the top attractions?

The quaint beauty of an old Fortress ,Kaprun Castle where in 1645, the Salzburg Musketeers once occupied

A place is only a setback of your expectations, dreams and aspirations. Everyone has their own reason why they decided to move to a new place—either for work, better life, education, to bridge a relationship, or to just simply fulfill a wanderlust—the longing for a change.But in reality, the moment we started to see things in a different way, our perspective of the new place is changing.Probably this is the stage where we start to integrate, accept and ” do as the locals do“.

Pre Covid-19 Virus Era, where touring historical places like the Reichstag in Berlin can be a good place to entertain your 4 year old daughter and listen to audio guide telling about the charms of this City.

I grew up not knowing what is “Recycling ” or upcycling is.But since I came here, I started to obey and do what is norm and not just to avoid the angry stares of my neighbours if they ever saw me putting plastic in the Restmull, the black container.I started to dispose the Green, white and brown glasses in the Glass Containers as well and yes, I got acquianted with the “Yellow Sack” as well. In my bag is always an extra shopping bag, even in my bicycle and in the car, there is always a place for shopping bags.

Why, because here in Germany, you bring your own bags and pack your own grocery. I even observed the Rühezeit, the silent Sunday where we don´t mow the lawn in the garden and no loud music.I remember our times in Kuwait where the shopping cart is alwys full of plastic bags. There is no recycling there, people totally just throw garbage everywhere.Littering is quite a norm.They are really a big fan of using plastic bags there for grocery shopping.I think you collect up to 20 pieces of shopping bags for every grocery!

Now that I remember it, I felt odd.

Fast forward,5 years after, I began to look at Germany, especially Bavaria, in a “Not to scale”terms.Do I really belong here ? or this place does even exceed my expecation?

Cycling in my new neighborhood offers a new freedom to explore places

If you have your own terms of measurement about the quality of life that you want, or your preferred surroundings, then it is better not to put borders. If you expect too much and then ended up into a mountain of dissapointment, then you just feel worse.

“Why are people here are so unfriendly and “cold”?

“Why the weather keeps on changing every four hours?”

“Why Winter here in Germany is too long”?

” Why learning German is necessary to survive here?”

” Why customer service here sucks or totally non-existent?”


Because in reality, things can be crooked, out of proportion, partially twisted, and though it looks to be perfect, it will have uneven features. I call this “Reality bites in the life of an Expat.”

As an onlooker, with naked eyes, I always ponder on the views that I see. I think it´s normal.For 5 years that I am walking the streets here in Bavaria, I still am not that fully integrated yet…or maybe I am, but sometimes, I feel like I am feeling at home.A combination of these rollercoaster feelings.

I hate it here during the long winter months but I really love it here during Spring and Summer. I loved how good the roads are and how communting can be so easy and flexible, and yes, that everything adheres to punctuality. I loved that I can even worked from home during this Pandemic times ,do part time jobs and have a job security. I appreciate that women even can take longer maternity leaves to care for their babies and come back to their jobs.

I loved the fact that my child is growing up in a kid-friendly environment and we are surrounded with playgrounds and nature.Its even amazing that traveling becomes easy, and I don´t need to worry about cash when I get sick because of the good Health Insurance System here. I even got new vaccinations ( all for free!) since I came here.

Speaking of Not to scale scenarios, here in Bavaria, the tallest building ( a Tower or a Turm) actually that I have ever been to is the Olympic Tower in Munich and the Pfeifturm here in Ingolstadt, which is btw a former watchpost. The tallest building here in Bavaria is actually the Commerzbank Tower in Frankfurt, reaching up to 259m.Actually, Frankfurt is the only city with lots of Skycrapers.Here in Germany, they try to preserved the German cultural heritage therefore the historical, Medieval and Renaissance skyline still dominates most of the old towns up to this day. It´s actually its unique charm.

There´s nothing compared walking into lovely, German old Town´s unique streets lined up with well-deserved architecture and rich history.

Exploring my own little town where not seeing “Skyscrapers” is actually also nice.The Architecture and landscape is so nice and very picturesque.
The view deck from the interiors of the luxurious Al Hamra Towers in Kuwait

This is an absolute contrast to the former views that I have while living in Kuwait. Kuwait is a small city but it has skyscrapers and modern buildings. Quite a few are worthy to mention actually, just like my favorite-the Al Hamra Tower, the tallest building in Kuwait.It´s even named as one of the best inventions in 2011 by Times Magazine.After we left I´ve heard that there are more sleek buildings and modern architecture built.We´ve got used to the norm that modernity and functional aesthetics comes with beautiful modern buildings.

Speaking of malls, I haven´t seen quite comes close to the Avenues in Kuwait.It´s really a shopping mall with beautiful architecture.This mall itself is an attraction there.While here in Germany, shopping is like taking a leisure stroll in the inner city lined with authentic, unique shops.I haven´t really had that “mall feeling” even from our local Ingolstadt Village where “branded” marks have their boutiques and it´s already considered high end .I am not a shopaholic and into top end brands.I am more of the functional shopper–getting what I need and love to ogle some pretty nice things.Nowadays, a trip to the Greenhouse, Botanical gartdens and anything with plant shop is my thing.

But then I guess, “not to scale ” in Expat life also means that you perceive things depending on your taste.When you have seen beauty and therefore your standards have been set, then others can either comes to second or outweigh your preferences.

I prefer sightseeing in the beautiful streets where there are unique , wood-timbered houses looks like a fairy tale land.

But, looking through Kuwait from above made me realize that scale is really not important. Some things might quite look a bit odd, or lacking in proportion, but then, it embodies the urban presentation of the area.

Why would the local ladies dressed up to kill , heavily make-up on, nails are done and perfumed when they are covered in Abaya with only the eyes being shown , in stilettos and doing grocery shopping?”

Or why would most of the drivers love to speed up their cars, with children in front without seatbelt and with loud banging music?

Recently we came across a car and it´s driving a bit faster than allowed, with loud Arabic music in the background and then suddenly, I realized that I already made an assumption .They are absolutely Arabic ( doesn´t matter if they came from Saudi Arabia, Lebanon or UAE; or even Kuwait) but when I´ve heard the word “Yalla , then I am sure I haven´t been wrong.

Was my mind programmed? or were my ears gotten used to these local behaviors?

I am sure I would probably recognized in a crowd that they are German,or coming from Bavaria if they say ” Servus, Grüs Gott! ” as well!

What do you loved the most in your city?

Wishing you all Happy Sunday and Stay safe.Tschüss.

13 thoughts on “Not to Scale (NTS) Expat life

  1. Great post. There certainly is a big difference between tourists, expats and locals, although, I expierenced, it is not impossible to get a hunch of local life when being a tourist. In my younger and poorer days I used to stay in cheaper parts of the towns I was visiting, a bit or even rather far off centre where the majority of the visitors dwelled. Eating, drinking, shopping gave something of an insight at the folks living there, and the daily walks or tramrides to downtown gave a sense of scale and time. But still, it took quite a few years even to become a local in the city I live in now. Not being particularly aware anymore where you live, maybe that is what a local defines. I felt that until I started photographing and doing so started to look again. I love my city Groningen because it’s small enough to grasp easily and big enough to be a real city, with a real city feel and bustle. Having a university provides a lot of young, and international, people. Nice! In spite of being so remote (for Dutch meanings that is 🙂 ) we have a lot of cultural events, or mabye I should say: because we are so remote. In the west Amsterdam soakes up everything, but here in the far north we get most of it too (and cater, so to speak , for the rest of the empty north). I plan to move house, but it’s very hard to find a place like Groningen elsewhere and I wish it was possible to pack up the entire city and move the whole lot to the invironment I want to be. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  2. A wonderful post that was a joy to read. As a repressed architect/urban planner, I loved reading about how your interpreted scale in the various places you have lived. The contrasts of Kuwait and Bavaria are enormous. Now I understand why the old towns are preserved so lovingly. From an Australian point of view, where we have very little historic buildings and seem to haphazardly tear them down if they are not heritage listed, I have to say that my preference is for the old. The real estate in the old towns must be over the top expensive. Are there separate zones for tall office blocks as in Frankfurt? Given that the cities are so compact, it is confusing to me how they fit everything a city needs in. Australian cities are full of skyscrapers and very spread out. Like Kuwait, they build more and more.

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  3. Wow, are you an architect/Urban planner? No wonder you can relate to me…how lovely!
    many times when I send photos of Germany esp. Bavaria to my family they think that I live d in suburbs and provincial areas because I am surrounded by nature and not by tall buildings..they taught, is that really Germany?
    I would never trade these nature to tall buildings.I was a young mother in Kuwait and we lived in 7th floor and that is really exhausting with a toddler even if we have elevator rides.It´s not just the same.
    I guess here they value their cultural heritage more than just profit and modernization.Proper urban zoning also plays a part.Germany would lose its old town “charm” if they build more skycrapers within the city proper.I love the fact that mixed-used buildings, residential & business areas and “Fußganger” street shops area are planned well here.If they don´t have any economical reasons of building a Skycraper, then Germans won´t built it.They are more practical and functional realists and won´t go for international or political ego of building the tallest building without any benefits.Living here made me understand why.
    Unlike Kuwait, they don´t have nature, their wealth depends on their oil reserves and more Expats and investments are coming so they need to build more high rise housing to cater this demand.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you Peter for popping by and I am glad you can relate.
    Ohhh I love these small, remote places in Holland. I´ve been looking forward to explore it more.Normally we visit Holland twice a year but then covid strikes and we are stucked home.
    I totally agree with you, the feeling of being at home is really a decision you make.For me, I suddenly (!) felt home here in Ingolstadt whenever I ride my bike through the yellow raspöl fields and visiting the weekend markets, chatting with the old ladies who sell the locally produced honey.Or buying the weekly bread offers in our nearby bakery…
    Ingolstadt is a small city compared to Münich but actually we have everything–nothing to complain.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I wish I could say I was an Urban planner or Architect, but it wasn’t to be, for me. I still wish I had completed my planning degree but actually went into Environmental Science. Still, I took all the urban planning subjects I could do, within my course.
    Interesting about the attitudes towards the different types of developments. I was surprised to hear Milan, Italy had no skyscrapers!
    I rather favour keeping the old structures and planning new buildings well within zones. Sounds organized and neat. Our nation’s capital is a lovely city to live in for that reason. Melbourne has a beautiful mix of lanes and wider city streets because the planners couldn’t decide between a European style or a modern city so they alternated the streets between both. Collins street (the wide grand street with large banking institutions and Little Collins Street, the intimate alley full of boutiques, cafes and bars. It works. Contrast that with s hotchpotch of development in other modern cities and I can see the benefits of the German/European model.

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  6. I am confused now where do you live now? Amsterdam or in Germany? Yes expats life is definitely an adventure itself. I do miss my Abu Dhabi life sometimes but thinking of safety and freedom it’s best to stay back home here in New Zealand.

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  7. I am based now here in Germany. Yes you are right, I am privileged to have this life and if I would be given a chance again , then I would choose the same.I believe that there is not really a perfect place…only a place we feel at home to.Thank you for reading, appreciate you commenting and I wish you all well.

    Liked by 1 person

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