Although I don't mind the label "Expat," it would be more accurate to call me an immigrant. To me "expat" suggests the person will one day return to her passport country, but for me this was a permanent move.
1. Where were you born, where did you grow up, and where do you currently live?
I was born in a place that no longer exists. Doesn't that sound fantastically mysterious?!?! I was born on K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base in Upper Michigan, but it was decomissioned in 1995. Apparently there's a small airport there today, and an unincorporated community. So I guess technically is does still exist (the story was better before I learned that).
I grew up in Sheboygan, Wisconsin USA, my family having moved there when I was three. I now live near Horb, Germany, and I plan to stay here until...well, you know.
|Sheboygan, on the shore of Lake Michigan|
Photo credit: M
|Horb, Germany, in the Neckar Valley|
2. What made you leave your home country?
In 2006 I married a German (lovingly referred to as M in this blog), and in 2012 - after six years of living on different continents - I moved to Germany to be with him. Nothing made me leave, however; I wanted to. Or rather, I wanted to live in Germany with him.
3. What type of reactions do you get when you meet new people and tell them where you are from?
I never tell people where I am from unless there is an obvious need for them to know. When I start teaching a new class, for instance, it is important to tell my students that I am a foreigner like they are, and "we're in this together!" But otherwise I never volunteer my nationality.
When someone asks - and they often do politely by saying they notice an accent - I am honest. Most people respond with interest and like to talk about the US. It's also not uncommon for people to ask early in a conversation what I think about #45. I still have to practice "egregious narcissistic sociopath" in German so it rolls off my tongue comfortably, but they often get the idea by the look on my face alone.
4. What was the easiest / hardest part of adjusting to your new country?
Nothing was difficult for me - not even the paperwork. I had been to Germany twenty-or-so times before staying each time for several weeks, and I had long wanted to make the permanent move. My parents, kids, and two friends knew for more than six years that I would eventually be moving overseas, and therefore we were able to make the most of that time, appreciate the togetherness, and say good-bye without any drama.
5. Sounds, smells, words, and images that sum up the expat [immigrant] experience you've had so far?
Food noises (the sounds I make when taking my first bite of Ziegenkäse im Speckmantel (bacon-wrapped goat cheese)) because I have been absolutely spoiled by the way we eat here, chain saws on Saturdays, the Swabian dialect, fresh Black Forest air, lavender, rosemary, thyme, Kartoffelpufferpfannenfett because it's a fun word, love, travel, public transportation, and daily gratitude. Some images follow.
|There it is - Ziegenkäse im Speckmantel!|
|Beautiful towns - Tübingen, here|
|my Syrian & Eritrean friends|
6. Your favorite food or drink item in your new country?
As if that wasn't already clear... but since the Ziegenkäse just a starter, I'll also mention lamb stew (Irish rather than German; we have a delicious recipe), Zwiebelrostbraten, and Kässpätzle. For a beverage it's carbonated water during the day and Grauburgunder (a dry white wine) in the evening.
7. What's the one thing you said "yes" to in your new
city town that you wouldn't say "yes" to back home?
Riding public transportation. Can I toss in a few more? Taking a guided walking tour of the town, walking home from downtown, and skipping church on Easter Sunday.
8. Are there any cultural norms or phrases in your new country which you cannot stand?
I could do without all the hand-shaking; I guess I prefer the American acknowledging wave (which comes across as dismissive to Germans). At the same time, with people I genuinely like, the handshake (and even a hug sometimes) is nice.
9. What do you enjoy doing most in your new country?
How much time do you have? Traveling, hiking, walking, breathing, talking, teaching, dining, reading, learning...
10. Will you ever move home for good?
I already have.