Homesickness in a Global World

We have now arrived in Toronto and are busy setting up our new house. Like any move, this one has had its share of surprises, including our air freight sitting in Germany for two weeks because the movers forgot about it. Flexibility is key, and a very long fuse… so far I have managed both quite well, and have just a few more days (hopefully!) until our big container arrives with the bulk of our things, including all the furniture.

As we have explored our new city and found our bearings, we have of course scoped out a few locations that make us feel happy and connected to “home”. That has become a relative term for me, as my upbringing was in the Pacific Northwest in the US but my adult life has been spent in Europe. I am a terrible foreigner, I pick and choose all the things I want to retain from my home culture, and I am equally selective about what I integrate from my host culture. I’m definitely not all-or-nothing when adapting, constantly seeking a balance between retaining my own identity – cultural and individual – and blending in with those around me. I never was very good at fitting into a group…
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We’ve returned to the Fatherland after the grueling process of packing up and moving a household of a family of five. We drove six hours from San Diego to Las Vegas listening to Die Zaueberfloete non-stop. We saturated in ueber-Americana for three days on The Strip. We flew eleven hours from Vegas to Frankfurt. We we drove three hours from Frankfurt to the tiny dwelling called Haeusles outside of Mitwitz which is nestled in Frankenwald (the Forest of Franconia) for a few weeks of decompression. Continue reading

Auf Wiedersehen

This afternoon a crowd of my in-laws converged on our house for the traditional German Sunday afternoon Kaffee & Kuchen. This doesn’t happen very often, maybe once a year, as they all live over an hour away. Anyone with in-laws will sympathize with the latent stress involved in being so outnumbered in one’s one home, and yet, for the first time in the twelve years I have lived here, I didn’t stress at all: I just enjoyed it.

In just a few weeks, we’re embarking on a new adventure and heading back to North America – specifically, to Canada. Continue reading

Moving Back to Germany

I have an announcement to make. We are moving back to Germany next month. The timing of the move was a bit of a surprise, but it was always in the realm of possibility. We were away for two years, and as I’ve started the arduous process of organizing another overseas move now with three small kids, these are my passing Germany Way thoughts on the move: Continue reading

Just When You Thought You Knew German

The first time I had ever heard of “Swiss German” was when I was preparing to move from Düsseldorf, Germany to Rapperswil, Switzerland. My German neighbors had me over for a farewell barbecue and they said to me: “Whatever you do, don’t come back and visit us speaking that Swiss German.” I was aware that the Germans had a somewhat love/hate relationship with their southern neighbors, but I had no idea the Swiss spoke some different form of their common language. In fact, I was quite confident with the German that I had picked up over my three years in Düsseldorf, and I figured it would be quite an easy transition from one country to the other.  I was wrong.

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Birthdays and Friends

This year is a momentous one in the eyes of some people, because I am turning forty. I’m turning forty in a new country, and all of my oldest and closest friends live in other ones. But I am not despairing, and I am not ignoring this runden Geburtstag. (A runder Geburtstag is one that ends in a zero.) If I were still in Germany, I would most definitely be having a party. So, we’ll be having one here in Ireland as well, and as expected, many of my German friends have already said they are coming. What a perfect excuse to go on vacation! With 30 days of holidays at their disposal and a booming economy, my German friends can afford to come over to the Emerald Isle.

Ah, but what are friends? Americans seem to call everyone their friends. Facebook has turned even the most distance of acquaintances, from someone you met on the bus yesterday to someone you knew in preschool, into “friends.” One of the first things I discovered when I moved to Germany to be with my future husband, having already lived there for seven years in the previous decade, was the meaning of friends in a German context. Many of his friends have been with him since childhood. Part of that is because people used to grow up in a house and stay in the area. This may not apply as much nowadays, what with Fernbeziehungen and the global economy, but it was still true for my husband, until I dragged him off to Ireland. Continue reading

Living the German Way Part III

I was disappointed to read that my fellow blogger, Sarah Fürstenberger, was leaving our ranks as German Way Co-blogger for the time being. She and I had become friends while recording the same chapter in life as American expats living in Germany through this blog. Coincidentally, she and I also left Germany at the same time this past summer.

Although I was sad to no longer be able to keep up with her American/German family’s new Irish life through her blog posts, I could also understand her sentiment that her heart wasn’t in blogging about the German Way anymore. Often, when my week rolled around to blog, I felt at a loss as to what to blog about. It’s been about eight months since we left Germany, and our lives have significantly changed: our daughters, though still bilingual, speak mostly English now, we start to shiver at 60 degrees F (16 degrees C), our consumption of paper products jumped exponentially when we became members of Costco, and we barely buy or eat cold cuts (Aufschnitt) anymore.

I realized though that despite the dilution of our German-ness, there were beliefs and pursuits of the German Way of Life that I was still committed to. First and foremost on that list has been finding a pediatrician that suited a more typical German parenting philosophy: encouraging play-based learning for under six-year-olds, fostering independence, and choosing the natural alternatives when possible. Continue reading


Sitting at the pediatrician at the hour-and-forty-five minute mark with my kids to get a flu shot this past week I thought back to what my mom said a few months ago. It was June and my family was in the midst of yet another move, this time across the great big pond from Zürich to Toronto doing a repatriating of sorts after 10 years abroad. I had called my mom, feeling ill from the onslaught of summer flu and telling her that the family doctor had come by the house earlier to see me after he had closed his practice as I was too weak to drive and my husband was not home. So the doctor came by, confirmed my suspicions, ordered me to rest (as much as possible), take some medicine and Tami-Flu. Did I mention he brought all of my medicine? Yes, he did. I did as told and was able to “recover” enough to fly two days later to Toronto for some house hunting with my husband. My mother’s words are still ringing in my ears: “Well, you can kiss that kind of service good-bye in Canada, I think.” Oh, how right she was. Just finding a pediatrician has taken me two months, as not every pediatrician is accepting new patients here in Oakville. Continue reading