“Don’t try to be American in Germany, BE GERMAN.”
Living abroad has never been on my radar. Perhaps when I was much younger romantic notions danced like sugar plums, but never was it real possibility.
So it stands to reason I never considered what it would BE like to live in another country. I’d hear tales from missionaries about their experiences, “listen” to others speak of study abroad (without hearing much at all), and give a cursory ear’s tilt to friends and family who shared their long-term or even short-term European Vacation stories.
I wasn’t disinterested or some jerk friend who didn’t care;
I understand only now that I couldn’t hear well because I had no like-filter to process their experience.
Let me explain:
A few years ago we had opportunity to travel the Western U.S. For the first time I stood in the presence of the Grand Tetons, mountains towering so high I was certain they kissed the face of God. Feeling very small in their shadow, I realized that no picture in a book or scene from a movie could have fully conveyed their majesty and enormity.
We’ve been in Germany a week now, and the above advice my husband’s co-worker, LeAna, shared with us (from her mother) has been forefront on our minds, a mantra of sorts. We’re not trying to be Americans living in Germany, we’re trying to BE German while we here.
And it’s hard, because while we’re all just people ~ much more alike than different ~ we do things differently. Our inclinations are bent toward home country and culture and habit.
Last night, after dark, Tad needed something from the store. He layered up (we’re in single digits at night and sometimes during the day!), grabbed his keys and headed out. About half an hour later he returned.
Standing in the foyer shedding his outer layer, he says, “I’ve made a breakthrough!”
It was more a proclamation, now that I think about it.
Looking up from my laptop, my eyes ask the question he’s already answering–
“I had the car keys in my hand when it hit me we’re two kilometers from BayWa (bay-vah, like Lowes).” He’s peeling gloves like bananas.
“My bike has a light, there are good bike paths, it’s not any colder than when I ride to work, I’ve got a basket on back…why in the world would I d r i v e?”
Not only did my husband ride his bike at night to the store to pick up a tool in sub-freezing weather, he just spoke to me in metric. And I understood.
Yep…it’s a breakthrough.