Thursday, March 27, 2008

26 November: Goodbye Party, and What the IWC Girls Like About Germany

Brenda had been hounding Heather and I for the past several weeks to set a date for a goodbye party at her house. Finally, after much deliberation and about five minutes of planning, we settled on this Monday evening. It turned out to be a small affair – just me, Heather, Brenda, Shannon, Thuy, Emily, and Beth – but we had a wonderful time sitting around Brenda’s dining room table, chowing down on all the yummy snacks (Crackers and cheese! Veggies and dip! Stuffed peppers! Chips and salsa! Artichoke dip! Oreos! Cream puffs!) that everyone had brought and sipping celebratory champagne. Yes, even us pregos had a few sips; since Beth, Shannon, Heather, and I are all pregnant, it would have been tough for the other three to drink the whole bottle on their own!

I took out my little camera and put everyone on the spot by asking them what they liked about Germany. (The video actually turned out to be a really nice keepsake to remember everyone by.) Everyone had something unique and different to say. Shannon enjoys the opportunity to meet like-minded women who thrive on the international life. For Brenda, there’s nothing not to like about Germany…the people, the country, the food, the recycling and mass transit systems…Shannon quipped, ‘the accessibility of cigarette machines” (Brenda is a smoker)…I think she’s going to be here a long time. Beth had a different perspective, since she grew up in the U.K. and has spent most of her life in Europe. For her, Germany is very “European” in feel as opposed to the insular nature of the U.K. (Of course, she could have just she likes Germany because of her husband Axel, whom we all adore!) “And the wine industry,” she added, “which got me into this,” pointing at her bulging belly. Thuy loves the coffee, the farmers’ markets with their beautiful flowers, the castles, and the walking trails. Emily enjoys the relaxed pace of life (although she wouldn’t mind being able to shop on Sundays) and the availability of NPR and AFN via the army bases. She also married a German, so she must not mind it too much. Heather emphasized the strong family values – the fact that you don’t get worked to death and then go home to your family – and the culture of walking: “Even when its 0 degrees and snowing, people are out walking.”

And as for me? Well, like Brenda, I have very few complaints. Perhaps I would feel differently if I were living here permanently, but on a temporary basis, I haven’t found anything about Germany to be insanely aggravating. I often think back to our “culture shock” training and the discovery that John and I are more similar to Germans in cultural attributes than we are to our fellow Americans. The strict rules have never bothered me because I have my own pretty strict rules. I actually love the fact that people self-police each other when it comes to things like recycling and being quiet on Sundays. The little quirks that make life different here are also what make it fascinating. And one can never forget what I think should be Germany’s national motto: Betreten auf eigene Gefahr – Proceed at your own risk, which pretty much means that you are responsible for your actions, so if you do something stupid, don’t expect to be able to sue someone!

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