Katie Slay: 13 Things I’ve Learned by Living Overseas

13 Things I’ve Learned by Living Overseas





This past year I moved around 4,000 miles away from home to a country that I had never been to before where they speak a language I definitely don’t understand. I would have to drive a manual car, learn that you’re actually not allowed to turn right on red at all stop lights, and grocery shop somewhere where I didn’t know if I was getting chicken or some other type of mystery meat. Seriously, I actually had to imitate a chicken to a man at the grocery store to ask if I was getting the right kind of meat. All that is just the tip of the ice berg. Talk about an overwhelming experience.

I can vividly remember each time someone went out of their way to be kind towards me and help me as I did something new. In France, my teammate, Magda, walked me up and down each aisle at the grocery store so I knew where things were. In Germany, I had to follow my coach in my car to my apartment on the second day because they said ‘be back at the gym in three hours’ and I literally had no idea in which direction I lived. The smallest gestures that may seem like nothing to the person doing them meant everything to me. It helped me feel like I was keeping my head above water as I desperately tried to stay afloat during those first couple of weeks. So, be kind to the new guy! Even if the person seems like they’re doing fine, they’re probably going home and crying on the phone to their mom or dad every chance they get. Kindness goes such a long way and you never know how much it can impact a person.

The German Beer and Pretzels live up to the hype.

Need I say more?



I live a cushy life in America.

I used to always wonder how my mother grew up without air conditioning in her home and no microwave or color TV. The horror! I now currently live without air conditioning, a microwave, a dishwasher or a television.



When I moved to Germany in August, Dresden was experiencing a record heat wave. Let me reiterate that…RECORD…HEAT. It would be over 80 degrees well past dark. When I was dropped off at my apartment the first night I asked the guy that brought me “Where do I turn on the air conditioning?” A smile immediately crossed his face and he laughed as he told me there was no air conditioning. I began to question if I had moved to hell. (Okay, that was for dramatic effect.) In fact, there was no air conditioning anywhere. Not in office buildings, stores, or our gym which made for some very long days. Sometimes I would just go sit in my car blasting the AC. But, hey, here I am living and able to talk about it! I also live with no microwave so now “minute rice” has become “ten minute rice” and re-heating leftovers involves the oven or stove-top. After a meal if I want the dishes to be cleaned I better get to scrubbing because there’s no dishwasher, either.

I’ve come to realize I have so many things in America I don’t actually need. That’s not to say I’m going to go back to The States and not run my air conditioning. I don’t feel that guilty. However, I will most definitely appreciate it more when I am able to find relief from the heat on a sweltering hot day. I will take that minute or two that my leftovers are heating up to be grateful for my microwave, and my painted, un-chipped nails will be forever indebted to my dishwasher.

Traditions may bind us, cultures alienate us, language and words divide us. But in silence, we are united. –Quote from my Headspace App

Never, ever again will I say, “You’re in America! Speak English!” Take it from me when I say it’s not that easy to learn a new language. Not to mention when you’re trying to balance ten other situations that are a lot more pressing. I am so very thankful that no one has said to me, “You’re in Germany, speak German!” People have been so kind and patient and always helped me out as best they could. Well except for that time Gina and I started to approach this woman to ask her a question and Gina only got one word out in English before the woman threw her hands up and yelled “NEIN!” We quickly figured out what ‘nein’ meant.



I’m making dinner!




Pinterest is my new best friend! When I am overseas I take great pride in cooking for myself. Technically my body is my work, and so taking good care of myself and eating well are very important. I have learned how to perfectly fry an egg. Side note: eggs are not refrigerated in Europe. I know. That took me a minute to get over, too. I learned that I love teriyaki bowls for dinner. Omelets and great breakfast sandwiches are my new specialty, and the list goes on. I will write a blog about my cooking sometime soon. I now very much enjoy cooking for myself because it gives me an accomplished feeling when I master something new, and it’s a great thing to take ownership of my diet and how I’m choosing to fuel my body.

People in Germany will NOT cross the street unless the walk sign deems it okay.

I have watched people stand at a street corner for what seems like ten minutes to cross the road. They will not cross until the pedestrian light with the little man wearing a top hat turns green. Sometimes I am in agony watching this and thinking that they could have been wherever they are going by now. Maybe patience is a lesson I need to learn and maybe life doesn’t always have to be so fast, but it’s the practicality of it all that gets me. I mean, could you imagine the people of New York City waiting for the walk sign?

I’m proud of who I am.


Okay, so I definitely don’t have everything figured out, but I have been able to learn a lot about who I am and what I stand for. Moving to a new country where I don’t know anyone and can’t speak the language has lead me in to my fair share of challenges and obstacles. Like that time in France when we were sent to the bank without a translator to open a bank account and no one at the bank spoke English. Needless to say, that was interesting, but it got done! I have been put in situations where I have to stand up for myself and what I think is right, and I have learned how to navigate those situations with professionalism.  I have found out that I can take care of myself and provide myself with what I need. I am able to make friends with people who have grown up differently than I have. These friendships have led me to broader thinking and given me a better perspective on what is important in life. I feel empowered to control my thoughts and shape my perspective on life so that I choose happiness. I have faced scary challenges and not just survived them, but thrived. Not every day is spectacular, and I have seriously struggled to the point of wanting to give up. But I did not. For that, I am proud.

Life is all about who you are with.



My first weekend in France I ended up having no food at all in my apartment. Just go to the grocery store and get some, right? WRONG. Dead wrong. Nothing is open in Europe on Sundays. (Besides Dominos which we discovered weeks later…bless them.) I was miserable. Here I am in a new country unable to drive a car anywhere, unable to get food, and nothing to eat. However, by the end of the day I actually ended up being okay because Korrin had enough pasta left for us to eat pasta with butter and salt! We had the most hysterical time eating our “dinner” laughing at what a crazy situation we were in. Korrin helped turned that bad day into laughter. Life is all about who you are with.



I’ve realized that there are endless places to explore in this great, big world with unlimited activities to do. However, sharing the experience of watching the sun set over all of Barcelona with a friend and being able to say ‘how crazy are our lives?’ was so much more special than having to be there alone. All the trips I have been on were made so exceptional because of the people I was there with. We have amazing shared memories that bring us closer and we can say “remember when…”. I’m grateful for my family coming out to both France and Germany to visit me and take part in this crazy journey I’m on. I feel so full when I am with them and so grateful that they’re mine. Life is all about who you are with.

French pastries SURPASS the hype!

Again, need I say more?



I can drive a stick shift car.

Luckily, stalling out the car is now a thing of the past. Well, except for two weeks ago when I was trying to parallel park on a hill. Other than that, it’s a thing of the past! Now I feel very accomplished as I scoot around town without jolting the car or stalling out. At first, this was a severely intimidating task, especially when you can’t get the car to move and the three people behind you miss the green light. (Thank you, people, wherever you are, for not honking at me that time!)

Sparkling water is refreshing!

I now greatly enjoy a cold glass of sparkling water after a long day! Ha! Seriously though, I find this very refreshing, and just last year I couldn’t even stand it. Don’t say people can’t change!

Disconnected is the new Connected




Technology can keep us connected in so many ways. Believe me, I am forever grateful for skype and WhatsApp so that I can text, call, and see my family and friends. However, technology can keep us so terribly disconnected from the people who we are actually, physically around. Last year in France there was a month or two where Korrin, Bianca, Tyreese and I did not have any phone service unless we were connected to WiFi. This forced us to look at each other and actually talk. Some of my favorite conversations about life, family, love, and even things that made us sad took place during my time with them. We put down our phones and engaged with one another. We were able to form a really special bond, and they became like my family. I still feel close to them to this day. I truly believe that us being more engaged with each other versus Instagram brought us to a deeper level of friendship and understanding. Shout-out to my FAM!

I am beyond grateful for my parents.



Every time I’m having a good day, they are there to celebrate that with me and cheer me on. Each time I’m having an off day, they are there to simply listen, provide encouragement, and remind me to see the bigger picture. My parents have spent countless hours on the phone helping me as I navigate my way through this journey, and I mean it when I say that I could not do it without their endless support. So thank you, mom and dad for being my greatest fans and believing in me even when I don’t. I love you!


Katie Slay
Spotted: Katie In France
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