On cultural clashes and coming home

I’ve got to admit this, I don’t think I will ever get the hang of this blogging thing. I debate just deleting the whole thing every few months. Then have a great idea and jot down the ideas, which are all safely stored as drafts and nothing ever gets written. Ha!

Oh well. There are many things which I could discuss I guess, but instead of picking some specific, cultural thing, I suppose I will just philosophize randomly as usual.

Going “home” to the states for 2 months, it feels normal, or at least 8 weeks is long enough to make it feel normal again. And you know what’s nice, after the first awkward week of jumping every time an overly-friendly stranger initiates conversation/tries to make a sale, social interactions become normal and random exchanges with people I’ll never see again are not dominated by my own inner dialogue on grammar rules and cultural conventions. Oh God, that alone is sooooo relaxing. Not having to think while speaking. My German is fluent, but gosh darn it any unintentional falter, or foreign coloring is seen as a chance to ask nosy questions (well in Germany they are at any rate, double standard, I know, but things ARE different here) or discuss their love for American entertainment (good for you, I don’t care, I like German round robin discussions and documentaries, sorry if that’s disappointing). And you know what sometimes when I am grabbing lunch in the middle of my workday, I don’t want to rattle off my long and complicated life story in front of strangers.

Isn’t that ridiculous? I miss the stupid, meaningless small talk back home, but when I get the chance to do the same thing here, I reject it.

But that’s not the whole story. It’s a different culture and there are different dynamics at play than what people know in America. I am in possession of the most sought after Foreign Language in Europe/the world. And you can’t blame someone I suppose for wanting to get some English help for free. So while ensuring the my articles are all spot on, I also have to look for signs that this person is thinking they should make the switch to English (a conundrum, they are honestly trying to be HELPFUL but when you’ve been speaking German, albeit on and off, for 17 years now, it really ONLY comes off as condescending) and cut them off before they can do so (because when someone does achieve this, the blow to my self-confidence can last for the rest of the day), and finally if we do stick to German, I have to look for an out to the conversation in case they start suggesting that they would really like a language partner to help improve their English (first off 20 year old students are not who I really want to spend time with, tbh and another insult to my German, so thanks for your insensitivity).

I mean reading this I sound psychotic, not gonna lie. And I can be a basket case, if I sense that someone is not sure that I am competent in German. I am actually not nervous in most areas of my life, but I have this one, dumb exception. And people that are learning German look at me shocked that I would still have self-doubt despite completing a  Master’s program where I had half of my seminars, presentations, and papers in C2 German. But I do get negative feedback, that my German isn’t perfect, and sometimes just spiteful, ignorant comments from linguists who actually should know better.

It’s just something that I think we English speakers have to suffer from when learning a foreign language. Other Europeans learn 2 languages in the school and use languages as a tool and a way to play around and interact with their world. I try to do the same, but other people and situations won’t allow it because there are quite simply greater power dynamics at work.

Anyway language issues aside, even if people are speaking the same language, the cultural differences are there. My friend in England can’t stand discussing her personal background when it’s not relevant to the situation either. In Germany you have the lingua franca aspect in England, people like to make fun off differences that no one can help. Either way it’s a constant side-effect of living abroad,  so being somewhere, where all these concerns can just fall away is a huge weight off the shoulders. I did enjoy that part of my time home. I also enjoyed absorbing the new lingo around me, instead of going online to look up new words I see online. (True story, I did that for gif.)

And yet that much time in America only solidifies my decision to live abroad. I won’t get into anything I’ve already discussed many times with all of you in person. But I think the thing that I find troublesome about living where you grew up, is the complacency that almost inevitably comes with it. And I hear this from other expat friends too. I enjoy living somewhere I don’t belong, because I fear the complacency of life where the way things are, is equated with the way things should be. And instead of being general and imprecise, let me take my own wedding planning to show you what I mean.

I mean my goodness self-improvements are good up to a point. There’s no need to be pessimistic and defeatist, but we Americans take it to a whole new level. There is a whole boatload of messages and influence that we internalize everyday. Look at all the lists online, telling you 10 yoga stretches for good posture, 16 new ideas for your small office, 12 things to read before having kids, etc etc. And we click and click and read and read and subliminally the idea is, if you can just organize your life, just take these 3 simple steps, you will become a better person and have a life others can envy on social media. And people do go crazy with these preconceived ideas of how their life is “supposed” to go. I read ridiculous things online that in order for a girl to accept some man’s proposal, he has to obey her three rules, one of which is asking her dad (sorry Dad I love you, but I’m not property). And what will happen if he doesn’t? Will you throw the relationship away cause it didn’t go as planned? And in America this trend takes on what I can only describe as a religious fervor. This message is digested and internalized without a critical eye. The right amount of money to spend on an engagement ring, the right stone to symbolize love, the right stationary for invitations, the proper order of events at a wedding, engagement photos, wedding photos, the right cake to have, the right decorations to look good on instagram, gifts for having a baby, showers and showers and needlessly expensive bridemaids dresses, empty symbolism from our consumer culture. Symbols are good when they connect you to your culture and have meaning to the community; and there are plenty of Greek ones that I did have in the wedding, but the origins of many of our modern traditions are commercial, made up by advertisers. One may like some of these things and want to incorporate them when the time comes, but buying the “necessity” of having all these things in order for life’s events to be done correctly, seems to be a lie we Americans especially seem to enjoy swallowing.

Bucket lists in particular disgust me. I too have things I would like to do and see in my lifetime, don’t get me wrong. What is the message there though, that life is just one long list of check-lists to tick off one by one before kicking the bucket? That a life which can’t tick off a list of cookie cutter experiences and tourist attractions is worthless? People don’t waste time making lists, and just allow for life to happen, and your list of priorities to change as you grow. Some of the most magical moments in my life took place in the most mundane surroundings, and the most wonderful places I’ve lived in, or visited were rarely those where I had to elbow my way through tourists.

I like lists, don’t get me wrong and I want to see the world, and family and a career and try to have it all. I mean why the hell not. But being back at home, seeing people running around, just doing things “one should do” reminds me of the very arguments people use to mock those who follow religious teaching, i.e. believing what you have been told without any critical thought because you would like to control and interpret your own personal experience as unique and meaningful.

It makes me sad to see people deriving meaning about their lives from miss manners and bucket lists. And this trend is coming to Europe, most definitely, in the social media apps from America, in the lifestyle touted by Huffpo and the buzzfeed lifestyle articles. (I should talk another time about what has changed in Germany since 2005, cause there’s a lot which comes to mind.)

So during the wedding, I would get sucked into one aspect and then try and pull myself out of it. I like pretty things, so I wanted the room to be lit in a certain way and things a certain color and I wanted pretty flowers. That part was ok. But I had an idea about cheesecakes instead of a wedding cake that would make things look nice and still save money and it nearly grew out of control and had to be reigned in again because we were fussing about trying to please too many people, and “do the right thing”. There were definitely things I didn’t do, and things I was told later, I didn’t do right. Well who cares. One thing that made me laugh was that apparently I am supposed to ask people to give speeches about how great we are, (still not clear on this?) um, no… I already demand compliments from my husband, I won’t do the same of my friends. Or that I am supposed to thank my husband for marrying me! Ha fat chance! I might thank him if he had been the one to do the actual proposing. Look these traditions are ok, but doing something “wrong” doesn’t take away from how “good’ my wedding was.

My wedding was lovely. I was so thankful for all the love and help and support people had for us, but if I had focused on trying to impress the people who will see my pictures later, (who weren’t even there!) what a waste of the very short time I had been given to see nearly everyone I love in one room. That, and not the decorations, is what I get my happiness from and those memories will be a comfort in the inevitable lonely moments to come.

When you live abroad and you get messages from the country you live in, you can weigh each one, and say: “yes, an improvement, I’m willing to adapt it into my life” or you can reject things offhand, saying ‘not me, not my culture”. Absorbing junk is just not a thoughtless process here. And the extra bonus is when reading things from home, you can say, “well that doesn’t apply to me, because I can’t do that outside of America” or “well that’s silly, who would want to do that?”. But also “oh my gosh I wish I could visit these 12 steakhouses in my lifetime, but since that is a silly waste of time when I want to see my family, I will just plan one good steak dinner the next time we visit, and it will be ‘good enough’, because darn-it living without steak lowers your standards”. 🙂

When I got back to my beautiful, modern flat, and got to cook for my lovely husband and watch the pair of storks build their nest in the church across the street, I knew I was happy to be home, which just happened to be in Europe.

But a few weeks later, when the sun was shining and I took the train into town and went down into the city centre in between museums and churches and ancient buildings, with a cup of my favorite German coffee and bought bread that has been made the same way for some half a millennium, I wandered in the market looking at the beautiful flower stands, while eavesdropping on the French, Spanish and Russian tourists, and realized as I smelled the sausages stands cooking, I couldn’t wait to try out the new village butcher my husband and I had discovered. I knew then. Walking the miniscule little cobblestone alley towards the university, I realized that 10 years after I first discovered how lovely a life in Germany can be, this market setting can still bring a smile to my face and make all the troubles in my life seem a little further away.

My home is the bustle and sounds and smells of an ancient market square after a train ride, not the aisles of walmart and a parking lot.

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Day-off Potpourri

I have my first wrinkle. Well actually I think it’s a laugh line and you can only really see it when my skin is tired. BUT for goodness sake’s. I thought this would be an issue when I hit the big 3-0. At any rate that is the current joke with the bf, that from now on I’d try to keep my face expressionless. Guess my youth is departing.

Although thinking back, most of my life has been spent laughing and especially these last few years with the kids and in a new relationship with a very funny guy. There are worse things. At least they aren’t frown lines and crow’s-feet!

Which reminds me of a very superficial decision I’ve made recently. So in German there are these things called umlauts (ä ö ü) They are my enemies. The first one is ok. It’s like the sound in bear. The second two suck. You have to round your lips like you’re waiting for a kiss, push them forward and push the air out, (with the second the bottom lips juts out a bit more). Unfortunately, when speaking quickly, this is something I can’t be bothered with. I either say it with a MEGA annoying American accent, or stop everything I’m doing to round my lips and focus on getting out a öööööööö and not a ough, which looks idiotic of course.

If I choose the first one, I have to repeat things a few times, because the person doesn’t usually expect me to be foreign and are typically caught off guard and stop listening. If I choose the second, it comes out right, but meanwhile I’ve stopped, taken a deep breath and look like I’m a few cards short of a deck. Plus from the two years spent observing my seniors, I’ve noticed that they all have major lip wrinkles, and my personal theory is, not that they were all smokers, but umlaut lovers.

Call me vain and superficial but lip wrinkles are disgusting, and I don’t know if it’s a wise use of my time to spend hours correcting my accent, when I’ll just be laying the groundwork for a something I’ll wish wasn’t there later. Plus despite how irritating I find my accent, others think it’s cute. So oh well, my German accent can suck forever, and the other languages I’ll learn to say things correct the first time. Laugh at me all you want. A woman’s first wrinkle, it’s a wake up call.

Anyway it’s my first day off for these two weeks. But this morning I woke up with a start at 7am after having a dream about a particularly trying class that was taking a test and cheating. I was in the middle of confronting them; my pulse was racing and it took a minute to calm myself down. Now that is my favorite way to start a break: having the kids exhaust my patience in my dreams as well as reality.

Not that the kids are all bad. I keep coming up with various new things to get them producing quality work for me. I actually got one class to play mad libs successfully. They were a group of quiet girls that can’t say so much in English yet. So I’ve been joking that I’m like a crazy bum talking to myself. But they got some creativity hidden in them, and they’re not full-blown too-cool-for-school teenies yet, so I was hoping it’d work. I had another class similar to them and we had lots of fun with silly stories.

The first about a sandwich was a moderate success. But then we got out the secret admirer one (for girls), put in the name of one of the girls with things like stinky and smelly and that was it. They were in stitches. I’ve never seen them laugh so hard.

On Saturday it’s the same age level too. (my favorite really) They like to ask me everything in Greek on Saturday and I answer in English. One little girl has a question a minute. I don’t know what’s going on in her brain but I love it. They kept trying to get me off-topic, so asked them why I was even coming and getting money for teaching. I told them I was their joker, and they responded, no you’re not a joker, you’re an entertainer. When they left, my little question-asker needed to hug me goodbye (I never hug the kids), then all the girls had to hug me, then I said to the boys, it’s not fair only the girls get a hug, so they got one too. I told the bf about this later and he was shocked, What is this littlemsami’s cuddle course!

I strive to be a good teacher and that takes a lot out of me during the week. Both to the seniors and to the kids. It’s easy to slack off when you’ve only got yourself to disappointment, but it’s incredibly difficult to inform a group of 12-15 pupils that you’ve forgotten or neglected to do something. I did that enough the first year and got myself out of that habit really quickly.

*edit*

I didn’t manage to publish this yesterday. I was too busy getting my photo taken for my application, waiting at the dr’s office for allergy meds and finishing my CV in German. It’s nice to actually get things done for once!

So I’m gonna end with a quick moan and get back to work.

I just can’t win with my eyes. I wanted to get lasik, they’re too bad. I considered the lens insert surgery, too expensive. I wanted to get hard contacts to save the cost, nearly 200 euros, cause of my bad eyes. And need to be replaced in 6 months to a year according to Frau anal wannabe doctor. So I stuck with soft contacts, because if they break it’s not a money emergency and my eye sight hasn’t worsened in at least 5 years, so wearing them has had no bad effects. They’re expensive too so I thought I’d try to save money by wearing glasses during my planned Uni time.  I don’t expect to have lots of contact money during my studies, so I need another option. I’d really rather use this money towards a surgery, but meanwhile I’ve got to see on a daily basis.

Well my glasses are super heavy. They leave a permanent nose pad mark on my nose, which will probably lead to ugly broken capillaries by the time I’m 40. So I thought fine. I hate glasses but screw contacts for the time being. But I know it’ll be round 200 Euros for a new pair because of my prescription. Clever me, I’ll order a really lightweight pair online and save a bundle!

So yesterday, surfed around found adorable frames that I filtered through based on weight, but when it came time to put in my prescription it didn’t go past -10. (Mine is -10,25 and-10,75) So I’m nearly blind but not THAT far over this arbitrary boundary.

You know what screw you Germany! I went online to a similar website in America and they have until -18 and charge a bit more, but you know what that’s ok. As long as I can save on frames, I’ll pay extra for lighter lenses. I’m tired of being monetarily punished for my bad eyesight. I’ve had this bad eyesight for a while, but I never felt like I was limited in my options or the ability to wear contacts in the US. But here, wherever I go I balk at the price or express shock that there’s nothing else and all I get is a finger shaken in my face and shrugged shoulder with a pech (i.e. serves you right for having bad eyesight, what do you expect?)

Yeah American health insurance may suck, but at least they don’t make me feel guilty for having bad eyesight. And they don’t take everything so seriously that they can’t offer higher prescriptions online. I really thought Germany was great for people with glasses, but over the last year I’ve collected so many piss poor interactions, that I’ve actually made up my mind to buy my eye wear products (except replacement contacts) from the US from now on.

For now though I’ll concentrate on getting my applications finished and sent and figure out where I’ll be studying and moving to, and then I’ll sort of this glasses fiasco.

Sometimes the only way I can sum up my expat-life is to say it seems at times like everyone wants my money. But at least I have the option of spending it in whichever country offers me the best deal, even if I need to buy a plane ticket to take advantage of it!

Debunking the Myth of Language Perfection

Surely to say Dec. was busy would be an understatement. Ever since I’ve embraced the European lifestyle more-or-less, I’ve done my best NOT to drop the “I’ve been so busy” excuse in every conversation. The sort of thing I used to hear and say without a second thought in Ami-land, with the sort of casual, oh I’m just so important undertones, thinly disguised with some insincere humility and fake irritation. In Europe (or at least away from the major cities) there’s no value in being busy for busy’s sake.

But visiting friends, deadlines, school prep, German coursework, gifts, decorations and packages to be sent. You know the drill. I was hardly the only one, but I tell you I was struggling in the end to hold out for my two weeks. I could feel my fried brain trying to stay on top of everything, until quite embarrassingly for me, it gave out, just when my guests arrived. I couldn’t find the right words in English when speaking with them, and my brain got fed up with German and refused to help me out during lessons with the kids. And you better believe that Greek was completely out of the question! Everything came out in a mishmash.

I didn’t mind mocking myself with my guests, and bf, but didn’t feel like setting a poor example for the kids, so just ignored German in my lesson and tried to muddle through it and I started wishing I only had my bf to deal with, who would understand all the words I was spewing out.

There’s been many things meanwhile I wanted to mention and comment on. Even though it’s still the same ole’ routine, things change slowly and subtly. But that’s all yesterday’s snow as they say in German. I can’t comment on the happenings of a whole month in one go.

I did manage to hold out though and had the most relaxing weekend I’ve had in a long time. Plus the bf got 2 extra days off, for a total of 4 in a row, which got him off his swollen feet for a while. Of course we spent time with his family, and they invited me to stay over as long as I wanted and relax, but that involves more planning and I was happy to have no responsibilities and hang out on my sofa reading and watching Christmas specials together, when we’d made the requisite visits. He’s back to work today, but I’m going to further ignore all responsibilities until Saturday, and then I’ll start being a good little productive member of society again.

I was so relaxed, I even surprised myself with how good my Greek was with the bf’s family after having basically done no Greek since August. I’m so tired of feeling mentally half-aware and capable. But it seems that with enough sleep, enough mindless reading and letting my hands work the stress out through lots of knitting, my brain is more than happy to chatter away in Greek. It’s all up there in my brain, even if it never comes out right when I want it.

That’s the frustrating thing about a language: it goes away the moment you neglect it, despite all the hard work you’ve invested.

On the other hand though, I guess it’s like anything in life. How many things could I use to do well, that I’ve since forgotten? Play the flute, sing, pottery, even the basics of knitting before my little brush-up talk with a friend.

Reading more is helping, at least I can picture the word I want before I decide how it could be pronounced. And my 5 weeks have helped make me more aware of how I can express myself more succinctly in German and fit my vocab to the occasion.

We watched an extremely interesting documentary about a Japanese woman who left her home in the 70’s for a Cretan sailor she had met. Quite a rare story in Greece, especially in that time.

She said a few things and I knew exactly what she meant. Like when she went back when her mom was ill, she was watching the news together in the hospital and instead of talking about all the serious things she wanted to say, she simply told her mom (in Japanese mind you) that she didn’t understand the news broadcast. And she didn’t. And her mom couldn’t believe her. And from the sofa, I was saying, I got you girl. The fact that I sympathized with the daughter, not the mom was amusing.

Her brother and sister came to visit and though they spoke in Japanese, she spoke too directly (i.e. Greek) and they thought she was egoistic and were in fact so offended that they stopped talking to her when they returned. She had to drag her and her son all the way out to Japan to clear things up, saying: I make mistakes in Greek and I can’t speak Japanese the way I should, and shaking her head in frustration. She’ll always be a foreigner in Greece, but she’s not much better in her country of birth. I was riveted.

Sometimes I look up the expressions I say in German to remind myself what they are in English. About 10 times during my phone conversation with my family tonight,  I spoke to my dad in German or said expressions that I couldn’t quite remember exactly how they were in English and my dad filled in the blanks. Were it not for the internet and skype and my whole teaching English gig, I could easily imagine losing chunks of my English that I didn’t use everyday, especially over a 30 year isolated span.

Impossible, you might say. Well not for good. Just it would get sorted to the back of my filing system and covered in dust as the years went by.

We watch other shows about Germans who emigrate to the US and then listen in horror to German spoken with the broadest hokiest accent by someone who’s never been to the land of their parent’s birth. Or the broken German they speak translating the words they’ve learned word for word, from English, but never having to have thought in this language they can’t express themselves properly.

At least are my thoughts mother-language-like, when not my accent. (Exactly translated.)

So my English swings back and forth sometimes and my teacher accent takes a week or so to lose when I return home, but I don’t care. When I lived in London, I adopted this stupid phony British lilt, and I had to make myself understood in a noisy pub and I don’t care. Saved me time and talk.

The Germans who go live in France have a slight French accent in their native tongue. It’s ridiculous but true.

It must be the first thing we do as humans and I think it’s a damn good survival mechanism, being able to fit the current situation and sort useless information to the back of our brain. I also don’t think an accent is a permanent situation. It just takes muscle re-training in our mouths. My friends have done it and it’s next on my to-do list for German. It was fun for a while, but now I’d just like to be taken a bit more seriously.

I don’t know what the future will hold. I hope it’s a long happy life with the bf, family and friends amusing myself with language self-improvement projects and stretching my abilities as far as I’m able. But I’ve decided I can’t take the whole scenario so seriously anymore. I can’t wear a chip on my shoulder as the American who always has to prove herself. If my brain feels like peacing out and ordering a rabbit coffee instead of a little pot, I’ve just got to roll with the punches. It’s in there, whether the waitress believes me or not is her problem.

We’d all like to lie to ourselves about our abilities, but a language is just simply not something that can be done perfectly and I think I’ll just enjoy this new acceptance while it lasts.

Merry Christmas from the Christkindl City to you and yours. I wish you all a good slide into the New Year!

This little Ami can German.

Language is such a power struggle. It can bring about such complicated control-issues in the dynamics of a relationship.

I remember when we were all studying abroad here. We always elected one person from the group to do our speaking for us in the beginning. It was the most language confident individual. Then of course we naturally deferred to these people in other group decisions. And wrongly at times, resented them for the situation we ourselves had put them in.

Later in our fits of jealousy we would all get catty with each other about who was most correct, who had the most correct accent, who had the most correct turn of phrase, who understood the most. I remember in fact being relieved when all but 2 left before the 2nd semester, because it meant, like it or not I would have to take on a more active role in my learning.

My German has highs and lows. I’ve neglected it, I’ve abused it, I’ve been obsessed with it, I’ve been embarrassed by it, I’ve used it to show off, it seems that just when I need it most, it fails me but then again out of the blue I’ll amaze myself with my competence.

Now let me share something slightly shocking with you: The rest of the world does not really expect any Americans (or English speakers) to manage to speak a language whatsoever competently.

And at times I think it’s double so hard, because when your accent is still raw and not worn-in every European thinks it’s their job to take away your precious chance to spit out a few correct sentences and cut you off with their unimpressive school English. Often times this is accompanied by an over-inflated sense of how fantastic their language prowess is and you have to fight through their accent, poor grammar, their ego and very frequently a few rushed sentences about how they either want to or have been to America to get to the point of the matter.

A few examples: I needed a new DVD-drive, went to the computer store to see if I could just buy the part. He told me even though it’s the exact same computer I have to buy it in America. Fine I was ready to go, but he needed to tell me his personal thesis on why American service is better. It is, but they’re all either corporate slaves or tip-whores and it’s not free either, esp. in the HP world of laptops. Plus he’d never lived in America and he was speaking only from his limited experience travelling. He couldn’t help me. I wanted to go. However at least it was a German convo.

Another time, I was buying somethings in the city center. An extra bottle of water somehow got scanned with my stuff. I told her the total seemed a bit high. She switched over to English, but was taking twice as long to explain the situation. I switched her back over and we were both relieved.

A really nasty example was my eye doctor recently. She was speaking way too quick for me and using complicated scientific eye terms on purpose. (I know at times it sounds all very suspicious that I meet so many bitches, but they really are. I am not exaggerating. If anything it’s the opposite! I meet plenty of nice people too, but as this is how I feel people should behave it doesn’t strike me as unusual.) She wanted to send me out quickly and didn’t care if I understood everything. I asked her what this eye-net thing was she was talking about it. She switched over to an icy-tone and said it in English. I looked it up later. You can say Retina in German. I don’t need to learn every single word in the German language. Most nice people just explain it in one or 2 words. But I guess if you want to show people you think they’re an idiot you switch over to their native language in the most condescending tone you can muster. I kept on in German anyway and left with no intention of going back.

When I was studying abroad I went into a bit more expensive shop cause I always liked the clothes even though I could only afford maybe a shirt. I was just poking around, when the young uni-aged shop assistant came to help me, he spoke English and I decided I wasn’t going to play around anymore. We spent 5 minutes chatting, he in English and I in German. I was very proud of my stubbornness and my new phrase in the pub was, Ich habe mein Ticket nach Deutschland gekauft. Du kannst selber nach Amerika reisen, wenn du dein English auffrischen willst.

Basically bugger off, we’re in Germany.  

I’ve worked on my accent tons. But it still gets noticed, especially in Starbucks, but usually then, only by those really intent on showing off. Normally I make my order nice and long in German just so that it’s clear I’m not a tourist and they don’t do what this girl did to me this weekend. I said tall –soya– latte. And then she turns to her coworker who wants to know my drink order, sighs and says wait it’s so hard to translate all-the-sudden, in German. I nearly said I speak perfect German, but we can do it your way. But I bit my tongue. It’s Starbucks I get it.

These are the Germans and they’re nice, they like Americans and they like English, but it’s hard to constantly feel like you have to convince them that THIS American can speak German! It’s a reason to work on my little mistakes, learn more authentic expressions and tighten that accent up a bit.

I don’t want to speak German well for an American, or a foreigner. I want to speak it well. PUNKT

Most Americans give up, or don’t push themselves cause the English offensive is so strong, there’s no point.

The Greeks are especially hard. I’ve been laughed out outright, told to give up, asked why I’m learning, told it’s like totally the hardest language in the whole world, so I’ll never be clever enough, told that all Greeks speak perfect English, so there’s no point. In general I’ve been criticized more than encouraged.

No one learns modern Greek fluently expect maybe Albanians and some misc. Eastern Europeans. They think an accent is the most hilarious thing they’ve ever heard. For this reason I have hammered my accent into near native speaker perfection. No stranger I spoke to in Greece this summer guessed I was American. And it was like entering another world. They all wanted and expected me to speak Greek and to continue improving. They told me what a beautiful language it was.

I agree. It’s the language of my heart. I love Greek music, Greek poems, Greek dance, Greek food. I love all the funny expressions they use constantly to make the same stupid jokes over and over again. I love all the sounds. I love the long words. I love the sing-song questions. I love speaking Greek to my BF and seeing his stupid grin cause we’re both thinking on the same wavelength. I love calling everything mine: my child, my love, my eyes, my girls, my time (on time). I love the diminutive form. I love telling the kids to go well, to always be well, to say, happy week, happy month, many years, well met (welcome), good winter, good summer. I love how they greet me and make sure to say bye when they leave.

I love how they tell jokes in Greek, explode into laughter, try to translate in English, it makes no sense, I have them explain slowly in Greek until I start to giggle too. I love how when you learn the root in Greek you automatically know or can very nearly guess the noun, the person, the adjective and the adverb.

But no adult Greeks made it easy for me. It was all my goofy kids, who made fun of me still, but corrected me with respect and admiration.

Here’s my wish and I guess to sum up. I wish we English speakers could band together and be a little bit more of a pain in the butt for all these foreigners making a mess of our 3 future tenses, using will for everything. Goodness knows the French do it well enough and people still bother learning it. People have to learn English. Why do we have to be so frickin’ nice about the terrible state of their prepositions and their total and utter neglect of the present perfect tenses. Why can’t we tell the French to pronounce the H and the Germans that it’s THE not dza.

Which of you English speakers have been so nice and giving these idiots compliments they don’t deserve so that I am inflicted with pompous guys whose English is far worse than my German, but still insist on making fun of my inability to consistently pronounce ü.

Man if someone’s English is crap could maybe we please tell them that for once instead of lying to their face with this stupid, oh it’s not so bad, shit. Trust me the rest of the world constantly returns the favor to all us ex-pats and on top of it, moans about how none of us are capable of learning a second language, really anyway.

Come on guys, do it. Do it for me. Do it for the time we all wasted in 9th grade Spanish and never learned anything. Do it for our mother tongue, which now has more non-native speakers than native.

Back… and off again

Got in yesterday from Greece. It was a long two-hour flight surrounded by screaming children, which was preceded beforehand by a noisy hour and a half in the way-too-small Thessaloniki airport, and that was proceeded by one hour on the bus shaking and holding onto my luggage in the sticky heat.

And when I say screaming children, I mean one behind me, one to my right, two to my left, two in front of me, two diagonal and another two in front of them. Apparently I booked the flight for German-Greek couples and the moms wanted to talk and hey, God bless them, in a child-unfriendly country like Germany, I try to be more patient, cause I know they’re getting a lot of commentary from strangers to keep their kids absolutely silent, but I still don’t appreciate the migraine they gave me. Nor did I want to listen to a bunch of ridiculously accented Greek.

Why is the German accent so laughable? Well every accent is to a certain extent, but there’s something about the German in Greek that makes me want to shoot myself in the foot. Oh well, I also find my American accent in German disgusting, but I’m the only that does apparently. When I think I’m being mocked, it’s usually just people tickled to be experiencing it for the first time live. And I’m under strict orders from the bf not to improve it. Different strokes for different folks.

Anyway Greece, oy that country is like no other in twisting up my guts and making me swing back and forth between love and hate. The bf has always understood it. He was the one to say to me, you have to love something a lot to be able to hate it like that too. Which is good, cause he is Greek after-all and sometimes we have to do things or be in situations that drive me crazy, and if he didn’t understand it, he’d have pulled the plug long ago.

I had little lists I wanted to make about the visit. But I don’t want to just list the positives because that would give the impression that it was a fabulous visit and it wasn’t. It was just a visit to my friends at a busy time, where I felt all the old feelings I always feel in Greece, elation, isolation, frustration, relaxation, spiritual peace, and the NOISE, NOISE NOISE NOISE.

Later, I’ll write later, because right now I’m off to spend my birthday weekend with a friend in Trier, and the bf and I are setting off in one hour and you all know I’m NOT packed.

Next time I’ll put up some pics.

Oh but I’m tan, did I mention I’m tan!!!!