Hello, and thank you for taking the time to check out my blog!
My name is Sarah. I teach eighth grade on a military base in Germany. My husband teaches history in the classroom next door to mine. One would think so much ‘together time’ would make us want to gouge each other’s eyes out, but surprisingly it works out great! Together we have a nearly-four year old daughter and two step-daughters from his first marriage.
I guess one important thing to know about me is that I spent the first 20 years of my life in Buffalo, New York, and the next 20 years in Germany.
Given that I’ve spent the two halves of my life on different continents, I don’t feel like I completely belong to either one. Let’s put it his way–if my life was an apple, cut in half, I feel like I’d most identify as the core.
It took almost twenty years to get to this point but now, whenever I visit the States (approximately twice a year) I feel like a part of myself has become an outsider. I am not familiar with all the latest TV shows, I need refreshing on cultural basics (like how much to tip) and I am pleasantly taken off guard by long lost luxuries, like strangers bagging my groceries or engaging in spontaneous conversation.
That sense of being a relative outsider first hits when we’re driving home from the airport. Nothing feels slower than a 60 mph speed limit when you’re used to the autobahn!
On a deeper note, and it’s hard to put in to words, but I feel a certain distance from the very people I grew up with. It has taken two full decades of being away to feel that. I’ve lost pace with groups of friends who see each other on a weekly, rather than annual basis. I’m that long lost relative who makes a cameo every other Christmas, and occasionally on the Fourth of July.
Being away for so long has ultimately made ‘going home’ an annual realisation of just how far away I really am, and have been, for half of my life. It can be depressing. And yet, it’s my life–the life I’ve chosen for many good reasons–and I wouldn’t want to change a thing.
Similarly, in Germany I participate in public holidays like Fasching and I eat my fair share of schnitzel, but I don’t have a childhood to connect to these traditions. I don’t know the songs that everyone else yells loudly at festivals. There are large gaps in my knowledge of German pop culture, politics, music, and beloved figures from childhood like Max and Mauritz.
And, of course, there’s the language. Yes, I do speak German, but don’t have a native’s ability to fully engage in the society.
For example, there are still plenty of times when I say something that feels like perfectly grammatical German only to receive a facial expression that confirms jibberish. I don’t catch idioms. Regional dialects throw me completely off.
As someone with one twenty year footprint worth of time spent on each continent, as someone who sometimes feels like I’m out on a peninsula of outsider-hood– what really interests me, and what I’d like to write about in this blog, are the differences between these two places I’ve called home.
How do the United States and Germany differ on all the things that make up culture? How do these places differ on everything from views on public drinking and premarital sex, to taboos like making noise on a Sunday or the legality of telling off a police officer or giving someone the finger?
I’d like to examine these differences and have a dialogue with you about them. What are the benefits and drawbacks of the way these two superpowers do things? Is one way preferable to the other? Why?
And, when I’m not writing about all that, I might throw random posts out there about love, parenthood, teaching on a military base, expat mishaps, and travel.