Friday, January 27, 2012

A Typical Day

I get asked a lot about what a typical day living abroad is like,
so I pieced together some snippets of our daily activities.
This probably won’t be very exciting to read, but someday it will be fun for us to look back on what our life was like as newly arrived expats.

Here we go.

I get up, get dressed, and wake Hannah up.
I finish getting ready and help her get dressed (otherwise she might go to school with her shirt on backwards and mismatched socks.) I make breakfast while she makes her bed.  After she eats, she brushes her teeth and I fix her hair.
Then we get our boots, coats and hats on and head out to school.  Shawn usually leaves for work just before we do.

Her school is only a few miles from our house, but we drive towards Luxembourg City and traffic heading that way can be heavy in the mornings.  We stream our favorite radio stations from the US through my phone, so we listen to familiar music while we drive. 


(Busy morning at the roundabout)

Traffic and parking are ridiculous, so like many other parents, I park in a nearby neighborhood and we walk to the school. 
Hannah puts her coat, hat, book bag and lunchbox in her cubby, changes out of her boots and we say goodbye. 


We recently got a gym membership so a few days a week I’ve been going there after I drop Hannah off. 
On this particular day, I went to a spinning class at the gym.
Or, “shhpinnink” as they say here. 
I was told that the instructor speaks English.  
But she didn’t. 
She was very sweet to me, and serious about her shhpinnink. 
We said bonjour and figured out quickly that we did not speak the same language.  She began communicating with me in a series of made up hand gestures to tell me what was coming next.

I think I’m picking up on French more than I realize because I understood quite a bit.
(Even without the instructor’s hand gestures.)
Perhaps I should give myself more credit?

After working out, I shower and run to the grocery store to pick up what I need for that night’s dinner.  Grocery shopping is a different experience in Europe than in the US because it’s not so much a chore, but an activity. Most people shop daily or every other day. Because food doesn’t contain preservatives as in the US, things don’t last as long.  Also, refrigerators are small, so there’s not a lot of room to store enough for more than a few days.  It’s not uncommon for Europeans to slowly browse their way through, stop to chat and then have coffee or tea at the cafĂ© at the front of the store.
I’m not sure I will ever find grocery shopping to be leisurely.


(This is just a small section of the varieties of cheese.  It can be overwhelming.)

Then I head home, put groceries away and maybe do a quick run through the house and straighten up.  This is when I also have my quiet time and read. 

Noon is probably my favorite time of day.  I head back to Hannah’s school and wait in the lobby for the teacher to bring her class out.  Sometimes if I am early, I check email, Facebook and catch up on a few blogs from my phone.  When Hannah sees me, she runs through the doors and throws her arms around me.  She’s become friends with a sweet little girl in her class and everyday we walk out with her and her mom.

As we drive home, we talk about school.  Some days she is busting at the seams to tell me about her day and I get the lowdown on what they worked on, who sat next to whom at snack time, and who did what on the playground.  Other days, I have to ask questions and piece things together.

When we get home, we have lunch and read some books or play with something that Hannah chooses. 
Then it’s nap time. 
School really wears her out.
Girlfriend can barely keep her eyes open.


For the next hour and a half, I race around the house to get stuff done – laundry, emptying and loading the dishwasher, cleaning and administrative things. 
Because washing machines and dishwashers are so much smaller here than in the US, I feel like I am running them constantly.  
Who am I kidding? I am running them constantly. 
Because they are freakishly small.  It’s like they belong in a doll house or something.

I usually have a million administrative things to do, and it always takes me about four times as long as it would at home in the US.  This is partly due to the language barrier and partly because things just work differently here. 
And I don’t have it all figured out yet.

On this particular day, I needed to call our internet provider because our service hasn’t been great lately.  The call went like this:

Automatic answer: To continue in English, press 3.
Me: (Presses 3 and waits on hold.)
Customer Service Rep: Bonjour.  Puis-je vous aider?
(Hello.  May I help you?)
Me: Bonjour.  Parles-vous Anglais?
(Hello.  Do you speak English?)
Customer Service Rep: (In English) No, I only speak French.
Me: Um, ok, I pressed the button for English.
Customer Service Rep: I know.  I’m sorry.  My colleague who speaks English is with another customer.  What is your name, account number and phone number?  I will have him call you back.
Me: Can you help me?
Customer Service Rep: No, I don’t speak English. 


That was quite a bit of English for someone who DOESN’T SPEAK ENGLISH.
It took another three days of similar phone calls to get anywhere. 
But this is the way things go here –  we’re getting used to it.

When Hannah wakes up, she has a snack and this is when she does a chore like helping me put clean clothes away. Then we do some sort of activity like painting or Play-Doh or maybe watching a video.  If it’s decent outside (read: not raining or thick fog) we might go out to play.  On this particular day, she wanted to use scraps of fabric to make leashes for her stuffed dogs. 


Next we start dinner – helping in the kitchen is another of Hannah’s chores and this is probably her favorite.  It’s lunchtime back at home in the US, so this is when we usually Skype with our family. 

Most nights we eat as soon as Shawn walks in the door, but there are times when he works late hours and I save a plate for him.  After dinner, we clean up and pack Hannah’s snack for school the next day.


The rest of the evening is spent playing, maybe watching a My Little Pony video, putting toys away and then bath time.  After her bath, Shawn and I read to Hannah, say prayers with her and tuck her in.

Then Shawn and I will usually watch TV, hang out, and get things ready for the next day.  This is when he fills me in on what’s going on at his work.  I’ll also check Facebook and update my blog.  I am usually in bed between 10:30 and 11.

On Friday night we always eat out.  We have two or three places that we really like that are kid friendly and fairly quick.  Like grocery shopping, going out to dinner is an event for Europeans and sometimes it can take 3 hours or more.  That doesn’t sound all that fun with a 4 year old in tow, so we stick to the places that are a little more like what we’re used to.

Saturdays are family days.  We usually take some sort or road trip or find something fun to do in Luxembourg.  Last weekend, we went to an indoor water park/swimming pool, or “swimming bath,” as they say here.  When we arrived, the sign said that “swimming costumes” were required.  Shawn panicked for a minute when he remembered that many European pools will allow men to wear only Speedos.  True story. 

So he sent me in to check it out. 
I asked the woman at the front desk if there was a requirement for a specific kind of bathing suit for men. 
She laughed.
”Tell your hoozbaand zat he can wear zee American style swimming costume in zee pool.”

On Sunday mornings we go to church.  We’ve found two churches that we like here in Luxembourg, and honestly, we’ve been alternating between the two because we can’t really decide which one to stick with.  Hannah gave her vote, but it’s based solely on the snack that they serve in the kids’ Sunday School class. 

I stay busy from the time I get up until my head hits the pillow at night.
I love staying home, taking care of our house and my little family.
Living in a foreign country can be hard, but I wouldn’t trade this time and experience for anything.

If you’ve made it to the end of this post, bless your heart. 
I hope I didn’t bore you.
As for me?
I’m going to bed. 
Because I’m going to a shhpinnink class in the morning.


  1. Totally cracking up over the woman telling you to tell Shawn that it was safe to go swimming. Bwhahahahaha.

    Your cheese aisle resembles our salsa aisle. We have every kind known to man and most of them are made locally. Yay!

    I like Hannah's reason for her favorite church. Sounds perfectly logical to me. :)

  2. Oh man, definitely way too much cheese to choose from there! Wow! :O