Lately, my posts have been mostly about our travels, but this is something that I’ve been thinking about a lot over the last couple of months. And it probably doesn’t help that there aren’t any definite plans for friends to come and visit in the near future….
We’ve been living in Germany for over two years now, and I can honestly say that it’s been mostly good with only a few bumps in the road. I really only have one major complaint at the moment that is making me a little sad. I want my friends to be here, too. Since that’s probably not going to happen, it might help if I could at least meet a few new ones. And not to be too choosy, but if they could speak pretty good English (at least until my German improves and deeper conversation is easy), that would be great.
I knew that when we packed up and moved over from Scotland to Germany, the biggest adjustment wouldn’t necessarily be learning the new language; it would be leaving behind all of our friends and the life we had built for ourselves there. I already had a little experience in this department as I did the exact same thing back in 2004 when I moved from Indiana (where I grew up) to Edinburgh, Scotland, on my own to pursue my master’s degree. I had the advantages of already knowing the city from a study abroad semester I had spent there in ’99, and knowing a couple of people from that time who were still living in the city. But basically I was alone, and at times, it was lonely. I remember having a good cry in my dorm room a couple of weeks after my arrival, knowing that I was in this thing for at least an entire year no matter how homesick I might feel. I hadn’t had a single moment of homesickness when I had studied abroad in ’99, which was maybe why it took me all the more by surprise when I had it as an adult in my late twenties. But the lesson I’ve learned after packing up and moving away from my support system of family and friends several times now is that, for me, anyway, it’s getting harder as I’m getting older.
The first time I studied abroad in Edinburgh back in ’99, I was so elated to be away from home and experiencing a different country’s culture. I lived in a building with lots of first year students (freshmen), who were keen to meet new people and go out and enjoy the night life of the city. I made loads of friends quickly, some of whom I still keep in touch with today.
When I went back a few years later as a graduate student, the road wasn’t quite as easy as it had been that first time. I was in a flat this time instead of a dorm, so the number of people I was able to get to know was automatically limited. We were all older, more serious students in graduate school now, so that also limited how much socializing was possible. I still had a good time, and it wasn’t too far into that year that I met the Mr., but it had been harder than the first time, no doubt about it. I missed friends back in Indiana and the easy, comfortable support system that came with them.
And now, a few years further down the road, here we are in Germany. Starting over, so to speak. And this time I don’t have classes in a university or shared accommodation to get to know people.
Moving this last time to Germany, I did have one major advantage over those first two experiences: I now have the Mr. with me, so I’m not alone in this adventure. But still, as much as I love the Mr. and even though he is without a doubt my best friend, he can’t replace every other friend that I’ve come to know and love in Indiana and Edinburgh. And I miss them, darn it.
Don’t get me wrong; I’ve made a handful of friends here who are all great, and I’m thankful for them. But for various reasons (language barriers, how often we can meet, etc) it’s been tough to form closer friendships. And obviously that took some time in Edinburgh, too; I know it doesn’t happen overnight.
I think missing my friends hits me the hardest when I’m out in town and hear a group of women speaking English and laughing, sharing easy conversation. And I hear North American accents almost every time I’m in town. I don’t know whether they’re students at the university or tourists or maybe part of a secret American enclave in Würzburg, but I feel a little ache in my heart that they have each other and I’m on the outside looking in. A little bit like that episode in Sex and the City when Carrie sees a group of women in a cafe in Paris laughing and talking and she’s just staring through that window, looking in. It’s gotten to the point where I’m so desperate I consider just walking up to these random strangers and saying “Oh, you all speak English? I speak English! We should ALL be FRIENDS!” (Which would probably be met by mutters of “freak” and “let’s get out of here.”) I also stalk the English-language book section at the city’s largest bookstore. Yup, I’m that weirdo checking you out, trying to determine if you’re also a lonely English-speaker looking for a new friend.
I think, in time, I will make German friends. If we end up having some human children to keep the furry one company, I’m sure I’ll meet other moms in playgroups and schools. And maybe some of them might even speak pretty good English. Or maybe my German will have improved in awesomeness to the point I won’t even care anymore as conversation will be so easy. But still, it would be nice to have a few more friends now that I can easily chat with and meet for a cup of coffee.
Any volunteers? Anyone? I’ll be
stalking you waiting for you at Hugendubel.* 🙂
*That’s the name of the bookstore I mentioned above. Now try saying it ten times fast.