As an American in Germany, there is a lot to say. Luckily, working as the content manager for EasyExpat I get the chance to examine expat issues. In this blog, I will pay particular attention to the issues facing Americans abroad. If you have subjects you would like examined or comments, please let me know!
I was embarrassed to reveal that my German, after 3ish years in Berlin, is still abysmal. Schlecht. Böse. Ungut. (I am 90% sure I am using at least one of those wrong.)
The story that sparked it all was Julie Colthorpe's piece in the EXBERLINER, "Sorry, no German!". As an expat who has spent the time and energy to learn the language, she was irritated at the lackluster attempts of some of her fellow expats - expats like me. She saves most her venom for those expats with a "blasé nonchalant attitude" to learning the language and especially the restaurant owners or servers who condone the all-English approach. While I don't completely understand her acidity - each person should be able to live their life as they like - her main point is a good one.
"Ultimately if you don’t learn German, you’re the one missing out. It’s a
giant city out there, and you’re shrinking your life to an expat
This was the rallying cry. Construction on the Berliner Mauer was begun on August 13th, 1961 by the German Democratic Republic (East Germany). The impressive barrier surrounded the area with 45,000 separate sections of reinforced concrete, each 3.6 metres (12 ft) high and 1.2 metres (3.9 ft) wide. Smooth pipes lined the top of the wall to impede attempts to scale it and it was reinforced by anti-vehicle trenches, barbed wire, armed patrols and over 116 guard towers.
By 1989, the situation was untenable. Long term civil unrest, a now famous speech by US President Ronald Reagan ("Tear down this wall!"), and a moment of confusion all played a part in crowds of Germans - East and West - crossing over the wall freely for the first time in nearly 30 years.
Within a year, the wall
- the physical symbol of the repression and isolation placed on the city - was almost completely demolished. Joyful citizens, souvenir
hunters, and businesses chipped away at small pieces of the wall and the new government took on the heavy lifting, using industrial equipment to remove huge sections. As German reunification was underway, there was no longer a place for any walls.
Apparently - a lot. Much to my suprise, this week's news stories revealed that American icon Tina Turner is turning Swiss. Switzerland - though a truly beautiful country and recently declared the best places to have a child in 2013 - is not where I expect to find one of America's most beloved singers.
Turner's petition for Swiss citizenship was recently approved by her local council after she passed a civics andlanguage test, and interview. The decision still requires approval from state and federal authorities, but Tina Turner is well on her way to becoming a Swiss citizen. She has been living in the Zurich suburb of Kuesnacht since 1995 with her longtime manager and partner, German record executive Erwin Bach. Turner told the German newspaper, Blick,
"I'm very happy in Switzerland and I feel at home here. I cannot imagine a better place to live."
Unsure of exactly where to start, I started the "American Expats" blog in February 2012 to highlight newsworthy moments of Americans abroad. Using the leaping off point of my fellow countrymen in the news, I offered up my experiences and findings while living abroad. An extension of our informational articles and guides on EasyExpat and partnered with our French language blog, Chroniques d'expatriation, we sought to offer a personal perspective to the life of an expat. I wrote,
"This blog will bring stories of American expats to the forefront. I will scout out stories in which Americans share the unique experiences that make up our immigrant life, discuss the difficulties of being away from "home" and other news stories concerning American policy".
The core of the problem is that, with the exception of the “real” Christkindlmarkt
in Nuremberg and a few other traditional ones like it, the Christmas markets
elsewhere in Germany are no more an authentic local feature than the ones in
the UK: they’re just money-making machines.
Sometimes you have that moment where you think, "How did I get here?"
Last night, celebrating an expat Thanksgiving in our favorite dive bar in Berlin, was just such a moment. Thanksgiving is a family oriented holiday in the USA. What do you do when you've left your friends and family behind?
Like many people living outside of America, I sided with the democratic candidate and intently watched the campaign from abroad. Facebook, Twitter, and day-to-day transactions were littered with talk of the election. Germans eagerly asked us our opinion of who we thought would win. We shared anxieties and - as usual - the German community impressed us with occasionally knowing more about the system then we did. But the difference between their anxieties and mine is that I could play a part in the decision - I could vote.
Have you heard that the regular refs are back to work in the NFL (National Football League)? If you aren't in the United States or an American abroad - you probably haven't. Why would you? While the love between Americans and their football is well documented, the sport is less well represented around the world. But here in Berlin, just hearing the iconic theme music of Monday night football gives me goosebumps.