Friday, November 22, 2013

The difference between an immigrant and an expatriate

What image comes to mind when you think of an immigrant?  Is it different from the image you have when you think of an expatriate?  Why?

Unlike the term immigrant, expatriate implies privilege and the choices that come along with it.  We use these terms to differentiate between those with resources and privilege and those without.  Immigrant has a vaguely negative connotation in American English.  Where I'm from in the Chicago suburbs a lot of people have strong feelings of dislike for immigrants despite being the descendants of immigrants themselves*.   This isn't surprising.  It's a part of human nature to form groups, feel an affinity with that group and exclude others.   Social bonding is an essential part of society.   That doesn't mean we have to marginalize and discriminate against people who are different.  Human beings are not subject to their natures.  We have the ability to educate ourselves and rise above our instincts.  If we weren't able to do this it would be impossible to have a global community.  As we create a new environment we have to change.  

The funny thing about seeing myself as an expatriate is that my host country doesn't give me any special status for being American.  Only foriegn nationals make the distinction between expat and immigrant.  Germans do not have separate words for us, we're all Ausländer to them. 

I have never suffered the same as someone from Iran, Turkey or Africa.  I have witnessed these groups being singled out for discrimination.  White privilege buffers my interactions, as dose my German spouse.  When people know I am from the USA I am further insulated because my country is rich and powerful.  But that doesn't mean that Germans are always happy to interact with me or speak English or be patient with my level of language.  When I am treated unkindly because of my Ausländer status it isn't nice.

Being a foriegn national has given me insight into just how hard immigration really is.  I would have never known what it felt like to see my culture reduced to a caricature in a German language class.  Or look at the embarrassing ethnic American foods section of the a supermarket.  I would not have known how it felt when people treated me badly because I couldn't speak the language or know where to go.   Being an immigrant is hard and often painful.  We gain a new country, language and culture at the price of our own.   You might expect to be granted the same respect you would in your own country but be surprised to be treated instead as an outsider.

Expatriate, immigrant, refugee, alien, migrant or foriegn national, we are people living in a country not our own.  I understand why ethnic enclaves are built and groups cling to their native languages, culture and traditions.  An extent of assimilation and language acquisition are necessary but I think I have much more sympathy for these minority groups than I did before I moved overseas. 

How do you think of yourselves?  Expat, immigrant or something else?


  *Try to think of something more ironic than Americans of European heritage bemoaning how immigrants are taking over America.  :)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

European make up: bb creams and blush

European make up

I wrote about make up a while ago.  Since I am now well into my early thirties I thought maybe I'd jump on some make up trend band wagons and see where they took me.  In Germany I usually buy most of my make up from Douglas or Karstadt but the selection and prices don't measure up to Sephora or Ulta.  As I already said, I have a hard time finding foundation that matches my skin tone.
not at all tan, golden or tawny 
Everybody raves about bb cream so I set out to get some.  The first one I tried was Smashbox.  I ended up picking this because it was the only brand Douglas carried that matched my skin.  You'd think living in a country with less than eight hours of sunlight half the year we could find pale make up around here, yeah?  Not really.

While Smashbox bb cream matched and made my skin look super amazing, after four days I started breaking out.  It might not have this effect on everyone.  I have super sensitive skin and have never been able to wear liquid make up.  I gave it to a friend and it gave her amazing skin for several days then she broke out too.

I turned to the Internet for help.  Finding some recommended bb creams for people who break out easily.  Smashbox was one (not encouraging) and the other was Estee Lauder.   I heard good things about Estee Lauder so I decided to try one more time.  Bb cream is not the cheapest stuff and I was starting to feel like it might be a big waste of money.  Estee Lauder bb cream was disappointing even though I used it with a cc cream to give it more bang.  It didn't give me amazing skin like Smashbox and on the fifth day I was using it my skin erupted in the worst kind of breakout.  I was irritated and feeling somewhat foolish with my totally f-ed up skin.  My conclusion: bb cream is not for me.  I went back to mineral foundation and have now sworn never ever to go back.  Ever.

I still desired a more youthful looking glow so I sprung for the award winning Stila cream blush.  I wasn't sure it would work with my foundation but it's great.  The effect is a dewier, prettier complexion.  Powder blush on powder foundation was making my skin feel kind of chalky.  Stila was hard to find.  It's not sold at any German stores I know of and I thought the only way I could get it was in the US.  Not so! sells make up!  They carry brands I haven't been able to find anywhere in Germany like Too Faced, bareMinerals, and Bourjois.  They even have bareMinerals foundation in pale.  I've been buying my foundation in bulk whenever I make a trip home so this was happy, happy news. 

I'm interested in trying out some Stila lip colors and maybe switching back to Bourjois mascara since it's half the price of Dior.  I am waiting on a few other products I bought from and a couple that are being shipped internationally from the US.  Now lets all pretend I didn't spend a bunch of money on make up that messed up my skin, ok?  

Thanks :)


P.S. Anybody want this Estee Lauder 01 bb cream?  Because I feel bad just throwing it away. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Schloßstraße shopping is the best shopping

I've been spending too much time at home.   Sophie has used this time to empty the contents of items in our pantry whenever I am momentarily distracted.  This and several other stressful things resulted in a severe case of parental burnout.  Not how I wanted to spend our last weeks together before she starts Kita.  I needed to get out.

I haven't been doing much because I don't know where anything is and I still don't know many people. I felt like I should take the train instead of driving when we go to the city.   Public transportation is one of the great things about Europe, yeah?  Just thinking about the train would make me tired but staying home was driving me crazy.

Today I saw the silliness and decided to embrace the idea that I will continue to drive everywhere because it's easy and because I can.   No switching lines, no buses, no tantrums.  No carrying the stroller up and down stairs or across that huge gap at the platform.  No searching for elevators or getting lost trying to use the GPS on my phone.

Our first stop was to get a library card.  I found some recommendations from other expats that said the JFK library at the FU was good and free.  Total rubbish.  Why do I listen to recommendations?  Clearly those people had never checked out books there because it was three floors of ancient hardcover academic type stuff.  And not even the good academic books.  These were the old dry kind that people only read because they have to.  Their sociology section had over fifty Introduction to Sociology books from different eras and not much else.  In the literature section I found a copy of Uncle Tom's Cabin that could easily have been at least thirty years old.   I read that one in middle school and have no desire for another go.   University libraries are for research and that's it.  As soon as I get a couple of free hours I'm going to the Zentralbibliothek.  I should have done that in the first place.

 After the big fat library flop we went to check out Schloßstraße, the main shopping street in Zehlendorf.  Someone told me there was a Starbucks there and a parking garage.  Actually there were a bunch of parking garages and two Starbucks and the best shopping I've seen in Berlin so far.  It wasn't crowded at all.  Primark, which magically appeared in front of us as soon as we exited our randomly chosen parking garage, was not the nightmare I had anticipated.  Many of the stores were almost totally empty.  There was a Zara Home which I didn't get a chance to look into but made me very happy.  The children's section of Zara had Sophie's size and I ended up buying her some cute outfits.  Getting her dressed in the morning is almost depressing due to my buying ultra cheap ugly jeans when the weather turned cold.   I only did that because I couldn't face taking the train to the city, lessons learned I suppose.
cute, cute, cute
Our shopping was mission had a serious goal.  Sophie needed a somber dress for her first formal social event on Saturday.  She also needed all the things that go with a dress: shoes, tights and a sweater.  We normally don't need formal clothes so she doesn't have any.  I got lucky and found everything between H&M and Zara.  I snagged the only pair of black mary janes and a black cardigan with kitten faces printed on it and a gray wool dress with a glittery star print.  Sophie is going to be the most adorable somber toddler.  I was so happy to find black shoes because the only alternative were leopard print flats.  While I think they are great but I'm pretty sure my husband would have hated them.  When H hates something he generally will not stop talking about how much he hates it until the offending object has been removed from our home.

On the way back we popped into Starbucks, there was no line so I got my chai latte.  The first one I've had since before we moved.  When the Kassenautomat wouldn't take my cash but a nice guy broke my fiver and gave me change.  We got home in time to burn the turkey roast for dinner.   From now on Schloßstraße is my go to place for shopping and coffee.  It couldn't be any better.