a.) Foreign Couples – Both are from another country
b.) Cross-Cultural Couples – One local, One Foreigner
c.) Singles – a.k.a. Foreign Thrill Seeker and/or Brave Soul
And within these sub-categories are people who want to integrate, assimilate and learn the culture, and those who want to keep things the way they were back in their home country.
Some people are here because they want adventure; they are looking for something new and different. And some people are here because they have to be for work or are the spouse of somebody here for work.
That’s not to say that the people who have to be here don’t want to integrate; it just means that the way in which individuals choose to adapt can be different for everyone regardless of whether or not Germany was the country of choice.
Each sub-category has its advantages and disadvantages:
Benefit: Both individuals are going through similar experiences. At the end of the day, when they come home, they have someone who completely understands their frustrations. And they aren’t dealing with language barriers within the home; there is a common understanding culturally and linguistically.
Downside: Navigating the foreign systems might be more difficult when neither speaks the local language fluently nor knows the local customs. Integrating can be difficult and there may be a strong dependancy on asking locals or fellow Expats questions. Meeting locals and making friends is difficult.
Benefit: The native speaker can navigate through the local procedures. The native speaker can meet people and make friends with fellow locals more easily than someone who doesn’t know the language. Things are done faster and more accurate than if both people don’t speak the language.
Downside: The learning curve for the foreigner is greater since everything is being done for them and not by them. At the end of the day, when Kay and I are at home, English is still his second language and as much as he tries to understand what I am going through, he can’t always truly understand the frustrations.
Benefit: Adventure is always just waiting around the corner. You’re on your own!
Downside: Adventure is always lurking around the corner. You’re on your own. :-\
This past weekend I met with both a Cross-Cultural Couple turned Foreign Couple and a Foreign Couple living in Germany from the US.
Friday and Saturday I was completely absent from any online resources; I was making a trip to Frankfurt and then on to the Heidelberg area to visit friends and fellow Expats.
I am a Cross-Cultural Expat, but was dappling into the Single Expat world since this was my first long road trip alone in Germany… well with Fynn, of course. I think we listened to Donikkl’s, “Ritterfest” at least ten times there and back.(Fynn isn’t much of a sleeper in the car. I used to always sleep in the car, but now that I’m a parent, that doesn’t really seem to happen anymore.)
I’m not particularly a person who enjoys long road trips regardless of whether I am a driver or passenger, but knowing I would be seeing close friends made the time all worthwhile.
The highlight of the driving portion was stopping at a rest stop where the bathroom attendant informed me I could use the wheelchair access bathroom for the diaper changing station, but then should use the pay machine to go in the regular toilet where Fynn proceeded to try and open the door while I was in the stall… and when he couldn’t open the door he started trying to bang it down.
Luckily I was in and out quickly, and thankfully bathrooms in Europe are completely enclosed; no cracks to see through or for children to try and crawl under.
As we continued on to Frankfurt, I think I may have gotten a speeding ticket on the motorway? A yellow or orange light flashed me… or maybe the person behind me? If nothing else, I guess it’s a blog story for another time.
Once I rolled into the city, a police car was nice enough to let me cut over two lanes in front of them in order to get to the parking lot on the left. No, I’m not blond, but I am a foreign female driver. And I’m sure they didn’t pull me over because I waved to say thank you afterwards. Right?
After parking the car, I wasn’t so much excited or concerned about the city of Frankfurt itself, but more excited to meet up with fellow Expats who now live in Dubai. I’m a people person. I was able to catch them before flying back to Dubai out of Frankfurt.
Sten is German (also has his own blog, Crazy Bule) and has lived in Indonesia, where he met his wife. They both lived in Germany for a few years as a married couple, until last year when Sten had a job offer in Dubai.
Sten’s wife is Singaporean, grew up in Indonesia, studied in Australia, moved to Germany and then went on to Dubai with Sten. (I only refer to his wife as, Sten’s wife, because she doesn’t have a blog and I don’t know if she minds me using her real name. But because of the fact that they live in Dubai, somehow calling her Sten’s wife just seems… mockingly annoying. Sorry for that.)
They are obviously a Cross-Cultural couple, now turned Foreign Couple, but the difference is Sten knows what it means to be an Expat dealing with language barriers while trying to adjust and integrate in a foreign land since he has also lived in Indonesia.
A bit different than Kay and me because although Kay is a very understanding and patient person, he can only listen to me griping and complaining without having experienced it firsthand.
When I moved here, Sten’s wife had already been in Germany for over two years so she was a big part of my support system. And having a German husband, there were plenty of times she just listened, laughed, and empathized with my craziness.
She was constantly checking to see how I was adjusting.
All four of us (Sten, his wife, Fynn and me) walked around Frankfurt a bit. Thank you, Sten for pushing Fynn around in his stroller.
We commented on how many people we heard speaking English in Frankfurt and also made a stop at McDonald’s since Dubai doesn’t sell the McRib, or any pork for that matter.
Even though we all don’t come from the same country, it is the commonality of knowing what it feels like to be a foreigner that brings us even closer and tighter. And even though we don’t all live in the same country any more, I am thankful to have them as friends and love that when I see them, we can pick up where we left off.
It’s nice to relate to fellow cross-cultural couples and to have their understanding and support.
Next on the weekend “Single Expat” agenda was a stop in Angelbachtal (near Heidelberg) for an overnight stay with my Foreign Couple Expats. Stay Tuned for Part 2…