I absolutely love my husband, and I think we have a very normal marriage; love, laughter, the desire to strangle one another (but only a little bit), dance parties, humiliating each other about our clashing cultures, long conversations about nothing really, extreme love of eating good food, and complete confusion accompanied by worries of the future. And no, I’m not kidding about the strangling thing. I don’t want to kill him of course, but I would like to shake him repeatedly while screaming- WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU? YOU LUNATIC!
He said to me last night- “Ah! This pregnancy is really hard on me. I’ve gained so much weight and I’m always hungry and tired. Wah, wah.” To clarify, yes, he thinks pregnancy is especially hard for him. I love this fool, but he’s a typical German man. Caring, but not overly so, sympathetic but not really empathetic, loving but not in the huggy and affectionate way, but he fluffs my pillow at bedtime and will sometimes* do illogical things for me, which you know Germans aren’t prone to do. According to many sources, these are incredibly loving gestures.
Nonetheless, last night as he attempted his second schnitzel of the evening, he put his knife and fork down, made some strange noises, got up and ran out of the room. I was so bewildered and immediately shouted, “WHAT’S WRONG?!!” He came back in wearing sweatpants with wild eyes on his schnitzel, saying to me- “I had to put on my eating pants.” As if I could totally understand his reaction given that explanation. Germans love their food, and I married one, thus there will be times in the middle of a movie or conversation where food will take precedence over me and I have to understand that. You may shake your head thinking this is ridiculous, but it’s the absolute truth.
German Men (at least the one sitting next to me on the couch) may live in their own world quite often, and you may feel like you are just a recurring character that is there to supply plot points, comic relief by entertaining them with your illogical American ways, feed them food they are somewhat reluctant to eat (“What is a s’more? I don’t know, these marshmallow things look weird!” “I don’t understand biscuits! We just don’t eat them!” “Mmmm, that clam chowdah, did I say that right(?) is so good. I wish we had that back home!”) and make them use manners they never had to use before like “excuse me”. But you do mean a lot to them, they just don’t believe in saying it or necessarily going out of their way to make you feel it. You have to look for his natural German subtleties, reassure yourself of how awesome you are (remember NO Germans will pat your back and tell you that you’re wonderful), and condition him by angry looks, persuasive sentences, and straight out telling him what you want in order to get what you want.
It may seem like a lot of work, but truth is, when you really love someone, you are willing to put in that extra effort, because marriage is a rather funny experience if you let it be, and it’s far better to laugh about misunderstandings than to cry about your confusion. What I’ve found so far about marrying a German and living in Germany (and it’s my 2 year-anniversary!) is that the more you understand your German husband, the easier it will be to understand your environment and the people all around you. I may not always enjoy it, or even agree with it sometimes, but hey, I’m happily married to a man who I’m currently arguing with over why we SHOULD buy a pet owl and teach it to deliver mail. Doesn’t that seem like paradise? Even if the expat life is an overwhelming and somewhat lonely adventure sometimes….