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.

From where I stand

From where I stand … here somewhere along the way fascinated with Manholes.
Journal about Manholes around the World

Do you love taking photos of your feet?

As I sorted out my gallery, I noticed that I have quite a few photos that shows where I stand, like a compass indicating my bearings. It’s funny because I haven’t realized that I’ve got this habit of looking down and when I see something interesting, I snap my phone and take photo. I’ve thought about the idea of collecting these photos and make a post out of it showing that wandering can be life changing.

This photo brings back lovely memories in me. The first year of my life as a Mother and I think the last year before we moved to Germany. My favorite pastime— I usually do morning run and long walks along the shores of Arabian Gulf. Watching nature and sunrises are my thing. Every week it gives me different panoramic views of the beach and the sound of the waves was really something therapeutic.
From where I stand here in the sand patterns of Arabian Gulf in Kuwait
From where I stand on top of Kuwait Towers

Isn’t it wonderful that we make a pause in order to admire where we are walking and not always in haste?

Well the road system and pavements and everything is totally different from Kuwait to Germany. Here, the roads are better, smoother, and well paved. There are actually plenty of foot paths and the manholes are worthwhile to look. Not so in Kuwait where it is very hot outside and there are no beautiful thing to look down on the ground, only dust.

The feel of sand on your toes…

I started taking photographs of manholes or drainage lately and develop a habit of looking down for some things that is mostly written down.When I came to Germany, I followed the path of “Stumbling stones“or Stolpersteine which wakens my curiosity about its interesting story about the victims of World War II and Nazi in Germany. There is so much more than these stumbling stones. Even if I grew up on the other side of the world, it really makes me grateful that dark past is over and I have the freedom to walk out in the streets without fear.

Standing in front of Humboldt University in Berlin, 2018.
This is the place where they burn books during the time of Nazi period. It is unbelievably tragic to know that later on they also burn people to death.
Standing where Germany was once divided.
Tag der Deutschen Einheit ( or Day of Unification is celebrated on October 3 and is observed as National Holiday in Germany)
Standing from where the old Berlin Wall stands. This wall tells us many stories, even more untold stories from the people who were divided because of this wall.

I don’t know exactly where did this fashion for feet-photography came from.Do you agree that internet is a great influence, it’s the source of all fad just like Photo Challenges here in WordPress. It’s the same as “Selfie” or “From where I stand ” type photos came out as soon as smartphones were born. I also love those people who photographed themselves with plants. These green-type photography is something that I do as well.

We’re standing where we watched the Handprints of Stars in Olympic Stadion in Munich, 2017
We love the Fantastischen Vier and all other artists who had their hands imprinted on the cemented ground.

From where I stand… after cruising through two rivers, August 2019
These rocks came from the limestone mountains of the Danube Gorge that were changed and eroded through millions of years.
From where I stand… somewhere in Bavaria, 2018
Last year’s Autumn in Germany
I spent many times doing long walks and watch the various colors of leaves on the ground. I call them “Natural carpet”

From where I sit, ( can’t stand) maybe?
It’s hard to stand on top of these concrete blocks breakwater along the Arabian Gulf in Kuwait

In life, we also stand where big changes in our lives happen, or situations where we stand in a line between important decisions and choices.

“Photography takes an instant out of time, altering life by holding it still.”
Here standing where I said “I do ” on my wedding Day.
Isn’t the carpet nice?
RadissonBlu, Kuwait 2014

Where are the most memorable place and situations that you stood your ground and took photos?

Do you have any particular subject for photography?

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Becoming an Expat is Hard

Before, I never really thought of myself of becoming an Expat. To travel and visit other places, Ok. But working and living abroad is a different story. An Expat  is someone who lives in another country that is not your home country. Either for work or educational purposes, your life continues, it’s just that it is in another place. So basically, It is a big change. For someone who have never experienced leaving their own country, this idea seems appealing. Most of the time,  others would regard you well because they find it different from ordinary. Little did they know that life abroad as an Expat could pose hurdles in your life, that you should overcome in order to become successful.

Being an Expat for the last 8 years of my life gives me enough reason to share my experience. Aside from the fact that this is my own side of story in internet then let me do so. So why being an Expat is hard? Here’s my thoughts ;

I don’t understand the Language

Ever been in a situation where you felt like your brain bleeds because you don’t know & haven’t got a clue of what that word means ? Or have you been asked to sign a document that has no translation?

Language barrier is far by the most difficult thing to overcome in the life of an Expat. Arabic language is not a typical language spoken so it’s difficult if you don’t know a single word.  It could be a daunting experience to go into a supermarket or just being out and about if almost everything is written in Arabic. The worst part could be when you talk to a local who doesn’t speak English!  At work it could also make you feel like an idiot . Imagine if all paperworks are in Arabic?  I remember my earlier days working here that I could not explain what i wanted to say . Though my Bosses and colleagues knows English, it doesn’t mean that they really get what I meant . It always makes you feel an outsider once you cannot communicate effectively. If you wanted to become at ease in your move, it is always good to learn their language . You can try to learn an online course to let yourself familiarize with the language. It is for your own sanity. Google translate cannot always save your day.

One fine morning in Green Island ,Kuwait

It can be lonely.

Moving to another country means you leave your family and friends back home. Sure you can patch things up through the ever presence of internet & social meadia ,but its just not the same. Day to day life of an Expat could become a routinary and functional .You go to work & go home to rest . Depending on your lifestyle , you could face a slag in your social activities and you might find it difficult to engage in the things that you do before especially if your new country has limited resources for it. If you move to middle east that has restrictions on so many things, then you might end up lonely  and bored. Making new friends could be difficult because of language barrier and difference in opinions.

Now that I have a child of my own i begin to appreciate more the fact that my own family being together in our Expat Life. I imagine the hardship and emotional struggle of separation of many Expats being away from their Spouses & children  just because of the need to work overseas. I tell you, It can really be lonely.

The culture is different , so as the Rules .

In the middle east,you change the way you dress in modest way for respect of their culture. The working environment is different so as the government, Healthcare, Transportation and the overall social norms. Being in a sponsored residency makes you feel like you owe them your freedom. You cannot make immediate decisions for yourself without consulting your Sponsor first since they are in a legal way responsible for your stay. Most especially if it concerns your work or your residency status. No matter what you do, you will be regarded as a foreigner, an Expat. These are just some of the basic things that could be surprise to you when you moved. Although there are some things that you don’t understand why it is happening, or why things are not the same as you expected, you cannot do so much with it because it has been decided already even before you moved there and there’s not much you can do about it because, as i mentioned above, You are just an Expat. They make the Rules and you need to obey.Kuwait for example is a country who has no program for proper integration of Expats. You need to do the survival for yourself.

Your Life sort of Stand still

Moving  to another country may signal personal growth for others . On the other hand, it could be preceived that your life sort of stand still. Your life is moving sideways but never moving forward. Yes, maybe you are earning much but growing as a person is another thing. Being able to adapt to your new surroundings is personal. It varies from person to person. Homesickness is real. It may come suddenly from the time you least expect it in some degree or another. Your lifestyle had major changes and this greatly affect the way you see things back home. Example, if you leave your family behind in your home country just like most of the OFW’s in Middle East, your life  without them become monotonous. There is always the thought that you are missing something from the life that you left behind. Your relationship could suffer much if you don’t work hard on it. Now depending on the purpose of your move, then you can have back up plans. Most of Expats bring their family with them after settling in, others who cannot afford the cost of it just simply give in to the norms of being away from their loved ones.


Sometimes Fellow Expats sucks!

When you moved to another country, its very likely that you will be meeting fellow Expats,maybe in the same boat as you. They came from different parts, sometimes same as your country of origin. They are the ones who complains about everything and bitches out about the new country’s customs and its culture, the food, weather etc. , everyday.! This is from a personal experience and although i hate to say this, i just find it so annoying to see fellow Expats behaving like this. It makes me wonder why they come here in the first place. I mean, it is their own choice to be here. The worst part could be that its your own fellowmen who will pull you down. In Philippines,it is known as Crab Mentality. Sad to say that some Expats bring them along with them. You need to develop a tough skin in order to survive when you are surrounded with people like this, or better , remove those from your circle.

Boats in Souk Sharq

These are just few of the many things I have faced as an Expat . Many times i thought of giving up and i feel lost thinking if I’ve made a complete mistake of moving here. There come a point in time that i need to re assess my goals and reasoning why i have made this choice. On the other side, it have made me appreciate my home country even more and the things i have left behind . Being an Expat has a price, but its up to you to make it through the journey. I have made the decision to embrace the culture of this new country which has become my second home . I got married & had my first child here . I felt alone many times, i have missed being surrounded by old friends. All of these have made me realized that its your choices that define your destiny.

What about you, what is the biggest struggle you’ve faced as an Expat?

Thank you for stopping by  and If you like this post then you might be interested to check out my post about Kuwait : from an Expat point of View  for more up close & personal experience of my Expat Life in Kuwait.

Wishing you the best in your life as an Expat  wherever you are.