Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Living In Europe

I was starting to post about our Paris trip but I keep getting emails about "how I wished I lived in Europe" and "You are so lucky."

To be honest, I am not really sure why I feel so sensitive about it but I always feel the need to explain that luck has very little to do with it.

I know that our life can seem very glamorous sometimes but being an expat is not always alluring trips, decadent cheeses and magical ponies.

We are afforded the luxury of living over here in closer proximity to locations that can seem very exotic and don't usually require too much planning (or a time change!) There are also very cheap air and train fare to get to such mentioned countries.

However, Mexico, Central and South America are just as exotic a location to most Europeans and most have never traveled there whereas most Americans I know have been to one of these countries at least once. (I am looking at you Cancun Spring Breakers!)

We worked hard to find a job here. Although we got some help monetarily for moving expenses, most came out of our own pocket. (I am not knocking the expats who had cushy relocation packages-I would take that in a second if we were in that position and not feel bad about it one bit!)

Our European adventure has been in the planning for awhile. The Scientist and I had made a pact pre-Baby Bird that this was a goal of ours. When Baby Bird came along, we momentarily reconsidered but knew that a child would not make it harder but even more interesting and important that we share this experience.

As far as being expat goes, I like to joke that it takes 30 minutes to translate my grocery list sometimes. (It did-not so much anymore) It can also take 30 min to find a simple ingredient like cocoa powder (which is stored next to the coffee in Germany?!?!?!). It can feel very isolating sometimes and it really causes you to reflect on who you are. However, the answer to that question though is always the same.

You are the same person you were before but with a little more experience and a few more countries under your belt. :)

I would also be interested in hearing others thoughts on expat life. I probably read all of your blogs anyways but feel free to leave a comment also.


headbang8 said...

Last November, many of my fellow Americans voted to confirm that I was an inferior human being. One who didn't deserve protection from the state.

I couldn't live in the USA with the man I love, because he is a foreigner.

If I had fallen in love with an American, I wouldn't be able to make medical decisions on his behalf, share retirement benefits, nor ensure that our estates passed to each other without contest.

In the US, I would be denied health insurance as a private citizen...even though I'm in robust good health. In middle-age, I've probably seen a doctor often enough to have a record in which an actuary could find an objection.

I consider myself not an expat, but an emigrant. I have left a land where I am a second-class citizen, and have come to a place where I am treated like an equal.

A Jewish lawyer in 1930s Germany, finds he is barred form practising the law. An openly gay American in the 2000s finds he is barred from a military job, has difficulty securing a teaching position, or has hit a glass ceiling in his career. There may be a difference between the two in degree, but not in kind.

Every time I need to deal with the insufferable German bureaucracy, or can't find Splenda, or bemoan the fact that a German salad is simply a means to deliver mayonnnaise, I remind myself why I'm here.

If it takes me six hours to translate my shopping list, and I have to crawl to the supermarket on my hands and knees, that's OK with me!

Snooker said...

Wow... What HB8 says.

Although I tend to think of myself as more of a Love Exile. Bi-national homosexual couples are not given emigration rights in the US. Thus I left the "Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave" to join my German love and make her my wife. As my Mother says, "Germany, of all places!".

I'm all with ya HB8, except for that crawling to the supermarket thing. I think that I would find another means. :)

Yelli said...

And both of you touch on the reason WHY we moved to Europe which is a possible future post. I was mostly focusing on the HOW this time around. :)

In addition, it is really hard "eating that reality" about the US. I can only hope that through traveling and meeting such lovely people as yourselves, that we and especially our son can learn what we can do to make the US a better place and equal to what I learned about it growing up.

lifeandlovesofadutchgirl said...

I wonder where you american people have your cocoa powder!

A good post, as it always surprises me that American people think Europe is so special. But for me, Mexico is indeed very exotic, so it works both ways..

Paula said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paula said...

I remember being back in the States for a visit last year and realizing, when I wanted to know if something was in stock at a store, I could. Just. Call. What a concept! No dictionary, script written on scrap of paper, wine glass in hand to calm the trembling nerves. Yes, Paris is just as close as Florida. Yes, daily living sounds cool. And it is. But it's also more time consuming. And with three little ones (twins, who knew?!), I'd give my right boob most days for Easy. Life is many things here, but it's not Easy.

And I usually combat the "your life is soooo cool" from the other side of the puddle comments with "3 floors, two cars, 4 people? Oh well, see how glamorous I look after carrying enough groceries to feed 5 peope, a large dog and a cat through the rain [again] and into my 800 square foot apartment two floors up. Sehr sexy, na?"

Prost, friend. I don't have a blog but I've got a glass of wine to share from one Jelly dougnut to another.

annonamoose said...

Amazingly enough I have a glass half full view on this. I am _glad_ people think my life is so exotic. It's one of my comforts when I survey what living in Europe has cost me professionally and personally. We made the decision to stay here because my husband has a job he likes, we are unlikely to become homeless no matter what happens, and because we have more vacation time to spend with my family. It is not cobblestone streets and exotic cheeses; we mostly shop at Aldi. I have no problem, however, with letting people envy me - not that I am dishonest about our lifestyle - I just don't go out of my way to disabuse them of their misperceptions.

C N Heidelberg said...

Hmm, I might do a post on this topic too. I've been thinking for a while on a similar topic, not exactly like this.

Anyway, my side of each of your points:

* I do feel lucky to live in Europe and if I ever move back to the US, I'll be the one telling people who live here how lucky they are.

* Well, the alluring trips are pretty awesome. I'm not a fan of cheese, though. And, HEY, where's my magical pony!?

* I actually find that it's not that cheap to travel here, unless you can bend your schedule around last-minute deals. (Usually we can't.) Sure, cheaper than coming from the US, but not cheap at all.

* Mexico, Central, and South America are pretty far away from most of the US. I think it's faster for at least half of the country to come to Europe than to go to S. America. I only know a few who have been able to afford that luxury.

* We moved ourselves too. I'm green when I see people complain about moving-related stuff when it turns out the company did everything for them! Try doing it yourself...it's worse. :/ We cleaned out our account to get over here and now I don't know where the money will come from if we ever go back!

* I think we were lucky that academics makes this more easily possible. Damon just emailed a guy he wanted to work with, the guy emailed back and said he was hired. Here we are.

* There are definitely downsides. My peeve is when people think I must have mystically osmosed the language just by being present here. No. Or that it must be as easy to speak German now as English. No. Or that there's something wrong/lazy about me if I haven't yet. This is a big, big, big, big, big problem.

* I'm the same person now, but I think I've come to be able to see some things about myself that are actually just a result of my culture. This is always interesting.

Yelli said...

@dutch - cocoa powder is in the baking aisle of course!

@ Paula - Why don't you have a blog of your own? You are WAYYY more articulate and hilarious than I!

Prost meine Freunde!

@annonamoose - I think I need to soak up some of your attitude about this.