Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I am my own worst nightmare.

When we left Germany, I swore I would bring the European lifestyle along with me. Not all of it - not the sausage and gravy at every meal, or the horrible customer service. But I'd bring along the simplicity, the habits of taking a walk every day, of shopping only when I really needed something, of using only as much as I really require. I figured we'd live in a small house within walking distance of a grocery store and a park. We'd try to get by with just one car. I would grow lettuce.

But either I'm an easily swayed consumer (probably) or I'm a living example of why the American lifestyle is the way it is (also probable). Yes, I could have had all those things I wanted. But they would require sacrifice and I'm weak willed and, believe it or not, those things can be really expensive. Living near a grocery store AND a park AND in a neighborhood where we felt OK about the local elementary school meant we'd all have to share one bedroom. And, well, if I wanted that lifestyle I would be living in New York City. At least we wouldn't need a car there, but it would be tough to find a place for my lettuce.

So here we are, not quite in the suburbs but almost. We have two cars, one of them an SUV and neither of them a hybrid (because we don't live on a bus line, and buying one hybrid would have cost more than both our cars combined). Theo spends more time in his car seat now than in his stroller. I have yet to fully explore our neighborhood on foot.

On the other hand, I met a really nice mom at the playground yesterday and we could actually, you know, communicate in a common language. And I'm ten minutes from Trader Joe's, where they sell delicious food and the checkers are unfailingly courteous. And I do plan to plant some lettuce in the back yard.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

It is tough. My wife and I moved from Brooklyn to Minneapolis last year and have slowly adopted some of the things we swore we wouldn't, like using the car when walking will suffice, food shopping at Target, etc. Granted, we do these things in moderation, though I would chalk our/your changes to also having a toddler. Our son is unbelievably active and sometimes the path of least resistence is, well, easier. Overall, it sounds like you have a young family and accomdodate that accordingly. But I would rather live the NYC/Germany way any day of the week...

Nicole said...

Sounds similar to what we've experienced back in Montana. My daughter's babyhood now is so, so different than Connery's was when we were in Prague. I have a stroller, but it's the kind I can snap the carseat into, because that's her primary mode of transportation. I hate it. But we don't really have other options. We live in a place with few good sidewalks, and the stores are out in the boonies (comparatively) or all the way in the neighboring "big" town. I worry that my daughter's brain growth is being stunted from staring at the back of the seat while we drive back and forth to the places we need to go...

miamired said...

Hello...I found your blog through Megan's "Megolomaniac" blog, and have to admit I've only read this post so far.

But I decided to comment because it hit home, as I lived last year in Spain, one country where this European lifestyle is taken to the max. Sunday afternoons can really only be spent eating and drinking in plazas, "no pasa nada" chillness is the norm, kids live a totally different life than their American counterparts--they live in strollers, they rarely get in cars (mostly due to lack of parking, more than eco-consciousness), they can be out with their parents at 10pm on a school night. I didn't have a car, so I had no choice but to shop for what I needed and plan walking into my day.

And returning, I wanted to keep my hard-earned Spanish patience. I wanted to stress less. I wanted to walk more. But it's hard. Sometimes it's a nightmare.

But the little things, like that lettuce, can lead to moments of Euro-like simplicity bliss. I keep searching for those.

C N Heidelberg said...

I hate that urban planning in the US makes living more like you can in Europe nearly impossible. :/

Courtenay said...

If it's any consolation, I will forever picture us having kleine Frustuck at the sidewalk cafe from your house. You will always be that person to me, and you will always be that person within you. It's natural to adapt to your environment, we are nothing more than mammals after all. Embrace the new fish pond and know that no matter where you live, you are all of the past as well as the present.