Thursday, September 07, 2006


Traveling from my isolated lifestyle in Deutschland to weeks of nonstop socializing in my former hometown was less of a shock that you might imagine. I had weeks of hugs and salmon dinners and giggling nephews and catching up and going out.

Friends and relatives and acquaintances asked me on a daily basis if I "like" living in Germany. I have a no-lying policy (just ask Jeff, we're constantly debating the merits of little white lies), so while it was tempting to say it's great to live the European lifestyle and lounge around in my jammies all day long, I had to admit that it's been a difficult year.

When I returned to Nurnberg last weekend, dragging two enormous suitcases (don't worry, pregnancy watchers, I had a luggage cart), I was struck with how much it felt like that day, almost exactly one year ago, when Jeff and I landed at the very same airport, hauling the same suitcases, to begin our European adventure. We had only a vague idea of the craziness ahead of us; we expected language barrier frustrations (check!), period of adjustment to new job/no job (double check!), and feelings of isolation (quadruple check). We did not anticipate the months of hotel living, the frustration with apartment hunting, the hostile feelings we would develop toward a culture that, some days, seemed like it was designed to make outsiders feel small and stupid. The good stuff - scenic travel, the chance to see Europe-dwelling family members, World Cup mayhem, new tastes and sounds and smells and immersion in a culture different than our own - was mixed in there too, and fortunately some great stuff - the sushi joint down the street, and the kind next-door neighbor, for example - was just as unexpected.

Throw all of that together, and it's still hard to say I like living here. I like the amazing pastries at the bakery up the street. I like our modern, Ikea-style apartment. I like having time to write, and read interesting books, and try new recipes. I like visiting places I've seen on postcards, without the jetlag or the expense of transAtlantic travel. I like having an opportunity to re-evaluate my future - career, family, lifestyle. But there are days when I feel like that opportunity came at the high price of stripping away everything that made me feel like a confident and capable person, with an identity of my own. I imagine these feelings aren't unusual for a so-called expat trailing spouse, and some days they've hit me like waves. When I learned I was pregnant, the joy and anticipation arrived along with the hormones and the difficulty in imagining yet another huge change in our lives. Fortunately, we rode that rollercoaster and arrived at a place where we can't wait to meet our son (did I mention that it's a boy?!) in person.

I was worried about returning to Germany, and though it's been only a few days, things are going all right so far. It might just be the post-shopping high (imagine how many onesies and receiving blankets it takes to fill an entire extra suitcase), or the residual Slurpee syrup coursing through my digestive tract, but I'm optimistic. I think the coming year is going to be a good one. And while we are about to undertake another life change that will involve sleeplessness, a new language, and a change of identity, at least we have had some practice. Besides, the bakery opens in the darkest hours of the morning, and it's just up the street.


Carol said...

Welcome "home"!! (??) NURNBERG??!! Did you say Nurnberg?? Ah, the memories...

Are you near Schwaig by any chance??

And by the way, I'm a doula, certified childbirth educator and certified (well...) birth fanatic, so do feel free to ask/tell away! :-)


Blythe said...

Hi Carol
I think Schwaig is close to Munich - I'm about two hours from there.

For some reason, Blogger won't let me see your profile (grr...updgrade problem I think), but if you want, email (see the "email me" link on my front page) with your blog url.


Kerri Butler said...


I appreciate your honesty in this post - I understand how it feels to spend most of your day trying to figure how to make the day go by.
Like you guys, we found an awesome sushi place down the road, and it makes life a little easier.
Here's to the adventure!

Anonymous said...

@blythe: Schwaig is near Nuremberg.

If you really feel such hostility toward Germans and their country: Why are you still there? Are u masochistic? Or are you just trying to prove the superiority of the States?

If you had a more upbeat attitude things would be different. I myself and many other people I know were able to make a positive transition quick. Only those with a negative outlook have been feeling much like you.

It should console you though that baby won't became a German citizen by birth.

Blythe said...

Awesome! My first anonymous troll. I think that means I'm officially a real blogger now.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Blythe said...

Dear Anonymous Commenter,
Thanks for taking the time to read my blog, and to make what I am going to generously assume is a thoughtful comment on my post. As you probably realize, my German isn't so hot, so I am not able to reply in kind, though I did my best to translate and get the gist of what you were saying. I will respond only that my posts reflect the thoughts of one person, and that those thoughts and opinions change on a daily (sometimes hourly!) basis. I enjoy and am frustrated with many parts of my life simultaneously - my home country, my family, the judges on Rockstar:Supernova, and yes, Germany too. As I think most readers (you too, maybe?) realize, the expatriate experience (in fact, everyday human existence) is complex, and that's what I hope comes through on my blog.
As a sidenote for the information of all my readers, this is the first and last time I will reply to an anonymously posted comment here. If you don't have a blogger account, leave your name and explain a little about where you're coming from. And, please, be nice.

EuroTrippen said...

I try to document my experiences in deutschland as honestly as I can. It's not always easy and lots of times I feel like a complete idiot. But I've grown to enjoy feeling like an idiot. It's sort of fun to strip away your experiences, resume, degrees, sat scores, advanced knowledge of basically useless stuff... and feel like the kid who should be riding the short bus. I guess it's given me a new perspective that I find both humbling and entertaining. More often than not 'entertaining' at my expense, but as long as I'm laughing too, I don't mind so much. Still, it's a struggle as a trailing spouse to find meaning in your day-to-day activities. At least soon you'll have very little time to feel stymied... your son will see to that!

Oh, and happy anniversary!