Home News The Struggles Olympi...

The Struggles Olympians Face Spending Months At A Time In Foreign Countries

By Jamie Greubel Poser, Olympic Bobsled Bronze Medalist | March 23, 2016, 5:42 p.m. (ET)

"Silver medal in Whistler w/ @BobsledherUSA! Great competition & fast ice. Personal best speed of 92mph. ❤️ this track!"

Jamie Greubel Poser is a U.S. bobsled pilot who won bronze at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games, as well as 17 world cup medals, including seven this season. Following the Games, she married German bobsledder Christian Poser. Greubel Poser is taking Team USA fans behind the scenes into the life of an elite bobsledder during the 2015-16 season.

Coming home from a long stint of traveling abroad can be a strange sensory experience. For starters, the comforting yet sudden ability to understand everything and everyone around you can be overwhelming at first. It is hard to describe, but it almost feels like something is happening to your ears. Like when your ears are plugged for a long time and the relief you feel after clearing them by plugging your nose and breathing out. Even though I can understand quite a bit of German, there is a stark difference between the concentration it takes to listen to and understand a foreign language and the ease with which we exist in our mother language. You really notice it when you have been immersed in another language for a long time.

My teammates sometimes describe listening to a foreign language on TV or the radio as a form of torture when you can’t understand any of it. Hearing the loud repetitive noises is similar to someone tapping relentlessly on your head. The first few years of my relationship with my husband were spent trying to decide which language we should watch something in. Who would have thought a relaxing night in watching a movie or a show could be so exhausting? We eventually decided to take turns, or if he had seen the movie already we would watch it in English, or vice versa. Subtitles help as well, but are not always an option. I think we may have even watched the same movie on different devices at the same time in our own language. Love is compromise, right? Or something like that!

One major win is that most countries we travel to love American pop music! Between the banter of advertisements and news on the radio, we experience a little piece of home every time we drive. I really think this has been my saving grace while abroad. It is such a draining experience to not understand anything; so being able to hear something familiar keeps me going.

Living in non-English speaking countries for a few months during the winter also changes our normal routines and we begin to adapt to the day-to-day culture of each country we are in. For example, although most of my teammates don’t speak German, the majority of them have at least made the effort to learn how to order food, say “please,” “thank you,” and “good morning.” Since we interact with people at every meal, these phrases soon become automated, and we catch ourselves trying to speak other languages when back in the U.S. I have definitely said “entschuldigung” after running into someone in the bathroom at the airport instead of “excuse me” and catch myself at many other occasions speaking in German when caught off guard. We definitely get some pretty interesting looks.

Food is also different when we travel outside of the U.S., so we definitely crave our favorite foods while we are away. Two summers ago, I spent a few months in Germany, and I was craving buffalo sauce and ranch dressing so badly. While they

do have wings in Germany and a “yogurt dressing,” there is just something about those flavors that I really missed. Burgers are also just not the same outside of the U.S. As soon as I land in the U.S., I have my dad take me to get my favorite food. The same goes the other way around as well. In Germany and Austria we have grown to love schnitzel. Schnitzel is an amazing, thinly-pounded piece of pork or veal that is breaded and fried. It isn’t common to find this in the U.S., and when we do find it, it just isn’t the same as what they serve in Europe. Therefore we always look forward to the European food as well.

Some of my teammates bring their favorite things with them while we travel. My teammate Lauren brings Chef’s Cut Beef Jerky. Sometimes I bring Frank’s Red Hot with me. Most of the time we just wait until we get back to the U.S. to get our favorite meals, and we really look forward to eating when we come home!

Finding your favorite products abroad can also be challenging so we try to stock up on all of our must-haves. When we can’t get to our favorite salon, we still have to find a way to take care of all of our beauty needs. Whether it is doing our hair on our own or finding a teammate to help, we have become quite resourceful. From coloring to haircuts to weaves, we have done it all. We tap into each other’s talents or figure it out.

No matter where we go on tour, we like to experience the culture the way the locals live, but there is also nothing like the comforts of home. Now that the world cup season has come to an end, we are definitely excited to be back home in the USA!

Related Athletes

head shot

Jamie Greubel Poser