Hello everyone! My family and I are away someplace sunny for the week, and so today I have a friend guest posting here for you. Diane is an expat friend currently living in Germany, and she writes at Fairytale Hausfrau. I asked her to share with us about something she has learned lately through her expat experience. I hope you enjoy this reflection, and be sure to go check out her blog!
When you live as an expat for any length of time, you often long for things, people, and situations from your past. If you’re anything like me, you inevitably find yourself comparing all the cool things from the past with the perceived annoyances in your new location.
Anyone who knows me or follows my blog is aware that I now live in Europe, but I occasionally write about the six years my family spent in western Japan before moving to Germany.
Honestly, we had a bit of a tough first year in Germany. We bought a house, which immediately had an enormous plumbing issue. Adjusting to the gray skies of Central Europe was surprisingly difficult, and our first winter here was the longest and toughest this region had experienced for many years. Our daughter, who would eat just about any Japanese food put in front of her, found that she thoroughly disliked most German cuisine. The winding country roads were scary, and we felt isolated from a central community.
Because of these things and more, I dwelled (for a longer time than I care to admit) on the things I missed from Japan. Not so incidentally, we moved to Germany by choice, which caused me to have a number of face-palm moments.
What did I miss from Japan? Drivers bowing in traffic, machines dispensing hot bottled green tea, 100-Yen shops, hot springs, bikes everywhere, ramen on a cold night, the mist over the mountains, cheap sushi…oh, the list could go on—and on. And yes, I still miss all of those things.
Bu those were also just really good years, and naturally we didn’t entirely comprehend that at the time. Our children were young but not babies, we were renting a great Japanese house, my husband’s coworkers were supportive and fun, and family members in the States were doing well. Our lives were pretty uncomplicated.
After moving, it took me a couple of years to realize what may be obvious to you now: I was grieving not only for Japan but for that particular time in our lives.
The fact is, we’re all products of a certain place and time. Moving to a new place also means moving into a new phase of life. There will be growing pains, but even for nostalgic types like me, the future can be as enriching and fulfilling, just in a different way.
To bring me into reality, it took my husband’s occasional reminders of things I definitely did not miss about living in Japan, such as stinging centipedes, earthquakes, sweltering summers, an overabundance of concrete, and a major written language barrier.
Also, after my family was on House Hunters International in 2011, we heard from various people who used to live in this area. Most of them spoke glowingly of their time here and about all the things they dearly loved and now miss. Light bulb moment, anyone?
It’s all too easy to whine, complain, and compare, but the reality is that our lives are pretty darned good. I appreciate what we have and know that it won’t always be like this–living in this place, at this time.
I do have to tell you, I get irritated by those Pollyanna types who go around insisting that “everything is what you make of it.” They’re annoyingly right on some level, but I think you have to acknowledge what you have lost before you can really move on. Somewhere in between dwelling and ignoring is a happy medium, surely.
Now that I have one child in college and another in high school, I’m coming to terms with the idea of settling down somewhere, eventually. My husband and I will have to make a choice about where we want to be and why, and that’s daunting. And when we do move back to the States, I know that I’ll compile a list of Things I Miss, which will surely include safe walking paths, Christmas markets, geranium-filled window boxes, meticulous sidewalk-sweeping grandmothers, and unspoiled countryside. But for now, we’ll keep living and appreciating this cozy, crazy European time of life.
Diane Clark is a world-traveling expat wife and mother living in the German countryside. She considers herself a lapsed pianist, book lover, burgeoning gardener, creative idler, cook, aesthete, Japan fan, Anglophile, and daughter of the American South. She blogs at fairytalehausfrau.blogspot.com.
Thanks so much for sharing with us today, Diane!