Home or die Heimat

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If this blog post was waiting in your inbox this morning, and you have no clue who I am, let me apologize.  Most likely you subscribed to my blog, BuffaloSchnitzel over a year ago, just in time for me to gain a decent number of subscribers–which led to some panicky writer’s block–and disappear.

I seem to be making it a tradition to reemerge every so often, though…so…hi there! No, I truly hope to stick around this time because I’m much clearer on where I want to go with this blog.

Here are my ideas–and if you’re into it, great! If you’d rather unsubscribe and never hear the words Buffalo or Schnitzel again, I won’t be offended.

So, quick backstory–for the first twenty years of my life I lived in a suburb of Buffalo, New York.  For the more recent twenty years of my life I’ve been an expat primarily living in Germany.

It could be psychological, but now that I’ve reached this official ‘half life’ between America and Europe, I’m more aware of just how much of a relative outsider I am in both places.  Don’t get me wrong–I feel like both America and Germany are home–but I’m essentially a human being pasted together from two cultures and, because I’m missing a half lifetime in both spots, I don’t entirely identify with either one.  

What I find fascinating as an expat, and what I might be able to observe a bit more objectively as someone who has two feet firmly planted in two countries 4,000 miles apart, are the cultural differences.

America and Germany–they can’t be too different, right?

After all, they’re both superpowers with claims to YouTubers and The Bachelor franchise.

But, it turns out that these places are, in many, many, many key ways, oh so different.  From child rearing and public drinking to educational practices, to the level of punishment taken for swearing at a police officer–these two places are the geographical counterpart equivalents of Ernie and Bert.

I’d like to explore these differences in a new series of posts called, ‘Home or die Heimat?’ In them, I’ll discuss a specific cultural aspect of Germany and then we can all vote on what we like better.  The way home does things? Or the way die Heimat does.

The winning country may not get a prize, per se, but the real object here is dialogue.  The most important part of taking time to live in another country is to see how other areas of the world tackle life’s issues.  What is acceptable in one place that is taboo elsewhere? Why? What do these differences say about the societies we grew up in, or our own personal values?

It’s a discussion I enjoy having and find real value in, and I hope you’ll join me in that discussion here.  

My plan is to post once a week, provided I don’t freak out and go AWOL again.

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Times I Was Confused in America

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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

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Toe Dipping

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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?

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