It’s official, der Beck is engaging in some kind of conspiracy against me. Der Beck is a popular chain of bakeries here in the Franconia area, and if it weren’t for them I’m 99% sure that I would be dead by now. Why? Well mostly because they have great sandwiches and things that are easy to eat on the go and they tend to be in very convenient locations for me. But I’m a bit upset with them right now. For the last few weeks I have seen these absolutely adorable looking petit fours for sale at a few different der Becks. BUT. They only seem to sell that at inconvenient times for me, i.e., when I’m on the way to work or about to get on a train. Never when I’m on my way home, or God forbid, on my day off. It’s now my mission to get some of those for the Friday cake post. It will happen. But it didn’t today. So instead… more rhubarb!
Rhubarb is kind of like the asparagus thing… get it while you can I guess.
A few days ago I posted an article a friend had sent to me about the “expat experience,” and she wanted to know what I thought about it. Thanks to all of you that commented about it… those actually really helped me a lot. The first time I read it, my reaction was kind of this, “What? Wait, I kind of agree with that. No, I don’t agree with that at all. Wtf is she talking about. Arg.” And then I was angry and had to walk away from it.
I feel like what she wrote about escaping is probably the most true thing of it. In Prague, we used to joke about all the Lost Boys there, which did not necessarily exclude ourselves. It seemed like everyone who arrived had just experienced some kind of traumatic breakup, or had graduated college with no idea what to do, or had decided a few years in the corporate grind had sucked out their soul and it was time to run away. At least at the beginning, most people did spend time in so-called “expat bars/hangouts,” talking about home and missing Mexican food. Some of the expat places were actually fun, and others I couldn’t stand. (Red Room, I’m looking at you.) But gradually we moved away from going to the same bars every weekend, and found more “authentic” places to go. But for the most part, the circles of friends stayed the same, at least until people left.
A very, very, long time ago, I wrote this…
“Anyway, my original point was that any of the people you meet here on a daily basis could be gone tomorrow
“Well I’m going to stay two years, unless X, Y or Z happens.” This seems to be a common statement.
Family emergencies, deaths, new babies, bridesmaid duties, trying new countries, grad school acceptances, boyfriends, girlfriends, ex’s pleading insanity and begging forgiveness…. Some days it feels like half the people here were escaping something, but would drop everything and run home (or run somewhere) if one person were to ask them to. And by no means do I exclude myself from the escapee list.
It’s hard to think of your life as having an expiration date. You have time, but you don’t. I don’t think Prague will expire for me in a month or anything, but sometimes it breaks your heart to think you can’t see a friend you miss in the foreseeable future. Maybe it’s better to miss people. Maybe I make no sense. Maybe I think too much. Maybe I should go to bed because I have a full day of work tomorrow and oh, that’s right, I live and work in Prague. It’s not always easy but this city can hold you any day.”
That was written after being in Prague for about a year and realizing how hard it was. Not really so much “missing out on things,” but people leaving because they felt that they were missing out on things. You could always tell when someone was getting ready to go. They talked differently, they were vague about plans, it was just off. And eventually off they went.
Germany seems to be a bit different. As people commented, most expats here seem to be either 1) working for international companies, or 2) in loooooove with a German and here for them. Yes there is the odd au pair or government program person, but honestly sometimes I feel like a crazy person being here by myself. I’m sure there are plenty of other freelance English teachers floating around but the only ones I know work for my school.
As for expat hangouts here, I don’t know of any. I hear other English speakers talking at the Irish pub, but you hear just as many Germans speaking in there. I don’t seek out other expats here, because after Prague I decided it was better to make friends with people who won’t move away in a few months. I’ve met a couple of people here via the blog/internet forum world, but not so many.
She also talked about fear, and I have to agree again with the comments. The only thing I’ve ever been legitimately afraid of had to do with bureaucracy. The “will I get a Visa or will I get rejected too” fear was pretty palpable. At that point, I had no back up plan. I would have had to go home and regroup… either suck it up and get a crappy job or try to get back here somehow. But I got lucky, and so far everything has worked out for me. *knocks on wood desk*
But fear that you’re missing things? Come on. Everyone is missing things. All the time. Every day. If your best friend lives across the country, you’re not going to be the first person to see their new baby any more than if you live across the ocean. And with Facebook, I for one feel that I know FAR MORE than I need to know about some people. I would never say that I’m afraid of missing things. I talked a while back about feeling guilty, and I think that’s as far as it’s ever gone for me. In some ways, it makes relationships much stronger. You really have to put in the effort to keep up with the people that are important to you. All extraneous relationships might fall to the side, but if a person is a real friend they won’t let that happen.
The author describes events as tick marks piling up on a piece of paper, but to my mind, if someone is really your friend, they aren’t keeping score. No-one should. One of my best friends has continually apologized for not coming to visit me, to which I always reply, “Seriously?” I tell her that it’s okay… she works full-time, plus has been in nursing school full-time for the last two years, and got married last summer. She’s had other things to do. It’s okay if she hasn’t had time to squeeze in a few weeks in Europe. And whenever we talk, it’s like no time has passed and we can pick right back up. I did tell her though, that she has to come visit me before she gets herself knocked up. That’s non-negotiable.*
So those are my slightly long-winded thoughts on it. I’m kind of mad at the author for generalizing the experience and confusing me about it. But after reading it a few times and thinking about it, I’d have to agree with those of you that said it doesn’t seem like she is that happy. Putting yourself in a new situation won’t magically fix your problems, and a distraction can only last so long. As for me, the only thing I lay in bed missing at night is Mexican food.
*It’s probably negotiable. I’ll still send her baby lederhosen.