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US Consular Services in Germany – It’s not so lonely in here

20 Mar Posted by in Culture | 4 comments
US Consular Services in Germany – It’s not so lonely in here
 
Most often than not, a trip to the US Consulate can be a pain in the butt especially if you have to drive several miles kilometers to get there. There’s the making an appointment in advance, taking time off work and then going through tight security once you arrive.

We’ve been to the US Consulate in Frankfurt twice now. What is supposed to be a 2-hour drive for us became several hours of traffic through a snow storm with a newborn on our first trip. In fact, everything was so much at a complete standstill on the road that I had time to jump in the back seat and give Fynn his next feeding before traffic even started again.

Thankfully, the US Consulate in Frankfurt was somewhat quick for children, which made our time within the building a lot shorter than the amount of time spent on the road. And they didn’t get upset that we were late.

Back in 2010, we went to apply for Fynn’s US passport, Social Security number, and Report of Birth Abroad (no, he will never be a US President unless you believe the conspiracy theories that Obama wasn’t born on US soil, in which case, yes, there is still a chance).

Kay was excited just to get into the US Consulate because it isn’t something common for a German national. (He says he wasn’t “excited” so we’ll just say “curious.”)

Our First Cross-Cultural Couple Sighting

While there, we spotted another cross-cultural couple with bilingual children, which we’d never seen live before (you’d think we were at a zoo the way we stared at the family in awe).

Kay used to always wonder what our son would sound like or how it would be to teach a toddler two languages. And here were two live specimen examples; a young boy about 7-years-old and a little girl around 4-years-old.

The mother was clearly American and the father, German.

Kay: That was amazing. Did you hear that little boy?

Me: Yeah…

Kay: He was speaking English and didn’t have an accent at all.

Me: Kay, he totally had a German accent. (And I threw him the, “Are you serious?” look.)

It then occurred to me that my child would kind of be… different. Both American and German and yet, neither fully American nor German. Weird. This could seriously open up some doors for him. American women will totally dig his cute accent and companies like Lufthansa will just want to swoop him up. Sweet!

Duesseldorf Consular Outreach Day – 2011

The next time we needed Consulate services it was in a rush. I needed a notary… an American notary, for whatever odd reason. (Although I have been to a German notary for an American purpose, but that’s another story for another time.)

We happened to get lucky that Kay found online the date of the next Duesseldorf Consular Outreach Day, and that it landed in the exact timeframe needed for me to send paperwork back to the US. Duesseldorf actually only offers the Consular Outreach Day a few times a year.

Yes! Our 2-hour drive would be cut down to 20 minutes.

An appointment is required and then the day of, employees from the Frankfurt Consulate come and setup a temporary location next to the official government building in Duesseldorf.

Duesseldorf Consular Outreach Day – 2013

This is the second time I’ve partaken in the Duesseldorf Consular Outreach Day. But apparently I’m becoming a regular because I recognized some of the employees this time around.

One would think I’d be completely annoyed to yet again (for the fourth time) have to use Consulate services, but nope. I was excited. I’m a weirdo like that.

The difference between going to the Frankfurt location versus Duesseldorf is that the setting on the Outreach Day is a bit more intimate and not so formal. (Or maybe I was just feeling like a chitty-chatty expat that day and excited to speak English to anybody and everybody.)

Fortunately the employees (well, unfortunately for them) had gotten in a traffic jam and were late arriving, which meant I had more time to see and meet with fellow expats.

Plus this gave Kay and me more time to play, “Guess which parent is German and which is American.” (This becomes amusing because Kay still can’t hear a German accent when someone is speaking English. This lead to one disagreement, but I couldn’t very well ask the husband to speak just so I could say, “See. That’s what a German accent sounds like.” By the way, Kay sounds slightly British when he speaks.)

Here’s a hint to the game though: It seems that most expats in the room were women and their male partners German.

We did meet one couple in which the mother was German and the father American. The father teaches English as a Second Language in Duesseldorf and has two boys of his own. This gave me time to ask some bilingual children questions.

The father told a cute story about his oldest son conjugating past-tense verbs incorrectly when he was learning to speak. So he might say, “gewalked” or “geplayed.” (But really I was thinking, That is an awesome method to use when I don’t know a past-tense verb in German. Ingenious, kid.)

The person who really threw me for a loop was the man behind the Social Security desk. Bizarre to hear an Australian accent (possibly even a Kiwi) explain how important it was to have the proper name attached to your Social Security number. I’m sure he must have his US citizenship to be working for the US Consulate, but I couldn’t help but giggle after we left. That would be like me telling him how important it is to herd his sheep each night.

As a bonus, the highlight of the day was meeting a fellow “Expat-Mom” Blog reader! I was happy to finally meet after corresponding back and forth online and both of us having sons the same age. We live a ways apart (about 100 km) so it was awesome to have a common reason to meet up.

Overall, the thing about being an expat is that you don’t completely fit in with German culture and you no longer see America like you used to; it’s as if you are walking through a German life with an American filter on. And with each passing year, that filter starts to dissipate.

So when you end up in the same room with a bunch of people experiencing the same culture-shock emotions while encountering different experiences, it is a calming and endearing feeling. It doesn’t feel so lonely in here. These are people who get “it” and maybe I’m not so crazy.

Ok, let’s be real. I’m still crazy, but in a good kind of way. I hope.

 


  1. Lily03-21-13

    My kids live abroad since birth but they speak English without an accent. I think as long as they have enough time spent talking with an American every day, they’ll be fine.

    • Expat Mom03-21-13

      Ah, thank you for the reassurance:) I’m not worried. A long as they can communicate with family in both languages, mission accomplished in my book. :) How long have you lived overseas and how old are your children, if you don’t mind me asking?

  2. carolee03-22-13

    Fear Sarah, having been an expat for over 30 (!) Years, I recognized ALL of those situations at and about the consulate. I kept nodding my head in agreement while reading.
    each family will have their own different experiences with bi-lingual children. my sons both speak with a british accent and usually only speak English when asking me for something the’re not likely to get UNLESS they ask in English because it males mom just melt when they do….
    so everyone, do the best you can and, for you children’s sake accept their way of speaking 2 languages!

  3. Tanj09-02-13

    Recognize a lot of my family in this! We live in Germany, I’m American & my husband German. Our daughter speaks english really well for a 5 yr old, but with a German accent. My son (3) uses German grammar with english words mixed in. The best to date (after swallowing a 10 Euro cent piece) was “Mein money ist in mein tummy”!

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