German Word of the Day:
n., point of view, perspective
There’s only one story that I still remember from my study abroad Orientation. It goes like this:
There’s a girl who lives in a country where everyone wears yellow-tinted glasses all the time. One day the girl leaves home and travels to another country where everyone wears blue-tinted glasses. The citizens of the country hand her a pair of blue glasses, and the girl puts them on and marvels at how different the world looks. Eventually she returns to her home. Excitedly she tells her friends, “I just traveled to this other country and you’ll never believe what I discovered – everyone there sees the world in GREEN!”
My point is, traveling is wonderful and eye-opening and mind-broadening, but we’re never able to leave behind the environment that shaped us. A few weeks ago I wrote “7 Things I Love About Germany”. You can read that post here. But none of you would believe me if I said that there’s nothing I miss about home. While there are things about Germany I would like to take back to America, there are also aspects of the U.S. that I have only learned to appreciate by being away. Here are a handful:
1. Peanut Butter
No joke – this was one of the first things I noticed. Peanut butter is sort of a physical and emotional necessity for me, and although I found one “Real American Style” version of the stuff in the local supermarket, it’s not the same.
2. The Call of the Wild
This one is a bit complicated, because at first glance, Germany is an incredibly green and natural-looking country, mostly made up of tiny towns interspersed among rolling fields and patches of woodland. I love the nearness of nature here, but it’s a different kind of nature than you can find (at least in some places) in the U.S. It’s… tamer. The woods and wild places are too split up to offer any real remoteness, and exciting wildlife like wolves, moose and bears are mostly extinct. So, while enjoying my walks through the woods and fields just outside of town, I’m excited for the day I can head back to the backcountry, and visit a national park again (you should do that too!).
3. The American Dream – or Something Like it, Anyway
I don’t want to get too much into political ideology here, so I’ll just offer this one observation: One of the intangible things I miss about home is an atmosphere that really encourages people to come up with new ideas and figure out ways to solve problems. A “make-it-work” attitude that places more importance on function than form. I was never much of an idealist about America, but I needed to see some of the world outside the United States to realize that all the hype about the Spirit of America may not, in fact, be entirely a myth.
4. My Playlists on YouTube
Eight words that can ruin a day: This song is not available in your country. Do you know how much time I spent creating all those playlists, YouTube? Do you know how much my emotional state can hinge on being able to hear the right song at the right time?? Do you even care???
5. Being Able to Make Musical Theater References
No one here has ever heard of Hamilton. And even though you might be surrounded by Strudel, Lederhosen and the Alps, no one is able to sing The Sound of Music with you. This probably falls under the category of “small stuff” – but it’s sad when I feel I just must burst into a song from Les Miserables and I know no one would understand!
This one is hard: there are no Target stores in Europe. No red bull’s-eye, no friendly discount-advertising white dog, no Market Pantry- or Mossimo-brand anything. Target may not be America’s most noble creation ever, but I miss the comfort of knowing that I can find all my cheaply-made plastic junk in one place.
7. Understanding Things
I totally knew that immersion language-learning would be an experience – and it was the main reason that I wanted to make an exchange year. Buuuuuuut I would really love to spend a day in a setting where I could understand not just the topics of conversations, but each individual word! It’s awfully hard to detect sarcasm or get a feel for someone’s character when you understand only the main idea of what they say, and none of the subtleties. The upside is, I feel more than ready for college now – I could tackle any class if I could just understand what’s on the blackboard!
And there it is. Europe has proven to be an incredible place – check out my other posts if you want to see some of the things I do love about it. But I won’t forget that my real home is an ocean away… and somewhere down deep I’m still covered in stars and stripes.