I returned from Germany last week and it was a surreal experience this time around. You may or may not know but I’ve lived in the States for over 13 years now. I’ve established a new life in the US but after visiting Germany I felt like I was living a double life. Am I the only expat who feels that way?! I beg to differ.
Since moving to America, I’ve gotten married, had two children, embarked entrepreneurship, and made a circle of close friends, not to mention getting to grips with a new city and culture and learning to run my own household. But as much as America is now my home, it is impossible for any expat to simply wipe the slate blank of everything which came before.
I left Germany without really fully thinking about the consequences. I left behind close family and friends, an abundance of personal possessions to be with the love of my life, now husband, Jeffrey.
It’s been a while since we visited Germany in the summer for a ‘vacation’. The last couple of trips have been dark and somber due to my father’s passing. But this summer was different. Everything seemed familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. For the first few days my hands fumbled on unfamiliar light switches and shop assistants looked at me quizzically as I wished them a good day. But this soon passed and I was easily sinking back into my old life. I got together with old high school friends, and even baptized my son at my church. One of my good friends from Germany became a god-mother and my brother a god-father. I felt home again.
You see being an expat is like being two people at once, split between two places. Half my identity belongs to Germany, and by visiting, I revived that person, the person I was before I left. She used to read books by the lake, sit on the sofa with her mother and talk for hours and hours and ride her bike everywhere. For breakfast, she ate Brötchen (german bread rolls) with a latte — good old German breakfast.
The person I am in America still loves to read a good book but it’s rare these days. As a working of two it’s hard to find the time for yourself. I do not talk to my mom as much because the phone isn’t the same as siting next to each other on the sofa, and I hardly ever ride my bike here. I mostly drive my car everywhere. The distances here compared to Germany are no joke. Everything is far away in the US—even your local grocery store.
Visiting Germany evokes some strange, nostalgic emotions, but for me, at least, visiting “home” made me rethink the definition of the word. As expats, we either have no home, or two — and in my case it’s two. As the saying goes: “Home is where your heart is” and I’m glad I have both places that carry a piece of my heart.