23 September 2009

An Expat Meme...

Ian ran this meme and I thought it would be interesting to answer these questions as well. I won't tag anyone, but if anyone runs it, drop a line so we can check it out.

  • How long have you lived away from your home country? It's been 26 months now.
  • Do you still feel like you’re just visiting? Gosh yes. Although, I lived in NYC for years and sort of felt like I was still visiting as well. I am pretty comfortable now, and it has taken the two years to be so. But the lack of language skills and the behavioral differences will always let me know that I am not a native.
  • What do you notice the most has changed about your home country when you go back for a visit? The great recession has had an extremely negative impact on the economy. Lots of empty houses, closed businesses, sales at prices that my Euro accustomed eye find terribly low. But also more poverty and more visible poverty and decay.
  • If you were to move again, would it be back to your home country? Not sure. For family sake, perhaps, but there are many other countries I wouldn't mind being an expat in. Right now, we are here for the kids and for social interaction with my husband's family and it has worked extremely well.
  • Do you ever get homesick? Not really. When I run up against a really awful German interaction, yes. Generally (except for certain things, most importantly the food), I like it here. That's because I can watch American TV and movies and local news: if I couldn't, I think I would have failed at this.
  • If you read the news, do you read it in your native language or that of your host country? Watch it on my local (US home) station, read it in US (and UK and English language German) on-line papers.
  • What do you like the most about Germany? I love the social system. I admire it and hope the US achieves it. With that is the respect for children and women and their lives, as well as that shown for immigrants and minorities. This is exhibited though support to parents, to children, kitas, schools and universities, mandated vacation and quality of life regulations, integration courses and the medial and other support systems. I am happy to pay taxes to support this system and think it to be fair.
  • What grates you the most? The thing that bothers me most is the German desire to follow the letter of the law rather than to arrive at a conclusion which is desireable to all parties. That need to follow the rules, no matter how silly or wrong or resulting in the wrong finish, pervades almost everything. Which, annoyingly enough, is matched with the German way of finagling the rules through personal connection and rules bending. As an American, I find it unfair. I think my national characteristic has me exclaiming: That's not fair or equitable, while a German might cry: Das ist nicht in Ordnung!--- That's followed closely by my hatred of the Sunday shopping rules, which cause problems to those of us who would like to keep the Sabbath on Saturday, although it's much better than it was 10 years ago.
  • Did you speak the language of your host country before you arrived? Not more than 10 words.
  • How long did it take before you felt comfortable speaking the language? Although I will speak in it readily, I always know that I am doing it badly.
  • If people switch to English when you speak to them in their language, how do you react? Only folks of good will do that, and I therefore am grateful- may I note that Beamtors actually, rather than switching to English, appear to switch to a form of German that is even harder than the regular sort. Although Beamtors have no problem understanding my (admittedly horrible German), they appear incapable of helping me to understand them in any way. If I want to practice my German with the regular sort of nice folk, I have plenty of opportunity at my childrens' schools, where most teachers and parents speak German in dialogue. In fact, most folks I interact with, even if they speak English, will pretend not to do so, although understanding me when I fumble and throw some in. I think that goes to national character: they desire not to display a less than perfect command of the language. Perhaps my experiences are different because so many of the people that I come into contact with are not business people or Anglophone expats.
  • What has been the biggest change you’ve had to make in leaving your home country?Not going out to work, living in a world where I don't understand the ambient conversation, finding hidden pork in many products (e.g. jello-equivalent and Haribo), inability to speak to the general population fluently and understanding that general friendliness is considered a sign of weakness.
  • If there were a button to improve anything about your expatriate life, what would it say on the button?I'll echo everyone else and say-"Free trips home"- the cost(in time as well as money) of flying overseas to see family is very high. Or second best: University level Understanding of German.


honeypiehorse said...

I'll second that about perfect German! No matter how good I get it's never good enough.

PG said...

Very interesting meme. In my field, I study a lot of these issues on a day-to-day basis.

What are folks of good?

G in Berlin said...

...of goodwill...:)

Lee said...

'That need to follow the rules, no matter how silly or wrong or resulting in the wrong finish, pervades almost everything.'

As an American who has lived abroad in various countries for most of her adult life, this is exactly what I notice about the States now when I return for a visit!