I’ve been living in Europe, now, for the better part of sixteen years. And yet, it was only this summer that I experienced the phenomenon of realizing I was more in tune with how things work in Germany, my second culture, than I was with how it’s done in America.
This wasn’t really the case before now. I’m wondering what it was about this summer—I mean, I hadn’t been away from America for any longer than normal. I’m not even immersed in German language or, let’s be honest, German society as much as I could/should be?
So, is sixteen years away from where I grew up my own personal magic expat number? Is this the specific amount of time it took me to feel more integrated into one culture than the other?
Example Number One of a Time I Was Super Confused in America
Today a new friend came over, and I told her about this blog. (I’ve been keeping it relatively secret at the moment in case someone actually reads it before I’m ready to “go live.”)
She and I can relate to the topics I want to explore here on multiple levels. For one thing, she used to teach English at the school I currently teach English at. We’re the same age, we both came over to Heidelberg a long time ago with the idea that there was no other city on the planet we’d be happy living in, and now we both have children and very little chance of being able to move back to the States any time soon. I think we’re also similar in that this fact confuses us, emotionally.
It’s funny, this stage of life that we’re in. Both of us worked so hard to establish ourselves as long-term expats. But, now that we’re married and have young children there’s this whole new slew of questions, doubts and stress that accompany that. I think it’s a given that mentalities/dreams/etc. change when you have children. And, that’s true a million times over when you live 4,000 miles away from family in a culture that, no matter how long you’ve lived there, still isn’t quite your own.
Anyway, in our three hour, animated conversation an interesting question came up—what type of expat did we want to be at this point?