As I write this, I am dazed with jet lag. In this haze, the thoughts I had on the airplane for this blog post are distant and somewhat difficult to grasp. The moment we arrived back in Europe, it was as if the trip had never happened. Three weeks of the Great Northwest, soaking in all the local culture, enjoying family and friends and giant parking spaces, all just a dream. I feel homesick for it already.

I love going home, and I love coming back to my home in Germany. One of the strange things that happens when you live in a different culture is that you have selective memory about your home culture. While I am here, I notice all the things that are substandard compared to my home culture; the tight parking spaces, the lack of convenience, the gruff public face so many locals prefer to wear. Continue reading

“Almanya” in San Diego

San Diego kicked off its first German Film Festival, German Currents in 2011. It seemed to be a long time coming considering that there are an estimated 100,000 Germans living in the San Diego metro area and Orange County.

The festival opened with the screening of Almanya – Willkommen in Deutschland, a movie written by two Turkish German sisters, Yasemin and Nesrin Şamdereli, about a Turkish immigrant family’s literal and figurative trip back to Turkey. The family’s patriarch, Hüseyin, leaves his hometown in a village near Anatolia during the initial Gastarbeiter wave of Turkish immigration in the ‘60s in order to earn what was considered big money working in a German factory, which he sends back to support his family. Although originally unplanned, the whole family, made up of his wife, Fatma, and their first three children, eventually join their father and move to their new home in Berlin. Hüseyin and Fatma soon thereafter welcome their fourth child who is their only child born in Germany. Continue reading

Strengthening my German Core

One of my earliest challenges of post-partum life in America was searching for an equivalent of Rückbildungsgymnastik here in America or post-partum pelvic floor training. (There’s no easy translation.) The likes of Stroller Strides and specialized pre- and post-natal personal trainers who could help burn all of that baby fat were easy enough to find, and while I wouldn’t mind losing the 3-month bulge which might raise an eyebrow of “is she or isn’t she” to a stranger, the only similarity that these exercises share to Rückbildungsgymnastik is the post-partum descriptor.  Continue reading

Enjoy the Silence

It used to annoy me that I couldn’t do any shopping on Sundays and that our Saturdays were so hectic racing from one shop to the next when I first moved to Germany. Like anything in life, I got used to it. In fact, I started to like the fact that there was some time without the claws of commercialism, although that was never a major concern in southwest rural Germany.

The same goes for Hausordnung (house rules). Coming from the land of the free, it takes Americans some getting used to not only be able to run out to the grocery store or Walmart at 2 a.m. but also that running a load of laundry at a similarly unconventional hour in your apartment building is forbidden. After five years, I found that my mind and soul got used to having silence midday and roughly between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m.

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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

An Adjusted Adventszeit

In the past week, I had to adjust to the fact that Christmas is OVER, a week earlier than I had become accustomed to. I was used to our southern German world being shut down not just from the week of Christmas to New Year’s but also through the first week of January thanks to Three Kings. (Note: During my time writing for the German Way blog, the most Wiki-ed or Google-ed things I’ve had to look up are Catholic holidays and food.) I missed my older daughter’s first gymnastics class last Wednesday. Back in Aalen, there wouldn’t have been Turnen or any Musik Schule or anything like that scheduled.

This year, I missed the Adventszeit and the tradition of celebrating Christmas time for the whole month of December. And although Christmas decorations start being sold at Target the minute Halloween goes on clearance, that is not the same. I feel that Christmas is largely for consumerism here. Adventszeit is more oriented towards baking Weihnachtsplätzchen together (though I’ll concede that an American Christmas cookie exchange is an efficient and smart thing. I admire my friend Moni and my husband’s Tante Liane for baking at least 10 different kinds of cookies for their cookie bags/tins each year.) The point of a Christkindelmarkt in every town is not just to sell as many tschotchke to as many suckers as possible, but rather to provide a cozy space for people to drink their Glühwein together, for children to pet some farm animals and ride some rides and of course for us to find some sweet, handmade, wooden ornaments to share with our poor, plastic-invaded relatives back home. Continue reading

Can you ever go back home, …

… especially for the holidays?

It is the eternal question, isn’t it? And the holidays have raised the question once again in my family.

Mind you, I have not been home to celebrate Christmas for the last 11 years.  That really is quite some time to be gone. The first year I had the excuse that my boyfriend (now husband) and I were going out West to spend time together before he left for Germany.  We did just that celebrating Christmas in Las Vegas and then moving our way to San Diego, Los Angeles and spending New Years Eve in San Francisco with friends.

The year following I was a newlywed in Ludwigsburg, Germany having been married in the Town Hall only a few days before Christmas.  Obviously my husband and I were not coming home for Christmas that year as we wanted to celebrate in our new home together.  And somehow, every year following there was a different reason not to go home.  Looking back on it the main reason was that we had my husband’s family nearby and it was easier (and less expensive) to have my mother come over for the week rather than my husband and me (and later with kids) fly to America.   Continue reading

Flavors of Christmas

Spending the Thanksgiving holiday with friends who have recently moved to Germany, I found myself thinking – yet again – “I am becoming sooo German”. The topic of conversation was the abundance of deliciousness available at German bakeries; under contention was whether they are all as delicious as they look. In the end, we all agreed that German pastries are less sweet than American pastries, and the level of sweetness required to define “delectable” was left to the individual. What I realized is that after 10 years of German sweets, the American fare is far too sugary for me. For the newly arrived, German pastries are lacking in about a pound of sugar each.

And now we find ourselves in the midst of the holiday season, when kitchens everywhere are bustling with cookie-baking and good cheer (and at our house, Glühwein too!) Something I have grown to love about my host country is Christmas baking. Continue reading