Monday, November 15, 2010

DHL Update

F or those who read my whining about DHL's sad inability to redeliver a package to our apartment, a bit of follow-up: We complained over the phone when we called in and discovered that it wasn't going to be redelivered after all. We didn't think anything would come of it, but DHL sent us a letter about the complaint, along with a label for 6.90 EUR (I have a Euro key on my new keyboard, but don't know how to use it...) worth of postage. This is basically a little package within Germany and isn't all that useful to us since we pretty much never mail packages within the country, but I guess it's nice to know they logged our complaint.

And oh, yeah, I don't suppose you believe Nazis are about to take over Germany? My comment was admittedly a bit empty and reactionary; I made it too quickly. Anyway, I figured some people who read this blog might be interested in seeing that, and I'm sure the author will be happy for whatever attention I send over there. I mean, what else can you be seeking with the N-word?

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Craig Morris on Expat Life

I found this set of articles by Craig Morris, an American living in Germany, several months ago, and I just rediscovered them now! I've been meaning to post them.

This article is my particular favorite, and some parts of it are all-too-familiar. (Bolding mine.)
. . . "It certainly does matter," I said. "If you don't speak the language at all, you can't be yourself. You won't be able to show your humor and your personality for years. You should be going out and spending time with the natives so you can learn their language, but you'll get a headache after talking to them for 10 minutes at a party. A whole night in the foreign tongue will feel like a college admission test. Pretty soon, you'll be spending all your time with all the other foreigners who are suffering the same fate . . .

. . . It's easy to criticize the natives because foreigners are not well integrated, but foreigners also put themselves in ghettos," I continued. "At some point, you find yourself surrounded by nothing but other foreigners, who also don't have any friends that aren't foreign, and then everybody starts complaining about how hard it is to make friends with these cold, unfriendly natives. I saw that go on for years in Germany and also thought it must be true because all the foreigners thought the Germans were not interested in us.

"Then I spent a year in France. You think the foreigners in France spoke differently about the French? The Germans I met in France loved spending time with me because they could tell me exactly how they felt in their own native tongue. You wouldn't believe how these Germans talked bad about the French! You can never make friends with them, they're not interested in foreigners anyway, and so forth. Real integration is almost impossible even when the conditions in the country of your choice are good. Both sides have to give it their all."

It continues to be interesting from there, but the above was all too familiar. Integrating is really hard and takes years and years and years and if you don't spend every one of those years working your ass off at integrating, it might never even happen.

There has recently been a little more negative attention on foreigners around here, and even though people may tell us we are the "good kind" of immigrants, whatever that means, I don't really feel all that comfortable with it. I haven't totally integrated and don't know if I ever would. I still speak English with doctors, for example. I just find my health way too important to botch that communication with my shitty German, and every doctor I've had was excellent in English. Are these doctors, in the back of their minds, thinking poorly of me for being foreign and not being 5 billion percent integrated? That possibility does cross my mind.

Of course this talk is always going on in the US too. To my surprise, when I was home earlier this year, my own father asked me if my husband and I speak German at home. Of course we don't (except for some little bits for fun here and there), and I was pretty shocked that he would even wonder about that. But, I think he was thinking of immigrants to the US and whether they should be expected to use English even at home, even if the whole family speaks a common native language that isn't English. Personally I find that way too much to ask! You could easily destroy a family by taking away the nuances of their communication by forcing them to do it in a language they are just learning. But, I think there are people (not my dad - he was just curious) who really believe that should be done. We've had people comment to us in public that we should be speaking German when they overhear us speaking English to each other. I don't think talking to my own husband in English is really imposing an imperalist language on anyone else or failing to integrate at an appropriate level.