Being “Normal”

Tonight I had dinner with a friend who has been living here in Germany for about as long as I have. We first met virtually through a Facebook post of a mutual friend and discovered we were both in Heidelberg. The commonalities continued when we talked on the phone for the first time. She was pregnant with twins and basically immobile, so we had time to chat. She had spent her high school years in my home town, went to the rival high school, attended the same university I did at the same time, and studied at the same university in England at the same time as my best friend. She also had a German husband and her son was close to Olivia’s age. Whenever we meet up, which due to our busy lives is not as often as I would like, it feels a bit like I found someone who “gets” me.

After years and years abroad you tend to forget what it is like to talk to someone with the same or similar background to you, not only in the sense of being American, but also speaking to someone who grew up around the same time and has the same pop cultural references, for example. K. gets the jokes about Sesame Street and Schoolhouse Rock. She knows what a Trapper Keeper is. These may seem like small things, but no matter how long you live in a particular country, you will never have that same history with the people who grew up there.  Continue reading

Multi-Kulti Christmas

Irish Christmas

Irish Christmas

This past year, our international family became even more international when my husband’s sister married a man from Colombia. When we moved to Ireland in September, the family decided that we would all celebrate Christmas together in Galway this year. The flight was direct, and short, so we anticipated no big problems. Anyone who has not been living in a cave for the past month will know that we were wrong on that front.

In the weeks leading up to Christmas, I had discussions with my older two girls about whether we would do “American” or “Irish” or “German” Christmas. I was pushing for a little bit of each. The older girls wanted to open presents on the 25th, as is done here in Ireland and in the US. I preferred to open them on the 24th, especially because the grandparents were visiting from Germany. We had finally concluded that we would open the German presents on the 24th and the ones from Oma in America on the 25th. But the bad weather made that decision for us.

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One of my favorite German-made TV shows is “Tatort”. In general, I am not a TV kind of person. Most of the time I would just prefer to read a book while my husband zaps through the channels. But Sunday nights at 8:15 (which is when prime-time shows come on here), you will often find me on the couch watching the familiar opening credits roll, which amazingly enough, have not changed since the show began on November 29, 1970. “Tatort” (English: crime scene) is a crime show with an interesting concept. The show is filmed in larger German cities and each city has its own set of criminal investigators. For instance, you know when you are watching the Ludwigshafen (my favorite because it is close to home — Mannheim) episodes because the detectives are Lena Odenthal and Mario Kopper. The Ludwigshafen episodes are always filmed by SWR (Südwestrundfunk), which makes them even more local. Austria and Switzerland also has have their own detectives and the episodes are filmed by local channels. Continue reading