After I borrowed money from the Tagesmutter to buy a small pool, I immediately walked around the corner to the grocery store.
As I got closer to the store, I suddenly heard a lady talking across the way to someone else… I didn’t even look to whom she was talking nor really comprehend what she was saying, all I knew was I heard English and it sounded like… “Are you American?!” I squealed to her.
My stupid question, and tone in my voice, didn’t even faze her and she immediately replied, “Yes. Yes, we are.”
Now normally, when Kay and I are together and we hear English, I play it all chill. I listen for a few seconds to pin-point the dialect and then tell him from what country the foreigners come. If I’m feeling bold and a bit swag, I might try to strike up a conversation. But much like dating, you just never know if you and this expat are going to click.
I guess since I was alone, I just couldn’t contain my desperation?
And at this point in my day, all was well; rejection was far from my thoughts and fears.
My fellow expat (we’ll call her Jill from here on out) and I were standing in the parking lot, quickly moving through those inevitable expat questions (Where are you from in the states? How long have you been in Germany? Etc, etc.). It was almost like speed dating; I think we were both in a bit of a hurry, or perhaps just eager to get out of the heat.
Jill’s daughter was also there and was gracious enough to input my telephone number into her mother’s phone. (Quick Tip: I have my cell and house phone number taped to the back of my phone so that when I get all flustered trying to speak German, I don’t have to worry about giving the wrong phone number, I just hand my phone to the other person to copy the number.)
I learned that Jill works at a nearby international school. So, for her, this whole meeting fellow expats thing (Americans, none the less) was totally normal and this also explained why she wasn’t fazed by my stupid question earlier. “Are you American?” I still can’t think of a better pick-up line.
Jill mentioned they would be having a party soon and asked if I wanted an invite. Naturally, I’m always up for a party, especially if I get to escape from Mommy-hood for a few hours.
In my excited state, however, I didn’t ask for her number. Total rookie move. (I guess I definitely need to work on my picking up expat moves.)
This mistake only made it feel more like dating; I was wondering and hoping, “Would she text? Would she call? I hope I hear from her.”
After going into the store and buying a 15,99 euro pool for 16,99, I then trudged home with the kids.
I told Kay what happened and he suggested that I might be able to look Jill up online through the school, but I didn’t want to get all stalkerish about it. I was going to play it cool.
Who knew exchanging expat info would be like dating?
A few weeks later, our home phone was making some funny noises. When I walked over, I saw a text appear on the home phone. Hey, we didn’t even know that was possible. Saweet! Advanced technology and the potential for an expat party! Somehow my home phone and not my mobile number was input into Jill’s phone. (I feel lucky that it went through.)
We gladly accepted the invite and a few weeks later I was in expat heaven.
Coincidentally, many of the people at the party were teachers and many teachers of the arts. I couldn’t have asked for a better match in expats. A theater teacher, band instructor, choir instructor, a fellow blogger… it’s been a long time since I’ve met several people with similar interests in one place.
And this was the first time in Germany that I felt surrounded by people who just get “it.” Surrounded by other expats experiencing and seeing Germany with foreign spectacles; we see and learn about the country, but because we aren’t nationals, the way in which we view the world is through a filter.
This is also an explanation (and warning) as to why I often randomly start laughing. By myself. In public. (Yes, I have had my head checked. No, really. I am fine.)
At the party, I spoke to several expats asking and answering the inevitable expat questions again and again, and although re-answering gets a little tiring, listening to others’ stories keeps me entertained.
We may come from various cities, states, and countries, but all of us have a similar understanding with the common knowledge of being an expat; being away from home and assimilating to a foreign culture.
And there were also other expats married to Germans at the party.
For me, this party was my at ease moment; much like a drill command, I finally let myself go into parade-rest. (Yep, still a band nerd at heart.)
I suddenly realized that for 3 years I have been trying so hard to assimilate, to learn German, and to adapt to a foreign culture, that I was denying myself the pleasure of using time to hang with other expats.
I was so afraid of being that expat living in a foreign country but creating an American corner from which I would never emerge, that in turn, I was torturing myself.
While the bulk of my time is still spent with Germans, I am excited to give more of my time socializing with nearby expats.
And I’ve learned that while yes, too much of anything isn’t good, I hadn’t yet noticed nor accepted the fact that I have been trying too hard to press myself into a hole in which I didn’t quite fit; I am not German, I won’t always mesh 100% with the nationals or be able to laugh at every joke… and that is ok. I’ve surrendered to this fact and accepted it.
But what I hadn’t yet done, until this party, was allow myself to indulge in American culture with fellow expats.
I have now removed my expat chastity belt and for that, I feel liberated.