I was recently listening to an interview with Michelle Obama about her new book, Becoming Michelle Obama. I was thinking, damn, that must be nice to be at a point in your life when you can write a whole book on how you got to be, fabulous you! Then my thoughts got to swirling and I felt a blog coming on. Becoming Frau Hentschel, an end of year wrap up to my new life as a Hausfrau. Sorry Michelle, if I am stealing your thunder.
Recently, I was doing a little research for a new project and discovered a study that actually took place in Houston, Texas. The study suggests that living abroad enhances the self-concept of clarity. If I can paraphrase, I believe they mean that once you get away from your cultural influences you can find the real you. Maybe the real you is similar to the culture you were born in and perhaps it’s not. For me, it’s been a wonderful time to explore that concept.
I have a strong aversion to conflict. Your thinking, well who likes conflict? No, I avoid it at all costs and usually to a detriment to myself. Now I find myself living in a culture where honesty and bluntness rule. In my son’s kindergarten, it seems I must give a greeting every single morning to every person and it drives me bonkers. American’s are known to be friendly so I find this odd that it drives me crazy but I think in America perhaps it’s less formal? You don’t have to give a greeting to each and every person especially if you don’t know them. (Please correct me if I’m wrong here.) So one day I just smiled at another mom and didn’t give a full greeting. She texted me and asked if I was angry with her. I was first startled that she just put that out there. I think I would have just wondered who pissed in her Cheerios and not given it a second thought. Then I was able to answer her and rectify the situation. I explained that I am often off in Neverland in my head and don’t notice things. Then I had an epiphany, wow that was great that she just put it out there and we resolved a potential misunderstanding. Boom! Frau Hentschel was having some clarity. A couple of weeks later, my son was mean to another child and I marched him over their house to apologize. Marie would have not done this but Frau Hentschel decided to embrace the German way and face it head-on.
Another thing that I have written about before is my feeling constrained in Germany with the rules, complaining and briskness of peoples demeanor. I’m hardly even noticing it now and think I perhaps overreacted at times, just because of the cliche “culture shock”. I was at a school meeting by myself and had to manage the whole meeting in German. The teacher asked me if I had any complaints about communication in the school. Why, yes, as a matter of fact, I wrote a blog about communication in this country being shoddy. I proceeded to tell her in German how I felt the school’s communication could be enhanced through the use of a modern concept called the email system. I had a moment where I thought, look at you Frau Hentschel, complaining in German. The teacher proceeded to tell me because of German data privacy laws (Datenschutz) this was probably not gonna happen. But nonetheless, I had a moment where I felt I had arrived. I even complained at a bakery that their system for lining up was ridiculous, the man behind the counter turned red and said that’s the way it is. I chuckled to myself and thought oh well at least I have found my voice in Germany.
Rules, I find as an American I like to bend the rules and Germany quite frankly startled me with the stringency of rules when I moved here. I am getting more and more used to them and even participating. I was in the grocery store with my husband and he was not following the rules. I snapped at him. “Markus lay the wine bottles down on the conveyor belt or else they might wiggle”. The bottles can’t wiggle! Markus don’t just stand there start self-packing your stuff like a maniac, others are waiting. No time for chit-chat in the German grocery store line, move it buster. When I go home to the United States it is going to freak me out when they want to chat with me and bag my groceries for me, I might just have a panic attack.
So time will still tell on what I discover about myself while here and what aspects of the culture I take home with me. At the moment I am enjoying becoming Frau Hentschel.