Thursday, May 28, 2009

Expat Heaven

This past weekend Sweet No and I were visited by Cliff & Sarah of Regensbloggers and Adam of That Queer Expatriate. All of this was celebrated with Berlin local, Yelli and The Scientist of 50% of My DNA.

It was lots of fun to wander around my chosen hometown with people who were willing to explore it with me. I get great pleasure out of seeing others enjoy themselves, and this weekend was no exception. On top of that joy add the experience of chatting with interesting people, enjoying their stimulating conversation, and Adam iPhone fact-checking everything. Although I jest here, I did find the instant access to public transport possibilities quite valuable.

This weekend had me thinking about some things I hadn't considered in a long time. One of those was how "German" I've become in my four plus years here. Things I now take for granted as an Expat who has adjusted, are still slapping others in the face. These folks are still taken aback when a Germ is rude in the grocery store or pushes them out of the way on the bus. I on the other hand am ready to fight them back and manage to somehow be fine and drop the anger within moments, just like the Teutonics.

In the beginning of the weekend I found myself hesitating at red lights with no oncoming cars, eventually willingly going along with the crowd of Expats as they crossed at the red, then soon realizing that I was leading the pack to break the law, pausing only when I realized that there were children witnessing (a major no-no here in Berlin).

I've found myself in an international company which helps me in many ways. Expats from other countries make good friends because they are going through the same thing. Most of the Germans who work in this company have lived and worked in the rest of the world as well, and have had their eyes opened, thus making them more willing to consider friendship than the "never left my home state" Germans.

My new-found addiction to good cheese and fresh bread is strong and sometimes fascinating to a girl who grew up on Wonder Bread and yellow "cheese" slices in individual plastic sheets. But after talking with these folks, I see that this is by no means my experience alone.

The next realization was just how lucky I am to have my own German living at home as a "go to" for questions. Not only the "How do I fill out this three page piece of German bureaucracy at its finest?" situations, but also the "What is it about the whole German idea of sauna culture?", and "such and such called me an 'Ami' as though it was a dirty name... what does that mean?".
(For those needing help, the German bureaucracy nightmare is second only to America... with much less helpful people guiding you through. German sauna culture is basically "nudity is cool, get over it". And an "Ami" is a German nickname for American - with the same tone as calling a German a Kraut.)

Unfortunately the next realization was that my percentage of the German language understood and processed is getting embarrassing when compared against the percentage of my life spent in Germany. Cliff has had a long time love affair with things German, so he does not really count, but other people, short timers, have demonstrated better understanding of the language, and that just makes me feel bad. To make matters worse there is the guilt that I LIVE with a native German speaker, one without accent, I might add. Pure laziness on my part, I suppose. I guess that it is time for me to get my ass back into a learning program.

Been reading:

Germans wake up to extent of Stasi's reach - I think this is going to take a while to heal. When a person learns that they've been spied on by their friends, neighbors, even husbands and wives... this is a hard invasion to just forget about.

Gay marriage battle to return to Calif. ballot
- Damn this is irritating, but expected. The vote was quite legal, the people have spoken. I guess this is what it takes to get a complacent group of people off their asses and willing to fight for a cause. Too bad there is no Harvey Milk type person for everyone to rally around. Is there no one with the guts to stand up and fight?


Andrea said...

"German bureaucracy nightmare is second only to America"

I guess you've never been to France then ;-)

cliff1976 said...

Cliff has had a long time love affair with things German,Ah, so true. And yet, I've never thought of it that way.

so he does not really count,Harumph...everyone wants to belong.

but other people, short timers, have demonstrated better understanding of the language, and that just makes me feel bad. To make matters worse there is the guilt that I LIVE with a native German speaker, one without accent, I might add.I'm not so sure that living with a native speaker is necessarily an advantage — unless you established the relationship with her in German. All other half-native-speaker-couples I know all converse pretty much exclusively in English (as appropriate the language skills of any other parties present). So I'm guessing it's just freaking HARD to change the language of love into somethnig FOREIGN. And I don't think it has to be a romantic relationship. Imagine you have a Polish grandmother or something. If you grew up speaking Polish with her, I imagine switching to English with her would just feel icky and out-of-place. Has anyone ever done any research on this topic? All I've got are my anecdotal observations.

CrackerLilo said...

I feel that same guilt about learning languages. I live with a Russian and can understand it quite well, yet I speak almost no Russian myself.

It sounds like you had a great time, and you have a really good community for support as well. I guess I can sort of relate to this, too, in a way. Technically NYC and the exurbs of Orlando, Florida in the same country, but it sure didn't feel that way when I moved to NYC. When I met a couple of really cool Southerners who also wished NYC had a good country music radio station and my best friend moved up here, it got so much better!!!!

That Stasi article sounds scary as hell, and this is the first I've heard about any problems with them. Going and looking now. Thanks!

Expatriate said...

The most popular countries in terms of expatriate experience are Germany, followed by Canada and Spain. In these countries, expatriates tend to make local friends, learn the local language, join a community group or even buy a property.