Goodbye Deutschland

The title of this post is not meant to be in reference to Germany and its standing at the World Cup. Rather, it is in reference to the fact that this will be my last post on this blog while living in Germany. One prominent aspect of expatriate life is a higher probability of relocating. Although my husband is German, we have been anticipating an overseas move through his job over the last five years.

It’s been a long, drawn out process anticipating where and when we’ll move. There have been some false starts including absolute certainty that we were moving to Singapore some time soon after the birth of our second daughter. She’s now 20 months old. In fact, it seemed likely that we were moving to Asia, so it took some getting used to that we are in fact moving to San Diego, California, back in the U.S. of A.

I’ve been thinking a lot about all of the things I’ll miss about our lives here in Germany. My post on “Village Life” probably best illustrates the community in which we live. This is number one on my list: The unexpected kindness and openness that my husband and I experienced while living here. We exponentially appreciated this as parents. I became a mother here, and so perhaps the memories are especially poignant. Many of my friendships are based on the shared memories of the intense and special time of having our first children together: starting with birth preparation classes (Geburtsvorbereitung), postpartum exercise classes (Rückbildungsgymnastik), baby massage and play groups to Kindergarten.

I’ve come to terms with some of my ambivalence about moving back to the US and leaving Germany right now. I’ve realized that I’m more aligned with the prevalent parenting philosophy here, at least to age 6. As a friend of mine pointed out, you, as the parent, can’t go wrong with your decisions since you make them based on your child’s needs. And who knows your child better than you? I recently started reading the book, “I Was a Good Mother before I Had Kids.” This American book is an advice book on how to successfully grapple with the “typical” mother challenges of constant guilt, second guessing and the seemingly competitive nature of mothering. I couldn’t relate to most of the premise of the book; it made me relieved to have a different frame of reference.

Before I had children, I always knew that I would sorely miss the number of days off one is entitled to per year. Here in southern Germany, we are spoiled by the abundant celebrations of Catholic holidays. They really do encourage a better work-life balance, since the holidays are really days off – everything shut down. Even people like my husband who have to work long hours, was forced to go away on holiday or relax on the playground with his family on such holidays.

I’ll miss the other aspects of village life, which I’ve written about before: the bakeries, our butcher and shopping at our market twice a week. It’s summer, and I’ll miss that smell of dill mixed with the scent of berries as I walk on the cobblestone steps from the potato stand to buy my eggs at the poultry stand where we always ordered our Thanksgiving turkey. In the background, I might hear the clock of an old church clock tower. This in contrast to shopping at a farmer’s market on CVS’s parking lot. But, that’s the new world for you.

And finally, what I will miss the most while in America is football culture. I’ve experienced football fever in South Korea, the U.K. and Germany. There’s something fantastic about how the passion and the “public viewing” around these international institutions such as the World Cup are all the same and just as sacred. Here in Germany, the formerly unthinkable public display of national pride has been coming out in full force with not one or two or three but often at least four German flags displayed on cars, flags hanging off of balconies, and people with black, red and gold stripes on their cheeks on game day. While on one hand, I think it is a bit of “public viewer” optimism that believes that the German team will go so far as the finale, I also know that Germany manages to stay standing despite the odds. It would be a shame to miss the excitement and not be a part of it, so that’s why we aren’t saying “Goodbye Deutschland” until after the Finale!