I’ll say it again and again, moving abroad is tough work. It’s much harder than I thought it would be; sure there are still moments where you get swept away with looking at all of the shiny pretty things and differences, and the magic of it still lingers, but that other stuff catches up to you. Sometimes you want to have an English conversation about nothing, or you want your favorite Chinese food from back home, or you wish you could find some of the things you always purchased easily back in America but you’ll never find on the shelves in Germany. It’s about comfort, and moving abroad strips you of that until you feel adjusted and confident again.
Right now, I’m totally stressed. I think its finally caught up to me that I’m in a biracial, bicultural, binational, and bilingual relationship. Whoa! If you are black, and it doesn’t matter if you are a little or a lot, you’re still black, dating someone who isn’t can have its moments. It’s a somewhat different culture, something I’ve always known and every other black person knows. We have our own culture too, that goes along being American, and speaking English. Now, I’m from a mixed background, which means I’m lucky honestly. I can hang out with black people and others just as easily, although there is something comforting about being around other black people. In the end, we’re all Americans. And that shapes us just as much as the color of our skin. We are less patient, more vocal, and we do as we see best. Germans are not this way; their culture is the epitome of patience, they don’t need to fight for what they believe in, although they may, they generally let things go, and they are totally comfortable with their culture. Germans do not praise themselves; it is simply not the way they do things, sure they can be amazing at something, but they won’t tell you about how great they are, they are humble folk. And believe me, these are not generalizations, I’ve spoken to professionals about this, because at first, this was very confusing to me.
You can sit at a table with 5 Germans, all of which speak English (most Germans, especially younger generations have English lessons) well enough to converse with an English speaker, but they will speak German. It is now the English-speaker’s responsibility to learn German, and although that makes complete sense, and it’s not offensive, it is uncomfortable. You literally can sit there for half an hour or more, and no one will speak to you. You can ask a question, and they will answer to someone else and that person is expected to translate that to you. In the end, you feel like a leper, left-out and unwanted. Then you start berating yourself for not trying hard enough; during the day I work on Berlitz cds and books, I read about German, I watch television shows in German just to try to learn something. But it’s not enough, and it won’t be until I can converse in German. Until then, well, I should accept that I will not have a place in Germany.
Not every expat has this experience, I know some expats that came here with their American spouses, so they don’t have to acclimate quite as quickly as someone who came alone or someone who came to be with their German love. The most proactive thing you can do when moving abroad is to know the culture of the people you will live next to, it is their country, their culture, their language and Germans hold that dear to them. They may not be the most patriotic country, but they do value their culture and language, and as an outsider, you should too. But damn it’s stressful. I have so much on my plate; learning the culture, getting my work visa, not having my own income, being in a serious relationship when neither of us have ever been this serious in a relationship before, learning things about myself, viewing the world through Germany, cleaning, cooking, ironing, laundry, reading, shopping, relying, needing new things, adjusting, and learning German. You can see why 3 months just isn’t enough time to know German so well.
I have no doubt that expats can relate, these are universal problems and admittedly, it’s completely normal. It’s just hard work, and like a relationship that you know can and will last the rest of your life, it’s work that is very worth it. I think I can try to be as patient as the Germans, at least when it comes to this.