Last year we took a trip back home, the first time I'd been in Chicagoland during the summer in 7 years. The plan was to see how we liked it and decide if we could ever imagine ourselves living there. We roamed through the strip malls and big cut lawns. Looked at houses and visited with friends and family. Asked questions about incomes and cars and mortgages and jobs. We sipped our free refills in basic chain restaurants and asked, 'Could we live here?' Could we trade our amazing, exciting European life, all eight years of it, for the Chicago suburbs?
|Just another American street|
I know that a lot of people LOVE Berlin. They love it so much that even the mere mention that it's not the bee's knees tends to antagonizes my fellow expats. Honestly, I'm just not much of a city person. I'm kind of boring and basic that way. I don't get any form of personal identity from where I live. Probably just because I've moved so many times. I'm not really into living on top of each other. I don't like the dirt or noise and I really hate crowds. I'm super, duper over the amount of public urination that goes on around here. I mean, come on! It's gross! I don't want to graduate and compete for an entry level job with my 50+ student cohort, most of whom speak four languages. I'm not sure I'd even be happy working in a German firm. They might nitpick me into an early grave.
Then you might wonder why, if we don't like the city, we don't just stay in Brandenburg and buy a house here. The answer is that while we don't really like Berlin, we like Brandenburg even less. I won't bore you with the specifics, but I don't belong in Brandenburg. I might not be a city person, but there is something about this part of Germany that doesn't jive with my personality. It's not a place I could call home and I'm having a tough time just gritting my teeth through the last of our three years here.
I'm over renting. I'm over having neighbors above and below who play loud music and burn trash on their patios (thankfully we have most the floor so we don't have people next to us as well). I want a permanent home, with a fenced in yard and a big American kitchen. I want a dog and a cat that I don't have to walk in pajamas in the morning so that the neighbors give me funny looks. I wouldn't mind a job in my field. It turns out I'm pretty good at statistical data analysis! I'm good at writing reports! Doing qualitative and quantitative research! I like what I do and I would love to work in a real American office, 40 hours a week with nice coworkers. I would especially love the real American paycheck that comes with a full time job. I'd love to save up my money and go on an American vacation. I hear Hawaii/Costa Rica/Alaska/Desierto de Atacama/the Canyonlands, are lovely places to visit and I've never been to any of them. But I feel like I've seen enough of Europe to last me a while. I can live the rest of my life without seeing another castle, cathedral or fortress. I don't think I need to see the same Mediterranean sea from every country. After three or four, it all starts to look the same anyway. There is a whole wild world out there to explore and Europe is only a tiny part.
Did I mention I also, even after 8+ years abroad, still have a ton of friends back home? Some people don't keep in touch after they leave but when I go home I feel like nothing has changed, even though everything has changed. My family and my besties are still there, a whole awesome support network of amazing people who still love us. Even if we didn't have friends we'd still have the Midwestern friendliness to fall back on. It feels like a warm comforting blanket wrapped around you at all times. Strangers always saying 'hi!' and 'good morning!' while we tackle our five mile morning jog along the Fox river. The first time my child saw a squirrel she thought it was a rat. And yes, that's probably because we see a lot of rats where we live.
|Sunny little European style cafe right in the middle of a quaint American town|
But it's worth it. Someone out there is a single family home, a rescue dog and a job with my name on it. :)
In just over 12 months we should be on our way to shiny new lives. I just hope it all goes to plan, with not too many bumps along the way.
|Shiny, pretty USA|